Didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now, especially when it comes to cooking.
It is possible -- quite possible – to make good food and make it well and quickly. It does take a little planning, a few things in the pantry, some effort, a bit of imagination.
But none of that means a whole lot of money or time. It might take a modicum of skill, but only a modicum. And with a little practice, a little repetition, that skill feeds itself along with the growing knowledge of what complements what. Fresh ingredients are a big plus, but often, armed simple staples – rice, onion, a pepper, an egg or two, garlic and soy sauce -- one pan and twenty minutes, you can make a great dish like fried rice. And something as simple as keeping a jar of capers or chipotle in adobo sauce on hand can transform simple into exotic.
My step-daughter Krista and her husband Dan are like a lot of young parents who, after a full day of work, would rather spend time with their two pre-school (and lively!) boys or working on a home improvement project than cooking. (Can't blame them; those boys are pretty darn adorable!)
But they still want to eat well – healthily, inexpensively, and without a lot of time in the kitchen, something that everyone (even a sometimes finicky four year-old) -- will eat, and without getting stuck in a rut. Got to hand it to them, they’ve honed some pretty good habits to do that: shopping in bulk, stocking the freezer and pantry, keeping shopping lists, and planning weekly menus they actually post!
On a visit to their house several weeks ago, while Grandpa and I were busy playing with the boys, Krista and Dan slipped into the kitchen and whipped up this simple and very good soup/stew. They served it with some great bread and it was a wonderful lunch!
They told me the recipe came from a cookbook I’d given them some time ago: Cheap, Fast, Good! The authors, Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, have assembled hundreds of dishes to make great food cheaply, along a whole lot of good advice about getting the most for your dollar. (I hear inflation’s coming!) The recipes are very family friendly, too. You can further healthy-up this recipe by using turkey kielbasa and low-sodium beef broth.
One of the reasons Krista needs all her spare time is so she can work on her hand-made jewelry, available on her etsy.com site. Classy and elegant stuff. She’s talented and imaginative with her designs. I love her stuff! Before taking a look at the recipe, take a look at this sampling; and be sure to visit her Behind the Moon etsy shop and her blog.
from Cheap, Fast, Good!
1 cup long grain rice
2/3 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions
8 ounces kielbasa sausage
1 medium sized green pepper (about 1 cup chopped)
2 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
2 teaspoons Cajun blend seasoning
2 tablespoons flour
For Rice: Bring 2 cups lightly salted water to boil in a covered saucepan. Add the rice. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Melt butter in 4 ½ qt Dutch oven over medium heat. Peel onion and finely chop them, adding to the pot as you chop. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces adding them to the pot as you chop. When all the chicken has been added, raise the heat to medium high. Cook stirring until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile cut the sausage in half lengthwise, the slice both halves into roughly ¼ in pieces.
Add broth to the pot, raise the heat to high and add the bell pepper, cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Add Cajun seasoning and cook at a moderate boil until the green pepper is tender, about 3 minutes. (Uncover the pot partially if pot begins to boil over.)
In small jar with lid, mix flour with 3 tablespoons cold tap water. Cover jar and shake well until the mixture is combined and the lumps have disappeared. Gradually add the flour mixture to the soup stirring constantly until the soup has thickened slightly. Remove the pan from the heat. Divide the hot cooked rice among four large soup bowls and ladle soup over the rice and serve at once. Four generous servings.