October 8th, 2011 - By Lari Robling
Getting a healthy dinner on the table during the work week is a tough challenge. Beloved champion of the home cook, Sara Moulton, says it can be easier than you think. From one dish meals to creative use of leftovers, we'll preview some tips from her new PBS TV show, Sara's Weekend Meals.
"Schedules have gotten very complicated, and it just seems like families are not sitting down to dinner." That's Sara Moulton, host of the PBS TV cooking show, Sara's Weeknight Meals. I think that is awful for a bunch of different reasons. The obvious stuff is we're eating too much fast food and too much processed food. Also, because of the lack of communication. I mean dinner isn't just about eating, it's about talking." Moulton advises to rethinking the traditional plate, "we all make the same ten dishes and it's like **yawn**."
So, Moulton suggests more one dish meals add variety. They cook in one pot for easier cleanup as well as utilizing leftovers.
"I don't like leftovers, cause they are leftover."
"Some leftovers I do like."
"It depends on the leftover."
"Yes, I like leftovers, barbecue, and fried chicken."
"I don't like leftovers, because it's not fresh."
Ah Ha! But Moulton says leftovers don't have to be boring. It's all in the planning, "just take the shoulder lamb chops and grill them off for night one, and fine. So, you would cook six of them, and you save two. Then, on night two, or night three, or whenever else you want to make the second dish, you take the cooked lamb chops and you pulse them in a food processor. You grind them up and add feta cheese, and an egg, and some bread crumbs and you make lamb burgers. And out of two chops, which weigh three quarters of a pound, you make another dinner for four people."
In addition to looking at leftovers in a whole new way, Moulton also says, "Breakfast for dinner." If you have some eggs, and a few items rattling around in the refrigerator, you have dinner. "Well, one of my favorites is eggs baked in ham. And what you do is you take a good quality thin sliced ham, you can take a round slice even a square slice and then ease it into a mini muffin tin so it is sort of like a cup, a container. Then, I make a quick soffritto. Soffritto is a vegetable base consisting of peppers, and cilantro, and garlic. And you just throw it all into a blender and blend it up, or a food processor, no dicing or chopping there. Then you break an egg on top of the soffritto mixture, and then you sprinkle some monterrey jack cheese on top of that. Then, you throw it into a 400° oven, I think it's about 15 to 20 minutes. The whole thing sets up as a happy little package, that's my idea of sheer heaven. And what I also try to do is suggest that there are other things that you could do. I mean you have that happy little ham cup, you could put anything in the bottom. Creamed spinach, mushrooms was the original one in Gourmet."
Other ways to stretch your budget and your time are to serve soups, sandwiches, and salads as a meal. Moulton agrees it's tough to find the time to cook meals from scratch. Particularly in single parent homes or families with very young children. But, she says the benefits make it worth the effort, "there will be no additives. There will not be 400 ingredients. There won't be extra sodium you didn't ask, there won't be extra sugar. You can control it and you can start with really good, fresh ingredients from start to finish. I think that is a huge plus." Catch more Sara's Weeknight Meals on WHYY TV Saturdays at 4 pm.