Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Microwave (less)

With a contemplative look on my husband's face, "do you think we can live without our microwave?"  I say, "but what about a quick warm up of leftovers, or defrosting meat ... or making popcorn?"  How quickly a generation comes to rely on such conveniences. 

We have a rather small kitchen.  Admittedly, our kitchen gets smaller when factoring in the kitchen equipment toys we tend to collect.  Doing what we can to add as much storage as possible without sacrificing valuable counter space, we officially had reached our limit.

John being the talented one at reevaluating our space and envisioning a new way of storing things usually finds a home for everything.  But the limit caught up with even John.

Never being ones to really use the microwave to cook a meal, we agreed to try it for a month to see if we could do without.  That was 4 months ago and here is where our microwave lies.

The garage

Not only did we buy space but we're drawing less power.  Less power = saving money.  I'm all for that.

Warming leftovers in the oven?  It's really not difficult; plan a bit ahead.  Set the oven to 350, put your leftovers in and let it warm for 30 minutes.

Defrosting? I'm going to sound like a broken record, plan ahead and pull the meat out a day or so ahead of time and let it defrost in the refrigerator.

I think secretly John just wanted to try doing popcorn on the stove the way his dad used to do it.


All you need
2-3 Tablespoons oil.  The Wok proving it has more uses.  Butter melting on the back burner.
1/2 cup of kernels
Turn on the heat with the lid on and watch the video below to witness popping in action.

Anyone want a microwave?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hey, Ho! Let's Go! A Concert of Weeknight Dinners

My life on any given weeknight of dinner making resembles an old Ramones concert .... at least it usually feels that way to me.  Anthony Bourdain would probably think there's nothing wrong with that.

Courtesy facebook Fan Page
Anyone who's been to one of their concerts will viscerally agree with me.  The Ramones, being a raw, straightforward punk band, would emotionally rush me through the spectrum including:  song speed clocking in at 2 minutes on average, appreciating the loud simplicity, abruptly stopping .... and feeling that manic way over and over again till the concert ended.

Witness Sylvia's mind and the benchmarks she aims to meet every night.

Here's the tempo.  First priority, make it healthy.  Second make sure we're not eating too late; no one should sleep on a full tummy.  Lastly create a moment of downtime (with a glass of wine of course) to visit with my husband before diving into last steps of meal prep and eating.   Do all this within an hour and a half from the moment I walk in the door from work to the moment of eating.  Feel the pressure I put on myself?  I don't think I'm alone.

Without Sundays, I wouldn't be able maintain the momentum throughout the week.  Hit the farmer's market and if necessary the grocery store.  Goal, buy only what's in season and plan the meals around those purchases.  Sundays are also great for making a long prep time meal that can provide us leftovers.

Having a well stocked pantry is my next secret crutch for keeping the pace without having to make return visits to the store during the week.

I must also mention my freezer and my kitchen garden.  Both are great go to's for getting a meal done in a short amount of time.

If I can come up with the right recipe or leftovers which fits my criteria, my life in the kitchen isn't so frenzied.  Dinner making is more like the individual pieces of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue where each element deftly leads into the next.

Original Sheet Music, Courtesy Wikipedia
Whether you are a fan of The Ramones, Gershwin or Martha Stewart, it doesn't really matter when you have a primary goal in mind.  Wait, how did Martha Stewart come into play? 

I found the perfect weeknight recipe in her monthly magazine which strikes all the right notes for being healthy, in season, using what I have, delivering a bit of down time and on the table in under an hour and a half. 

Martha's recipe for Sausage, Chard and Lemon Lasagna:

Swiss chard and lemon are from my backyard.  I had the sweet Italian turkey sausage in the freezer and the no boil lasagna noodles were in my pantry.  Parmesan cheese is always in my house.

A thinly sliced lemon is the star of this dish.

To make the lemons with their rinds edible, simmer in water for 5 minutes before layering into the lasagna.

While the lemons are simmering, brown the sausage too.

Prep the gorgeous chard sauce.

Assembly required.

Perfect amount of time in the oven to allow for visiting.

Dinner time!

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