There are a gazillion food sources online. I use quite a few of them. However, my post today is not calculated to join the legion of online food bloggers. No, I am solely interested in achieving the shortest distance between two points: food and our mouths. And by achieving this shortest point, it is also possible to win over others to pitch in even if they hate to do food prep or clean up. In any cooking, I will use a microwave to achieve that shortest distance. Many of you are certainly better cooks than I. Jim is a better cook that I am. Where I might have the edge is in speed and ingenuity, which is what I want you to take away from today's entry.
Of course, you must love the microwave as much as Jack Donaghy and I do. He was the head of NBC Programming & GE Microwave Ovens played by Alec Baldwin on the tv show 30 Rock. (GE owns both.) In his mind there was no question that the microwave was more important than tv programs. If something was going to get the axe, it was a tv show, not his beloved microwave ovens! Here was a man who had his priorities straight in my book. (BTW, this is a great show and is on Netflix Streaming.)
If you do not have a Trader Joe's store in your area, you can order many of its products online through Amazon. I have listed some of my favorite products you can order here.
With no further ado, let's look at food and doing it the fastest, more ingenious way. I have not owned measuring cups or spoons in at least a decade so forget about that kind of precision in my way of cooking.
Buy these four products at Trader Joe's with two cans of the sauce and single container of anchovies, cheese and pasta. Put the spaghetti in a large bowl in your microwave. Barely cover with water. Zap for twenty minutes. (Go away and do something else.) If you used little enough water, there is no draining, all water is absorbed. Mix in two cans of sauce with cooked pasta, same bowl. Mash one tin of anchovies, without oil it was packed in, with the back of a spoon and it turns into paste. Add into bowl too; mix in. Microwave everything together for another five minutes. Throw some Parmesan cheese on top. Use the one pictured. Serve. You will think you are in an Italian restaurant. Also good without anchovies but anchovies give it added zap. Also good cold in hot weather.
Where did I get the recipe? As I prowl TJ's aisles, I am always looking for things to combine super fast. These come down to 2-5 things I can combine quickly and have a meal. These combinations pop into my head as I stop to inspect products. I have to try it once or twice to get it the way I like it best. On this one I used the non-organic pasta at first but did not like it nearly as well as the organic one. I also tried it without anchovies first but added the anchovies the next time when I thought it lacked zap.
Pesto Pine Nut Orzo
Buy these three products at Trader Joe's with two cans of the sauce and single container each of orzo and pine nuts. Put the orzo in a large bowl in your microwave. Barely cover with water. Zap for 15 minutes. (Go away and do something else.) If you used little enough water, there is no draining, all water is absorbed. Mix in two cans of sauce with cooked pasta, same bowl. (To get all of it out, swirl in a little olive oil in jars.) Add in several handfuls of pine nuts into bowl too; mix in. Microwave everything together for another five minutes. Also good cold in hot weather. Tip: if you use Nutritional Yeast, that makes a good topping to sprinkle of top of this dish.
Throw It Together Salad
This salad is the easiest of all. Buy one of each of the above at Trader Joe's. Everything is ready to go as is. Add handfuls of each into salad bowl. Put on dressing. Done. Optional: you may want to cut up beets and tomatoes into halves or quarters but it is not strictly necessary as they are already small.
Brie Goat Cheese
Jim has only gradually come around to this as a meal and even then he's rejecting the chutney and cornichons. If you are like me, you can set out the goat Brie, mango ginger chutney, the cornichons and the pane guttiau crackers, and boy, dig right in and enjoy a fabulous repast. I use mainly the cheese and crackers but the mango and cornichons, a French pickle, are a nice complementary flavor to accompany them. They are all at Trader Joe's. Use the chutney sparingly at first as a little goes a long way. Perfect. If you did not take the cheese out in advance, just microwave it 20 seconds at a time till you have the desired warmth. I love this "dinner"!
Chili with Tempeh
I taught this one to Jim and he really likes it but, of course, he had to Felix it. So there is my method, the Oscar method, or his. You choose.
