Category Archives: Quick meal

Avocado toast

Best thing ever.

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If you have access to fresh, good quality avocados and fresh lemons, this is an amazing combination. Of course, I really like avocados-in salad, in guac, as a soup garnish, in salad with tomatoes.

But this simple little dish will transform your life. Or at least the appreciation of the little things in such life. Here’s how. Serves two for a reasonable lunch. Serves one very hungry person. Takes all of five minutes tops. 

1 ripe avocado 

1/2-1 fresh lemon

pinch of salt

pinch of red pepper

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Twist apart the halves.

Remove the pit. Leaving the skin on, score each half of the avocado fruit into cubes . Using a spoon, scoop the avocado flesh into a smallish bowl. Repeat with other half.

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Using a fork mash up the avocado a little. Add in the lemon juice, salt, and red pepper. Take the fork and mash up the avocado until it is mostly smooth.

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Toast two slices of good Italian or French bread. Spread one half of the mixture on each toasted slice. You will think you have died and gone to heaven.

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Meatless Tuesday with Meatless Ground

We try to limit our meat consumption and, like many of you, are trying to eat healthy. Recently, I picked up a package of Gardein Meatless Ground. We had eaten at a friend’s house on Monday so we moved Meatless Monday to Meatless Tuesday.

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It is in the freezer section of the grocery store and needs to be kept frozen until just the time you cook it. Last night I made some vegetarian chili from a terrific recipe and used the soy ground meat in the recipe. Delicious. The texture is correct, taste is fine. I was quite happy with how it turned out. I’ve used other products in the past, but I do like the Gardein version quite a bit. I will try some of their other products and report back on how those work as well. Meanwhile, do think about trying the Meatless Ground in vegetarian chili. Here’s a link to the recipe I used. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/72508/the-best-vegetarian-chili-in-the-world/

The photo is of the Best Vegetarian Chili in the World from Jaxon’s Mom on Allrecipes.com where the recipe is posted:

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I made a few changes to the recipe. I prefer to not use canned beans, although I know they are fine. But I keep a variety of dried beans, peas, and lentils on hand and it is easier for me to use those. So, the night before I placed about 3/4 – 1 cup each of kidney beans, chickpeas, and black beans in a large bowl and covered with water. The next morning I put all in my Instant-Pot with a tsp. of salt and cooked for 20 minutes. You can do the whole recipe in a large Instant Pot. Mine isn’t quite large enough because the chili recipe makes a large batch, but I did use it to cook the beans and that saved considerable time. If you have a larger model you could do the whole thing in one pot.

The other changes I made to the recipe were that I used one, not two packages of the soy ground meat. I used two 28 oz. cans of tomatoes, not three and I added 1 small can of tomato paste. I think everything else I followed the recipe linked to above. It was very good.

We were very pleased with the whole combination. The Meatless Ground was actually easier to cook with than regular ground meat, at least in this recipe. When I do use ground meat, I use very lean grassfed, local, sustainably raised meat which has very little fat (a good thing) but tricky to saute with at times. The Meatless Ground was easy because I could just dump it into the mix and heat it thoroughly. I look forward to sharing some more soy ground meat recipes with you in the future.

One recipe, 4+ different meals

I like to cook, but sometimes I am not in the mood to cook, do not feel inspired, and just want to get meal preparation done quickly. Something that saves me a significant amount of time is to prep ingredients common to several foods we like all at the same time, then pull out of the freezer as needed. An example makes it clearer.

We like soft tacos or burritos, chile, spaghetti and stuffed eggplant. All of those dishes can start with a ground meat, onion, green or hot pepper, and tomato mixture. So, to save time in a large skillet, spray with Pam or drizzle a small amount of oil and saute:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef (we use organic, grassfed, preferably local which will wind up being very low fat ~ 93% lean)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1-2 medium green bell peppers, diced or 1 green bell pepper and 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and meat together, until onions wilt and meat loses its redness and is cooked. Break up large pieces of meat. Stir in the peppers and cook for a few minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer a few minutes and add a little water if needed to keep the dish from becoming too dry.

Now you are ready to divide into about four containers. Freeze three of them and save out the one you are using today.

To make chile, just add chili powder, beans, cumin, more heat if needed.

To make spaghetti sauce, stir in tomato sauce, pureed tomatoes or tomato paste and water, along with crushed garlic and oregano.

For burritos, add some chili powder and cumin, wrap in a soft tortilla with cheese, salsa, light sour cream, etc.

For stuffed eggplant, basically you make a lengthwise slit in the center of Japanese eggplant and then lightly saute the eggplants in a small amount of vegetable oil until softened. Remove from pan and let cool enough to handle. Gently open up the eggplant using the slit and stuff the opening with the filling mixture to which you may have added chopped parsley. Set all the eggplants in an oven safe glass dish and pour some tomato juice over everything. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F. for about 35 minutes. A more detailed recipe can be found in Turkish Family Favorites.

The possibilites are numerous but in each case if you have the meat mixture ready to go, you are significantly reducing your prep time.

