Monthly Archives: April 2010

Recipe: Cholas (not the cat)

While not exactly fast food, here is an easy recipe. The longest part of the process is browning the onions. In a pinch, they could be browned less, but the end result isn’t nearly as good.

Also pictured are some smothered greens. This is pretty fast:

1. Fry a good pinch of cumin seeds in a healthy amount (3 tb) of melted butter for about 30 seconds.
2. Add greens (kale, spinach, but not mustard greens!), and saute until just wilted.
3. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed toasted coriander seeds.
4. Serve immediately.

For the chickpeas:

1.Coat the bottom of a heavy pan with veggie oil. Heat the oil until very hot, add a palmful of cumin seeds and fry for about 30 seconds.
2. Add 1 large or 2 medium onions, diced.

3. Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring frequently (every 5-10 minutes at first, and then constantly towards the end). Cook until desired level of brown-ness. Try to go for at least 45 minutes to an hour. The longer the onions are cooked, the more flavorful will be the sauce.

4. When the onions are ready, add in ground spices. I added 2 heaping ts of homemade chana masala (with pomegranate). You can use any chana masala, or try a combo of cumin/coriander/garam masala/cayenne (listed from largest quantity to least).

5. Add tomatoes. I usually use 1 can diced, but you could use fresh diced, or canned whole (and then cut up). Don’t use puree or crushed. Turn up the heat, and cook the tomatoes until softened, breaking them up with the spoon as you go; about 10 minutes. The onions should practically dissolve if they’ve been adequately browned. The goal should be a rich sauce, with a few tomato chunks still visible.

6. Stir in chickpeas. Two cans (drained and rinsed) or about 1/2 lb dried (soaked overnight and already cooked ’til soft). Cover and cook on low for at least 10 minutes. The dish can sit either on or off heat until you’re ready to eat; just turn the burner back on to reheat if you turned it off. If using dried chickpeas, cook for longer so that they soften more.

7. Add a handful of chopped fresh coriander (optional) and taste for salt. How much salt you add will depend on which tomatoes and chickpeas you used, but it usually needs a least a little. Serve with yogurt, breads (pita, naan, whatever), and/or chutney.

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Meal Plan: April 17, 2010

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April Goal: Fast Food

This month we’re back to a tangible goal! We want to spend less time on weeknight food prep. Obviously we enjoy cooking (we blog about it, for crying out loud), but weeknights are one huge time crunch. I’m trying to exercise, S wants more personal interneting time, and our poor cats follow us around the kitchen waiting for their time.

How long do we spend prepping dinner now? I tried to keep track in January by every night writing down an estimate of time spent, but I suspected gross underestimation. By this method, our January average was 47 minutes, which isn’t that bad. Just this week, though, I’ve been walking around with a timer recording everything I do from when I walk in the door until we sit down to eat. Everything takes longer than I thought! Our “quick” menu has been taking at least an hour every night. For instance, this pizza pictured from last probably took at least an hour, but I always think of it as a quick dinner.

We have our work cut out for us. Like I said when setting this goal, it will not be accomplished in the next 15 days! Some thoughts about menu planning for fast food:

1. Supersize
Instead  of making a new dinner every night, double recipes and eat leftovers for dinner. Or plan lunches other than leftovers.

2. Efficiencies of scale
While the cutting board is out, look ahead and chop in bulk. 

3. Keep it simple
Don’t follow recipes. That takes time and usually requires more ingredients than just cooking with what’s on hand.

I had these things in mind when planning our menu, and it’s still taking too long. I’ll try to analyze why that is and report back soon!

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Meal Plan: April 10, 2010

Apologies for the small font.

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April goal coming soon…

Did you know that only about half of Americans report that they spend any time at all in daily food prep and clean up? And that their time spent is only a little less than an hour A DAY? Check it out.

What do people eat? How can you spend NO time doing any sort of food prep in a whole day? Even averaging our individual time use I think our household is abnormal.

I found this while researching for a post about our April goal of spending less time doing food prep and that little stat totally derailed me. I’ll have something up later this week!

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Meal Plan: April 3, 2010

Last minute sub for tonight to rockfish and a steamed artichoke.

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March Report Card: Snacks

(I can’t find any snack pictures, so these blueberry scones will have to do.)

How about an A- for snacking and an F for blogging about it? 

In retrospect, I think I haven’t wanted to write anything because there’s really nothing to say. Having snacks on hand is actually really simple. I don’t have to construct some elaborate plan. I don’t need to write it down. In fact, I don’t even need to give it much thought.

Are you ready for the secret to having snack food on hand? Buy snacks!  Over the past month I’ve been buying food (nuts, fruit, cottage cheese and rice cakes, bread sticks, banana chips), bringing it to work, and eating it. Revolutionary, I know. Just adding a few things to the grocery list has made the difference.

Don’t worry. April will be more exciting.

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