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Simplicity: 3 delicious meals, 5 ingredients each



Photo: Wei-Duan Woo/Flickr

 

After I had kids, I entered a challenging nightly event. It was called the How to Make Supper as Fast as Humanly Possible Contest. You may be familiar with it. Over the years, I've learned to strive for three simple goals – only one of which is truly ambitious:

1. Make it healthy.

2. Please everyone (almost impossible but I'm still working on it).

3. Make it easy and fast, fast, fast!

Here are three recipes that are bona fide contenders. Since I limit the amount of ingredients to five (olive oil, salt and pepper are freebies), all are brain-dead simple and consequently, very quick to make.

 

Crispy Drumsticks and Sweet Potato Fries

Hand-on prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

I like to use whole-wheat panko crumbs (a type of very crispy Japanese breadcrumbs) on these drumsticks, but if you prefer plain panko crumbs, use those instead. You can also add 1 teaspoon dried thyme or tarragon to the panko mixture if you'd like.

Extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
Kosher or coarse sea salt and pepper
8 chicken drumsticks, about 2 pounds
3 tablespoons coarse-grained Dijon mustard
3 8-ounce sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line two large baking sheets with foil or parchment paper and lightly brush with the olive oil.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brush the drumsticks with the mustard and roll in the panko. Place on one of the baking sheets and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until the drumsticks are browned and cooked through. Let sit 5 minutes, then loosen from the foil or parchment and serve.

3. Meanwhile, cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise into 8 wedges each. Place on the remaining baking sheet, toss with another 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cumin. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp and tender.

 

Shrimp with Soba Noodles

If your kids shy away from shrimp, substitute 1/4 pound of ground beef or dark meat turkey instead.

Hands-on prep: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
Kosher or coarse sea salt
Olive oil
1/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions (both white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Chinese black bean garlic sauce

1. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and salt and stir well. Boil noodles until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain well and rinse briefly with cold water. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and snow peas and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp and snow peas are almost cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the black bean sauce, 1/2 cup water, the scallions and the noodles. Stir just until everything is warmed through and serve immediately.

 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Penne

You can use crumbled feta or queso fresco instead of the goat cheese if you prefer.

Hands-on prep: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

1-1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, stemmed and washed (about 4 cups)
Kosher or coarse sea salt
12 ounces whole wheat or multi-grain penne
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup torn basil leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Cook the penne following package directions. Drain and keep warm.

2. Spread the tomatoes on a jellyroll sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and roast until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and toss.

3. Divide the penne between four serving dishes and top with the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and basil and serve. Drizzle with additional extra-virgin olive oil if desired.


Editor's note: This updated article was originally published in August of 2011. 

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