Balsamic Mustard Vinagrette

Salad dressing is an area where homemade is usually far better than store bought. It is also so customizable and that allows your creativity and tastes to flourish. Plus, you can tweak the dressing to bring out the flavors of whatever is in your salad. I made a salad of romaine, green onions, a carrot, four or five celery sticks, a tomato and half of a large green pepper. I used probably half of a largish head of romaine. Cut the veggies in different shapes. I sliced the carrot on the diagonal and then in half to make half crescent moons (kind of ). Celery in rounds. Pepper in squares, tomato medium dice. The lettuce was strips. Toss the salad with dressing immediately before serving. Enjoy!

BALSAMIC MUSTARD VINAGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 T. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 T. mayo
  • 1/2 T. honey
  • 2/3 t. salt
  • 1/3 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 t. basil

One Pan Dinner: Salmon and roasted veggies

This could not be any easier. Not only do you just dirty one pan in the entire dinner, but the prep entails just one bowl. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/2 small bag baby potatoes or 2 c. butternut squash or sweet potato chunks
  • 1 large broccoli crown
  • 3 T. olive oil, mixed use
  • kosher salt, to taste OR garlic salt
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • sriracha sauce, to taste
  • 1 T. hoisin sauce or ketchup or 1/2 T. balsamic vinegar and 1/2 T. honey

If you plan to cook immediately after prepping the food, go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 F. If you are prepping ahead of time and want to let the fish marinate a bit, wait to preheat your oven.

Next prep the potatoes. Pour two T. olive oil into a largish prep bowl. Rinse the potatoes, butternut squash, or sweet potato chunks you plan to use. Rinse off the broccoli and cut into largish bite-sized chunks and drop into the oil. Cut the potatoes in half and drop into the olive oil. If using butternut squash or sweet potatoes just drop into the olive oil, stir around to make sure all the pieces are covered and then spread on a large rimmed sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt or garlic salt. Next, add soy sauce, sriracha, and hoisin to olive oil in the bowl and add one more T. of oil. Mix all together. Take the salmon fillets and place them into the bowl, skin side facing up, directly into the sauce so that they absorb the seasonings into the flesh. You can leave them to marinate 30-45 minutes. Or, cook immediately.

When ready to bake, first place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. When the veggies have roasted for fifteen minutes, remove sheet pan from oven briefly and set on top of stove. Carefully remove the salmon from the marinade and place skin side down on the hot sheet pan (with the partially roasted vegetables) . Drizzle whatever remains of the marinade on top of the fillets. Return pan to oven and roast for another 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables and salmon fillets are done. You may need to adjust the cooking times based on the size of your potato/butternut squash chunks and the thickness of the salmon fillet. For 1-1 1/2 inch potato chunks and average sized salmon fillets, the times given are about right. Voila! Dinner is ready and there are very few dishes to wash! Enjoy.

Asian Inspired Salad

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I like some of the packaged salads for convenience- you rip open the bag, dump into a bowl, pour on the dressing and in two minutes lunch is ready. However, the variety of ingredients is not great and it is kind of expensive to pay that much for what in many cases is just chopped cabbage. So, I’ve switched to making our own and plan to pre-prep most of the ingredients in the future so I can just pick and choose. I’ve also taken to making almost all of our dressings. I put the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake at least 100 times. Shaking that much and using enough oil helps it to emulsify and really blend.  It thickens a bit and I wind up using less. OK, here’s the winter salad mix:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 medium head of cabbage, cleaned, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 5 romaine leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 large radishes, sliced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 pepperoncini peppers sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4-1/3 cup roasted peanuts or almonds

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup safflower oil
  • 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. rice vinegar
  • 2 T. chopped ginger root

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve into serving bowls. Mix dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously at least one hundred times so that the ingredients blend and thicken. Use to taste on the salad. If you don’t have everything, sub other ingredients. Snowpeas are a delicious addition. Enjoy!

 

On the Wonders of Fresh Pasta

I am generally a rather frugal person (some might have other, not-so-friendly descriptors for it), but if one has ever once be extremely strapped for money, it can be challenging to change that, once things are a bit easier. Anyway, I would either buy dried pasta from the box or make my own pasta, which is OK but I can’t say I really like to do that. When I am tired from doing other things all day,  I really don’t want to stand around waiting for water to boil or rolling out pasta and then cutting and drying it. Sorry, purists, nope. So, this week, twice, I succumbed to the temptation of using fresh noodles and oh my goodness, am I glad I did.  Both days I knew I was on a timetable and had limited time to prepare dinner. Both nights I was making Asian noodle dishes and thought these two recipes would be good with fresh pasta as opposed to taking another 40 minutes to hike over to the Asian market to get the real thing.

Wow….what a joy! and the time it saved me was remarkable. The fresh noodles needed to cook only two minutes, which meant that both dishes came together in record time. I do recommend you head over to New York Times Cooking and try both of these dishes.  I made Spicy Sichuan Noodles by FLORENCE FABRICANT and Longevity Noodles With Chicken, Ginger and Mushrooms by JULIA MOSKIN. Absolutely fabulous! I could have eaten the entire pot of Longevity Noodles and it probably would not then have enhanced my longevity. Both of the recipes are delicious and quick. Of course, those of you who know me know that I am not great at following directions exactly, so I didn’t in these either. I added significant amount of chopped garlic to the longevity noodles and probably more soy sauce and sesame oil.

