For those of you new to the blog, I love cooking and I love hosting friends and family for any meal of the day. I also love my work as a wellness director and sports medicine dietitian, my volunteer work in the Junior League of Dallas, evenings with my small group, and spending time with my friends and family, including an adorable niece and 2 nephews :) With that said, whether it's just me and my husband or a house full of guests, I don't have tons of time to make complicated dishes. This is why I was so excited to have discovered over my years of long days, night classes and evening meetings that dishes don't have to be complicated to be delicious. I began to discover this years ago back in grad school and I continue to test and prove this theory each week that I prep and cook for myself, for my family and for others. This is what you will find here at Taylored Nutrition or as you follow along with The Dining Dietitian; You will find simple, fairly low-maintenance dishes full of flavor. Plus, you will find a few wellness and sports nutrition facts and tips interspersed along the way :)
To clarify, this post is NOT about weekly meal prep. This post is about preparing a meal for yourself, your family or your friends after work or on the weekend when you have NOT meal prepped. This post is about how I prepare a meal after work or at the end of a busy Saturday that doesn't take tons of time and labor, allowing me to still enjoy our company.
So, what is my thought process for evenings and meals like this? What kinds of meals do I prepare and how do I plan so that the meal can be made in a timely manner without leaving me stressed and exhausted by the time we sit down to eat?? It comes down to my 3 main principles...
3 PRINCIPLES FOR SIMPLIFIED DINNERS:
1. Pick one "high maintenance" item.
2. Pick one to two "low maintenance" items.
3. Pick one "no-fuss" item:
What exactly does this look like? I'll give you an example from a while ago when Kyle and I had my previous Bible Study leader and her husband over for dinner. When I have people over, I really like to have things already cooking and I like for whatever is left to be fairly simple b/c I'm really awful at genuinely engaging in conversation while I'm cooking.
This particular evening we made some of my favorite dishes. We made a Roasted Beef Tenderloin with a Rosemary Chocolate and Wine Sauce (thank you, Ellie Krieger!! This dish is delicious and one of my favorites for special occasions and entertaining!), spinach and brown butter gnocchi, a mixed greens salad and Cinnamon Apple Tarts for dessert. This might sound complicated but it fits perfectly with my Three Principles. My "high-maintenance" item was the brown butter gnocchi because it requires pretty constant attention on the stove. My two lower maintenance items were the roast tenderloin and the Cinnamon Apple Tarts. The roast tenderloin requires a quick sear and then roasts in the oven while you whisk the sauce and tend to the gnocchi. The Cinnamon Apple Tarts are made at the very end of dinner (click the recipe link for details). My "no-fuss" item was the salad, which we made way in advance and had it in the fridge ready to go. When time to serve we drizzled good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar on top and were done!
If this sounds too complicated, apply the same principle with the foods more comfortable for you. For example: Your "high maintenance" item could be grilled shrimp (outside or inside on a grill pan). Your 2 low-maintenance foods could be (1) vegetables that roast in the oven while you grill the shrimp and (2) quinoa that cooks over the stove (very hands-off) while you tend to the other items. Your "no-fuss" item could be a salad just like in my example above. Another way to look at it could be to make your "no-fuss" item slices of hearty whole grain bread and your your salad could become your "low-maintenance" item that you throw together right before or right after you grill the shrimp. I used to think every part of the meal had to be something spectacular. Then I realized, no, really one item can be that and if the other items taste good and round out the meal then everyone is happy!
This was a quick overview but I hope this gives you somewhat of framework for choosing the menu when you're hosting friends and family in a pinch. I hope that you can create delicious meals while still enjoying the evening and your guests.