Oh boy! Do you smell that? That aroma of fresh pencil case? C’mon, you know what I’m talking about – that smell that brings you right back to grade five, when you were nervous and excited to start classes again. Would this year be different than the last? Who would you sit next to? What did everyone do over the summer? I hope mom doesn’t make me wear that stupid sweat-shirt with my cousin’s rock band on it – no one even knows who they are! Yes, school is back in session and for many of our customers that means getting back into the habit of rushing everyone out of the house by eight, just to rush back home by six to get dinner on the table. A feat that is difficult at the best of times, and damn near impossible all of the time. Let’s face it – most of us don’t have the luxury of shopping at the market every day, sniffing at the peach bin for the best one, or sharing an espresso with the fishmonger and discussing the virtues of Ontario-farmed shrimp. Most of us are happy to get to the market once or twice a week with meal-plan in hand, getting a haul and making it home in good time to put your groceries away and share a conversation with your partner. With that in mind, I’m here to help with that meal-planning list. Let’s assume that you didn’t have time to batch cook a stew or a roast chicken on the Sunday before the beginning of the week. Here are five easy and quick dinners that can be on the table within 30 minutes of getting in the door. Relax, it’s been a stressful day. Throw on some smooth 70s pop-rock (Fleetwood Mac, I’m looking at you), fire up the essential oil diffuser, and get cracking at one of these recipes. _______________________________ Smoked Pork Chops with Green Beans, Mini Potatoes, and Dill Serves 4 Ingredient List 2 cups of green beans (about 2 handfuls), tops removed 1 cup mini red potatoes, cut in half 1 tbsp vegetable oil 4 smoked pork chops ½ red onion, sliced 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped 2 tbsp mayonnaise Your favorite mustard to serve. Method 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over a high heat. Add the potatoes and cook for five minutes. Add the green beans to the pot and cook for another 6-8 minutes, or until both the green beans and the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and set aside. 2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the smoked pork chops, and sprinkle the red onion on top of the chops. Brown on one side, then turn the chops over and lower the heat to medium low, and cover the pan. Cook for an additional five minutes, or until the chops are hot all the way through and the onions are cooked through and slightly golden. Take the pan off the heat. 3. Take the chops out of the pan and keep warm. Add the potatoes and the green beans to the pan. Add the mayonnaise and the dill and stir well to coat the vegetables. Place the potato and green bean mixture into a serving dish and top with the smoked chops. Serve immediately with some mustard. _______________________________ Sausage and Peppers on Cous Cous Serves 4 Ingredient List 2 tbsp olive oil, divided 4 Italian sausages 1 red onion, sliced 2 red peppers, cored and sliced 2 garlic cloves, minced salt and pepper to taste 1 can (2 cups) of pureed tomatoes 6 fresh basil leaves 1 cup cous cous Method 1. Pour 1 tbsp of the oil into a large sauté pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the sausages in the pan and brown on one side, about five minutes. Turn the sausages over and add the onions, garlic, and peppers to the pan. Reduce the heat to a medium low, season with salt and pepper, stir well, and cover. Cook for ten minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, turn the heat back up to medium, and cover. Cook for an additional ten minutes, then add the basil and stir well. 2. While the sausages are cooking, cook the cous cous. In a pot, bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil, and add 1 tbsp of olive oil and a tsp of salt. Put the cous cous in a large bowl. When the water comes to a boil, pour it into the bowl with the cous cous, stir once, and cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for fifteen minutes. Remove the plastic and fluff the cous cous with a fork, then place it in a large serving dish. 3. Place the sausages on top of the cous cous, then pour the tomato sauce and peppers all over the sausages and serve. _______________________________ Seared Tofu with Peanut Sauce, Roasted Broccoli, and Rice Serves 4 Ingredients 1 cup jasmine rice 1 pinch salt 1 tbsp butter 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets 2 cloves of garlic, minced 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided salt and pepper to taste 1 block of firm tofu, cut into four even slabs, about ¾ inch each 2 tbsp peanut butter 2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar 2 tsp sesame oil 2 tbsp toasted salted peanuts 2 tbsp green onions, sliced and divided 2 tbsp soy sauce 2 tbsp butter Method 1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. 