During the school year, my family has a “dinner night” system. I’m in charge of planning meals for the week, assigning each person to 1-2 dinner nights, and doing some of the grocery shopping. Some weeks everything goes smoothly, and we eat wholesome, on-time dinners made from ingredients that were already purchased and ready to go. I would estimate that this happens about 1 out of every 10 weeks. :)
The majority of the time, the system is semi-smooth…but life happens. My brother happens to *forget* that it’s his night for dinner until 7 pm, someone has already used up the ingredients that were meant to go into that night’s meal, one of my parents has to work late, or it’s just one of those exhausting weeknights when the energy required to cook dinner fails to be conjured up and we end up ordering Thai food. Those nights are the worst! (insert sarcasm)
When it comes to dinner nights, everyone’s style is a
little lot different. My mom prefers cleaning up to cooking, and though my dad likes to cook, limited time and limited energy lead to fast and easy weeknight dinners. And as for my 18-year-old brother’s attitude toward actually cooking an actually balanced meal by an actually reasonable time for his family…I’ll just say that if it was between doing that and sticking daggers into his eyes, I’m not sure which he’d prefer. Which leaves me. I honestly enjoy making elaborate dinners (and just so we’re clear, a pot of homemade chili is considered elaborate when compared to some of the other meals that have graced our table) and my family looks forward to trying the new recipes I make and enjoying the old favorites. The funny thing is, no matter what I make, if it involves more than 5 ingredients and about 20 minutes of cooking time they think they’re eating a gourmet meal and assume that I must have labored over dinner all afternoon. They ooh and aah over almost everything I make. It’s nice to have such a great support team, but sometimes their exuberance over, say, a meatloaf, makes me laugh. I can only imagine the awe that would ensue if Julia Child offered to cook for them. (Just to clarify, I’m talking about awe at her cooking, not awe at the fact that a deceased chef is standing in their kitchen.)
My point is that it’s very, very easy to impress my family when it comes to dinner. Even if it’s a dish that takes 30 minutes to prepare with only 10 minutes of hands-on cooking, tastes wonderful, goes with almost anything, requires minimalistic ingredients, and can be served at any temperature. Win, win, win, win win! This Black Bean & Corn Quinoa Salad is so quick and easy to make, yet my family is always convinced that they’re eating a gourmet side dish. I’ll admit that this may have something to do with them, but it may have even more to do with this fabulous recipe. This salad is full of fresh, healthy ingredients that give the quinoa lots of flavor without loading up on heavy fats or salt. It’s perfect as a side dish to highlight a simple main course, or you could even serve it as a main dish since it’s full of protein from the beans and quinoa. I bet if you make this for your family, they’ll assume that since it tastes so good, it was a lot more difficult than it really is. And then they’ll proceed to thank you for dinner about 10,000 times and say, “Is this cilantro? How fancy!” Or wait….maybe that’s just my family….
Black Bean & Corn Quinoa Salad
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup frozen corn, yellow or white
2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sautee, for 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant.
Add the quinoa and broth. Stir in the cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked.
Stir in the frozen corn and black beans. Cover the pot and allow it to sit off the heat for about 5 minutes to heat the corn and beans. Stir in the cilantro. Serve warm or chilled, your choice.
(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)