Friday, February 25, 2011

Three easy meals in two days

My schedule has been so packed with writing and editing assignments this month that it’s been difficult to find time to cook. So I was thrilled to look through my favorite recipes and a stack of ideas to try to find three meals that were quick and easy to prepare.

I often spend two hours in the kitchen preparing a meal. That’s because I enjoy it and because cooking from scratch rather than a box takes longer. I was able to put these meals together in 30 – 60 minutes, a record for me. I also noticed I had fewer dishes to wash after cooking. That’s never a bad result!

Here’s what I did.

Breakfast: Baked Egg

1 egg
1 TBSP Salsa
¼ cup unthawed spinach
1 TBSP cheese

Mix ingredients and put into a single-serving sized baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or so until firm.

Lunch: Tortilla Tomato Soup with Beans and Rice and Quesadillas

We like Ellie Krieger’s Tortilla Tomato Soup and it’s one of those easy-to-prepare soups that reminds us of why we put so much work into canning our tomatoes during the summer.

While the soup cooked, I put on a pot of white rice. We had leftover pinto beans and knowing that rice and beans together make the perfect protein encouraged me in that direction.

As the two pots simmered on the stove, I sliced half an onion and a green pepper from the refrigerator. After sautéing them I put them on half of a whole wheat tortilla in the skillet, sprinkled with cheese and made a quesadilla.

Yes, it was a big lunch. And it all tasted good!

Supper: Asian Salmon with Stir Fried Vegetables

Lunch was so filling that I waited to make this supper until the next day. It fit in perfectly to my easy to prepare plan.

For several years I’ve been making the Barefoot Contessa’s Asian Salmon. Again, it’s quick and pleasing to the taste buds. I often bake it in the oven instead of grilling, which was true this time.

To go with the salmon I pulled vegetables out of the freezer to stir fry and serve with soba noodles. I prefer vegetables with a little crunch and of course since these had been frozen I didn’t get that. However, the taste of the dish, that I topped with a handful of cashews, was very good.

The lunch and supper both gave us leftovers for the next day when I wouldn't have a minute to spend in the kitchen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The gardening season begins

Most of the garden seeds that I ordered arrived last week. I promptly organized them in my seed box in the order I’ll plant them, delighting in pulling out the ones I’ll put in the ground first—greens and beets. It was so warm and dry last week that Jim was even able to till the garden. Although I haven’t planted anything, I did have to put my hands in the dirt just to feel it on my palms.

I also went to the library last week for books about greenhouse growing. It’s time to put together the one we received for Christmas. I’m hoping to use it for my seedlings and since the only ones I’ve planted so far are pansies, I think the greenhouse can wait for a day when it’s not as windy as today.

Yesterday we drove out to our friend Joan’s farm to cut reeds. They're drying out on the picnic table by the garden until we need them in a couple of months. My garden plan this year includes using one-third to one-half of the rectangular plot for beans, primarily dry beans (pinto, kidney, black and cannellini). So we’re going to experiment with reeds slashed together like teepees that we can sink into the ground, providing a good climbing surface. I like the idea of using one of nature’s gifts that could be useful for a couple of years before we have to cut more. When they’ve deteriorated we can put them in the compost pile.

Next on the agenda will be getting some planting soil so I can start sprouting seedlings. Even if winter returns us to evenings by the fireplace, I’ll know that spring is on its way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bean week in the Brown house

Winter is the season when I most enjoy eating beans and when I saw our home-grown kidney and pinto beans in jars on my kitchen counter, I knew this was the week.

I started on Sunday when I indulged in one of my favorite kinds of meals—Italian. I prepared spinach and cheese manicotti with tomato sauce, meatballs, roasted Cushaw and pasta e fagioli soup. The soup is a Giada de Laurentis recipe that I hadn’t tried and the combination of pasta and beans with our homegrown kidney beans was fabulous. Of course since it’s February I didn’t have fresh herbs, but it still turned out so well that Jim rated it a “10” without even being asked. We also had leftovers to carry us over into the week, one of the benefits of a big Sunday afternoon meal.

By the time Thursday arrived, we had exhausted our leftovers and other easy-to-prepare meals so Jim made pinto beans. Jim is the pinto bean king. I will admit I had never eaten pinto beans until I moved to Kentucky and I do love the protein-packed soup with corn bread. I tried a new corn bread recipe (from Hindman Settlement School in eastern Kentucky) and it proved to be moist and perfect to accompany the beans.

Now we’ve used all of the beans we grew last year. This year I’ll plant many more so the joy doesn’t end so early.