CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It has been reported that the most commonly used appliance for family meals is not the stove, oven, gas grill or even microwave. It is the power window.
Drive past any fast-food restaurant and witness the scores of cars in line. Engines running. People sitting, drinking in the exhaust of the cars all around them. Waiting for an underpaid worker to hand them an overpriced bag of food.
Is this really fast? Is it really good?
We seem to be so busy that we opt for food from the window instead of cooking for ourselves and our family.
Our lives are full.
But really how long does it take to assemble a sandwich or roll up a wrap? Allow a few extra minutes before rushing out the door.
Blend a healthful fruit smoothie to enjoy on your commute. Quickly scramble an egg with last night's grilled veggies. Wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla and you have a breakfast burrito.
Once you've mastered this new morning groove, you can step up to the dinner plate. When evenings are full of meetings, kids' activities, you name it, the drive-through often becomes dinner default. Drive on past.
Research shows that the things parents are concerned about can be improved by sitting down to dinner together.
Believe it or not, you'll be saving time and money. This change of routine will add extra minutes to your day, and help create quality time with your family. Who wants to spend precious time waiting in a drive-through line?
If you've simply taken a break from cooking at home, make a commitment to get back on track. If you are a stranger to the kitchen, gradually master a few quick recipes and it will become a happy habit.
People who report kicking the fast-food habit brag about their slimming waistlines and their growing cash savings. That's something to smile about.
Dress-It-in-a-Bowl Caesar Salad
Keep these ingredients on hand so you can quickly toss this amazing salad whenever the Caesar craving hits.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 head of Romaine lettuce
1 teaspoon Gulden's mustard
Pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
WASH and dry the lettuce (a salad spinner is a big time saver). Keep chilled until ready to serve.
MIX the lemon, mustard, salt and pepper in a large salad bowl. Gradually whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil, then add about 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
TEAR the lettuce and add it to the bowl. Toss the salad, then top with remaining Parmesan. Add grilled chicken and/or croutons, if desired.
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
PLACE chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap, and brush the chicken with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the salt and pepper.
HEAT a lightly oiled, well-seasoned large-ridged grill pan (see note) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Place chicken, oiled side down, onto hot grill. Brush the other side of chicken with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn chicken after 4 or 5 minutes, when golden. Cook on the second side until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes longer.
TRANSFER chicken to a cutting board and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Place chicken on top of salad and serve.
Note: A cast-iron grill or skillet works well here. Chicken can be grilled over a traditional grill also. Pounding the chicken helps it cook very quickly and evenly.
1 baguette, torn into bite-size pieces