Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Carrot Salad to go with the quick meals

For most of the quick dinners, I've said, "With a salad, this will make a full meal."  Usually this is a green salad, but if I don't have lettuce on hand, or am tired of green salad, I'm likely to make one of these carrot salads; they're both easy and delicious.  Also good for bringing to potlucks; either can be doubled.

And if I don't feel like making any salad at all, with luck, I'll have a grapefruit in the refrigerator, and half of that will do nicely.  Even without a maraschino cherry in the center, the way my mother used to serve it.

(4-6 servings)
adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet cookbook

Grate the carrots. If using a food processor, you can put 1" chunks in the bowl and use the chopper blade, or you can put carrots (cut in half) in the feed tube and use the grater disk.

1 lb. carrots, peeled and grated
1/4 cup dried currants

3 T. lemon juice (frozen is fine)
2 T. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 t. or more sugar, to taste
1/2 t. cumin
1/8 t. cayenne
1/4 t. dried mint leaves, crushed
salt and black pepper to taste

Put carrots and currants in a bowl.  In a jar or small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients.  Add dressing to carrots and toss to mix well.

(6 servings)
adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet cookbook

4 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) lemon juice
1 t. cumin

Toast the almonds lightly:  put on baking sheet and put in 325 oven for about 5-10 minutes.  Keep checking on them until they look light tan.

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Serve at room temperature.

Omelet Paysanne

Here's another simple recipe for a quick meal.  I keep a can of potatoes on hand for this.  For the meat:  I buy a turkey ham, cut it into slices about 3/8" thick, separate them with waxed paper, and keep in the freezer, pulling out one slice to use for this recipe.  I also keep some chopped parsley in the freezer, in case I don't have fresh on hand.  If it's summer, I put in chives from my garden; if not, I leave them out.  With a salad, this dish makes a full meal.  David and I usually eat half of this recipe for dinner, and then have the rest for breakfast or lunch the next day.

Omelet Paysanne
adapted from Pierre Franey, The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet
4 servings

1 T. vegetable oil
half a medium onion, very thinly sliced
one 14-oz can of potatoes, sliced or diced (or you can boil a potato or two)
1 cup cooked turkey ham, cut into 1/2 inch dice (or regular ham)
7 eggs (can use some eggbeaters for part of this)
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. chopped parsley
2 t. chopped chives
1/4 t. dried tarragon

Heat a large oven-proof skillet and add the oil.  Saute the onions until soft, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook until warmed.  Add the turkey ham and cook until warmed. 

Turn on the broiler.

Beat the eggs with a wire whisk.  Add salt, pepper, and herbs.  Pour the eggs over the onion-turkey ham-potato mixture.

Cook the omelet, lifting the edges to let the egg mixture flow to the bottom.  When the eggs are no longer free-flowing,  put the skillet under the broiler for a minute or so to finish the cooking.

With a salad, makes a full meal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sante Fe-Style Baked Eggs

Here's the first of some recipes that are in the category:  "I'm up to a little cooking, but I only have about a half-hour to get the meal on the table--it's got to be simple."

This recipe is my favorite in this category--it is really tasty, and very simple to make.  I don't always have chipotle pepper sauce on hand, but tabasco sauce or some cayenne pepper does fine.  I think what makes this especially easy is there's no onion to cut up and saute, which is so often the first step for a skillet-type meal.  Every time I make this, I think, "This is really so easy and delicious--why don't I make it even more often?"  I keep the canned foods stocked in my cabinet, and always have eggs, so I just have to think to have tortillas and some cheese on hand.  I keep some chopped parsley in the freezer, in case I don't have fresh, and I'm guessing dried parsley would be fine if that's all you had on hand.  I'm trying to convince you here--try this one!

santa fe-style baked eggs
adapted from Weight Watchers All-Time Favorites (2008)
serves 4

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 (14-1/2 oz) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes with Mexican seasoning—look in Mexican-food section of grocery store if not with other canned tomato products--or regular stewed tomatoes and add more pepper sauce)
1 (15-1/2 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. jarred roasted red peppers, diced  (I buy a large jar, dice all the peppers, and freeze in 1/2-cup portions, so I have this on hand.)
3 T. chopped fresh parsley (divided 2 T & 1 T)
3/4 t. chipotle pepper sauce (or use some hot sauce—go easy, especially if canned tomatoes are spicy hot)
4 large eggs
1/4 c. shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese (or other taco-style cheese)

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the tomatoes, beans, roasted red peppers, 2 T. of the parsley, and the pepper sauce in an ovenproof skillet; bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer about 4 minutes.  Break the eggs, one at a time, slipping onto the top of the sauce, spacing them evenly.  Put in oven and bake until the eggs are almost set, 6-8 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese and the remaining 1 T. of parsley on top of the eggs; bake until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute.   Remove from oven.

