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Easy Weeknight Fish Dinner

Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Pantry staples | Tags: , | No Comments »

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I’m writing this after running up and down the stairs in my apartment about 10 times. Ah, the woes of a pedometer owner trying to get to my daily 10,000 steps. After hearing my doctors recommend it, and then having my daily dose of Dr. Oz’s fitness advice on TIVO, I’ve finally started adopting 10k-a-day. I won’t lie and say it’s easy – it amounts to about an hour and a half of walking – a little more challenging when your day job is a relatively sedentary one. But I know that it’s good for me so I’m going to try to stick with it!

* * *

Tonight I needed a light dinner, to balance my lunchtime food fail:

[ Mint tea, a green chile tamale, sauteed spinach, a large spoonful of Barney Butter, a quarter of a string cheese, a few pistachios and a quarter cup of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream – all of which are delicious on their own, but in combination gave me a tummy ache. ]

In honor of the Olympics I decided to dig from my Greek roots – a large Greek Salad and some Baked Sole in a Mediterranean Tomato Sauce.

Convenience Step One: I cook the majority of our meals from scratch, but sometimes convenience wins out. One of my favorite new products is this frozen Organic Brown from Whole Foods. While I usually make a big pot of my own brown rice at the beginning of the week, and keep 1/2 cup servings in the freezer ready to go, occasionally I run out, and this stuff is great in a pinch. It also costs less than $3 a bag, which is doable, even on a budget.

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Convenience Step Two: My second convenience food was the Reduced Fat Greek Salad from Trader Joe’s. I keep homemade salad dressing, fresh farm lettuce, and chopped and washed veg in my fridge, but sometimes TJ’s wins out. Frankly, it’s because this salad is so darn tasty – feta, tomatoes, cukes, onions and dressing on some crispy romaine. And the whole box is easily split for two good sized salads, clocking in at only 70 calories each, and costing under $3.

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This meal was easy peasy, and done from start to finish in less than half an hour. I adapted this recipe pretty loosely from a recipe in the Every Day Food: Great Fast Food cookbook. It happens to be a pretty cookbook to think up quick weeknight meals, but I usually end up using it just as a starting point. The one caveat – while I usually try to make dinners that I can easily reheat for lunch the next day, fish is one food that doesn’t do so well the next day. We ate all the fish tonight, but there are still leftovers – brown rice and tomato shallot goodness! I use a lot of shallots at home – they are an onion relative that cooks sweetly.

Easy Fish with Shallots and Tomatoes

(Prep time: 10 minutes – Total Time: 35 minutes)

serves 2 generously or 4 as part of a complete meal

Ingredients:

5 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped (or 2 small onions, or 2 leeks – whatever you have)

1/2 of a lemon, sliced thinly (or the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, for less pronounced lemony taste)*

1 tablespoon olive oil

A handful fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, parsley, and dill, reserving some fresh dill for serving.

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

1 can (14.5 or 15 oz) diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted No Salt Added diced tomatoes)

1 pound sole fillets, (cod or other light white fish would work)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. In a Le Creuset Pot, or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss together the shallots, lemon slices, oil, fresh herbs, pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with foil, and bake until the shallots begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Add the tomatoes, and toss to combine. Season both sides of the cod fillets with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; place on top of the vegetables. If you don’t have space to lay the fish flat over the vegetables, roll each fillet up (like I do, in the picture.)

3. Cover the dish and bake until the fish is opaque throughout, 15 to 20 minutes. Top with fresh dill, and serve immediately.

Serve, if desired, over brown rice – 1/2 to 1 cup per person is more than enough, with a nice lemony or greek salad, and some fresh crusty bread if desired.

*Note: Now, I like my fish lemony, so I just go ahead and slice in the lemon. It imparts a slightly bitter taste if the slices are eaten whole, but for those finicky about bitter tastes, feel free to remove the lemon slices before serving, or cook with just the lemon zest and juice.


Preparing for a week of lunches : Cooking in Advance

Posted: October 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Freezer Staples, Pantry staples | 1 Comment »

Lots of Pots

In order to save time packing a healthy lunch each day, it’s incredibly useful to prepare in advance. It makes a big daily time difference to take a few hours over the weekend to cook for the week. If you have time, blocking out an hour or so midweek will help you to refresh your stock. You can mix and match these staple foods with leftovers to create filling and unique meals.

