Let's face it: You're busy — too busy to mess around with complicated cooking at the end of the day. Still, dinner should be more than just a cup full of cereal and the dream of a brighter tomorrow. Enter: Jenny Rosenstrach, a busy mom who makes dinner happen with style, simplicity, and just the right amount of sizzle. Whether or not you're cooking for kids, we love her easy, delicious approach. In fact, we love it so much, we'll be sharing one of her recipes every week, so you can have a life — and a REALLY good meal, too.
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to kids, don’t make a promise you won’t be able to keep. Don’t promise a trip to Barnes & Noble this weekend if you know it’s going to take some logistical heroics to squeeze it between all the games and practices and trips to the mall to buy new boots. (Again! Why am I always buying boots?) Don’t promise you will kick the soccer ball around after work if you know it’s going to be dark outside when you get home. (They will blame you no matter how convincingly you try to explain Daylight Savings, the meeting that ran late, the train that chugged along at a snail’s pace.) Don’t promise you’ll make a cereal box village on Sunday afternoon, if you know there’s a good chance you’ll have to wrap up some last-minute work on a project due Monday and will likely respond “in a minute…in five minutes…in ten minutes…in about an hour” to the little voice that keeps asking you “Now Mom? Now Mom? Now?” and then, eventually with resigned, puppy-dog disappointment, “Oh forget it.” Does anything make me feel lousier? I don’t think so.
Whatever you do, don’t promise them you’ll take part in Meatless Monday! Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that I don’t love the idea of a weekly vegetarian meal and the hugely popular initiative to get families to cut back on meat once a week — I more than love it. I embrace it! We like to do our part for the planet with plant-based dinners at least two times a week. It’s just that those dinners somehow don’t ever seem to fall on a Monday. And for my two little literalists, this is not acceptable. They don’t ever seem to give me props when we have salad pizza on Thursday or minestrone on Sunday or bean cakes on Wednesday. It’s the pomegranate-braised pork loin I dared to make on Monday that they remember. “Mooooom,” said one of my eco-policewomen last week, setting her fork down, leaning back, and crossing her arms. “It’s Monday! Why are we eating pork?”
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So, next Monday we’re having veggie quesadillas. Because they are fast, because they are good, and because I promised.
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
The girls aren’t goat cheese lovers, so for their quesadillas, I usually replace it with shredded cheddar.
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup water
3 scallions (white and green parts only) chopped
6 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
4 ounces goat cheese
Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Stir in beans and mash them with a large fork. Add water and scallions and cook, stirring until most of water is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
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Set a separate skillet over medium-high heat and add a little more vegetable oil. Place one tortilla in skillet, spreading about a sixth of bean filling on one side. Sprinkle a little goat cheese on top of beans and fold other half over to seal. Flip around a few times until tortillas are golden and cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a dinner plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
I served these with crispy kale, which is another way of saying I sautéed the kale in olive oil over medium-high heat, added salt, and then completely forgot about it as I was summoned to explain a bar model math problem. But you know what? The leaves turned crispy and with a little more salt, they became delicious, easy-to-eat (and easy-to-sell) kale chips.
Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of Dinner: A Love Story and the blog of the same name. She and her husband write The Providers column for Bon Appetit.