Sunday, April 24, 2011

Traveling and the Importance of Easy Meals

     One of the only downsides about biking everywhere is the lack of long distance transportation. I can easily ride 10 miles on my bike to go somewhere, but that is about the upper limits of my abilities when time is taken into consideration. It's not too convenient beyond that. 

     The end of this past week and the beginning of the weekend were spent mostly in San Antonio with my lovely niece I had not seen in three years. She was able to catch up with her boyfriend and his family while Thomas and I were able to take in the sights of San Antonio. It truly is a beautiful city with a bit of old world charm. Because we had to be in town so early we were able to see it as few people get to, nearly empty.

     By the time we got home, we were all exhausted and wanted to do nothing more than go straight to bed. Dinner, however, needed to be dealt with. Two bags of 10oz frozen corn and a couple of potatoes to the rescue!

Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes
Serves 3

For the chowder:
2 - 10oz bags of frozen sweet corn
Handful of cilantro, washed, stemmed, and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
Olive oil for frying
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp chili powder
2-3 cups water
1/4 - 1/2 cup soy milk
Salt, to taste

For the roasted potatoes:
2 or 3 small to medium potatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
Olive oil for coating
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne

Optional Toppings:
Shredded cheese
Diced green onions
Sour cream
Diced cilantro

First... Preheat your oven to 350*F while you prep the potatoes by washing them well, then dicing into bite sized pieces. Nothing fancy here, just keep them a uniform size. Toss together in a bowl with the diced onion, coat with the olive oil, then add the salt and cayenne before mixing well. Toss the potatoes in the oven on a foiled or parchment-lined baking sheet for around 25 minutes or until fork tender.

Then... While the potatoes are baking, you'll make the corn chowder. Start by heating oil in a soup pot and adding the onions to fry for around 5-6 minutes. Add the salt and other dry seasonings and mix well. Add the frozen corn and enough water to cover before bringing to a simmer. Carefully transfer around 1/2 of soup contents to a blender and blend, using the remaining water for easy blending. Return contents of blender to soup pot, add cilantro, and continue simmering. After 10 minutes of additional simmering, add the milk and turn heat off.

Finally... Remove the potatoes from oven. Ladle soup into bowls, top with roasted potatoes and any optional toppings desired.

     Because this recipe is so basic, there are many ways that you could make it your own. Try adding some salsa or chili garlic paste to the blender for a spicier touch, a can of chopped tomatoes with green peppers, or use a can of black beans instead of the second bag of corn for a slightly different soup. Make it yours!
- Patricia
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Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Meal Plan, Made Simple

      My seasonal job has started back up for the year and as a result I've been a bit extra busy these last several weeks, so posting has been a bit sparse. I've been trying to keep posts scheduled so that things aren't too barren around here, but that's just how it goes. 

With my new, mostly nocturnal, schedule I've been keeping the cooking down to simple one-dish meals that are easy and quiet to prepare at 2AM. Here's a sampling of what I've been cooking as of late:

The top right photo features Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes. This is a new dish I am making that is inspired by the method I use to make black bean soup. I have not posted about that black bean soup because the pictures of it seem to come out poorly, but I won't let that be an excuse to keep such a simple and quick recipe from you. Both the corn chowder and the black bean soup are very simple and can be made in under 30 minutes! Bottom right is the beginnings of Lentil & Brown Rice Soup, with just an onion, seasonings and a lentil blend in the pot. The final picture is of Berbere Mixed Vegetables which I featured last month, along with what is pictured in the top left photo, Kale and Zucchini Stir Fry.

I'll be posting the recipes for the Lentil & Brown Rice Soup as well as the Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes over the next week or so. Also coming up will be a Wokin' Stir Fry Recipe! One of my birthday gifts this year included a wok and I couldn't have been more surprised. It was used within the week and we took lots of pictures that I'll post along with the recipe. 

The thing about making these 'easy' meals is that it is make possible with a meal plan diligently created each week before we grocery shop. While meal planning isn't exactly exciting - it's quite far from it, actually, and can start arguments you wouldn't normally have about broccoli vs cauliflower - it does need to be taken care of. I've made a small system to help with that time of the week. First, I made a document on my computer that includes dishes that I make on a regular basis broken down into pasta, rice, and vegetable based dishes. When it's time to meal plan for the week I open up this list, grab a cookbook or The Flavor Bible, and maybe open up a few good websites to browse (I like Open Source Food as of late). I use some loose leaf paper to make three line sections where I'll fill in a rough breakfast/lunch/dinner schedule as follows:
As you can see, I've got kale, zucchini, and lentil soup, chili & corn bread, Mexican casserole, pesto & white bean quinoa (seen in this months' Vegetarian Times), lasagna rolls, pizza, and a black bean avocado taco superevent on the menu for this week. I don't really worry about making Thursday's meal on Thursday, we're pretty flexible on when that happens and sometimes you just don't feel like what's on the meal plan, and that's okay. The real point of having all this is so that I know that when I go to the store with the list based off this meal plan, that I will be purchasing enough food to theoretically feed myself and the boyfriend for however many days I've planned for. 

It might be a bit overkill. Do I really need to fill in oatmeal, waffles, and eggs for breakfast every day? Yes, I do, because I will forget to put them on the grocery list to buy. Sometimes we'll shop for just dinner stuff and think we have some extra money to splurge on a bottle of something and then we realize we have no lunch or snack stuff available during the week. Lame.

So pictured above is my meal plan for this week, my grocery bill at Whole Foods came out to $68.50 and we bought juice, cookies, and a couple of personal items that weren't on the list. It is possible to shop healthy on a budget - even with a special diet!
- Patricia
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