At school we did a mini-unit on meal planning, which my students usually found to be, well, less than exciting. Every year I pleaded with them: “Learn now because in a few years you will stand in your kitchen, staring with a befuddled look at your fridge, wondering what goes with what as the dinnertime minutes tick away.”Need a mindless dinner menu? Here you go. Maybe this seems summery but perhaps the taste of warmer weather will trick our minds into a happier state.
When putting together a menu, you need to consider many factors. Once filled, your plate should show a variation in color, temperature, flavor, size, shape and texture. You need to consider your guests health (allergies, diets, etc.) as well as the season (beef stew in July? I don’t think so). Think about your Thanksgiving dinner plate; there’s an obvious color variation, different textures (mashed potatoes and crisp green beans), different shapes (peas and turkey slices), and cool and warm temperatures. It’s a beautiful thing, that plate, and perfectly illustrates how a meal is first pleasing to the eye before it’s pleasing to the tastebuds.
In this “easy enough for a weeknight” dinner, the ingredients get thrown together and bathed in a healthy-but-tastes-indulgent peanut sauce. The dish is spicy, warm and colorful. Bright cilantro freshens up the coleslaw so that it complements the main course. You’ll notice, though, that there are many overlapping ingredients. The lime, cilantro and honey keep things cohesive and save you money on your grocery bill. Lastly, since it’s baked all together in a foil pouch, clean up is minimal.
Low-Cal Peanut Chicken and Asian Slaw
For the peanut sauce
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. light coconut milk
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. honey
Juice of 1/2 a lime (about 1 tbsp.)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
For the chicken
2 large chicken breasts, sliced into strips
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 red or yellow bell peppers, sliced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt and pepper to taste
For the slaw
14 oz. bag coleslaw mix
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. lime juice (from 1 lime)
1/4 c. sliced scallion
1 tsp. honey
1/4 c. roughly chopped cilantro
1. Preheat oven to 425. Combine ingredients for peanut sauce in a small bowl and stir until smoothly combined.
2. Tear a two-foot long sheet of tin foil and press one half of it into a 9×12 baking dish.
3. Mist lightly with nonstick spray and spread onions and peppers evenly into pan.
4. Lay sliced chicken on top of the veggies and drizzle it all with peanut sauce. Mix lightly and top with kosher salt and pepper to taste.
6. Bake for 35 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for the slaw and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
8. Plate slaw and top with chicken/veggie mixture when cooked. Serve.
Per serving: 450 calories, 26 fat grams, 73 milligrams cholesterol, 165 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbs, 3 grams dietary fiber, 8 grams sugar, 27 grams protein.