Thursday, August 12, 2010

Go To Meals

Yesterday I was in the unenviable position of having to take my kids to Wal-Mart. I absolutely abhor Wal-Mart: it is crowded, it smells, the customer service is nonexistent, the products are cheap and crappy. However. I live in the freaking boonies, and here, Wal-Mart is a minor deity. People plan whole days where they just go to Wal-Mart. Because of this, unless I am going in one specific direction, there is no choice but to go to Wal-Mart to make purchases. Plus, the grocery store in our town is small and very overpriced, so Wal-Mart is actually a good choice for groceries. And since my children needed stuff for their lunchboxes (school started today), we ended up there.

And of course, I left my grocery list at home. Nice. The grocery list I had was one printed from, which is an awesome, awesome place. You can print a store list for 5 meals, and it is always less than 30 items, so cheap, healthy, and usually fun/easy to make. Love it when I have no time to plan my groceries. ANYWAY, they are not great when you do not bring them with you. Therefore, I was left to my own devices, meal-wise. In Wal-Mart. A recipe for disaster (see what I did there? Recipe? Har har.).

No sweat though. I'm sure everyone has them, but I have my "go to" meals--things I can make with no recipe and will little guidance. Things that everyone likes and that are easy. No fancy dancy mango coulis--just food that can be pumped out with little thought.

I thought I would share these with you. Like I said, everyone has these things, and this is not an exhaustive list of mine--just the three I thought of yesterday when push came to shove. I would love it if other folks shared their's--I'm always on the prowl for more.

Blue Cheese Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Oven Fries
You need: 1 sweet onion (Vidalia or Walla Walla work nicely)
1 lb. lean ground beef or ground sirloin
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley
salt and pepper
4-5 good sized potatoes (or more small ones)
hamburger buns (you need something substantial for these burgers, I think. Whole wheat is hearty and yum.)
blue cheese dressing (if desired)

Preheat oven to 425. Cut up the potatoes into uniform cuts, like steak fries. Place them on a well greased jelly roll pan. Drizzle with a little vegetable oil and use your hands to rub it in. Sprinkle with generous amounts of kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Pop in the oven. You'll need to turn them about halfway through. I would guesstimate that these take about 30 minutes, but I never time them. Just keep a close eye on them. They can go from YUM to "Um, is this edible?" in very little time.

Now slice the onion into rings. Preheat a pan over low heat with a bit of olive oil. Place the onions in the pan. Stir them around a bit. You are going to cook them for about 20 minutes or so over the low heat. Give them a good stir every once in a while, but otherwise, ignore them.

Meanwhile, take the ground beef and put it in a bowl. Mix in the blue cheese and the parsley, then salt and pepper. Mix it around with your hands and make into four good sized patties. You can either grill these or cook them inside. They usually go in about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on how thick the patties are.

Serve the burgers on the buns with the onions on top and the fries on the side. If you love blue cheese (like I do), slather a bit of dressing on the top of the bun (my favorite is the Weight Watchers recipe for blue cheese dressing--not even kidding--I keep it in my fridge just about all the time).

Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Green Beans
This one is very malleable. Basically, you just get a chicken (make sure to choose a good one--the best are organically raised and free range as they are fresher tasting and not plumped with salt). Get it out of the package and dry it a bit with a paper towel--just dab it, you don't have to get it perfect. Place in a roasting pan and preheat the oven to 375. Now...have fun. You can basically use anything that you want now to make the chicken taste good. I always use garlic, kosher salt, coarse ground pepper and some kind of herb Sometimes I add other stuff, just depending on what is around. The herb just depends on what I have in the fridge or in the garden. Drizzle with a fair amount of good olive oil and then go to town. I usually stuff a few whole cloves of garlic into the cavity along with some sprigs of the herb. Then take a few more cloves and crush them. Slide those puppies under the skin beside the breast meat. Do the same with any chopped herbs you may have. Sprinkle the whole thing with a good amount of salt and fresh ground pepper. I usually roast for an hour and a half, but it depends on the size of the bird. The real plus here is that you don't have to pay any attention to it whatsoever. No basting, or funky temperature stuff. Just stick it in and forget about it (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID! HA!).

For the mashed potatoes--forget about it. It is my secret recipe. Just fix whatever mashed potatoes that you make/love.

The green beans are easily sauteed. Sometimes I add sliced crimini mushrooms and that really makes it good. A little garlic never hurt anyone either.

Rolls are also good if the potatoes weren't enough carbs for you. Or biscuits if you are nasty.

*I'm not even kidding when I say this, but nothing makes me feel more divinely womanly than preparing a roast chicken. Yes, I know what I singlehandedly just did for the woman's movement. Sorry. I just adore it. I even kind of like the feeling of the bird beneath my hands as I work on it. And that, my friends, is how one ends up on Criminal Minds, I presume.

Baked Chicken Parmigiana with Salad and Bread
You'll need: a pack of chicken tenderloins, about 1-1.5 lbs. (you can use the whole breast, but my kids like the tenders)
bread crumbs (I prefer panko, but you can use whatever you have)
Italian seasoning (buying a big tub at Sam's/Costco is a good way to go)
grated parmesan
an egg (or maybe too, depending on the number of tenders)
a jar of spaghetti sauce (or if you have been particularly good, get about 2 cups out of your freezer stash--I try to be good, but haven't been in a few months)
a ball of fresh mozzarella
pasta, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix a combination of breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning; add a good amount of parmesan. Mix well. Whisk the egg (or two in a bowl). Dip each chicken tender in the egg and then in the crumb mixture. Lay in a well greased 11x7 inch baking dish.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. I err on the side of uber done here because my husband has this thing about chicken. After the chicken is done, pull it out and pour on the jar of spaghetti sauce. Cut pieces of the mozzarella and place on top of the chicken. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and place back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes or until every thing is bubbly and yummy.

Meanwhile, cook pasta if serving alongside. Serve with bakery bread and any type of good greens with dressing.

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