Sunday, March 10, 2013

Food In A Flash

Let's try something a little bit different this week, shall we?

You probably have a million things you need/want to do in the few hours between the time you get out of work and the time you go to bed and at times it's easy to fall into the habit of picking up takeout on the way home - believe me, I've been there.  However, fast food/takeout/restaurant meals, while readily available and requiring little to no effort, are usually high in calories and fat and those frozen dinner things aren't very tasty and are loaded with salt and a whole bunch of unpronounceable things. Don't even get me started on the frozen foods that are marketed as 'low fat' or 'diet'.

I enjoy cooking and experimenting in my kitchen on weekends, but the thought of spending more than 30-45 minutes in the kitchen on a weeknight makes me twitch, so I tend to rely on a lot of  steam-in-bag veggies, pre-washed and chopped bagged salads, and sauces from a jar.  My nightly meals may not be the pinnacle of healthy eating, but I subscribe to the theory of 'all things in moderation' and I feel like cooking at home leads to me feeling better in general.  So without further ado, here's what we ate for dinner this week, and how long it took to make it!

Monday: Looks Gourmet and Doesn't Take All Day

Tonight's dinner of butternut squash ravioli with homemade Gorgonzola sauce and Brussels sprouts was ready in about 30 minutes.  Here's how I pulled it off: While the pasta water was coming up to a boil, I made the sauce.  Once the (frozen) ravioli hit the water, I threw the sprouts in the microwave and made the salad (from a bagged mix) while they were cooking.  (Side note: The salad was completely unnecessary. The ravioli and sprouts were plenty filling on their own.)
 Super Simple Gorgonzola Garlic Sauce:
  •   Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan
  •   Add fresh minced garlic to taste. (I really love garlic, so I added about 3 small cloves.)
  •  Stir in 4-5 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  •  Whisk gently with a fork until the cheese is melted and the sauce comes together
  •  Add black pepper to taste
I was so full from dinner that the thought of climbing on the trainer made me a little queasy, so I settled for making progress in the book I'm currently reading and letting the bunnies climb on me.

Tuesday: Somewhat South of the Border
These hot 'n spicy enchiladas took about 45 minutes from start to finish, but 20-30 minutes of that time is passive cooking time - meaning that you're free to do other things. I recommend washing the dishes you've made up to that point (or rinsing them and loading them into the dishwasher).  These enchiladas aren't the most well balanced meal in the world, but they're a lot better for you than what you'll find at your favorite local Mexican joint and I can guarantee you that they're not made with the scary chemical sludge that Taco Bell tries to pass off as 'ground beef'.

What You'll Need:
-1 lb. ground beef
-1 envelope taco seasoning
-2 cans of enchilada sauce
-1 can diced jalapenos
-2 cups shredded cheese

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.  While the oven is heating up, brown a pound of ground beef, drain off the grease, and add the seasoning according to the package directions.  Once it's at the simmer stage, open and drain the jalapenos and stir about half of them into the meat mixture (or skip them if you're so inclined).

Shake the enchilada sauce well before opening, and then spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce (about half of a can) on the bottom of the pan and then get to work rolling the enchiladas.
I like to microwave the tortillas two at a time for about 15-20 seconds so they're a little more flexible when I'm filling them.  Plop about 1/8th of the meat mixture into the middle of the tortilla, drop a tiny sprinkle of cheese on it and roll.
Tuck the rolled tortillas into the pan (don't worry if a little meat gets falls out) and then pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes or so - until they have a sort of crispy feel when you touch them.
Once they've achieved that crispiness, yank them out of the oven and cover them with the remaining can and a half of sauce and sprinkle the remaining cheese (should be about 1-1 1/2 cups) over the top.
Pop the enchiladas back into the oven for about 10-15 minutes - or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.  Plate and enjoy!

 After dinner, I spent about half an hour on the trainer.  Still seeing incremental improvements there.

Wednesday: Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy
 It was a very long and frustrating day at work and the last thing in the world I felt like doing when I got home was cooking anything.  However, I had taken some fish fillets out to thaw and it was either eat them or toss them - and I really hate wasting perfectly good food. It took me about 20 minutes to make dinner.
While I waited for the couscous water to boil, I mixed up the marinade, dropped the fish in, and tossed it back in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  In the mean time, I pulled out the old George Foreman to start preheating and poured the couscous into the now-boiling water.  Once the couscous was in its final stage (covered and removed from heat to finish sucking up water), I threw the veggies in the microwave, threw the fish onto the grill for 3 minutes and waited until a couple of timers made their various noises.  Once again, better for me than a trip to the drive thru - and tasted pretty good too!

Thursday: Cook Once, Eat Twice
I spent 35 minutes on the trainer, sweating my booty off and feeling pretty good the whole time.  I haven't felt that comfortable on my bike in a long time.  After my little spin session, I was ravenous so it was a good to have leftovers in the refrigerator.  I scooped two of them onto a plate, covered it loosely with saran wrap, tossed it in the microwave and 3 minutes later I was wolfing down some cheesy, spicy goodness!

Friday: The Dinner that Wasn't Meant To Be
Friday's are always kind of a crap shoot as to whether we'll be eating at home or going out somewhere, so I usually try to keep Friday's dinner options really flexible (read: something that won't spoil if it doesn't get eaten that day or the next).  Had we eaten at home, we would have been having Boca Chik'n sandwiches with some baked beans on the side, but we ended up stopping off at Qdoba with Maverick since she'd had a few beers on an empty stomach and wanted to grab a bite before heading home.

Saturday: Food Porn
Dinner? I don't think I'm going to have room for dinner after the amazing lunch Mr. R&R and I had today.   I've driven past Ono Kine Grindz, a Hawaiian restaurant and deli, dozens of times in the last few years on my way too and from my former yoga studio - and it's pretty much right next door to my favorite Greek place, but I've never managed to stop in. That all changed today and I'm kicking myself for not having gone there much sooner!  As soon as we walked in the door, we were surrounded by the most amazing smells. The menu is pretty small (as is the restaurant itself), but if the smells in the air were any indicator, there was no such thing as a bad choice.  I ordered the a combo plate of Char Siu Chicken and Kalua Pork and Mr. R&R ordered the BBQ Kalbi Ribs.  After placing our order, we were invited to select our beverages from a cooler and have a seat at one of the handful of tables that were scattered about the tiny shop which also houses a Hawaiian market.

While we waited for our food, we were already plotting what goodies we wanted to take home with us!  When our food arrived, we dug in and it. was. awesome.  The pork was sweet, smoky, and melted in your mouth and the chicken was super tender and there was just a hint of charcoal smoke flavoring as well.  Mr. R&R's ribs were packed with spectacular flavors too.  While my chicken and pork were very sweet, his ribs were more savory.  Both meals came with purple sticky rice, macaroni salad, and carrot/pineapple salad  At first I was a little skeptical of the carrot/pineapple salad, but after one bite I was sold!  As we were eating, the owner came by and asked how everything was and I had to stop myself from falling at his feet in abject worship - okay, not really...but you get my drift.

Char Siu Chicken and Kalua Pork Combo
BBQ Kalbi Ribs
After our stuffing ourselves silly (the portions are huge), we picked up a 6-pack of the Pass-O-Guava juice that we'd had with our lunch as well as 2 of their house-made desserts for later!

World Famous CoCo Puffs
Guava Cake
Once we got home, we devoured the desserts and while both were good, we both agreed that my guava cake was the clear winner.  It was moist, not overly sweet, and packed with guava flavor.  I can't wait to go back and try the passion fruit cake.  The coco puff was sort of a combination of a cream puff and an eclair - it was good, but the guava cake kicked its ass around the block! If you're in Milwaukee, get thee to Ono Kine Grindz immediately.  I overheard multiple customers talking about how they drove in from Madison and Chicago just for lunch, so if you're not from the immediate area...start planning next weekend's excursion!

Overall, I was pretty pleased with this week's dinners, although I could have done without the trip to Qdoba, and nothing I cooked took more than 45 minutes.  What's your favorite quick homemade meal?



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