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Back-to-School, Back to Life

September 24, 2009

How many of these conversations have you had in the past two weeks?:

“How was you summer?”

“Great…too short!”

“Right?”

This is what I really want to say about the start of fall: I thought I was busy this summer.  And I was–the whole while I kept wondering what happened to the part where things were supposed to slow down. And then fall careened in, and it felt like being hit in the face with a well seasoned 12-inch cast iron pan. As in, “Oh, you thought summer was busy, didya?  Well, how about THIS!” I guess I forgot about what happened when the whole country decides to pick up the phone and make things happen (buy low! sell high!), and your email inbox starts to look like a stock market ticker, while at the same time as you have to get your kids back into school, and schedule all those curriculum night pot luck events (and maybe one of your kids gets sick and misses the whole the first week of school, just for example).

Wah wah wah. So, are we going to surrender to the Labor Day Gods and hide under the bed with our take-out menus and our cell phones? No, sir! But are we going to being experimenting with that delightful demi-glace recipe we clipped from the newspaper last year? Again, no sir! Happy mediums are definitely in order, simple meals that take little time, little effort, and hopefully serve as that much-touted decompression time after a busy day. And this is where a little bit of advance planning pays off wildly.Here are a few prepped ingredients I try to have in the fridge by the end of the weekend, so that simple tasks like chopping an onion don’t stand between dinner and my family:

-chopped onions

-minced garlic (store it covered with a little bit of olive oil to it stays fresh longer)

-peeled slivered up carrot sticks (ready for eating, or easy to chop up for recipes)

-minced shallots

-a container of homemade vinaigrette

-cleaned boneless skinless chicken breasts

-strained fresh lemon juice

-lemon zest

-a fresh herb or two

So, come the craziness of the week, you’re set up to saute up a few of these ingredients, push them to one side of the pan, then brown some chicken breasts while you throw together a salad and steam up some broccoli or cauliflower. Take out the chicken breasts, pour 1/2 cup of chicken broth or wine or water into the pan, scrape up the browned bits, hit the pan sauce with some lemon and ripped up herbs if you got ’em, and pour it over the chicken. Salt, pepper. Look, you just made a great dinner! And as somebody famous likes to say, it’s a good thing.

So,what are your go-to recipes during the week?  And what recipes would you like to see more of on Cookstr? What ingredients, tools, or tricks save the day in your house when you have half an hour to make dinner, no energy, and no time to go to the supermarket?  Tell me, tell me.

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