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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fast Sides

We all want to get a fabulous dinner on the table quickly but some nights are more rushed than others.  My family is no different in that we are all going in several directions many nights.  However, we still manage to sit down together for a family dinner most of the time.  It takes planning and the help and cooperation of everyone to pull it off.  I have always said that one person doesn't have to be responsible for meals all the time.  Young children can set the table or help with simple tasks.  Older kids can cook or clean up after dinner.  Both spouses should be able to prepare a decent meal that doesn't involve takeout.

If you have been solely responsible for the cooking in your family, it's time for a change.  Have a family talk and get everyone's input but don't allow anyone to say "I"m too busy" or "I can't cook".  Assign jobs or nights for everyone to pitch in or take over the cooking job entirely.  After all, your children will be on their own someday and who will feed them then?  In the mean time, here are a few ideas of fast sides that anyone older than 9 should be able to do.

Salads:  Anyone can open a bag of salad greens, dump them in a bowl and pick over them for wilted pieces.  It is easy to add some craisins, nuts, grated cheese, chopped boiled egg, grated carrot, cut up apples or pears to make the salad more nutritious and tasty.  Use your imagination for different toppings.  Anyone can make a fruit salad by opening a can of mandarin oranges, another of pineapple, draining them well and then adding some sliced banana.  Once again, use your imagination for different combinations.

Spicy fries:  I had my son prepare spicy fries the other night and these couldn't be easier.  Simply bake a bag of steak fries according to package directions.  Meanwhile, mix up 1 tsp. of chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 or more of cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  When the fries are done, place them in a paper bag, add the spices, close the bag and shake.  They were very yummy with the sloppy joes we had.

Steamed squash:  Wash and trim ends from yellow squash.  Slice in 1/4 inch rounds into a microwave safe bowl and add 1 tbsp. of water.  Cover tightly and microwave for 5 or 6 minutes or until just tender.  This depends on how many you cook.  Drain well, salt and pepper to taste with a small scoop of Brummel and Brown or other butter substitute.

Steamed asparagus:  Wash and trim tough ends.  Place in a pan and add about 1 inch of water.  Bring to a boil and cook 3 to 5 minutes until asparagus is fork tender.  Season with salt, pepper and a small scoop of butter substitute.

Anyone can prepare these sides while a meatloaf or some chicken breasts bake in the oven and Mom picks up little Johnny from basketball practice.  It really is that easy, it just takes some planning.  Don't forget to brag on the efforts of those who help out in the kitchen.  They will be more likely to help next time.      

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