Aviva Goldfarb, founder of the online meal-planning service Six O'Clock Scramble, has devised a solid game plan for when school activities really kick in. She has compiled research showing that kids and teens who share family dinners at least three nights a week are better off in lots of ways. You'll be able to find a grocery list for her recipes at www.familydinnerchallenge.com.
Apple, pine nuts, dates and goat cheese give this salad a satisfying sweet-tart crunch. The addition of cooked chicken or chickpeas makes it a main course that can be assembled without powering up any kitchen appliances. Serve with baked breadsticks.
SANTA BARBARA SALAD
Makes about 8 cups (4 servings)
1 medium shallot (1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons raspberry or balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 head Boston or butter lettuce
4 dates, preferably Medjool
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium Fuji or Gala apple
1 1/2 cups cooked, skinless chicken breast (may substitute same amount
of canned, no-salt-added chickpeas)
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
Mince the shallot and place it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid along with the oil, vinegar and cinnamon.
Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until they are lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the pan a few times to avoid scorching. Remove from the heat.
As you prep the following ingredients, transfer them to a large serving bowl: Rinse and dry the lettuce, then tear it into bite-size pieces. Pit, then coarsely chop the dates. Cut each tomato in half.
Cut the apple into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut the chicken into strips, or drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add the toasted pine nuts.
Shake the vinaigrette to re-emulsify if needed. Drizzle half of it over the salad and toss gently until well coated. Top with the cheese. Divide the salad at the table; pass the remaining vinaigrette.
Nutrition per serving (using chicken and half of the vinaigrette): 290 calories, 21 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar.