Friday, January 12, 2007

Faster than Fast Food

Following a marathon of holiday events, I am tempted to take down the outdoor Christmas lights and replace them with a lighted sign “over 1 billion served.” In fact, after all that entertaining, I am personally entertaining the idea of a hunger strike, or at least a Lennon-like “sleep-in.” Not because I am protesting anything, just because I could use the rest. But, there are more folks living in “The Kitchen” than just me, and one of them is a demanding toddler. The food must go on.

Unfortunately, so must the work and the housework. And it seems like all my clients saved their best — or worst — for the New Year. January is going to wear me out more than the holidays. What’s a tired working mom to do?

No, not that. No fast food lines for me, especially not after reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. However, I am not above taking some shortcuts at the home range. Especially now that the doldrums of winter have hit, and the local food scene is nearly invisible, but for some meats, milk and eggs. I’ve begun counting the days until spring.

Now is the time for raiding the freezer and pantry for all that good summer bounty that you canned and froze. What? You didn’t have time to can, freeze and dehydrate your own produce supply? Yeah, me either. It’s not easy being superwoman. In fact, it is impossible.

With that thought in mind, here are a few ideas on making a meal in minutes, one-handed, with a screaming toddler on hip. To hell with 30-minute meals. In reality, some nights are more like 30 seconds. It’s faster than fast food and a lot healthier.

And, hey, get some rest, would you? I know I could use it. Post your own quick meal ideas here, I could use some new ones!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini
One package frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz roasted or sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1/3 cup Canola mayo
Fresh basil if you have it, dried if you don’t, couple tablespoons

Boil water, prepare pasta per directions. Chop tomatoes and basil, mix with mayo. Drain pasta and mix. Give it a couple turns from a pepper mill. Dinner in less than 15 minutes.
You can add 1.5 cups of diced, cooked chicken to bump the protein factor. Tastes good cold, the next day for a less than 5-minute meal.

Serve with fruit, a serving of veggies (c’mon, you can heat the frozen ones in a couple minutes), and a slice of whole grain bread and some milk.

Other ideas: Chili Mac and Cheese. One box of organic, wholegrain mac and cheese. One can mild organic chili (turkey or soy, your call), Heat and mix. You can also do this with just plain pasta and some shredded cheese on top. I like Barilla Plus pasta with the Omega-3 and protein.
More quick meal approaches:

When you do have time to cook, make it double. A great idea is to make two lasagnas at once. Keep one to serve, and freeze individual portions to have for those emergency nights. It’s much better than prepared frozen entrees, and cheaper. Other dinners that freeze well in small serving-sizes; chili, soups, spaghetti sauce.

In a real pinch, you can prepare Mac and Cheese, then add thawed mixed veggies and diced ham. I use the fettuccini version or white cheddar and add peas and ham. If you buy quality, organic prepared items, you know your serving something better than a fast food meal, even if it is not a home-cooked one from scratch.

Have a great, healthy new year.

Oh, and just for the record, I can't stand "Semi-Homemade." It ranks even lower than 30-minute meals in my food world. Sorry, but I just don't entertain out of a box.


FAT COOKIE said...

Your recipes look delicious! Thanks for sharing!

The Milkman

The Expatriate Chef said...

Thank you for stopping by! I hope to make a book of the recipes and stories for my daughter one of these days. Fat cookie ... mmmm, cookie. I'll stop by!