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13 August 2008 @ 07:36 pm
The Cheating Cook  
One of my LJ friends was talking about the need for quick meals that employ mixes and other short cuts--she has a small child and is finishing up her medical training as a resident. (Can't imagine that with a small child, my hat's off to you!) You can imagine how tired she must be in the evenings. I remember the years I was in school and working at the women's center and was too tired to do anything elaborate when I got home.

I thought I'd share my slightly embellished response because I suspect you all know something about quick and easy meals for a young mom. Maybe you can share some! I realize I was fortunate also to have a family of women who all cooked, both from scratch and from mixes, so I got a head start in seeing the possibilities. That's no longer necessarily the case for the younger generations.

I had a number of easy recipes that used mixes and stuff when I was going to school and raising my kids alone. I'd get home after a full day of classes and work-study (I did twenty hours on top of my full course load) and I certainly wouldn't be cooking anything from scratch.

You can make a really nice cream pie with a store bought crust and Jello instant pudding mix. :) Mmmmmm, pistachio! You just add less milk for a thicker pudding. For banana cream pie, I use vanilla because the banana tastes too fake, but I put bananas on the bottom before I pour the pudding in. Just refrigerate and voila! A cream pie! You can even make it lower in fat by using 1 per cent milk.

I also have an easy no-bake cheesecake recipe involving cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice, which get blended and poured into a baked pie crust. I used a canned pie filling for topping--cherry or blueberry or even a combination. Top with sliced fresh fruit for a fruit tart. I'll dig that one up and post it.

I intend to have a little section of my family cookbook that I will call "cheating." I'll post a copy of that section when I'm done.

The basic staples of the Indian meal, rice and dahl (bean soup) are quick and easy to get on the stove--5-10 minutes or so--and then they simmer for awhile, filling the house with a beautiful scent. Steam or microwave some veggies and you have a whole meal. Make a big pot of soup and you have leftovers for another night. I'm a big believer in using leftovers--why cook twice when you can cook once?

I'll post a recipe sometime soon. You can use yellow split peas or lentils in dahl if you don't have the more exotic mung or urad dahls from an Indian store. Dahl simmers for about an hour, and rice takes 20 minutes, so you start the dahl first and get it simmering. You can add veggies to the dahl as well as having veggies on the side. Instead of making chapatis or naan, you can use whole wheat tortillas or pita bread with the meal. You can also get frozen naan, parathas, or roti from an Indian grocer.

Living with a man makes it harder to have leftovers, but I've found a strategy that saves my husband from gaining extra pounds. I put some of the meal into storage containers in the fridge before I serve him. I may leave enough for a small second serving. I let him believe that there just isn't any more than that--without lying out right. Basically, guys often eat so fast they don't know they are full yet, and they often just gravitate to a second and third helping they don't really need.

In a pinch, we certainly are spoiled by having a lot of healthy, organic frozen dinners in the health food section of our supermarkets or in health food stores. As a vegetarian I relied on Amy's dinners when I was working overtime. These days they are a luxury, though. I have more time than money so I'm cooking more from scratch. It's the best way to weather a recession, too!

Frozen vegetables have been proven to have more vitamins than most produce at the store which has been picked days earlier and shipped long distances. There are lots of frozen vegetable mixes and even some with good sauces--I saw one recently that has a rosemary sauce that is really good. You steam it right in the microwave. You also don't waste a bunch of vegetables because you are too tired to carry out the good intentions you had when you bought them on the weekend. Less waste equals money saved!

What are some of the easy things you make using short cuts, mixes or prepared foods?
 
 
 
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
more from a starving student topic (not mine)
here's another soup - very fresh tasting and surprisingly good. i'll still make in a pinch with staples. it was a classic in med school when i had no time or money but wanted things that tasted good..

