Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quick healthy

This is the meal I served yesterday to our house guest who had an evening speaking engagement.  We ate mid-afternoon.  I came in from my long swim and quick grocery store visit at 2:15.  We sat down to a hot meal at 3:00.  I had not done any prior prep work.  We ate:

Lemon Pepper Roasted Chicken
Collard Greens
Speckled butter beans with corn
Roasted butternut squash
Pumpkin cornbread

Sounds like it was a lot of work, yes?  Actually, no.

Sounds very healthy, yes?  And colorful and delicious and filling.  All of the above.

But it didn't take much time because there are a few things I rely on to pull off a good, quick meal like this.

1.  Lemon Pepper Roasted Chicken.  I do love roasting my own chicken.  Brining it the night before the way my dear friend taught me and filling the house with it's delicious aroma. BUT, if you don't have time to do that, there is that wonderful little heater rack at the front of the grocery store or next to the deli counter where someone else has done it for you.  Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  Not costly and always good, in my experience.  I am not the only person who takes advantage of this convenience.

2.  Collard greens.  I love collard greens.  I am from the south.  We know how to make them here.  I also lived in Kenya where they are eaten daily.  Sukuma wiki, to push the week, the food you eat when you don't have enough money to cook anything else.  But washing and chopping them is labor intensive. I do it sometimes, but there is a wonderful alternative in most grocery stores.  Washed, chopped, bagged collard greens.  You've seen them, haven't you?  Right there in the produce section. Or maybe you haven't because you've never looked for them.  Or perhaps, if you live in a part of the country where collard, mustard, and turnip greens are not traditional fare, you don't have this option.  But if you can find them, try them.  I used to buy frozen collards, but I don't like them nearly as well as fresh.

Anyway, if you can get your hands on a bag of collards, it greatly speeds up prep time for this dish.

Chop up an onion, saute it in a little olive oil, throw in the collards, handfuls at a time til they cook down enough to make room in the pot for more.  Add some water or stock so they don't stick, splash in some vinegar, add salt to taste, and let them simmer til soft.

3.  Speckled butter beans with corn.  I buy them frozen.  Never seen frozen speckled butter beans?  They are the size and shape of lima beans but brown and, of course, sort of speckled.  You may not have them in your part of the world.  If not, try crowder peas or if you can't find those, black-eyed peas.  I cook these in the simplest way possible.  Just boil them with water to cover til soft.  I add frozen corn for color and interest.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve them with salsa or relish.

4.  Roasted butternut squash.  We love butternut squash at our house.  I used to not enjoy preparing it.  I used to cut it in half lengthwise, place it cut side down in a 9x13 pan with a little water in the bottom and bake it til soft.  It's tasty this way with a little butter, but I didn't enjoy picking up the hot, slippery squash and scooping out the insides.  I didn't like throwing away the skin.  Always felt like a waste.  I rarely cook them this way anymore.

Instead, I roast them.  Wash the squash and chop into one inch (or thereabouts) cubes.  Leave the skin on.  Yes, leave it on.  Don't peel.  Don't stress.  Leave it on.

Preheat your oven to 400.  Place squash cubes on a cooking sheet and drizzle olive oil over (or spray with cooking spray).  Stir around a little to coat the squash with oil.  Add fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.  Last night, I also sprinkled on some smoked paprika.  Yum!  Good complement to the sweet, nutty squash.  Bake til you can stick a fork into the squash - about 15 minutes.

5.  Pumpkin cornbread.  I cheated here.  This was leftover from Sunday lunch, brought by a friend.  I cut the pieces open, put slices of pepper jack cheese on top and warmed in the oven til the cheese melted.  If you don't have any cornbread, lovingly baked and brought to you by a friend, this is a great alternative.  Or this, which I haven't tried, but plan to, since we love cornbread at our house.  I often add chopped jalapenos and sharp cheddar to the batter.

That's it.  Our house guest, who has traveled all over the world and lived in Afghanistan, Pakistan, England and now California, had never eaten collard greens or speckled butter beans, so last night's down home meal was a cultural experience for him - and an easily prepared one for me.

No comments: