Monday, February 13, 2006

What to Cook for Dinner??

Some of the largest differences between my husband and me are food standards. He is very idealistic, and insists we eat only non-processed and organic foods. Jarred spaghetti sauce? Not okay. Spaghetti-Os and frozen pizzas are frowned upon. Fast Food? Never. Pancake mix? How many times have I had to defend this purchase? I'm embarrassed to say that almost every member of my family has received the "Do You Know How Easy It Is To Make Pancakes From Scratch, I've Been Doing It Since I Was 20" lecture. So, I know hiding things from a spouse is bad for a marriage, but now I just keep Aunt Jemima a secret. Yesterday morning, I made pancakes for everyone, and threw some frozen raspberries in for a change. They were nice and fluffy - who would know they were from a box? But last night, my husband took out the recyling, and saw the cardboard pancake mix box. "So, we had Aunt Jemima, did we?" was his only comment. I could feel the judgment seeping from his pores...

I defy his idealism with the pancake mix, but for the most part, otherwise, I comply. It is in our family's best interests to eat less processed foods. Now, the all-organic, I just can't support it 100%. Keep in mind that while in college, I worked on an organic farm, helping in the fields and at farmers' markets. I worked at a food co-op. My first job out of college was working for an organic produce warehouse. I would love to buy all organic, but try as I might, I can squeeze only so much out of my $500/month grocery budget.

Now, I'm just trying to set the scene for you, to understand that for the most part, dinners really have to be planned ahead in our family. And although it's a real pain at times, my husband does have admirable food standards. For the most part, I love that we don't eat a lot of processed foods. But when we've been out and about, and come home late, oftentimes, to my chagrin, we can't look to our freezer for dinner help. And due to our tight budget, take-out pizza is really out of the question.

So, one of the ways I avoid having bean burritos for dinner twice a week (our "fast food" - open a can of beans, grate some cheese, saute some red peppers, and you're set), is to plan, loosely, 3 big meals/week and have my pantry decently stocked. If you're interested in some new recipes and meals that are quick to prepare, here are our favorite cook-books: Fast Food My Way, by Jacques Pepin, and Cuisine Rapide, by Pierre Franey. You can guess what these books have in common, I'm sure. Fancy and yummy but quick meals, at your fingertips. Even though I'm a stay at home mom, I do not spend most of my day cooking!

Another new place (for me) to find fun new recipes is Yesterday evening we came home late, at 5 o'clock, from making Valentines at the Art Center, and I had yet to start dinner. We try and eat at 6 o'clock every evening, so I had to get cracking. I knew I wanted to cook up some tofu and broccoli, but needed a recipe. With tofu, I need real guidance. So I went to epicurious, typed in some search words, and got a quick tofu and black bean sauce recipe. I broke the cardinal rule of always following a new recipe exactly, as I didn't have all of the ingredients. Some green onions substituted for a leek, portobello mushrooms instead of shiitake, broccoli in place of half the tofu, and dinner was served soon after. It was a good, fast, and healthy one, and not of the processed variety! A crowd pleaser for the entire family.

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