Getting dinner on the table when you’re working seems like a feat to me. To all of you that have it down… how?

I get home and the last thing I want to do is chop and assemble and then wait as something becomes ready to eat. I might microwave something. Maybe. Or I might just eat a bowl of cereal, and half a raw zucchini. No really. That was dinner the other night. And it managed to use up the last zucchini as it was beginning to look tired and I had no other inspiration for using only half a zucchini without buying more.

But I think about real dinners that made it to the table as I was growing up. There was always a main and two sides, usually vegetables, one maybe a starch. How does that happen?

Unless you count cereal and a zucchini as anything more than… well, odds and ends – something Walker calls “eating around the house,” it hardly fits the bill for a tasty nutritious meal made after a day at work.

The only thing I’ve been able to come up with for those weeknight meals is to spend Sunday making far too much of something that will freeze well, and reheating throughout the week. Well these fit the bill wonderfully. And you may be thinking to yourself – really? With bananas? But you’ll have to trust me on this – it’s unexpectedly fantastic. The sweetness of the banana is well balanced with the heat the spices bring. And if you par bake them, and then finish the baking on the night you want to eat them, you’ll have something healthy, and nutritious and out of the ordinary to make those weeknight meals seem less of a chore and infinitely more enjoyable.

A side note: sorry about the single photo. Believe it or not, this is the best of the batch. I was hungry and we were pressed for time that night. But yum, plus look! Two sides! The corn had just been baked in its husk with butter with a little lime, and the mango and avocado salad is pretty phenomenal along side those empanadas. So I’m sorry for the bad photography, but don’t take it out on this lovely dish. It’s sure to win you over.

Any ideas about how to handle weeknight dinners? Please give me some tips! And I’m always open to hearing about more dishes that make it in and out of the freezer tasting nice all the while!


Black Bean and Bananas Empanadas
adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2004

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 firm medium-size banana, diced
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 recipe for empanada dough (see below) or 1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
1 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 egg, beaten to blend (to brush over empanadas)

Preparation

1. Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over high heat. Add banana and sauté until mushy and golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer banana to paper towels to drain.

2. Add onion to skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add beans, cilantro, cumin, and cayenne; cook until mixture is hot, about 3 minutes. Using back of fork, mash bean filling to coarse paste; season with salt and cool.

3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out each puff pastry sheet or pastry dough (see below for recipe). Place 3 heaping tablespoons of filling in center of 10 circles of dough. The puff pastry can be rolled and cut into squares instead if you’re using puff pastry. Sprinkle each mound of filling with cheese, then top with bananas, dividing equally. Brush edges of half the dough with glaze – in a semi circle, or on two adjacent sides of the square. Gently fold one side over the other, forming a  semi circle with the dough or a triangle with the puff pastry. Press the tines of a fork into the edges of the pastry to seal the edges.  Arrange on rimmed baking sheet; brush with glaze, and sprinkle with a little more cheese.  Bake empanadas until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Empanada Dough
from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Preparation

1. Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated.

2. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Wrap and chill the dough for anywhere from one to six hours.

3. Divide Dough into 10 balls, and roll each out individually into a small circle – perfect for empanada filling.

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