Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cheating Balance

So I start a new job today, working 11:45 am to 8:30ish pm, meaning I will not be home to make dinner for the Darling Devoted Husband. This means I must once again invest in that pesky little time commitment called Planning Ahead. In order not to resort to various nasty little premade meals (which admittedly the DDH would be more than happy to eat), I'll have to cook in the morning and learn to do better at batch cooking.

Yesterday I began this experiment. I needed to make a dinner for Sunday that would a) have enough leftovers to feed at least one and preferably both of us lunch on Monday, b) be sort of special, since the DDH had been out of town all weekend, and c) not take too much time, because I needed to do some prep for Monday's dinner, too. I had a bunch of extra tomatoes (as so often happens these days), and thought I would make a meat sauce for pasta that the DDH could capably boil himself Monday night.

I started with the tomato sauce. First up: chopping up a colander full of tomatoes (I didn't actually use all of these, but I did use most of them):

I chopped them up and tossed them in a pot:

with some basil, oregano, and parsley (from the garden), garlic, and shallots. I then took a half pound of hamburger, cooked it up with some more garlic and shallots, and then dumped it in:

Voila. Homegrown tomato-meat sauce. Not hard, but chopping everything took awhile. This, I have discovered, is the difference between making things from fresh tomatoes and making them from canned--time spent chopping. I think it's worth it for the taste most of the time, but there are times when you really just need quick and easy.

Which brings me to dinner. Sunday's dinner was a cheat, but a yummy one. Basically I cooked some basmati rice, sauteed some chicken:

and poured in a jar of tikka masala sauce (this was Seeds of Change brand; they had several Indian food sauces available, but this is the only one I've tried. I've found it at Petty's and Whole Foods and I'm willing to bet that those of you with a Trader Joe's nearby could find something similar. I couldn't find it at WalMart or Reasor's, but let's be honest--I didn't exactly walk every aisle. It was tasty, but not as rich as restaurant versions):

Put it all together, and you have chicken tikka masala with rice:

Neither WalMart nor Reasor's had naan, and the Joy of Cooking recipe was too intense for the purposes of this evening, so we did without.

This is something that I could have made from scratch, but for which I do not keep all the ingredients on hand. All the different spices it wants can get pricey, and my little jar was not too outrageously expensive. I like to hunt down jars of sauce or little spice packets in order to make meals that are interesting and tasty but won't take a lot of time commitment or weird ingredients. When I have to, I cheat like this, using prepared sauces or meal starters, but I try to make them interesting and relatively healthy, and whenever possible I balance them with something I made truly from scratch, like the tomato sauce. That's reality cooking. ^_^

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