otherwise known as the Busy/Lazy Mama’s Guide to Eating Cheap, Organic, Nutritious Food.
it may seem like i dine out a lot at shi-shi restaurants. well, august was a particularly stressful month for a lot of reasons and i figure, i’m not exactly spending tons of money on a swanky prada wardrobe (so i can type late at night on my laptop while the cats frolic around me getting my designer clothes catified?). nor do i have the expensive leisure-time habits i used to: reading, moviegoing, cross-country skiing, scuba diving. nope, it’s all little guy, all the time–and then documentary when it’s not the little guy.
(people ask me, “so when are you going to have #2?”
i have to tell them that making the documentary is child #2 and fundraising for that thng is child #3.)
eating–well, i have to eat anyway. why not eat something extraordinary every so often, so i don’t forget i’m a grownup? plus, i love cheap ethnic food restaurants that serve dishes i have no idea how to make at home.
but this is the “shortcuts to cooking” post. right.
some of my favorite Dinner in Under Five Minutes ingredients come–voila!– prepared, and are found at Trader Joe’s:
- pre-cooked french lentils,* in the refrigerator case, are wonderful. add a sauce and…done! they’re absurdly high in iron (20% RDA, the package says) and so i love to eat them and feed them to the Unreliable Narrator, whom i always suspect of not getting enough iron. (very important to brain development and keeping up energy levels; he lacks for neither but i wouldn’t be an anxious alpha mom if i didn’t want everything to be optimal at all times.) if only TJ’s had morels. lentils and morels are lovely together.
- frozen ready-to-eat brown rice.* zap, two minutes in the microwave and you have tender short-grain brown rice. no more sticking a finger in rice with water over the top to see if the water level meets the first joint of your index finger, then waiting for it to steam.
- frozen organic 3-cheese pizza. the Unreliable Narrator likes his ‘za naked. when we give him slices with toppings, he picks ‘em off. (he used to eat the whole thing no matter what animal or vegetable was atop it. go figure.) so we give him the organic 3-cheese pizza and he scares us by how much he can put away…a good third of the pizza, i’d guess.
- most excellent frozen organic mixed veggies, with broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, and carrot sticks. and/or the frozen organic broccoli florets. a minute of radiation, and ping! it’s done. i still do buy veggies raw, but discovered that the cheapness of the raw vegetable is made more expensive by their propensity to rot. it’s wasteful when fragile organic veggies go bad as soon as you breathe on them. frozen veggies aren’t so subject to waste, and the UN likes half-frozen ones in his lunch box on hot summer days. i guess it’s like a veggiesicle or something.
- delicious frozen naan, or the fresh-made whole wheat ones in the bread aisle. now my revelation regarding south asian indian naan bread came years ago at a los angeles street fair, where i watched a man pat the bread dough into shape, use a fireplace poker or its equivalent to stick it to the side of this insanely hot (and one hopes, CLEAN) 30 gallon drum with a clay interior and flaming coals inside. he let it bake for a minute, then pulled out the fresh-made naan and buttered it for me. oh, what heaven that was. TJ’s frozen naan isn’t the revelatory street fair food experience, but as naan goes, it’s pretty good when it comes out of your toaster oven.*
- organic garlic hummus, in the deli meat section. the container size is just right to enjoy over a few days, instead of having a big cup of it get eaten halfway, then develop big green fuzz blobs inside from neglect.
- 2.5″ diameter mini whole wheat pita breads. perfect for toddler sammiches, especially peanut butter and jelly ones.* the pouch shape solves the problem of your sammich innards oozing out the back. and it’s hand-sized for a kid.
- the TJ brand of nitrite-free, no additives or hormone-laced all-beef hot dogs. i kid you not, these things rock. grilled or pan fried, the skin on these dogs develops a nice snap when you bite into them. the UN won’t eat hot dogs as a general rule (wise boy), but he’ll eat these. and i can actually read and understand the 6 ingredients on the package.
- (cue cheesy ’70s hey baby music) organic cream of red bell pepper soup in a box. (heh heh, she said ‘soup in a box.’) we love this with dill-flavored goat cheese-stuffed pita (above), toasted, and a bowl of soup and aforementioned steamed mixed organic veggies. (this is a “shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone but you just ate a vegetarian meal” dinner.)
* if only this were organic.