The Most Important Hour

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Holiday time is here whether you are ready or not. What did you eat for dinner? Dinner is a whole lot easier when you know what you want to make and when ingredients are ready to cook. It is easy to do that the night before - every night sets you up for the next one.

The most important hour of your day could very well be dinner time. At least from a calorie standpoint.

Scenario 1 - sit down, order, eat chili and salad:
Calories taken in: 580
Calories expended: 72
Adjusted total: 508 calories

Scenario 2 - cook, clean, get dinner ready for the next day; eat chili and salad:
Calories taken in: 268
Calories expended: 150
Adjusted total: 118
This choice burns more and consumes fewer calories.

X 365 days:
Scenario one: 185,420 calories
Scenario two: 43,070 calories

The difference is 142,350 calories for a whole year just by preparing a good dinner versus eating out. This could equate to 40 pounds. Now that is probably borderline ridiculous because no one will eat out every day, but the numbers are impressive. Even more impressive is the sodium difference. The meal eaten away from home contains a total of 1800 mg of sodium while the one you can prepare is only 358 mg - THAT over a whole year is a 526,330 mg difference!

One thing I have noticed about cooking more often, is that it becomes the norm and the dinner hour is filled with conversation, family time, better eating, a willingness by all to try new things and even better team work. Home is better. Dinner gets easier. Last night all I did to prepare for today was to put some kidney beans in the crockpot and fill with water. This morning when I got up, I drained the beans and refilled the crockpot with water and turned it on. As the day went on, the house smelled great. There is nothing like fresh-cooked dried beans - they taste a lot better than canned.

Here are 2 great meals for the holiday rush:

Home-Made Chili

Getting it ready the night before: soak beans and pre-measure ingredients.

1 pound bag dried kidney beans

2 cans diced no-salt-added tomatoes

1/2 can tomato paste

2 cups water

1 diced onion

1 cup frozen corn kernels

seasonings to taste: chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, dried minced onion

1. SOAK METHOD: Soak kidney beans overnight in cold water; drain and cover with water and cook on low for 2 hours or until tender. Drain.

2. Place all ingredients in crock pot and cook 1 hour on high or a few hours on low.

OPTIONAL FASTER METHOD: Use 2 cans kidney beans, drain and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil on the stove and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

I found a few fun things to serve with the chili to make it appealing and fun:

We have a fun way of making cheesy chips that doesn't use a lot of cheese - just a teaspoon of shredded cheddar sprinkled over our chips and then microwaved for 30 seconds. Each side plate had shredded romaine, a tablespoon of guacamole and cheesy chips. The chili was served over jasmine rice. You can also use brown rice but we do like the white better with this recipe - it cooks faster and I believe that any home-made plain rice is better than boxed or restaurant stuff. The Jasmine rice cooks as fast as the speed chili.

And here is a fun treat that is almost like a dessert - I found cubed squash in the produce section that cooked in the microwave in 3 minutes:

Oven Fried Fish

This is a great meal that looks spectacular and only takes 25 minutes to make.

Getting it ready the night before: thaw fish, quarter the potatoes, peel the garlic.

The first thing you want to do is cut the potatoes in quarters and start boiling them on the stove while you get everything else ready. When done they can sit in the colander until you are ready for them. They take about 15 minutes and are done when fork tender. We used Yukon Gold potatoes.

For the oven fried fish, I sprinkled a little bit of white fish (tilapia, pickerel, trout, halibut, flounder, etc.) with bread crumbs and then lightly sauteed in a tiny bit (2 tsp) of olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Once it was browned, I flipped it and finished it in the oven.

While that was baking, I finished the potatoes. Slice the garlic into medallions - thin slices - and rough chop the basil (you can use spinach and dried basil in place of fresh):

Use a tiny drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium heat. Saute the garlic until nutty and then add the basil quickly:

Add the cooked potato quarters and smash with potato masher. Add a little skim milk, black pepper and garlic powder to taste. Keep warm.

Cook the asparagus in the toaster oven using the medium toast setting. Make the cutting board tomato salad:

Cut the tomatoes in half and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, black pepper, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a little oregano and basil. This is mixed entirely on the cutting board, hence the name, "Cutting Board Tomato Salad."

Here is the final plate:

Enjoy! Hopefully you have 2 more wonderful meal ideas for family or entertaining through the holiday rush.

Need a last minute gift for yourself or someone special? Check out our books! All orders in December will receive our cookie recipe sheet with photo and easy recipes.

Tell us your most important hour - or what you are making now for dinner during the holiday rush?

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