After a busy day of leaning in and having it all in heels or whatever, sometimes the obligation to produce one more deliverable – dinner – can feel like a breaking point. Especially when you have a picky eater and/or someone with dietary issues to take into consideration. You have to do something, because take-out requires going out one more time (impossible). Delivery is expensive. And you feel like maybe you probably shouldn’t serve grilled cheese sandwiches (and only grilled cheese sandwiches) for dinner more than twice in a given week.

But just because most of the rest of the day has been chaos doesn’t mean dinnertime has to be. With a few simple shortcuts, you can have a complete dinner for four cooked and served in about 40 minutes.  If you’re like me, you’ll relish that time – just put on a couple of episodes of Octonauts for the little one, slump into the armchair that’s not heaped with unfolded laundry, and load up the day’s Instagrams on your phone. Then zone out as if your time is your own. Dinner will make itself.

You can do all your prep for this ahead of time; if you’ve got a partner at home who is reasonably competent with a set of measuring spoons and a can opener, they can do it in the morning before they head out the door. If you don’t do mornings or your partner can’t be trusted with basic math, with prep and marinating this will take a little over an hour from start to finish.

Recipe perks: gluten-free, soy-free, complex carbohydrate-rich, source of lean protein and good fats. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Step one:

  • 4 pieces chicken, leg and thigh attached (or 8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on)

  • 3 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tsp. coarse salt

  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper

Whisk together mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place chicken pieces in a sturdy plastic bag (such as a large Ziploc bag), pour mustard mixture over, and squish the whole thing around in the bag to coat the chicken. Seal the bag. Set the whole thing aside, minimum 30 minutes (you can let it marinate in the fridge all day).

Step two:

  • 2 lb. cauliflower, cut into large florets

  • ½ lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil

  • 1 lemon, zest and juice

  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika

  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp. coarse salt

  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper

Place cauliflower, carrots, and chickpeas in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together oil, lemon zest and juice, smoked paprika, cumin seeds, salt and pepper. Pour mixture in smaller bowl over vegetable mixture, and toss to coat. You can do this before cooking, or, again, let it marinate in the fridge all day; toss again just before cooking to re-coat the veggies in the dressing.

Step three:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

  • ½ tsp. coarse salt

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Cover a small sheet pan in aluminum foil.

Place your cauliflower pieces along the far edges. Pour your chickpea and carrot mixture into the center, spreading them around so that they form one even layer.

Lay your chicken pieces over the chickpeas and carrots.

Drizzle remaining oil over cauliflower pieces. Sprinkle chicken with remaining salt. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes (until golden brown and internal temp reaches about 180°F, or when juices run clear).

When the chicken hits about 180°F, turn on the broiler for a minute or two to crisp up the skin and cauliflower.  Scatter parsley over top, and let rest for five minutes while you pour the wine and find the pink cup with the green lid and argue with a tiny naked person about how much juice is enough juice. Serve.


Emily Wight is a working mom, author, and the blogger behind Well Fed, Flat Broke ( Her cookbook, “Well fed, flat broke: Recipes for modest budgets & messy kitchens,” from Arsenal Pulp Press will be available in stores in April 2015. She is tired. 


(photos: Emily Wight)