It’s rhythmic. It’s predictable. Seven days a week, it’s the same song streaming in the background. As much as I want to hate it, I love it. Let’s be honest, I crave it. She craves it too. Hallie’s little 1-year-old body, always in search of a new adventure, craves the rhythm of everything else. The rhythm of breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime. Of naptime, though we can’t seem to hold a decent beat here. Of school time and bath time. The rhythm informs. It lets us know where we are and what’s coming next. The rhythm is a schedule begging to be filled in.
When I was little, I’d stand in my closet waiting for the perfect outfit to hit me in the face, though I knew exactly what the outfit looked like before ever stepping foot in the closet. I wanted that dirty shirt with the stripes in the hamper and those new pants that were getting hemmed because of my major height deficit. I’d stand there, frozen, right up until I could hear the bus a street over; still convinced that outfit might be plausible. From day one, my mom called me bull-headed. She was right.
Cross my path at 7:00 am, 11:30 am, and 5:00 pm today, and you’ll find me there—not in the closet but the pantry, waiting for the perfect meal to hit me in the face. Some things never change. I have an idea of what I want to make, but I’m lacking the ingredients and the time it takes to prepare. That and I have a toddler signing and saying more, more, more. She’s also learned to pat her tummy.
The rhythm is a schedule begging to be filled in, and it’s been begging me for a long, long time. It’s time to button up my mom jeans, pull out a pen and paper, and plan ahead. Spontaneity, you’ve lost your charm.
Wolf has a bunch of great planning tools. But getting started, that’s the hardest part. I’ve started tomorrow 1,000 times, and most nights I find myself standing there, back in the pantry. So here’s my newest plan of action: choose a handful of recipes to try; edit and discard as needed; and remind myself no recipe is “easy” until it’s been made it a handful of times. Once I get that down, we’re implementing Rice Bowl Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Pizza Friday… You know you’re a mom when your calendar says Taco Tuesday.
I have Rice Bowl Monday covered with this Sun-dried Tomato Bowl. It’s plenty simple, though it may not feel that way initially. The basic formula—homemade dressing, roasted veggies, chicken marinated in said dressing, and steamed rice. It’s versatile and packed with flavor. The sun-dried tomato dressing is tangy and bright and can be made a week or so in advance. (Store-bought works too.) The veggies can be chopped ahead of time. Little hands can break apart the broccoli. The chicken marinates in the time it takes to prep the meal (this can be done ahead of time too). And the rice is whittled down to a simple science—one part rice, two parts water, plenty of salt, and a pat of butter. It comes together in 20 minutes. (I use a quick-cooking jasmine brown rice found at Trader Joe’s).
Mealtimes, you’re rhythmic. You’re predictable. You’re the stuff my dreams are made of. Yet you still surprise me with your knock at the door. So tomorrow I’m dumping my pantry dates. I’ve got an arranged marriage with meal planning. It’s the only way I’m ever going to reclaim this kitchen of mine.
From start to finish, this dish comes together in a little over 30 minutes. If you’re a better planner than I, prep the dressing, cut the veggies, and marinate the chicken ahead of time. A little salt and olive oil goes a long way in this dish. But it’s the bright, tangy notes of the dressing that pulls it all together.
Make sun-dried tomato dressing or use store bought. Can be made 1 week in advance.
Place chicken in a small dish. Salt liberally. Pour dressing (about 1/4 cup) over chicken and allow to marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature. Set aside. Can be done morning of and stored in fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before cooking.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop broccoli, carrots, and onion. Place on baking sheet. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly charred. Stir halfway if you wish.
Into a small sauce pan, add rice, water, and pat of butter. Add a liberal pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn to medium. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until water is no longer visible. Remove from heat. Keep covered and set aside for another 10 minutes. Rice will continue to steam in pot.
Just before serving, make chicken. Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Once hot, add chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees. Allow to rest a couple minutes before slicing. Chiffonade basil.
Serve. Add rice to bowls. Top with roasted veggies, sliced chicken, additional dressing, basil, and feta.
• Cooking times for rice varies based on variety. I use a quick-cooking jasmine brown rice from Trader Joe’s. I’ve based the cooking method off this variety.
• Roasted veggies keep well in the fridge. I often roast a big pan to add to my lunches for the week.
• To reheat rice, add rice plus a little water to a sauce pan. Cover and cook on medium heat until warmed through and water is nearly dissolved.