Thursday, March 11, 2010

Easy Cheap Weeknight Dinner #1

I realize the enjoyment is gone for me (for the most part)regarding cooking. Most nights, sadly, I worry more about the mess it'll make than the meal itself. Terrible I know. So weeknights are tough... a picky 7 year old who won't touch anything green, pole-bean teenager, a 9 year old with the palate of MFK Fisher(who recently told me: "mom these grapes are weird, they taste like rocks" I mean, who thinks that? ha!) ,a husband who may or may not be gluten-intolerant but at the very least is afraid of carbs, and me: I'd be happy with spaghetti everyday ala Sofia Loren. But I digress....

I have to cook. So.  I do have some old stanbys I go to for weeknight meals. They must fit the following requirements: economical, crowd-pleasing, good-for-you but tasty, and involve some vegetable. My parents made sure we had some fresh veg on the dinner table, most often in summer it was homegrown. How spoiled I was and did not even know it! Thanks Mom!

Here's a goodie adapted from the Lemon-Oregano Chicken my parents made all year long. Sometimes even in winter Dad would grill even in snow. This one is an oven-baked version and uses economical chicken legs. Thighs or even breasts can be subsituted, but I find my kids love to grab the leg by the handle!

The squash dish was made up (by who? I don't know) but used the bumper crop of zucchini and yellow squash we often ended up with in summer. You can buy zucchini and yellow squash all year long, or substitute any home-grown summer* squash variety. This dish single-handedly converted my former squash-hating husband. He and 2 out of the 3 kiddoes love it. Not bad! (*Remember: Summer squash are the thin-skinned ones, not those pumpkin-like rock-hard rind winter squashes)

The other good thing about this meal: for about 10 bucks I fed a family of five. The chicken was 6.57 and the squash was 3.31. I had the sauce leftover, the onion, and everyhting else is a pantry staple. Easy-Peasy-Cheap... hmm this could be a series....

Baked Lemon Chicken with Herbs and Garlic

Family or "Super-Size" Pack O' Chicken Legs
3 large garlic cloves, sliced thin or chopped
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon grated zest of one of those lemons
3 tablespoons McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning (or dried oregano)
1/2 cup water

Rinse and pat dry the chcken legs. Place in a large glass bowl or cassarole and sprinkle on the salt and all the spices and 2 of the chopped garlic cloves. Add 1/2 of the olive oil, all the vinegar and water. Mix well to coat. Now put in 1/2 of the lemon juice and zest. Mix well, cover with plastic and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours.
Preheat your oven to 425. Line a large cookie sheet (like a 13x 22) with sides with foil.(I LOVE Reynolds Non-stick foil, or use regular foil with some Pam spray on it) Take the legs out of the marinade and shake most of the liquid off. Now line up your legs on the lined pan. You should have just enough room.

Place in the oven and cook at 400 degrees.  Turn once during this cooking time to evenly bake. Bake until the skin is crisp-looking and the chicken juices run clear when pricked..... This should take a total of 1 to 1 1/2 hours...(If LOTS of liquid appears,like 1/2 cup or more, take the pan out of the oven and carefully drain it off and discard, as this will prevent browning) Meanwhile, mix up the remaining lemon juice, zest, olive oil and the 1 garlic clove. Just before serving, pour this over to coat all the legs and serve. This is the "secret" to lemony chicken-- putting this lemon marinade on after its out of the oven. Let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Make THIS while the chicken's in the oven:
Cheesy Squash Skillet

1-2 lbs summer squash, such as zucchini, yellow crookneck, pattypan, etc..., sliced into uniform pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small can tomato sauce (or can use diced tomatoes, 1/2 of an 8-oz can, or leftover sauce from past night!)
olive oil or pam
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch salt
1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese

Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a hot non-stick skillet that has a lid(or you can make a lid with Reynold's Non-stick foil(told ya I love this stuff). Saute the garlic until lightly browned, add the squash and the onion and keep it moving until it is bright and fragrant... with a little browning at the edges. Make sure you get the zucchini browned up good- it really adds to the flavor. Pour in the tomato sauce, salt and organo, mix well and then flatten a bit till the bottom of the pan is covered and the vegs are evenly distributed. Top with the cheeses and lower the heat to a simmer, then top with lid and lower heat to Lo. Let this simmer until the cheese is melty... let it rest a few minutes and enjoy!
Linkin up to Frugal Friday at LifeAsMom--see u there!


  1. {{{hugs}}} I can relate to not finding joy in cooking. At all, ever. I have celiac and am alergic to about 20 things and I have a son who is allergic to beef, milk, soy, bananas, beans (all kinds) and then there are 8 other picky-ish eaters. Oh, and I forgot to mention a husband who doesn't like pasta or rice. Sigh, so just know I feel your pain!

  2. Anything that uses up those over-abundant zucchini in the fall and cheese (being from Wisconsin!) sounds just delicious! Thanks for sharing and thanks for visiting my blog! Hope you can find an Airstream...I promise you won't want to do anything else once you do!


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