While I love to cook and would choose to spend as much of my time in the kitchen as possible, spending hours preparing dinner is usually not in the cards for me, especially on a weeknight. Sometimes finding 30 minutes to get something on the table seems like a lot to ask.
Still, dinner has to happen every night whether I have a lot of time or not. On the “not” nights — and there are many — I look for help where I can find it. Although I like to make as many of the things we eat from scratch, when things are particularly hectic, I’m grateful for whatever helps me put as healthful a meal as possible on the table in short order.
I find that grocery-store staples such as precut fresh vegetables, canned beans and rotisserie chickens allow me to pull together a dish in a fraction of the time it would take for me to do the work myself.
Today’s recipe for Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas with Avocado-Cilantro Cream is a good example. While tostadas could be time-consuming to make, I can get these mouthwatering delights assembled and on the table in minutes with a little help from a few convenience items. Precut coleslaw (or precut shredded cabbage or carrots), canned low-fat refried beans, rotisserie chicken breasts and pre-made tostada shells make this dish a meal I can finish in minutes. That includes the time it takes to whip up the homemade avocado-cilantro cream, which is a nice touch that makes the tostadas taste like they took hours to prepare.
Of course, getting everyone to jump in on the assembly of the tostadas is another way to get your hungry helpers to the dinner table more quickly.
Even the youngest cooks can successfully smear beans on a tostada shell, and getting them involved in the process will help raise their enthusiasm about the results.
Sounds like a win-win to me and certainly makes the time you spend in the kitchen making dinner even more precious.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.