Originally Published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday April 28, 2012
This time of year you hear my kids crying “Happy days are here again” every day when they get home from school. The days are getting longer, there are more things we can do outside, flowering trees are in bloom and the school year is winding down.
The downside of these longer days is the fact that it is still light out at 8:30 every night. This makes it very hard to coax my children into bed, and inevitably our bedtime routine gets stretched out at least 30 minutes longer. That may not seem like much, but to an exhausted parent it seems like a lifetime.
So, knowing that some bed times will be a trying experience, I find that it helps to keep my evenings as organized as possible. If I can’t plan a whole weeks worth of meals out to stay on track, then I at least do a few weeknights worth. That way I set the bar low and decrease the chance of feeling frazzled when I can’t get it all in.
I am guilty of falling into a rut where the only things that sound good to me are the foods I don’t have the ingredients for. If I am making meatloaf, then I want pizza, If it is taco night, then I want pasta. I try to justify it that if we spend less at the grocery, not buying those unnecessary ingredients , then it won’t matter if we eat out here and there. I use coupons for goodness sake!
Of course eating out to me does not mean hitting up the corner big-box chain. I am picky like that. I know my husband would rather have peanut butter and jelly than have the dreaded “where are we eating” conversation with my boys and I . We never want the same thing at the same time.
Yes, I do tend to fixate on food, but really, if I didn’t then what would I write about? My husband sees food as fuel for his body, while I see eating as more of an experience. Nothing tastes the same to each person. I love garlic, while another person may not. Some relish a plate full of eggs in the morning, while I prefer Kashi and yogurt. People’s tastes are often as unique as a fingerprint.
In order to eat at home more, waste less food, and have a more streamlined dinner prep time, I have learned to duplicate some of my more craveable restaurant favorites. The thinking is that if I can make it myself, then I can control the ingredients and share yet another meal around my families table, together.
Today I am sharing one of my favorite salads of all time. IT is from a restaurant that I think really has one redeeming quality: this salad! The first time I had it I knew 2 things: I had to have it again soon, and it was so simple that I knew I could make it at home. I know my husband was sure glad I nailed this recipe. Ordering this at a restaurant would cost eight dollars for one portion, making it myself would cost eight dollars and would feed my family.
Make this the night before, then when you get home from work just toss with the dressing and crispy won-tons. Serve this with a nice grilled salmon and dinner is done!
Chopped Salad with Bacon
3 heads of Romaine Lettuce, washed and dried well, shredded
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
5-6 strips of bacon, drained and crumbled
1 small bunch of chives, chopped
1 cucumber, partially peeled and seeded, diced
1/4 C of grated Parmesan cheese
hand full of crispy won-tons (see recipe)
creamy Parmesan dressing (see recipe)
In a large serving bowl, layer the Romaine, tomatoes, bacon, chives, and cucumber. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Toss with dressing until coated. Add the crispy won-tons on top and serve immediately.
Creamy Parmesan Dressing
1 C light mayonnaise
1/4 C milk
2 TB cider vinegar
2 TB grated Parmesan cheese
fresh black pepper , to taste
Mix ingredients in a bowl or shaker container until emulsified. Serve immediately, makes 1 1/4 cups.
*I used a mason jar with a clean marble dropped in to help move things along. Make sure to fish it out before serving ????
1 package of won-ton wrappers, found in refrigerated produce area of most groceries
corn or vegetable oil for frying
Use desired amount of wrappers in this recipe. I used half of a pack and saved the rest for later use. Place wrappers in a pile and slice into strips.
In a deep pot, add enough oil to accommodate your strips. Heat on medium -high heat. Once it is hot, 2-3 minutes , carefully add strips. Allow to just slightly brown, as they will cook quickly. Strain out with a heat-proof strainer and drain on paper towels. Once cooled they can be added to the salad.