Recipe: Buttered Crouton Salad with Avocado and Smoked Salmon {Joy the Baker}

by Cate on April 30, 2012

buttered crouton salad
Mystic and I were talking about weeknight meal planning last night.  One of his kids is on two different baseballs teams, which means a lot of weeknight practices and games.

And late nights.

Which really gets in the way of family dinners.  Let alone healthy ones.

Last week, it was nearly 10 pm when they got home after a game that ran late.

Which is crazy for middle schoolers on a school night.

Let alone for Mystic who leaves at 6 am to start his day.

The motivation to go through a drive-thru and get take-out on those kind of nights is strong.

With Nick and Madeline both in soccer, and both having weeknight practices, it’s tough.

Usually on those nights I plan for leftovers.

Or breakfast for dinner.

Concentrating on something I can get on the table within 30 minutes of walking through the door.

And not feeling guilty about it.

Some days are better than others.  For sure.

Last Thursday night was Nick’s soccer practice.

It was cold.

And wet.

Drizzling.

Right up until five minutes before we left, I was checking the web site.

Hoping to see the “fields are closed” designation.

Hoping.

Hoping.

Hoping.

No such luck.

We could have just skipped it.  But I decided against it.

Although it would have been easier, it sends the wrong message.

To Nick.  And the team.

Madeline and I walked down to the wet, squishy field with him.  After about 15 minutes, we high-tailed it for the car.

She cleaned out the back seat.  Pretended to drive.  Messed up Changed all my radio stations.  Found and ate snacks.  Pretended to sleep.  Wrote on the wet windows.

An hour later, Nick came back to the car.

Soaked through to his cleats.

But beaming from ear to ear.

Because, of course, having permission to play in the rain.  The mud.  The mess and muck.  Was pretty awesome.

By the time we got home, it was close to 8.

I so wanted to just get take-out.

Grab a slice.

But I didn’t.

As Nick wrung out his clothes.  And peeled off his soccer socks and shin guards.  I whisked together a few ingredients for a dressing.

Using items I already had on hand.

And likely you do too.

As he took a quick shower and changed into warm (read: dry) clothes.  I plated the greens.

Within 20 minutes, dinner hit the table.  I saved money.  Skipped the guilt.

Here’s what I know.  When it comes to late night sports practices and games, there are three important factors.

1.  You need to have a well-stocked kitchen of basics that you can pull together.  I don’t mean your cupboards have to be full.  But have some pantry staples.  Pasta and sauce.  Eggs and bread.  Ingredients on hand for a couple of go-to family-friendly dinners.

2.  Formulate your game plan.  You need to hit the ground running.  So on your way back home, block out the kids’ chatter in the back seat and figure out what you’re going to do.  It’s like getting dressed in the morning.  If you don’t have a plan before your feet hit the floor, it can take forever to decide what to wear.  Same goes for dinner.  You need a plan before you walk into your kitchen.

3.  Resist the urge.  And this is perhaps the hardest part.  At the end of a long work day.  With homework and practice after that.  I just don’t want to have to think anymore.  Let alone cook dinner.  I’m spent.  The kids are done.  And any more time than necessary puts them that much further from bedtime.  Grabbing a slice of pizza means dinner is started and finished within 15 minutes.  Easy peasy.  And sometimes we do that.  No lie.  But the harder decision is to power past all that.  And make dinner anyway.  Save money anyway.  Go home and get started anyway.

So Thursday night’s recipe.  A new salad I spied on Joy the Baker’s web site.

The thing about salads?  You can totally make a meal out of it, but more important is that you can mix and match the toppings based on your picky family member’s palates.  The kids won’t eat salmon, but Nick loves prosciutto, so he got that as one of his toppings instead.  And avocados?  He can’t get enough of them.  Madeline doesn’t like either.  So she got a few pieces of diced chicken.  Me?  Avocado.  Prosciutto.  And a little salmon to boot.

Loved the dressing.

Loved the salad.

And, of course, even though we all crawled into bed mere minutes after the dishes went into the sink, loved that we skipped take-out.

Get the recipe here.

What are your go-to, sports night family-friendly meals?

**I made the recipe as is, but with two minor changes.  I used a whole wheat baguette to make the buttered croutons, and instead of smoked salmon, I used a salmon fillet that I had on hand (freezer stash from Target).

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah April 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I spied this recipe last week. The croutons sound amazing. Were they?

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Joanne May 1, 2012 at 6:23 am

I definitely have those moments where I get home late from lab or the gym and think…SUSHI! And if I don’t already have a plan, then sushi it definitely ends up being. The key for me is definitely to know what I’m eating/cooking as soon as I walk out the door…without a plan, I’m pretty much hopeless.

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patsy May 1, 2012 at 9:01 am

This time of year is so hard for me… both boys are in baseball and on days like that last week, I’m also hoping for a cancelled game or practice (might have one cancelled tonight if the rain doesn’t stop early enough today). I won’t stop for fast food on nights like that… that’s a last resort and we generally do our eating out on the weekends anyway. I keep pasta, sauce, premade pizza crust (Boboli) for quick pizza at home, tortillas & cheese for quesadillas… cheese and crackers with fruit… and leftovers! Sometimes it’s a pull whatever sounds good out of the fridge and go kind of night!

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Kris #40 May 1, 2012 at 9:38 am

On sports days (which is almost everyday for the last 19 years), the crockpot is one of my favorite friends.

I will do chicken breasts, can of cream of chicken soup and block of cream cheese. Shred chicken before serving over rice.

Also a london broil or some other cut of beef in beef broth with a hit of pepperocini juice (if you like pepperocini’s put whole one’s in). Shredded and served on crusty rolls, with the au jus on the side for a french dip type sandwich.

When I make tacos, I always make extra meat to keep in the freezer. A quick defrost and tacos are ready in minutes.

If I cook throughout the week – one night is always dedicated to leftover night.

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Paula Ann May 1, 2012 at 9:57 am

I’m having to learn a whole new way of cooking. In Feb. we moved from a town of 25,000 in southwest Oklahoma to a town with fewer people in it than were in my son’s previous previous school. There are 465 people in the town of Glen Elder, KS!! I KNOW… that’s just crazy small!!! The closest grocery store is ten miles away. The closest Wal Mart or Target is an hour and fifteen minutes. Planning ahead and stocking up is a new concept for me. Making a meal out of what we have is also something I’m learning. One thing I’ve always kept frozen for quick meals are Bierocks, a german “pocket sandwich” with a filling of ground beef, shredded cabbage, onion, and salt and pepper, for those who are unfamiliar with them. When summer hits, I can throw together a pretty decent taco salad that the whole family will eat. No more fast food for us, but not necessarily by choice! :)

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