Precutting Vegetables: It’s like having your own salad bar! Best done throughout the week, it’s helpful to cut up fresh fruits and vegetables and store them pre-chopped to add to whatever dish you are preparing, quickly steam, or eat raw. They won’t generally last the entire week, so doing this every few days is a better idea. Useful pre-cut vegetables include : onions, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, to name a few.

Roasting Vegetables : Roasting (or grilling) a big batch of vegetables is an easy way to use produce before it goes bad. The roasted vegetables can then be used on sandwiches (perhaps with some hummus), in stir fry, as a side dish, in salads, and even pureed with some yogurt or hot broth to form a tasty soup.

Cooking Beans: Canned beans are good, but dried beans are better. All it takes is a soak over night and a few hours in some boiling water – it’s mostly hands off. It helps to alternate different beans each week for variety, or sometimes I cook two varieties. Garbanzo Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, and Edamame are all great options. Then during the week add the beans to soups, salads, mash them on sandwiches, throw into omelets, mix with salsa and top with some cheese, or dress them with a vinaigrette.

Hardboiled Eggs: So useful! You can hard-boil a half a dozen eggs and just leave them in the fridge to add to salads, bentos, make into egg salad, or just eat whole for an afternoon pick me up.

A Batch of Grain: Quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, and brown rice are all great options. These can be made in advance, stored in the fridge, or wrapped in single portion (half-cup) amounts (while still warm to retain moisture) and stored in the freezer. Then, you can add fresh vegetables and seasonings create new combinations with different flavor profiles – say “curry, stir fry, salad”

A Pot of Soup / or Chili / or Curry:
Cooking a pot of soup or chili is a no brainer, and portions can be individually frozen if you aren’t keen on eating the same soup several times in a row. Hearty vegetable soups with beans hold up well, and are filling, butternut squash soups are great for fall. Just avoid adding pasta, because it can become mushy over a few days – best to cook some fresh pasta and add it in when you are reheating the soup.

And you can easily do the same with some breakfast foods – a pot of steel cut oats can be reheated throughout the week, as well as some healthy muffins packed with fruit and nuts, or breakfast burritos.

Photo: felipevex


Setting Up a Healthy Lunchbox Pantry

Posted: August 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Pantry staples | No Comments »
Bulk Bins - bcmom

Wouldn’t it be great if you got up in the morning and it took no more than five minutes to put together a new and exciting lunch box meal every day? The Japanese call the pantry stash johbisai – and it saves a lot of time and energy putting together your meals if you already have a basic lunch stash to go to. The keys are to buy in bulk and cook in bulk, individually wrap items – and to keep plenty of pre-made items either in the freezer or refrigerator. Here are some good suggestions to start your lunch box pantry:

Hard-boiled eggs – once a week, make a half dozen hardboiled eggs to keep in your fridge and pop into your lunch box – they store nicely in those little leftover green plastic
berry containers. You can make a quick egg salad by using an egg, a squirt of dijon
mustard, and a teaspoon of mayo.

Frozen meatballs (I like IKEA, but I also make my own turkey meatballs once a month). Heat the meatballs and pop them in your lunch box.

Single serve rice – make a pot of brown or white rice, and while still warm, wrap half cup servings individually in saran wrap, and place in freezer. Or, make a fresh weekly batch and keep it in your fridge for easy additions to lunch, dinner, or even breakfast (warmed with a little milk and cinnamon).

Frozen muffins – muffins can be frozen individually and popped right in a lunchbox and will defrost by lunch time. Mini muffins are great for lunches or snacks.

Frozen Dumplings (require just a few minutes to heat) – and are a great lunch food. They can be bought in bulk in most asian markets, or for an ambitious afternoon cranked out at home.

Dried fruits and nuts – Think almonds, walnuts, cranberries, raisins, apricots, figs, soynuts, dried mango, pineapple and apple slices to name a few. Perfect to boost the protein in your lunch, or as a quick afternoon pick me up.

Bonbel Baby Cheese Wheels – or any other cubed cheeses – you can pre-cube them and store them in a ziplock and pop a few in your lunch every so often.

Pudding or Yogurt – buy in bulk, and make a new flavor each week to portion in your lunches. Or you can freeze jello or pudding and put right into the lunchbox frozen.

Burritos wrapped in foil – make an assembly line of burritos and wrap in parchment and foil and pop in the freezer – great for easy on-the-go breakfasts, or filling lunches.

These are only the start of what you can make in advance – What do you have in your lunch box pantry? Are we missing one of your favorites?

Photo – bcmom

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