The Art of Dinner during Bedtime

So, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting used to the fact that I no longer have time to cook dinner.  Sweet Pea takes a lot of time and energy, and by the time 5:00 rolls around I realize that I have not taken meat out of the freezer or even thought about what I could make.  This creates problems, say, when all I have in the freezer is a whole chicken, or three pounds of ground turkey…days of thawing await.  Major fail.

These days, what used to be our dinner hour is Sweet Pea’s bedtime.  We have a routine for the evening: pick up toys in the living room, pick out a towel and washcloth, get undressed, pee all over the hallway or the bathroom floor, get scrubbed clean, chew on favorite duck or octopus (clearly, Sweet Pea is going to be a foodie), fuss during lotion and diaper application, get cozy in fleece jammies, have milk, rock in our chair and go to sleep.

While the routine is good for Sweet Pea, it’s not so good for our digestion.  Tom and I usually end up eating on the run, one of us eating lukewarm food at 9:00 at night.  If only I could get my act together like the old days PSP (pre Sweet Pea).  I used to be great at going to the grocery store, planning out meals for three weeks, then getting everything ready ahead of time and using my slow cooker like a mad fiend.  Now I’m lucky if I remember to bring my list to the store-I usually have to leave in a hurry because I have a limited amount of time away before Tom starts trying to teach Sweet Pea how to use a laptop or the cordless drill.  Bonus points when I remember to bring our reusable bags and coupons.  I actually like cooking three pounds of turkey or a whole chicken at a time, because it gives us meals for an entire week.  I usually throw the chicken in the slow cooker with a bit of water and a bunch of spices, and it comes out falling-off-the-bone tender in a matter of hours.  Then I can make soup, stew, pasta, chicken salad, you name it.

I actually got it together enough this weekend to make a whole chicken, so we had enough for dinner that night plus chicken and wild rice soup and one of our favorites, Mediterranean Pasta.  We originally based this on something we had at an Italian restaurant, but over time it’s evolved into something much quicker and tastier.  The recipe is very flexible, so you can add whatever veggies and spices you have sitting in your fridge or cupboard.  It’s also fast; you can have dinner on the table in the time it takes to cook the pasta!  As a caution, I don’t really cook with recipes (except baking, where my eyeball proportions are not as accurate!), so the proportions of this may be slightly off…do whatever tastes good to you!

Mediterranean Pasta

16 oz. whole wheat pasta (we usually use bow ties or penne)

1 lb. cooked chicken, diced

3/4 c. diced sun-dried tomatoes (rehydrated in hot water for 15 minutes)

8 oz. frozen spinach, thawed (can also use 1/2 a bag of fresh spinach)

1 small can sliced black olives, drained

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 c. sunflower seeds

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 c. chicken broth

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

Crushed red pepper, black pepper, Italian seasoning, and salt to taste

Feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting oil and salt.  In a separate large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, sunflower seeds, and crushed red pepper: saute until garlic is fragrant and seeds are slightly toasted.  Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and vinegar.  Add chicken, drained sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and spinach; cook until heated through.  Add cooked and drained pasta to skillet, stir and add seasonings to taste.  Adjust vinegar or lemon juice if desired, or add more chicken broth or pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce.  Serve with feta cheese.

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