Simple can be Delicious

Simple can be Delicious

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  1. With the economy teetering on the brink of devastation, people have to work harder than ever to keep their jobs.  Because inflation continuously devalues the dollar and employers rarely make up for this with adequate raises, it gets harder and harder to make ends meet.  Therefore, in most families both parents work… if they can.  And when both parents come home around 5:30 pm and find a house that needs cleaning, kids who need help with homework and minor household repairs to be done, it gets increasingly difficult to provide a decent meal.  Cooking takes so much time, after all.  So many people resort to fast food, TV dinners and other packaged and processed foods that lack both proper nutrition and flavor.  It would be nice to have the time to prepare a proper four course dinner every night, but who has the time?

    Of course, it takes hardly any time at all to take something canned or otherwise packaged and make it tastier, and possibly more nutritious.  Here are a few ideas.

    1. Spend the better part of every Sunday cooking.  You can prepare three or four large meals (or at least two) and store them in the freezer in ready-to-eat portions.  It won’t kill your kids to have the same thing twice in one week, especially if you serve it days apart.  Cook a roast or two (chuck roasts are very handy and usually cheap—and tasty) and serve the meat in different ways throughout the week.

    2. When using packaged foods, doctor them up.  If you just want to do a quick boil of Top Ramen noodles, have the kids cut up any veggies you have in the fridge and toss them into every bowl (if you want them slightly cooked, just place the bowls in the microwave for a minute each).  Cut pieces out of the roast you cooked on Sunday and toss them into the bowls, too.  There you have a complete meal that can be ready in about 5 minutes.  You can improve the flavor of the noodles with a squirt of lemon juice, soy sauce and/or a drizzle of sesame oil.  If you like spicy foods, add chili flakes, or partially cook several of your favorite peppers on Sundays and have them ready to add.  Better yet, look up my recipe for chili oil (which is easy to make) and use that to add some flare to your food.

    3. Never serve food out of a can to an adult without tweaking it a little.  Your kids may love ravioli or spaghetti from a can just fine, but the adult palate is more refined.  My wife loves this: I empty a can of mackerel into a large frying pan with half a stick of butter—and all of the water from the can.  As it boils over high heat, I open each piece and remove the backbones, then break the meat into little bits with the spatula.  I then drizzle lemon juice over the whole thing, sprinkle it with salt and quite a lot of pepper, then fry it until the liquid boils off completely.  I keep frying it, turning the fish often, which makes it slightly crispy.  The whole process takes about 15 minutes, during which time I can easily do many other things, as the cooking requires little watching, and the end result is delicious.

    4. You can add a somewhat oriental flare to almost anything that is bland with any of the following, or a combination of two or more: lemon juice, lime juice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar (especially rice, red wine or cane vinegars; do not use vinegar with citrus juices), sesame oil, chili oil or Chinese cooking wine.  If you want to know if the various flavors are compatible with whatever you plan to add them to, take a bite of the food, and while it is in your mouth smell the additive(s).  If it makes you smile, add it.

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