Like a lot of moms, working or otherwise, dinner is one of the most complicated parts of my day. I’m a dedicated meal planner, and more times than not it saves me. But there are nights, like this one, where the wheels fall off. It happens to the best of us. My initial reaction was, “there’s nothing in the house.” Somewhat true, I haven’t yet been to the grocery store this week. We all use this excuse, but honestly, we all have so much stuff stockpiled in our pantries and freezers that it’s more likely we’re just not interested in figuring something out with the puzzle pieces of cans and frozen veggies.
Tonight, I challenged myself to make something delicious and satisfying with nothing more than what we had on hand.
I served my family grilled BBQ marinated chicken with a black bean and corn salsa and honey rosemary mashed sweet potatoes. Not entirely complementary by culinary standards, but it received rave reviews by way of spotless plates.
It started with the chicken. Our local Amish butcher shop has wonderful chicken breasts marinated in BBQ spices. I use this chicken to make our BBQ Chicken Tacos with Avocado Coleslaw. My husband had the foresight to pull two pieces out of the freezer this morning. So this was where I started. The unseasonably warm weather meant I got to fire up the grill!
I had two sweet potatoes in the produce drawer, and with fond thoughts of Thanksgiving still fresh in my mind I recreated my favorite side dish. The sweet potatoes were chopped, boiled, and mashed with about a tablespoon of butter, two tablespoons of honey, and finely chopped rosemary (I had sprigs leftover from another meal).
The salsa was a last minute idea when I knew I needed something else but couldn’t land on any one thing. With no salad greens or other stand-alone veggies, we really needed something to finish the meal. There was about a cup of frozen corn left in a bag that wasn’t going to fill all of us, and a bell pepper hoping to not spoil. I roasted the corn in a hot skillet to defrost it and draw out the flavor. I finely chopped the bell pepper.
A can of black beans was drained and rinsed, and the last four strawberries were finely chopped to add some color and sweetness. All of this was tossed together and drizzled with juice from one of my daughter’s clementines and finished with the last salvageable leaves of cilantro.
With the chicken hot and fresh off the grill, I piled the salsa on top and put a generous scoop of the mashed sweet potatoes on the side. And just like that, Voila! Dinner was served! It was pretty to look at and even better to eat.
I was impressed and my husband hardly knew that this wasn’t part of one of my routine dinner plans. Plus, I found a new dinner recipe to save us when I hit the recipe wall. I sort of couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off, all the while a little proud that I had and didn’t fall back on take out. A bowl from Chipotle, as healthful as it is as far as fast food goes, would have stuffed us for more than 1000 calories. I estimate this meal was 444 calories total! The sides offered a very satiating 9 grams of fiber, too.
And did I mention the whole thing was on the table in 30 minutes? Because it was.
The moral of this little story – take a few minutes and see what you can pull together even when you’re certain “there’s not a thing in the house to eat.”