"pam" the bottom of a saucepan and add a teaspoon - tablespoon (depending on taste) of cumin
add a cut up zucchini and yellow squash and saute until golden
add some cut up carrots
pour in 2 big cans chicken broth
add a can of diced tomatoes with chiles (or you can do them separate)
add a can of red or kidney beans, drained
add leftover, canned or shredded rotisserie chicken
let cook 15 minutes
add a can of corn
let cook 5 minutes more
add a whole bunch of cilantro shredded and just warm through

i serve with sour cream garnish and chips/salsa/guac on the side
the original recipe had tortillas and cheese stirred into the soup - i like it "fresher" than that but college boys might like it that way.

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Here's what got me through my senior year of college:
I took some canned black beans, heated them up on the stove with a half jar or so of salsa, and served over white rice (from the local takeout place, although if he can handle making his own, that's great). If frying up an onion isn't out of the question, that adds some great flavor, too. If they like spicy, adding some hot sauce or using extra spicy salsa will work well. Leftover beans are great as a snack with tortilla chips.

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Here's an easy recipe that took me through college and the first years of my marriage and on to fussy toddlers. :)

Brown a pound of ground beef, drain
add a box (8 oz.) of your choice of pasta - elbows, penne, etc., cooked
add a 2 cans of stewed tomatoes with onions, green peppers and celery.
You can also added extra onions, peppers and celery for a more "fresh" taste. Onions and peppers are readily available here in Boston already chopped in the frozen food section in supermarkets. I never met anyone who didn't like this.
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When I went to college my mom got me a cook book called Where's Mom Now That I Need Her. It was very helpful and had many easy recipes (as well as household hints and basic first aid tips).

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Easiest crockpot recipe possible:

1 lb boneless chicken breasts
1 can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
1 small can of mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
a dash of pepper

Cover the chicken with soup, mushrooms, and wine mixed together. Add pepper. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Serve over rice.
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Take a chicken boneless breast wrap in bacon cover with cream of mushroom and sour cream bake for an hour serve over buttered egg noodles
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
Re: more from a starving student topic (not mine)
and more

Another easy crockpot recipe:

1 package of skinless chicken thighs and/or legs, depending on the size of your crockpot
1-2 cans of diced tomatoes (the kind with garlic and Italian seasoning is best)
1 can of tomato paste
1-2 cans of canned corn
Whatever other vegetables you like
Additional seasoning if it's not already in the diced tomatoes

Dump everything in the crockpot, stir to cover chicken with tomatoes. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with rice or noodles.

Note: boneless chicken tends to get dried out in crockpots, so bone-in is best for this recipe. Skinless is best because there's no way for skin to get crispy; it just gets kind of slimey.
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1) beef or pork butt/roast-1 can of beer-1 pkg of lipton onion soup mix. put in crockpot and let cook 8-10 hrs on low. 1 large roast should last 4 boys 2 meals worth. one day serve shredded meat on sandwiches, next day serve with juice over pasta and if any left add vegis and make soup.
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Chicken and Dumplings-
1 can chicken stock
1 can chicken gravy
1 bag frozen veggie mix or fresh of their choice
boneless chicken or chicken pieces
1 tube Pillsbury biscuits- each cut into 4 smal squares

Bring stock and frozen veggies to a boil.
Once veggies are getting soft, add all the gravy.
Stir to combine.
Lower heat and allow to simmer.
After 5 minutes, ad chicken
Stir again.
When chicken begins to cook ( ie-starts to look white), add small squares of biscuit.
Allow to simmer until chicken is cooked through, veggies are soft and biscuits are firm.
Makes great left-overs, too.
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6 english muffins - split

1 tomato - diced
1 red pepper - diced
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts - chopped
about 1-1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
couple of handfuls of pine nuts - toasted (I just toast mine in olive oil in a skillet since I know I'd forget them if I put them in the oven

Mix above ingredients together and sprinkle on top of split english muffins. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

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another page

http://thestarvingstudent.wordpress.com/category/under-5/