Monday, December 3, 2012

Dinners for Sitter Nights: Weekly Menu 12/3

Easy, quick dinners for kids on night when a sitter is coming

It's the most wonderful time of the year - the time when you get to put on a shiny new outfit and head out for an adult evening! Our sitter usually arrives before the kids have had their dinner, and like everyone else, I often default to low or no-cook options like rotisserie chicken, pizza delivery or spaghetti. But sometimes I have a little extra time to prep something homemade and low maintenance for the kids before we go out for the evening. It usually works out when I have a small amount of chicken or ground beef that will easily feed the kids, but isn't quite enough for the whole family.

The recipes below are for quantities to feed a family, so unless you want leftovers, you may want to halve them. Also, you'll notice in the pictures that the side dishes are pretty formulaic around here. Trader Joe's Garlic Naan bread and peas are frequent sides, as are things like buttered egg noodles, Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots and sugar snap peas. I've listed the sides that I might serve with these dinners, but I don't over think it. Sometimes sliced fruit and buttered toast are the sides.

And finally, I went into the wayback machine and made Beer Bread as the Extra Credit this week. I feel like that was something we had a lot when I was a teenager, and was happy to try it again. It tastes great alongside one of the many soups I've been featuring here lately, especially the Butternut Squash Soup and the Italian Sausage Soup.


Easy Baked Fish Fillets

Baked white fish with a citrus mayo and bread crumb topping

 The fish gets a nice, crunchy texture from the bread crumbs. Whenever you have an extra slice or two of white bread, throw them in the freezer and save them for fresh bread crumbs.

Sides: Buttered egg noodles or baked potatoes; green beans or steamed broccoli

Make Ahead Notes 
  • Pulse crust-less white bread in a small food chopper or processor to make crumbs
  • Combine mayo mixture and put in fridge for later
  • Assemble fish completely and put in fridge until ready to bake
  • 1 1/2 pounds grouper or other white fish fillets
  • Cooking spray 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs(use crust-less white bread, not wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Place fish in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine lime juice, mayonnaise, onion powder, and pepper in a small bowl, and spread over fish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs; drizzle with butter. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Sprinkle with parsley.
  • Notes: Haddock or cod would make good substitutes for the grouper. Adjust the baking time depending on the thickness of the fish.
 Recipe from MyRecipes

All American Meatloaf

Mini meatloaves with a ketchup-brown sugar topping
I prefer to make mini meatloaves because you get convenient portions and they cook much faster.

Sides: Trader Joe's Garlic Naan bread or tater tots; green peas or baby carrots

  •  Buy pre-chopped onion
Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop onion; use a mini food chopper to make the job even faster
  • Follow all steps below and place in fridge until read to bake
  • 2 lbs ground chuck
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick cooking oats
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees; line a baking pan with foil and set a baking rack (if you have one) on top of the foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  • Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Shape mixture into mini meatloaves - about 4"x 2.5" - and place on rack.
  • Combine last 3 ingredients and spoon on top of each meat loaf.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until done.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Deviled Chicken Thighs

Deviled Chicken Thighs with a crispy coating
This recipe can be tailored easily to your family's tastes - instead of Dijon and Worcestershire under the breading, try honey mustard.

Sides: Garlic bread or biscuits; green peas or sugar snap peas with ranch dressing to dip

  •  Use dried parsley instead of fresh
Make Ahead Notes 
  • Prepare chicken completely and set aside in the fridge until you're ready to bake
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed 
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • In a large bowl, mix mustard and Worcestershire sauce until blended.
  • In a pie plate or shallow container, combine bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Toss chicken thighs in mustard mixture and then coat with crumb mixture.
  • Drizzle melted butter over chicken (this helps them brown)
  • Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until juices run clear.
Recipe adapted from

Beer Bread

This bread is super easy, but don't skip sifting the flour unless you want to end up with a hard, chewy texture. Don't have a sifter? Put the flour in a fine mesh colander over a bowl and use a spoon to "brush" the flour back and forth until it sifts into the bowl. 
  • 3 cups flour (sifted - this is a must!)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beer
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (1/4 cup will do just fine) 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Mix dry ingredients and beer.
  • Pour into a greased loaf pan.
  • Pour melted butter over mixture.
  • Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.

Recipe from 

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