Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In a Pinch

Recently I heard a woman describe asking her husband to pick up some milk on the way home from work. There was no milk in the house and she needed some so that the family could have cereal for dinner. She omitted that last bit of information.

The thing about cooking is that it's a time hog. There are always going to be days when a dinner plan fails to come together or I just don’t have an hour to spend cooking. My priorities don't shift on these nights. I'm still shooting for lean protein and vegetables (usually in the form of mixed greens) and trying not cheat by relying empty fillers like pasta and rice.

The thing about cereal for dinner (and regularly ordering pizza, or relying too heavily on commercial fast foods or the microwave) is that we misrepresent our food values when we put it on the menu. And for the most part, we have good food values. We're just inconsistent about reflecting our values on our plates.

The good news is the real problem - not having items in the fridge or pantry that can be turned into a healthy, quick meal - is solvable by making some thoughtful additions to our shopping lists.

Spend some time thinking about meals already in your repertoire that are quick and healthy. Work necessary items onto your shopping list. And pass your healthy/quick meal ideas along! I'd love some new ideas myself.

Here are a few examples of quick meals we eat:

1. Tuna, 1 of 3 ways. I won't eat chunk light. I just won't. I don't care if it has less mercury than albacore. A deep-dish pizza has less mercury and I'm not eating that either.
Tuna Soft Taco - Prepared tuna scooped into warmed corn tortillas and topped with hot sauce. Add some avocado slices, if you've got 'em.
Tuna on a bed of greens - Mixed greens, drained water-packed tuna, straight out of the can and some salad dressing.
Tuna salad - Finely chopped onion, celery and mayo (personal fave) or with green olives, celery, lemon and mayo (à la Grandpa Gil).

2. Ham and Gruyère Panini. I have a deep affection for low-gluten sprouted bread, either Alvarado Street or the comparable version on the shelf at TJ. This is really just a grilled ham and gruyère sandwich. Gruyère is so flavorful that a little goes a long way - I only use a few, thin slices. I cook this on a non-stick pan, sprayed with canola spray. And I use that Petite Ham I love so much from Trader Joe's. Oh, and slather a good country dijon on the bread, too.

3. Avocado Toast. Avocado toast is fine on sourdough, but so much heartier on sprouted bread. Simply toast, slather on a fine film of mayo, top with thinly sliced avocado. Cut into nine squares (this is the hardest part because the avocado sticks to the knife and your beautiful slices get all moved around), and transfer for a plate. Sprinkle on a bit of salt and then squeeze the better part of a lemon all over.

4. Thai Kitchen Hot and Sour Noodle soup with Shrimp. I've taken to having frozen uncooked shrimp on hand to add a tasty protein to this quick soup.

5. Mama Lil's and Turkey. Having some turkey breast on hand makes my life so much simpler - weird that I don't have it on hand more often. Mama Lil’s peppers add some heat and great flavor.

6. Cheese Toast. This is really on the kids' menu. They've been raised on sprouted bread, so it's not a problem for them. Topped with a thin layer of cheddar, cheese toast is easy and fairly nourishing, especially with veggies on the side. Just toast the bread, then turn the dial on your toaster oven to BAKE (you have a toaster oven, right??) and melt the cheese. Sprinkle with a little Spike, cut into skinny slices or squares, and serve. With a pickle.

Shopping list for Meals in a Pinch:

Tuna, albacore in spring water
Sprouted sandwich bread, Alvarado Street
Fresh corn tortillas
Thai Kitchen Hot and Sour Noodle Soup
Sliced turkey
Petite ham (or thicker sliced ham from the deli)
Frozen uncooked shrimp (get the deveined, tail on ones at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's)
Mixed Greens
Condiments: mayo, mustard


Unknown said...

Does your aversion to chunk light extend even to the expensive (almost $3 a can) Italian kind packed in olive oil? We try to keep that on hand especially in the summer for a quick meal. Combine (oil and all!) with sliced red onion that's been marinated in red wine vinegar for 5-10 minutes and a can of drained and rinsed white beans. Serve over greens with bread. Yum! I can't wait for summer now!

Katie Fairbank said...

I will definitely try it. Where do you buy it? I like the preparation. Thanks for sending. ;)

Unknown said...

Any grocery store, but also Costco. I haven't thought to look at TJ but I imagine they do as well. By the way, what's the significance of noting that the sprouted bread is low-gluten? Is gluten bad? I'm not sure I even know what it is.

Jessica Paul said...

Katie, What are Mama Lil's peppers and where do you buy them?

Katie Fairbank said...

oh, they are so good. i love them on sandwiches and in scrambled eggs.

you can find them in chitown at fox & obel. check out www.mamalils.com so you can look for the label.