Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gourmet Convenience

In an effort to do more cooking at home to stem our spiraling restaurant meal expenditures, I've been relying more on the type of convenience food products by which I make my living marketing to the masses. Here are a few highlights of things that have proven indispensable recently (none of which are manufactured by my employer):

Big Bags of Quick Frozen Chicken Breasts: My local Trader Joe's has great prices on bags of frozen chicken fillets. On Sunday or Monday night, I'll throw them in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes to thaw, drain and sprinkle them with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and ancho chile powder and broil them on high for about 6 minutes per side. I throw them in the fridge and use them for quick protein boosts after my work-outs, chop them up to throw into tacos, pasta sauces and salads or whatever.

Boxed Risotto: I've discovered these delicious Lundberg Risotto mixes that cook up in about 20 minutes that are hearty and elegant enough to jazz up a simple oven roasted salmon or pan seared pork chops. Just toss up a simple spinach salad and you've got instant fine dining.

Stuffed Pasta: Somewhere during that Atkins/South Beach madness, I forgot how much I enjoyed a simple plate of refrigerated ravioli or tortellini finished with a nice chunky rustic tomato sauce or gorgeous pesto toss. I've rediscovered how easy it is to buy these vacuum packed boxes of filled pasta and keep them in the freezer for whatever, whenever. Again, Trader Joe's to the rescue for dinner tonight when I took some fire-roasted veggie stuffed ravioli from my freezer, boiled it up and tossed it with Trader Joe's jarred vodka sauce (studded with chunks of pre-cooked chicken breast). I accompanied it with some frozen french-style green beans with slivered almonds. Dinner took 15 minutes to cook up and went over very well.

Better Than Boullion
: The blow-hard celebrity chefs and Alton Brown tell you "if you're going to use boullion, you might as well use water." Not true. My BF's mom turned me on to these refrigerated jarred concentrated paste-style bases that comes in chicken, beef and other proteins. Just a tablespoon of this stuff in a quart of boiling water opens up a world of fast gourmet possibilities from decadent rice to luxurious sauces. I don't waste my time with canned/boxed broth where there's always extra to throw out anymore.

I'm finding that by just putting the right things in my pantry and freezer, I'm able to throw together some fittingly high-end meals without letting my weekly grocery budget stretch into the triple digits. I get my new meal plan from my trainer soon, so we'll see how long this affordable trend lasts. The protein shakes are already chilling in the fridge . . .

No comments: