It's Back to School and Back to the Scramble! Today we welcome Aviva Goldfarb, mother of two and the author and founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble®, an online weekly meal planning service and author of a cookbook by the same name. She also has a second cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families” Both are available on Amazon.com. Aviva is also a Today Show contributor and frequently appears in media such as the Washington Post, O Magazine, Real Simple, Working Mother, Prevention and more.
Aviva's focus is on the family dinner -- and making it easier for busy parents. After all, families who eat dinner together typically have better relationships. Plus, the kids do better in school, are healthier physically and emotionally, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. More interesting (and rather alarming) statistics and trends can be found on Aviva's website.
By following Aviva's tips below, you'll learn to save time, money, and your sanity! Most of Aviva's recipes are gluten free -- or can be easily adapted to be gluten free. Below she shares two favorite recipes, as well as links to sample menu plans and some of her favorite gluten free foods.
Without further adieu, I'll turn it over to Aviva...
Have you ever found yourself staring into your refrigerator at 6:00 pm, wondering what to make for dinner, while the kids are fighting, the dogs are barking and the phone is ringing? You probably never pictured yourself as the kind of mom or dad who would feed your family something out of a bag, a box or a can every night, or be on first name basis with the pizza guy. Yet you only have about half an hour until meltdowns begin. What’s a busy parent to do?
I have found four simple strategies to help busy parents like us cook four to six nights per week, and actually save time and money by doing so. It may sound challenging (I know, because I used to think so too!), but with a little preparation and practice, making healthy and delicious homemade dinners can be even easier, faster and cheaper than eating out or picking up take-out (if you can even find gluten-free take-out near your home!).
Here are my tricks for surviving what I call The Six O’Clock Scramble:
1. Keep meals simple.
With our families’ busy schedules, most of us can’t afford to spend more than 30 minutes preparing a meal. I have developed a great collection of simple, healthy, delicious recipes (many of which are gluten free, or easily adapted to be gluten free). Most meals don’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare, and many only take 10 or 15 minutes. No matter what recipes you use, match a simple main dish with an easy and healthy side dish to balance out flavor and nutrition, and you’ve got yourself a great family dinner.
2. Get organized: Prepare a weekly menu.
When I first started trying to cook meals, I would walk the grocery aisles, letting items on the shelves inspire ideas for the week’s dinners. The problem was, I would often get home and realize I was missing key ingredients, so I’d have to go shopping again or change my dinner plans. And the amount of food I was throwing away because I didn’t get around to using it was appalling. Having a weekly menu and keeping a grocery list tacked to the refrigerator allows us to shop only once each week for ingredients, avoiding those last minute trips to the grocery store.
3. Keep your kitchen well-stocked.
With a well-stocked pantry, you can easily pull together an extra meal or two with any unused ingredients from the week’s meals, or throw together a quick meal on those nights when your evening doesn’t go as planned. Some of my favorite healthy and inexpensive quick meal essentials are canned beans (for burritos or taco salads), tortillas (you'll want to choose gluten free corn tortillas, of course), eggs (for easy omelets, scrambles or frittatas), and fresh or frozen vegetables and other healthy side dishes to round out the meal. What’s more, your grocery trips each week should be even faster if you are well-stocked with staples.
4. Involve kids in the kitchen.
If time allows. I like to let the kids help me in the kitchen. Sure, sometimes they get in my way, but cooking is a great way for us to spend time together. And here’s an added bonus for we parents of picky eaters: kids are far more likely to eat something that they have helped prepare!
If dinner has you feeling daunted or discouraged, don’t despair. Try to simplify your menus and recipes, plan ahead for a few meals before going to the grocery store, and always shop armed with a grocery list. Chances are you will enjoy the stress-free dining so much, you’ll want to plan your dinners before heading to the grocery store every week.
If you still feel overwhelmed, consider joining a meal planning system like The Six O’Clock Scramble so you can have meals planned for you and the grocery list made before you had to the store. Check out some of my sample menu plans (easily customizable to be gluten free) and my favorite family-friendly gluten-free foods.
Here’s a 3-ingredient gluten-free recipe you can enjoy with your family this week.
Broiled Salmon with Mustard-Soy Crust
Prep + Cook = 15 minutes
This dish, invented by my mother-in-law Barbara Goldfarb, brings a lot of reward for very little effort. For a sweeter taste, use teriyaki sauce instead of the soy sauce (you'll want to use gluten free versions). Serve it with boiled new or red potatoes and an Asian Cucumber Salad.
1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillet, preferably wild salmon
1/4 cup grainy Dijon mustard (use wheat/gluten-free)
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy or teriyaki sauce (use wheat/gluten-free)
Place the salmon, skin side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Brush the top of the fish with the mustard. Sprinkle the soy or teriyaki sauce on top.
Broil the fish for 10-12 minutes, until the topping is browned and the salmon flakes easily and is opaque throughout. (Meanwhile, make the Asian Cucumber Salad, if you are serving it.) Serve immediately.
Tip: If your kids (or you!) are turned off by the skin on salmon, just ask the fishmonger to remove it for you. If you'd prefer to do it yourself, put the salmon, skin side down, on your cutting board and, firmly holding one end of the fish, use a thin, sharp knife angled toward the skin and cut between the flesh and the skin for the length of the filet. Alternatively, when the fish is cooked it’s even easier to slice off the skin.
Scramble Flavor Booster: Use spicy mustard to coat the salmon.
Side Dish suggestion: Cover the potatoes with water in a medium pot. Add the salt and bring the water to a boil. Simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender, 10 - 15 minutes, and drain them. Toss them immediately (cut them in half first, if desired) with the butter or olive oil, garlic powder and lemon pepper seasoning (optional).
Side Dish suggestion: In a medium bowl whisk together the gluten free soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Add the diced cucumbers, and toss it thoroughly to coat the cucumbers with the dressing. Top it with toasted sesame seeds. Serve it immediately or refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.
Nutritional Information per serving (% based upon daily values):
Calories 330, Total Fat 18g, 28%, Saturated Fat 3.5g, 18%, Cholesterol 100mg, 33%, Sodium 700mg, 29%, Total Carbohydrate 0g, 0%, Dietary Fiber 0g, 0%, Sugar 0g, Protein 34g
And here are is one more of my favorite dinner recipes that has the added bonus of being great packed in our lunchboxes the next day:
Saffron Rice and Bean Salad
Prep + Cook = 30 minutes
6 servings, about 1 3/4 cups
This Scramble signature dish (I often make it for tasting events), originally from my college roommate Christine Richards, tastes divine, and is so colorful that it brightens up any plate. It is a meal in itself, or is great wrapped in a tortilla or as a side dish with any meat or fish. You can also make it heartier by adding cooked shrimp or chopped turkey sausage to the salad -- it’s so flexible! For picky eaters, serve some of the rice and beans separately. Serve it with a fruit salad with lime dressing.
10 oz. yellow (saffron or Mexican) rice
15 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
6 plum or Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced (about 1 cup total)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
6 gluten free corn tortillas (optional)
Cook the rice according to the package directions. (Meanwhile, prepare the fruit salad, if you are serving it).
While the rice cooks, put the beans, tomatoes, and onions in a large serving bowl. Add the warm rice to the bowl, and top it with the vinegar, oil, and cilantro or parsley (optional). Toss it thoroughly. Serve the salad warm or cold, wrapped in warm tortillas if desired. (The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Scramble Flavor Booster: Use the optional cilantro or parsley and a little extra red onion in the salad.
Tip: If you have leftover cilantro, try mixing some (chopped) into eggs before scrambling and then top off the finished product with a little warm salsa.
Side Dish suggestion: Toss in-season fruit of your choice, such as 1 - 2 cups blueberries strawberries, or grapes, 1 - 2 cups chopped cantaloupe or pineapple, and 1 - 2 sliced bananas with 1 tsp. fresh lime juice and 1 tsp. superfine (or regular) sugar (optional).
Nutritional Information per serving (without tortillas) (% based upon daily values):
Calories 170, Total Fat 5g, 8%, Saturated Fat 0.5g, 3%, Cholesterol 0mg, 0%, Sodium 320mg, 13%, Total Carbohydrate 28g, 9% Dietary Fiber 4g, 16% Sugar 4g, Protein 5g
Photos of the salmon and the family dinner are courtesy of Linda Wolpert. Other photos courtesy of Aviva Goldfarb.