Saturday, January 8, 2011

Turning Convenience Food into Comfort Food

So I didn't really intend to go all Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade on you tonight, but that is what I ended up doing for dinner, so here we go.  Truth be told, although I don't have a lot of respect for someone who uses that amount of processed food on her television show, I can see that this is something that a lot of folks probably do need to do in their everyday lives.  I am kid-free (by choice, maybe not permanently), pet-free (because of allergies), and I only have a 40-hour a week office job that I generally leave at the office, and there are still a lot of days when I end up depending on something from a can or a jar, so those of you who have additional challenges have a lot of sympathy from me.  We had a bit of a busy day today, ate a late breakfast, went back to the record store (someone in this house has a problem, and it's obviously catching because I'm getting infected too), went to three different grocery stores plus one liquor store, and once we got home, I had a pile of dishes to do before I could even cook.  So by the time I got started on dinner, it wasn't going to be something super-gourmet.  That's what Sundays are for!  But we did have something delicious and mostly home-cooked that really hit the spot on this snowy night: pasta & salad, dressed up just a little.

For the salad, I just used romaine, shredded carrots, and what passes for a tomato in New England in January.  John likes his salad dry and dressing is expensive, so I tried making my own tahini-lemon dressing.  It didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, so I'll post another time after it's been tweaked.  It worked well enough for me tonight though.  Cracked a bottle of Red Truck red wine (they aren't paying me, I just really like their wine, both the taste and the $7 price tag), I cooked a pound of rotini according to package directions, and tossed it with the following sauce.

Georgia's Semi-Homemade Marinara

1/2 large or 1 medium onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms (cremini or white button)
10 meatless meatballs (I used Trader Joe's)
1 jar pre-made pasta sauce of your choice (I used Muir Glen Cabernet Marinara)
1 pound pasta, cooked
Nutritional yeast (optional)

Spray skillet with small amount of oil or use water to saute onion and pepper over medium heat.  In the meantime, place meatballs in large saucepan.  Cover with pasta sauce, then fill empty jar halfway with water.  Place lid on and shake to get remaining sauce off lid and jar.  Pour sauce-water into saucepan, and stir.  Turn heat to medium to bring sauce to a simmer.  Back in the skillet, add mushrooms and saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms have browned and begun to shrink.  Add onion, mushroom, and pepper mixture to sauce and turn heat to low.  Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  Toss with prepared pasta, and serve with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, if desired.  Makes 6 servings.

Once again, a ton of leftovers, which we will probably eat for lunch tomorrow, or I will take to lunch early next week, since we still have chili from the other night, yay!  All in all, a great day.  I scored a Crowded House 45 single at the record store today.

Those of you who know me well are laughing.  I've been a mega Crowded House fan since I heard "Don't Dream It's Over" in the miniseries of Stephen King's The Stand when it was on TV back in the mid-nineties.  And I probably have 42 copies of "Something So Strong" already on different formats, but this one is a 45 single and it has "I Walk Away" as a B-side!  So it was worth a buck. (Told you I was catching the vinyl bug!)  If you haven't had dessert yet, go make a peanut butter banana smoothie in honor of Elvis's birthday today.

Elvis Smoothie

1 medium banana, frozen
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice)

Combine all ingredients and blend in high-speed blender until completely mixed. Depending on the sweetness of your banana, peanut butter, and non-dairy milk, you may need to sweeten to taste and re-blend.  I recommend stevia or agave nectar.

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