Friday, February 21, 2014

How To Quickly Shove The Cooking Off To Another

I have remarkably little stamina compared to what I used to have. What I still possess, I'd like to keep for swimming, art projects and going out on little jaunts and the like. Household drudgery has never been my middle name. I'm inspired for today's column by two events: the experience of living with an elderly person, Jim's Mom, and two, of seeing an unending procession of surgeries the two of us are about to start. We need four eye surgeries between us in the next three months as our "kick off event". Super fast but good is our new key phrase.

With this visual presto quickie I will show you, I believe I finally have something I could even teach to Jim's Dad. By everyone's reckoning, he never cooked anything in 91 years of life! So here goes.

Don't forget these pictures all go to full size when you click on them with your computer or touch them with your finger on your mobile. Also, I have links to the free software I used to edit and collage these food pictures at the bottom of this page.

Rebecca and I often travel together to Trader Joe's which is about half an hour away. It is on both sides of Cleveland, east and west, but not south, which is where we live. (The only thing to the north is Lake Erie.) Recently I reviewed the Trader Joe's Cookbook at Amazon. It could have been so much better. The two main problems were it had too few pictures and many of the ingredients were missing when the customers using the cookbook went to do their shopping there. I could have used the pictures but as far as ingredients, if I can find two, I can usually ad lib from there on my own.

Case in point is this meal I "cooked" today from Trader Joe groceries. I needed two kinds of boxes, seen below.  Everything else was optional. I also needed a microwave because I like fast prep and very few dishes to clean up. This one is vegetarian instead of vegan because the sauce has paneer cheese cubes. If you want vegan instead, there is a lentil sauce in a purple box you can buy. For those of you with no Trader Joe's I have links at the bottom of the page to listings where you can buy these items in bulk at Amazon. If you cannot see those Amazon ad links, you need to temporarily turn off your ad blocker.

Step 1  Buy 2-4 boxes of the Indian Fare sauce in blue box. Buy 1-2 boxes of Israeli couscous in purple box. (It depends how much you want to make.) Pour 1 box couscous into one container, just submerge it in water, no more than just to cover. Cook in microwave for 15 minutes, 20 minutes if you used too much water. If you cook two boxes, the time is about the same. When couscous comes out (won't need draining in colander), stick container of sauce into microwave for at least 7 minutes for two boxes, more time for more boxes added.

Step 2.  This is how they look when they each come out of microwave. Do not combine them.  Take your eating bowl out and spoon in enough of each to suit your taste.

Step 3 optional Add a spoonful of nonfat yogurt and/or chutney and/or peanut butter to taste.  I have also sliced cooked baby beets into the sauce. I do step 3 for me but Jim and Rebecca do not. Thus, you probably can omit this step.

Step 4  This is how it looks when I spoon them together.  On the left is before I mix them up with my own fork.  To the right is after I've forked it around and am about to dig in.

This dish is not that different from what Rebecca and I get out at our favorite Indian restaurant. Other than the time it cooked, I did nothing.  I was on my Mac Air the entire time doing other stuff. So my time involved in this process was no more than five minutes. I "invented" this "recipe" but anyone can do the same.  I just combined packages of ingredients and optionally added other things for myself which I've seen added in Indian restaurants.

As you can tell though, pictures do make a difference and might be especially useful if you are trying to shove the "cooking" off onto another family member.  Just send such a person a link to this web page. My sister Dianna and Jim's sister Carolyn have a Trader Joe's store right in each of their own communities so it would be even easier for them to accomplish.

Everything was purchased at Trader Joe's. I used to get the chutney there too and it is excellent but I personally wanted something more authentic and sharper so started buying it at the Indian grocery store. Trader Joe's chutney is milder and you will prefer it if you opt for it. Shown left and at bottom of page.

On a related note, I've noticed my Walmart grocery store is developing ethnic food aisles, including Indian. I've started buying those boxes and combining them. So for those have been pretty good too.

I shot all pictures quickly with my iPad mini with no added light.

I edited the pictures in open source (free) GIMP.  download Gimp here

The collages of foodstuffs, above, I did in Google's open source (free) Picasa software. I like its collage feature better than Photoshop's.  download Picasa here

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