2. Rinse the jasmine rice by running it under cold water in a bowl, and shaking the grains with your fingers to release the starch. Rinse and repeat two more times. Strain the rice, and put it in a pot. Add 1.5 cups of water, the tsp of salt and the tbsp of butter. Bring the water to a boil over a high heat, stir the rice, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the temperature to a low heat. Cook for fifteen minutes, then take the pot off the heat and let sit for ten minutes before taking the lid off and fluffing the rice with a fork. 2. While the rice is cooking, make the broccoli. In a mixing bowl, toss the florets in 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Lay on a parchment paper-lined baking tray and roast in the oven until golden, about fifteen minutes. Take the broccoli out of the oven and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce and butter and mix well to incorporate. Keep warm. 3. Pour 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet on a medium high heat. When hot, carefully lay the tofu in the oil and sear for five minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm. 4. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar, and sesame oil. If too viscous, add a tbsp of warm water. Stir in the roasted peanuts and green onions. 5. To serve, arrange the broccoli on a platter and top it with the seared tofu. Drizzle with the peanut sauce, and serve with the rice in a bowl on the side. _______________________________ Broiled Salmon with Mushroom Trifolati and Polenta Serves 4 Ingredients List 2 tbsp vegetable oil 4 filets of salmon, 5-6 oz each, boneless salt and pepper to taste 2 tbsp butter, melted 2 cups instant polenta 2 cups chicken stock 2 tbsp grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese 1 tbsp butter 2 tbsp olive oil 3-4 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (cremini, button, shiitake, oyster, portobello) 4 garlic cloves, minced 2 tbsp parsley, chopped 1 tbsp chives, chopped Method 1. Turn your broiler on a low setting. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, then spread the vegetable oil over the foil. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper, and brush them with the melted butter. Place in the oven on the second highest rack to broil. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until the salmon becomes firm. Remove from the oven and keep warm. 2. Make the instant polenta using the package instructions, using the two cups of chicken stock as the re-hydrating liquid. Once cooked, vigorously stir in the cheese and the 1 tbsp of cold butter and set aside, keeping warm. 3. Meanwhile, make the mushrooms. In a large mixing bowl, toss the mushrooms and the garlic with the olive oil. Season to taste. Preheat a large sauté pan over a high heat, then add the mushroom mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have softened and start to glisten, about ten minutes. Stir in the parsley, then take off the heat and set aside to stay warm. 4. Pour the polenta on the bottom of a large platter. Top with the mushrooms, then lay the four salmon filets on top. Sprinkle the chives on top and serve. _______________________________ Top Sirloin Steaks with Blue Cheese, Fries, and Green Salad Serves 4 Ingredients frozen French fries 4 top sirloin steaks, 6 oz each salt and pepper to taste 2 tbsp olive oil 4 tbsp blue cheese, crumbled 3 tbsp red wine vinegar 4 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 1 tsp chopped tarragon (optional) 1 head green lettuce, roughly chopped and washed 1 carrot, peeled and grated ½ cup sliced cucumber 4 radishes, sliced thinly 1 green apple, sliced thinly Method 1. Preheat the oven and cook the French fries as per the package directions. 2. Turn the broiler to a high setting. Preheat a large sauté pan over a medium high heat. Season the steaks with the salt and pepper and rub them with the olive oil. When the pan is hot, sear the steaks on each side until the desired internal temperature is met. For medium, cook for about five minutes per side. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Once cooked, place the steaks on the tray. Divide the blue cheese between the four steaks. Place the steaks in the oven on the highest rack and melt the cheese until golden, about 2 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside, keeping warm. 3. Make a vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, oil, mustard, and tarragon (if using). Season with salt and pepper, then dress the lettuce, carrots, cucumber, radish, and apple. 4. Serve the steaks on a platter, with the fries and the salad on the side.