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i’m in pain and don’t want to cook meals

July 6, 2012

Things have really been boring in my kitchen now for months. In December my back started aching. In January, the pain crept into my leg. In February I started carrying a pillow with me to school every day so that I could teach from the floor. Herniated discs are a bitch I tell you. Thanks to the miracle of modern day orthoscopic surgery, I now have a 17mm scar on my back and the nickel sized herniation is gone.

Over the course of those many months, I was in too much pain to cook. For the first time in my life, I lost weight without exercising or trying to. It was very strange for me, a gal who loves to comfort herself by making a big pot of risotto or chicken and dumplings, to not have a desire to cook. Unfortunately not cooking for 6 months was not really an option because:

A. Although my appetite was greatly diminished, it wasn’t gone entirely.

B. One can only afford so much take out and living in Teton Valley, the options are a bit limited…I think I shall avoid Thai food for a while.

C.  I have a husband who works construction, who needs 30 gagillion calories a day to sustain his boyish figure.

And so, I did what any couch bound housewife does and pulled together a few meals that required very little chopping, stirring or work. Here is a list of some of those foods and a couple of quick recipes. The serving size for these is mostly 4 servings, enough for one dinner for me and Jeff and lunch for the next day.

  • Ghetto Fish Tacos: Buy frozen fish sticks/patties from the grocery. Cook them according to the package. In a medium bowl, add 1/4 c mayo, 1/4 c plain yogurt, juice of 1 lime, 1 diced jalapeño (leave the seeds if you want more heat), a pinch or two of salt and 1/2-1 tsp cumin (optional). Mix that up and add to it 1/2 cabbage, shredded and 1-2 shredded carrots. If the slaw seems dry add more mayo/yogurt. Serve fish on flour or corn tortillas with a slice of avocado and a big spoonful of the slaw.
  • Fancy Frozen Pizza: Buy a cheese pizza from the grocery. When you get home, slice an onion and caramelize it. Saute any other veg toppings you like (mushrooms, peppers, etc). Top the pizza with the veg, onions and whatever else you like. (I am a fan of sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts OR bacon and figs). Cook.
  • Spaghetti with Vodka Sauce: Start a pot of water for the pasta. While that heats, dice up a bit of onion. Saute the onion until soft (5-10 minutes). Add garlic to onion and cook 2 minutes. By now the water should be boiling. Add the pasta to the water and boil until cooked to your liking.  Add a can of diced tomatoes to the onion and garlic and cook until the pasta is done. Drain the pasta, toss in a little olive oil and place in bowl/s. Add a splash of vodka to the tomato sauce along with a dash of red pepper flakes. Cook for a couple of minutes longer. Taste and season to your liking. Serve over pasta.
  • No Frills Lentils: Dice 1/2 small onion and 1-2 carrots (you can also add celery here if you like it) and sauté about 10 minutes, so they start getting soft and a little golden. Add 1 c. French Lentils (They are a bit heartier than the green, brown or orange ones which will get mushy in this recipe) and 2 cups chicken or beef stock/broth. If you are in the mood, add 1 cup diced tomatoes. Toss in some herbs. I like to add a little rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook on low until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are cooked through (~25-35 minutes). Add a little water if they need more liquid. Serve over white or brown rice with a bit of chèvre or a dollop of plain yogurt.
  • Pasta Fagioli: You guessed it, start with diced onion and carrots (about 1/2 medium onion and 2 carrots)…sauté in olive oil until soft (10 minutes). Do all this in a small soup pot. Add a 2 cups cooked beans (you can use 1 small can of rinsed beans or use some beans that you have cooked ahead of time…you can even cook a bunch overnight or during the day in a slow cooker. I have heard that beans freeze well, though I have not tried it. White beans and cranberry or christmas limas work well). Also add a can or a couple of cups of diced tomatoes and a quart (4 cups) of chicken or beef stock. If you have a parmesan rind, toss that in. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover partially and cook for 20 minutes. While it simmers, cook your preferred pasta. After 20 minutes, add some greens (spinach, swiss chard, or kale) fresh or frozen to the soup. Cover and simmer until the greens are tender. Serve with pasta and parmesan or romano cheese on top.
  • Crepes: This is enough for about 4 dinner servings. In a bowl, mix 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter and a pinch of salt. The consistency should be very thin…if needed add a little more milk or water to thin it out. Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet in 350 degree oven while you prepare the toppings. I am a fan of ham, sautéed mushrooms and spinach with shredded gruyere cheese, but you should do what you like. Make sure all the ingredients (except the cheese which should be shredded) are hot when you start making your crepes. Pull the pan out of the oven and place on a burner set to medium high. Add a pat of butter to coat the pan. Pour enough batter into the pan to coat the bottom. Swirl it around and pour extra back into the bowl. Set pan on burner and cook for 30 seconds-1 minute (it will start to look dry). Pick up the crepe with your fingers and flip it. Place hot toppings in the center, with the cheese at the bottom. Cook 30 seconds, fold and serve. If your first crepe falls apart, that is normal. If the batter is too thick or thin, correct with more liquid or flour.

So if you are in pain and don’t have the stamina to stand in a kitchen slaving away…or you just want to have a quick weeknight dinner, try one of these meals. What are your go to quick meals? Let me know so I can add to my list.

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