Put the tortillas on a plate and heat in the microwave  (about 15 seconds per tortilla).
Put one tortilla on each plate and spoon the eggs and sauce over the tortilla.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What to cook when you don't feel like cooking?

My friend Laura recently asked, "What do you cook when time is short and you don't feel much like cooking?"  Good question!  It seems a little heretical to write about the most simple things I put on the table on just that kind of day, but why not?  I'm sure Laura and I aren't the only people who enjoy cooking, but don't always want to cook. . .  So, in this post I'll write about the things I do that involve the most minimal effort.  Then I'll do another post or two on things that are a little more work, but still are ready within a half-hour or so.

My first line of defense is that I almost always cook more than we are going to eat at one meal.  So, for a week of cooking, I am never cooking more than 3 or 4 dishes, counting on a second meal from each recipe.  I'm cooking for my husband and myself, so any recipe for four will yield two meals.   When I'm making soup, or a recipe we like that can readily be doubled, I'll put aside the extra in the freezer.  A typical week of meals is three things cooked new and one meal taken from the freezer.  Or, instead of taking something from the freezer, an almost-as-simple meal is one of the following:

1) I heat up a can of Indian food (e.g. Jyoti Madras Sambar), and serve it on top of brown rice, with a side of plain yogurt and condiments like raisins, chopped nuts, chopped hard-boiled egg, scallions, chutney.  I usually have brown rice on hand in the freezer, so I don't need to wait for that to cook.  (Whenever I make brown rice from scratch, I make more than I need and freeze it in 2-person size portions.)  Or, you could make white rice, and be ready in 20 minutes.  This is really a good entrĂ©e, even though it comes in a can!

2) Even simpler than #1, use a can of garbanzo beans instead of the can of Indian food.  For this you'd really want brown rice, not white.  Same condiments.

3) I heat up a package of Hormel beef tips (in the refrigerator section of the meat department), and serve them over egg noodles.  This needs a side dish--generally some carrots, or a frozen vegetable, or a salad.  I've tried a couple of other of the Hormel prepared meats, but none is up to the beef tips, which are really good.  An unopened package lasts quite a while in the refrigerator; I generally have one on hand.

4) I make up some matzah fry and serve it with canned soup to round out the meal.  To make matzoh fry for 2 people:  Break 4 eggs into a bowl and mix until blended.  Break up 3 sheets of matzah into the eggs and stir until the matzah is moistened.  (Pieces about the size of a quarter or so--not crucial how big or small.)  Add salt and pepper and cook in a frying pan.  For a nice ready-made soup, I like the Campbell V8 soups in boxes, with the butternut squash soup and the red pepper soup favorites, but all are good.

5) Many of these meals are enhanced with a quick salad.  For this I use a bag of mixed lettuces (spring mix is my favorite, but mostly I choose by the latest "use by" date on whatever is in the store), a chopped red pepper, and chopped scallions.  For a bit of flare I add a handful of dried currants or some calamata olives, sliced.  To make a full meal from this salad, I add a can of tuna fish.  Oh, another time saver:  I make a big bowl of salad with the whole bag of greens, and then we have a ready-to-go-salad for 2-3 meals.

6)  A couple of grocery-store available products that are also good for quick sides:
  • Uncle Ben's Ready Whole Grain Medley (e.g., Vegetable Harvest).  This product is on the shelves with rice, in a bag--precooked rice, so just heats up in the microwave.
  • Birds Eye Steamfresh Frozen vegetables--we especially like "Beans with a Twist" which includes green and yellow beans, carrots, and dried cranberries.
So, once a week or so, one of these is likely to be on our menu.  Very simple fare, but to me preferable to going out or ordering a pizza on nights I don't want to cook.  I like going out to eat to be a special treat, and on occasions when I want to take a little longer at the table.

If you have quick low-prep meals you'd like to share, do send me the recipe or write it up in the comments!