Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two Quick Dinners

Renovation and the beginning of a new semester have been keeping me from being ambitious in the kitchen. I'll admit it. I've gotten pizza more than a couple times in the last month or so. But dammit, I'm busy! You can't even SEE my counter top, so I sure don't feel like prepping anything. That said, I've found the time to cook some really satisfying meals with very little work thanks to a few choice ingredients from the market and a well-stocked pantry.

These dishes are a great illustration of how easy a tasty simple dinner can be if you keep your pantry and fridge full of staples and have a little creativity.

Easy Eggs

I am embarrassed to show this photo to the world, but this is a good illustration of the state of my kitchen since we started painting the cabinets.

You can see the makings of a simple supper here. (Oh, and two beers. And two Diet Cokes. Guess whose is whose.)

I keep the little containers of egg substitute on hand. They are already portioned into these little cups, and they have around 60 calories and a whopping 10 grams of protein, and no fat. I had a leftover tomato from farmer's market and some sliced red onion from sandwiches earlier this week. A basic breakfast for me is wheat toast with neufchatel, so I always have that around, too. So, all this stuff leads to some really easy and fast scrambled eggs.

Saute the onions and tomatoes. mmmmmm...

Pour in the egg substitute and let it firm up a bit. (See that random utensil I'm using? That's the best I could find at this point. Don't judge.)

Stir it up lightly, maintaining the curds of eggs, and pull from heat before it looks finished. Alton Brown said it best. If it looks done in the pan, it'll be overdone on the plate. Eggs shouldn't be brown and crunchy, they should be soft and creamy. (Many say that to be a great chef one must master water, salt, and eggs.)
I topped mine with a dollop of neufchatel. Because it's good.

Next up on the quick dinner menu is the good ol' standard; the quesadilla.

Spicy Chicken Quesadilla

Usually when I make this, I chop up the chicken first because it cooks more evenly. But on this particular night, I was not feeling the whole cleaning-up-chicken-mess thing, so I simply tossed a little oil and some spices into the plastic bag the was in before throwing it on a hot cast-iron pan.

I don't measure spices for things like this, but I threw in chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, salt, pepper, and Old Bay. (You might know Old Bay for its use with seafood, but it's AWESOME with poultry)
When cooking a think piece of meat in a pan like this, use a cover to manipulate the heat in the pan. (This is my secret for a perfect medium rare steak. I kept this pan covered most of the time with a sheet pan, and it was juicy and perfectly browned. If you don't cover the pan, the outside will be burnt before the inside is finished. Covering the pan produces steam. When you do this, you cook with direct and indirect heat.)

Shred your juicy chicken breast once it cools enough to handle. Put one half of a tortilla down into a pan with hot oil. Cover this with cheese and any fillings. In this case, the chicken and roasted peppers and onions, also leftover from the sandwiches.

Cover. Flip.

Serve with homemade refried black beans. Yes you should make your own. It's so easy, and it isn't made with lard. And it tastes a million times better.

Homemade Refried Black Beans

In oil, fry
2 cloves minced garlic
Keep moving until really fragrant, but NOT browned, maybe a minute.
Then, add 1. can of black beans, drained of most, but not all of the liquid.

Then throw in all the spices you used on the chicken: cumin, onion powder, Old Bay, salt and pepper.

Use your potato masher to mash them, while on medium heat, to the desired consistency.

Serve the quesedillas with salsa and the beans.

(Cooking late at night, another symptom of my busy schedule, results in crappy blog photos. Sorry :( )

So let this be a lesson to you: you can have a FILTHY kitchen and a million things going on, but that's no excuse for skipping cooking dinner. Each of these dishes took less than 15 minutes of prep time, and are (mostly) healthy.

So go cook dinner! And take a walk! It's FALL!

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