Ahhh summertime: beach outings, warm weather, and long days. What could be better? Enjoying all that summer has to offer with two young children is magical … and exhausting. One of the last daily chores before I make my way up to bed is the post-dinner cleanup; yet, it’s the chore that I dread the most and have to force myself to complete. Recently though, I’ve implemented a little dinnertime routine that has helped ease the burden of the after-dinner cleanup…
A picnic dinner.
Yep, you read it right, throw the food in a basket and head on outside. They key to making this really successful and truly having a relaxed evening with little to no clean up is to make dinner at some point throughout the day and clean that up as you go. My mother-in-law has five kids, and she says that if dinner wasn’t made by 10 A.M., it wasn’t going to get made! Don’t you see how that’s true? As the day
unravels unfolds, throwing together a somewhat healthy, somewhat nutritious dinner becomes less and less likely. So while my kids munch on their breakfast, happy and well-rested, I’ll throw a pot of water on to boil for some pasta, or grill up some chicken on the stove. It requires a bit of multi-tasking, yes, but mornings in our household are always the best time to get things done, especially when compared to the 5pm witching hour.
So here’s the best part: when my kids wake up from their afternoon nap, the dinner that I made at some point before 10 A.M. is already packed up in the cooler so we can head outside to the park, the pond, or the yard. (Yes, even the backyard). The kids love it because it’s something different, and I love it because the work has already been done. If you’ve perused any of the other posts on this blog like this one or this one or even this one, you’ll realize that I am a big fan of celebrating small victories, easy and efficient routines, and positive mindsets. A dinnertime picnic outside with my family on a summer night that has already been cleaned up, well, you just can’t beat that.
Last week I made this tasty Caprese Chicken Orzo Salad and we took it to our town pond to eat after an evening swim. The dish took about half an hour to make all together which I did in the morning, and I cleaned up during the afternoon nap. (I’m big on pacing myself). This was even better leftover, so definitely go ahead and let it sit for several hours in the fridge. I will readily admit though, this dish is probably lacking in the seasoning department. I’d welcome any suggestion on how to spice it up! (Pun intended – I couldn’t help myself. 😉 )
Without further ado, here are the instructions for the Caprese Chicken Orzo Salad
- 1 box of orzo
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 8 slices fresh mozzarella, diced
- bunch of basil, chopped
- 3 chicken thighs
- herbs de provence
- Pound out chicken thighs so they are relatively even thickness
- Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence
- Cook chicken on grill pan, about 7 minutes per side over medium heat
- I like to use a little vegetable oil in the pan to keep from smoking and sticking
- Chop chicken when finished cooking
- Cook orzo accruing to package instructions
- Drizzle orzo liberally with olive oil when finished cooking
- Add tomatoes, mozzarella, cucumbers, basil, and chicken to the orzo
Enjoy immediately or refrigerate and devour hours later!