I just cannot wait to try these fresh noodles with marinara sauce or with olive oil, garlic, butter and parmesan or asiago or to make a simple meat sauce. If I weren’t allergic to shellfish, these would be perfect with clam sauce, either white or red.

So easy, so quick, so tasty.  Using the fresh made a big difference in the quality of the finished dish.

One of the best and easiest chicken dishes ever!!!!

I wish I had encountered this recipe years ago. It would have saved me and my family from some boring, blah, tedious (you get the picture) chicken dinners. OMG this is so good. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sam Sifton!!! And the NY Times! Head over there or just click this link for the details:

Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma Recipe – NYT Cooking

I want to share that I made a couple of changes, based on what I had on hand. I used chicken breasts. As one of the commenters recommended, I reduced the roasting time to about 30-35 minutes, removed it from the oven, and let it rest.  After about 10 minutes I sliced the chicken, drizzled a little oil over the top and then broiled it for 2-3 minutes. I didn’t want to fry the meat although I am sure that is tasty. I had guests and wanted to keep the process a little simpler, plus I would use less oil that way. One of our guests was an internationally known cholesterol research scientist, so I try to be on reasonably good behavior. ! Anyway, this is a delicious recipe and very very easy. Make sure you marinate the meat for a few hours. The leftovers are also awesome, so make plenty and you will be set for a few days.

Not Just Meatless Monday Quesadillas

These are so good, you are going to want to make them regardless of whether it is Meatless Monday or not. They are very quick to put together, nutritious, and filling. Here’s how:

  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 1 can vegetarian refried beans (or see Bean Filling below)
  • 2 cups corn (frozen, canned, or fresh)
  • 2 small avocados
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt to taste.
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded cheese (American, Mexican)
  • 1 cup tomato salsa
  • butter for greasing skillet

Heat a skillet or cast iron griddle to medium. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas in the microwave for a few seconds to make them more pliable. Heat the corn and the refried beans (or bean filling) for a minute or two in the microwave. Peel and seed the avocados in a small to medium sized bowl. Add in the lemon juice, garlic, and salt to taste. Mash with a fork until it is kind of a chunky guacamole. Assemble the quesadillas. Lay the tortillas on the counter in a row. Spread a generous spoonful or two of the bean mixture on each tortilla. I like to cover about half the tortilla. Next, spread about 1/4 of the guacamole. Then, sprinkle 1/4 of the corn, and 1/3 cup of cheese on each tortilla. Lastly sprinkle the top with the salsa. Carefully fold in half. Quickly grease the griddle or skillet. Lay the quesadillas on the griddle and watch carefully so they don’t burn. Turn over and move to a serving plate. Repeat until all are cooked. Enjoy!

Delish Quick Main dish with Tri-Color Veggie Rotini

I have tried enough dishes calling for tri-color pasta to be dubious. I have found the flavors don’t always mix well with other ingredients or I undercook the pasta- it seems to take a bit longer to cook than non-veggie pasta. I don’t know, it just has not been a very positive taste experience. This one, however, is. It is an adaptation of a recipe in my cookbook, Turkish Family Favorites, which is available from Amazon.com (hint, hint). It sounds like a ho-hum recipe, but trust me: follow the directions exactly and be sure to use the yogurt sauce. That makes the dish.

  • 1 6 oz. package tri-color veggie rotini
  • Salt for cooking pasta and for seasoning meat
  • 2 generous soupspoonfuls of tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably lean*
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 tsp. (or more or less to taste) hot pepper
  • water if needed for meat and for cooking pasta

Yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup plain, low-fat or whole yogurt (do NOT use fat-free)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed

Mix the salt, yogurt, and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside to use when serving. This is one of the most delicious combinations ever, although when I first heard of it, I thought it sounded vile. But it is so yummy and elevates this simple dish to hard-core comfort food.

Cook the rotini in a generous amount of salted water until done. It will take about 11 minutes, but test it and be sure. Drain and set aside. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and saute the chopped onion until it softens and starts to brown. Stir in the ground beef, break up, and continue cooking until there is no more pink left. Drain the oil from the skillet. Stir in the tomato paste, hot pepper (I like Indian chile pepper but cayenne is also fine. Red pepper flakes are also good.) Add salt to taste. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup of water, but this part of the dish will be fairly dry, not soupy like spaghetti sauce.

When rotini is done and has been drained, empty into a serving bowl. Top off with the meat mixture and stir well. Serve and pass the yogurt sauce around so each person can put a dollop of yogurt sauce on their rotini. Excellent. 4-6 servings. Takes all of about 15-20 minutes and you control what’s in there. Beats takeout or packaged macaroni any time.

* There are several possible substitutions here. I think this would work well with soy protein, ground chicken, or ground turkey. I personally prefer the ground beef, but the others would work and would be very tasty.