Quick and easy. That’s what dinner is about these days for me.
For example, I usually go shopping on Monday morning, this past Monday however I was stuck at home for the four-hour window waiting on the Whirlpool repair man to come look at my less than one-year old refrigerator. For the fifth time. Just sayin’.
The good news was, that my mom came over and I was able to help her with her taxes. I also got the laundry done, the floor mopped, the beds made, emails sent, checkbook balanced.
But no grocery shopping.
Because when the nice guy showed up to look at the fridge (a guy who has now almost become a friend because he’s been here so much), it was after noon when he left. I had to go find shoes for Abby for homecoming, and mom offered lunch out. So no shopping. I managed to fit in a quick shop at Target on Tuesday morning between dentist visits, but of course I am limited to what I can get at Target. Thank goodness they have some fresh stuff now. Then there was the usual round of driving in the afternoon that Mom helped with so that I could make dinner.
Days like that have me falling back on the “givens” for dinner. The kind of food everyone will eat without too much complaining. The kind where there is the least amount of negotiating “how many bites” Mary or Ben or Lizzie must take in order to earn 1/2 cup of ice cream. One such dinner for us, believe it or not, is Indian. Candice and I were discussing the merits and different sauces found in Indian cooking and I told her that the Garam masala used in most dishes is a personal thing. I’ve seen and read about how the special box of spices sometimes gets passed down in families. Each spice mixture that makes up a Garam masala is different from family to family.
“Well, who did you get your spice mixture from? Last I checked you weren’t getting a box passed down in your family,” says Candice.
“True,” I giggled. “My mixture comes from the Farm of Archer, or the family Patak.” (Both brands of sauces ready made and on the shelf at the grocery store.) Archer Farm is at Target, of course and Patak, plus others, Seeds of Change, etc. can be found in the international section of your grocery store. Yes, I know they aren’t completely legit, but honestly? They taste amazing and if I can get my little kids to develop a taste for the unique blend of spices, I’m ahead in my book.
And for a quick, healthy dinner, you can’t beat it.
This meal can be totally vegetarian, or you can add meat. I usually stir fry whatever veggies I have in the fridge, onions, carrots, celery, cauliflower (crucial!), peppers, sometimes potatoes, squash (of all kinds), etc. Cook in a little olive oil until just softened (about 10 min) and then remove to a bowl. In the same pan, with another teaspoon of oil, cook chunks of tofu (which I do for Lucy) or chicken (the frozen, portion controlled chicken breasts work great here, quick thaw 3-4, cut them up and voila, white meat chicken) until a little browned over medium heat. Add the veggies back in and add your sauce of choice. Our three favorites are Butter Chicken, Tikka Masala, and Korma Curry, but you can find the spicier ones too like Vindaloo if you want.
Experiment. See what you like.
I almost always have to stretch the sauce a little (lots of mouths to feed), so I do that with a little white wine or water (shake it up in the empty jar) and heavy cream. Put a lid on the whole pan and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve over basmati or jasmine rice with a little heated Naan bread and you have a bowl of comfort.
I actually have a blend of Garam Masala. It’s in my spice cabinet. One day I will make the sauce myself, but have thus far been too chicken to do it. Plus, I’m always in a hurry.
The point is, whether you make it from scratch or get help from the grocery store, allow yourself to develop a taste for the spices, then treat yourself a restaurant dinner and have “the real thing.” I promise it will be an amazing experience. Lucy and I had the opportunity to eat dinner at the most beautiful Indian restaurant in London.
It was an experience neither of us have ever forgotten.