Yes, I admit, I have been slack for the past two weeks. Rather than go on with excuses, I feel this is a great opportunity to talk about the benefits of being a slacker when balancing a busy lifestyle with the desire to eat well. Here's a few ways I have managed to redefine 'fast food' during the weekly rush:
1. Steamy Fish: Living in Atlantic Canada means I am spoiled by an abundance of fresh seafood. I like to have fish a couple times a week, and the best way to cook it fast is to steam. I use a pot with a steam insert, and this allows me to cook a couple of fillets or steaks within 5-10 minutes. I discovered a lovely way to steam salmon by putting fresh ginger slices in the bottom of the steamer, and squeezing lemon juice over the top. A few shakes of Herbes de Province makes this taste like you spent hours making it, and no one will notice it's low calorie.
2. Mashed Potatoes on Speed: The trick here is to chop the potatoes into cubes, and microwave them for about 8-10 minutes on high. Make sure to cover the potatoes with water. If you can, use new potatoes, particularly the small ones, and leave the skins on. You can add chicken/vegetable broth and a small amount of butter to keep them tasty, yet light. Use reduced salt broth to keep the sodium down.
3. Instant Rice with Substance: The convenience of typical 5-minute rice gives you time savings at the expense of eating something that you could hardly classify as 'food'. Making regular white rice takes about 20 minutes or so, and if you want to eat brown rice, it's more like an hour commitment. Here's where a little planning and your freezer make preparation easy-peasy. Cook your brown rice on days where you have time, and make a ton of it. If you freeze the leftovers in portions, you can just fire what you need in the microwave, and have healthy instant rice that actually contains nutrition.
4. Saucy Vegetables in a Snap: Frozen vegetables are a miracle. They are often better for you than the selection of fresh ones at the grocery store, since frozen vegetables are picked at their peak. Unless you buy in-season, local produce, chances are the imported broccoli has more flyer miles than you do. This means it has to be picked before it's ripe. Yea, I hear you - frozen vegetables can be pretty boring. I make it a bit more exciting by heating up a cheese sauce that, like the rice, I have frozen in portions. I actually prefer to heat the sauce by steaming it over a double boiler while the veggies are cookin'. Stir together, and enjoy the richness.
5. My Favourite Meal - Presto Pasta: I love the way Italians eat - fresh, flavourful and simple. I created this recipe after being inspired by a lunch I had in Rome. It's Pasta Pomodoro, and it takes 20 minutes to make from start to finish. I sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. I then add a splash of balsalmic vinegar, and a small amount of chicken broth to give a bit of depth. A can of diced tomatoes is really the star here, so buy the best you can find. I do like the spiced up versions, and these can add variety to the recipe. Fresh tomatoes are more difficult to do properly in a fast way, but if you go for it, use very ripe, sweet types. Add the tomatoes, and the magic ingredient - fresh basil - and cook on low. You might add some salt and pepper. In the meantime, start cooking your pasta. Ideally, I like to use whole wheat spaghettini, but any pasta type will do. To finish the sauce, throw a bit more basil in (tearing it rather than chopping will give you better flavour) and some parmesan cheese. After eating this, you'll be convinced that pasta sauce in a jar is the work of the devil.
...and there you have it. Fast food for the culinary slacker. Enjoy!