Sunday night was Back to School Night at the kids’ high school. This parents-only affair is held annually to give parents the lay of the land with respect to curriculum and overall expectations. I have never been.
This year, I attended as a lone soldier. Both of the kids’ bio-parents were out of town, so I left all six kids (that’s four teens and two preschoolers for those keeping track) high and dry during dinner to find out what kind of academic year we are going to have. I thought perhaps my house might be burned down when I got home, and all for an event that wasn’t even on my fun list. It goes without saying at this point that I have lost any and all consideration for mother of the year. Maybe next year.
I figured that the least I could do would be to make dinner for the kids. Or at least part of dinner. I settled on a nice orzo salad that could be prepared ahead of time and got that done. The salad called for one cup of (dried) orzo to serve about four. I might have added just a bit more. My kids can put away pasta salad like you wouldn’t believe. My step-sons (one a hockey player, the other a football player) are currently in a competition to see who is gaining weight fastest. They are worse than girls with the scale, constantly telling us how much they weigh today. I honestly think they weigh themselves every time they use the bathroom.
Because of this delightful game, and the fact that they eat anything that isn't nailed down, I used an entire pound of orzo to about the same amount of other ingredients (olives, cherry tomatoes, spinach, feta, and one can of garbanzo beans). I doubled the dressing but needn’t have bothered as the salad was plenty dressed. Make sure to have your salt and pepper handy. Don’t be shy with it.
This made an enormous salad. When I finished making it, I thought we would be eating it all week. Nope. Leftovers were gone at lunch on Monday. I think all four teens took some for lunch. I’d say this recipe was a keeper.
To go with our lovely orzo salad, we made a bit of salmon. This month’s issue of Real Simple has a great little spread about cooking fish in parchment paper (en papillote). There are six flavor combinations that can be used with salmon or cod or bass (or probably any boneless fillet). I did a quick search for the recipes online and couldn’t come up with any results, perhaps because they are still selling magazines, but try this link for instructions on how to use this technique. We happened to have salmon on hand, as well as lemons, artichokes, kale, and capers, which made the choice of recipe pretty simple.
If you have never tried cooking fish in parchment before, please give it a whirl. It is super simple. You put your fish on a piece of parchment paper, top it with a bunch of goodies and seasoning (and a little olive oil), then fold up the paper edges to seal in the steam. I totally cheated and used a stapler. Not going to win any prizes at the Cordon Bleu, but hey, my kids were totally on board with eating salmon and kale. Your cute little packets cook in a hot (425°) oven for about 12-14 minutes.
I pre-portioned and packaged my fish, then left instructions for my oldest to bake them. She was so excited by the results that I received multiple photos during one of the teacher sessions. Excitement about cooking? I sure hope so. And I would definitely recommend trying both of these recipes whether or not you have kids.
But can I tell you the best part about the whole meal? I got home from two hours of teacher-parent talking to a clean house, with the dishes and food put away, chores done, and little kids already put to bed. Here I was expecting the worst and my kids showed me up. I know everyone says this, but my kids really are awesome. I’m proud to be part of their lives.