You go to Walmart and buy Margaret Holmes' Chili Fixins plus one of her Cajun or Southern style veggie cans, like the Triple Succotash, above. In my version you put those two cans' contents into a big bowl. You then crumble in your Trader Joe's Tempeh. Mix together. Zap in microwave for about ten minutes. You may need more heat and time after tasting at the ten minutes so adjust as needed. I throw low fat or no fat sour cream on top and serve. All but the sour cream is pictured above.
The Felix version of all of this is to do it all on the range in a pot, first sautéing the tempeh with olive oil and seasoning and then adding the other ingredients slowly and letting it all simmer together for about an hour. He now puts the sour cream on top too when serving.
I eat both of these versions. His is probably better and I am just as happy to let him do it his way if he wants to take over. In a hurry? Do it my way and you'll have a super fast and very good meal.
Combine all of the above except sour creams into bowl. Leave bowl uncovered. Microwave mix. It will take about 20 minutes for them to be done. The smaller the potatoes, the less time spent microwaving them. Serve with either light or fat free sour cream. This can be the meal. It need not be a side dish. This evening Jim cooked Swiss Chard from the Basket of Life Farm in olive oil with garlic and lemon juice (on the range) and served the potatoes (microwaved) with it. It was wonderful. Ten years ago he wouldn't have touched the microwave for any part of any meal.
The pink salt is not sodium based salt so is better for varied health conditions. My TJ olive oil is not virgin or extra virgin. I can't tell the difference. Felix, er, Jim, says he can taste the difference and thus sticks to extra virgin or extra extra virgin olive oil when he cooks instead.
Peanut Butter Sandwich
I prefer the sourdough bread but any good bread will do. Use this TJ peanut butter and one of the above toppings. Done. For both of us, we couldn't live without this to fall back on. I have been this way since I was in grade school. As for the peanut butter, we have gone through several TJ varieties. Jim does not do well with change so when TJ's messed around with the formula a few times, he was very unhappy. "What happened to my Valencia peanuts?" was the first crisis when TJ's changed the peanuts. Second crisis was when it added flax seeds into the peanuts. The above container is now our standard and, of course, it must be stirred when first opened.
Some Booze at Trader Joe's
For those of us who drink, Vinho Verde White Wine from Portugal at Trader Joe's is quite nice and is less than six bucks. A fine treat is Pêche Lambic Belgian beer which comes in a big bottle and is ten bucks.
1/3 chocolate almond milk + 1/3 vanilla almond milk + 1/3 black coffee zapped in microwave 2-2.5 minutes = Café Mocha
1/2 vanilla almond milk + 1/2 black coffee zapped in microwave 2-2.5 minutes = Café au lait
Dark chocolate almond milk is at Walmart and everything else is at TJ's.
Supermarket Salad Bar
And sometimes you just want the fastest solution around short of going to an eat-in restaurant. Once a week one of us stops at Heinen's (locally) and makes an absolutely gigantic salad and brings it home as a feast for 1-2 days. Whole Foods (nationally) is farther away from us but I use that if in that direction as well.
Don't put the dressing on there. Wait until you eat it. I recommend these two dressings at Trader Joe's:
Once a week one of us will also stop at Subway and get a flatbread sub filled with every single veggie, including Jalapeños, on its BMT sub. We specify the Chipolte Southwestern dressing on it. Second choice is the Bacon, Turkey and Avocado with all of the same trimmings.
If you have a Felix in your house, tell him how to do it and then lay back and let him prepare it with his new, improved fussier version. When you are on your own, use my versions.
When Jim's Mom, Filomena, was alive I used to joke about their fussiness regarding food. I'd say that if the three of us were washed ashore on a deserted jungle island, the two of them would be bickering about what to eat while I would ignore them and eat everything I could find on the island. By the time they were done squabbling, the best food would be gone and I'd be lying in a hammock between trees taking a siesta from my meal. They knew this was true and just shook their heads in disgust at me.
If anyone has a food idea that can be done in the same amount of time, please post it here in comments, below, or send it to me and I will post it for you. There is a contact box in the right hand column which sends emails to me. It is fine if your "recipe" is vegan or vegetarian or any other specialty food.