I think that a lot of parents will relate to the following statement about living with children: life gets measured in 15 minute increments.
I find myself planning my life in 15 minute moments of activity and inactivity. Getting lunches ready in the morning? 15 minutes. Taking a shower and getting ready? 15 minutes. Walking to school? 15 minutes. Grocery shopping? 30 minutes. My day from the morning to the end of the night is planned in 15 minute increments. When I'm driving kids to different activities (one or two 15 minute increments) I'm thinking of and planning the next 15 minute increment.
My mom friends and I regularly pull out our calendars and plan drop offs and activities in 15 minute increments. My friends will work schedules around 15 minute increments. And suddenly every single moment of my life is about the next 15 minutes. And the next. And the next.
Most household chores are a done over a series of 15 minute chunks. I'll sort and manage to get one load of laundry started and another will be coming out of the dryer and I can start folding it, but 15 minutes isn't enough time to finish it all. I'll start but not finish before I have to rush off to pick up the kids or start work. I generally can make it through stripping the bed sheets of all the beds in 15 minutes, but I can't put the sheets back on in 15. So I'll do one or two and then have to do the rest later in the day. Dinner is mostly a series of 15 minute increments. Usually I try to make it in two 15 minute increments, sometimes grabbing myself a 15 minute earlier in the day to finish the meal with another 15 minute later in the day. As long as the kids are awake and hustling, my life is being boiled down to 15 minutes.
Sometimes, like on my birthday, the best present comes to you in an unexpected way. As I rushed back from work on my birthday, (yes I teach on Saturdays sometimes), I had in my head on the drive home (two 15 minute blocks) all the 15 minute tasks I had for the rest of the day. First and foremost was emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up breakfast dishes and the rest of the kitchen that I hadn't had a chance to do before rushing off to teach. I had whittled down the tasks to their most efficient order so that they'd be done in 15 minutes so I could begin my next tasks of getting the family lunch. However, when I walked in, three cheerful children greeted me with the beautiful sight of my 15 minute activity all completed. They had, of their own volition, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, loaded the dishwasher and organized things in the kitchen on their own (as a birthday present.) I was excited because I got an extra 15 minutes back more than I was about the cleaning that the kids did.
Therefore, I present to you my favorite 15 minute Caesar Salad. I love this one because it doesn't use egg or mayo in the dressing, but rather relies on mustard to help emulsify the dressing. The croutons are baked in the oven quickly, and while they are baking, lettuce is quickly cut and washed, and dressing is made. It takes 15 minutes if your lettuce is pre-washed, and for some who aren't so quick with the knife it could take 30 minutes. However, the more you practice, you'll get it down to a 15 minute chunk of time, and oh - is it worth it. Rich, tangy, satisfying. Sometimes I throw some chicken on top, but most of the time I just sit and enjoy it for what it is - 15 minutes of heaven.
½ loaf crusty French bread
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons anchovy paste (available near the canned meats section of your supermarket)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (balsamic makes it nice and rich)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
Juice of a whole lemon
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
3 hearts of romaine, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Preheat oven to 425. Cut loaf of bread into bite sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and salt. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden. Set aside.
While croutons are baking, in a food processor (or mini food processor) put anchovy paste, dijon mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and the juice of the lemon. Process together and then slowly add olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
Toss romaine with about ⅓ of the dressing. Sprinkle with parmesan. Taste. Add more dressing if desired. Top with croutons and more Parmesan. Finish with another sprinkling of black pepper.
Absolutely worth 15 minutes.