Friday, December 9, 2011

What Works for Me: Good Food FAST at home

As crazy as I am for the holidays, I figured this blog could use a "palate cleanser" post; even I get tired of talking about decorations. (Not THAT tired, but tired enough to discuss something else for one post.)

This'll be a short post, too ('cuz lord knows, I can TALK/WRITE for days). The inspiration last night was realizing that I have a small arsenal of recipes that I cook when I'm too tired to cook but also want something that's homemade-tasting and cheaper than take-out.

I wanted to post them, as well as other resources/ideas for emergency meals, because a purpose for this blog is to share what helpful tips I've learned for others who might not be as good at the art of housewifery, like myself for the most part. I'm all about education, people, even on my blog.

So here is a list of my quick-n-tasty meals that take literally 15 minutes to cook. Seriously!
  • Pesto Ravioli and Italian Sausage -  Frozen cheese ravioli, pre-made pesto, and turkey Italian sausage (we prefer the spicy version). The sausage takes 8 minutes on the Foreman grill, and I boil the water for the ravioli while the grill warms up. I'll also throw in some frozen veggies from Trader Joe's, like their cauliflower/romanesco combo that comes with a garlic butter sauce; I nuke my servings in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes, covered with some cling-wrap (but not touching the food). 
  • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese - I use Trader Joe's carton of tomato soup, 'cuz we like it and it doesn't taste as ketchup-y as the condensed stuff. Sometimes we eat it as is, but I'll vary it up by adding in some drained canned cannelini beans, a single Italian sausage (meat taken out of the casing and browned), and fresh baby spinach at the end and some parmesan cheese. As the soup warms up over medium heat (when it starts to bubble, I switch to low), I do my grilled cheese mise en place (thanks, "Top Chef", for helping me make grilled cheese sound pretentious!). I butter the bread (I sprinkle garlic powder over the buttered bread and spread it a little with my butter knife) and pre-set the cheeses I'm using. If you like American cheese (which I do sometimes, for the melty factor), I suggest prepping the cheese leaving one side of the cheese wrapper attached, then alternating the unwrapped slices so they're easy to grab. I pre-prep the sandwiches because once the first sandwich is done, the other sandwiches grill SUPER-FAST.

    A sandwich variation I like for feeling fancy is to make a butter compound with parmesan cheese and garlic powder for the outside, then fill the middle with proscuitto and mozzarella. Mmmm. 
  • COUSCOUS! Couscous is the wonder side dish. You literally have to just boil water! For flavor, I boil the couscous in chicken or vegetable broth, and mix in butter and a garlic seasoning mix from McCormick. I'll either mix in chopped pre-cooked chicken if I have it, or turkey Italian Sausage or chicken apple sausage (which The Hubs loves). 
    • The reason I use sausage so much, aside from it's freakin' delicious, is that it works well for me as an emergency protein. The Hubs is a devout meat-eater, and he likes sausage, plus if I forget to take meat out from the freezer the night before for dinner, it only takes about a half-hour to defrost in a cold water bath, which makes it SO convenient.
  • "Wonton" Soup - I put "wontons" in quotation marks because it's not authentic wontons; I use frozen potstickers (the chicken ones from Trader Joe's - why yes, I AM obsessed with that store!). It's SO GOOD, though, seriously. Bring 32 oz. of chicken broth to a boil, then turn it down to medium-low; add the potstickers and Asian-style veggies to your liking (I use frozen shelled edamame, chopped baby bok choy, water chestnuts, and carrots shreds), and some frozen shrimp. Watch the shrimp - you don't want them overcooking, and they'll defrost & cook FAST in the hot broth. I also add soy sauce, minced garlic, ground ginger (go easy if you're not a ginger fan - I only add about 1/4 tsp.) and a little hot pepper flakes and sesame oil to the broth, sorry, forgot to mention that! (Go slow with the soy sauce - you can always add more later, you don't want it TOO salty!)
Some other helpful links:  YourNutritionista has 3 easy microwave meals (and other recipes, if you check out her "Easy Dinners" section); The Noodle Soup Oracle (which has some damned randomly fabulous-sounding ideas, mmmm); My Fridge Food lets you enter what you have on hand, then provides recipes!

Hopefully these are some helpful, easy recipes! I like them because they use pre-made stuff which saves times, but they come together to create what feels like a full meal. Plus it lets me be lazy, and if I'm being honest, I'm ALWAYS going to choose the lazy route, but it saves us money and The Hubs still thinks I'm cooking. ;p

If you have any similar "quick and easy" meals like these, let me know! I love getting new recipes!

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