15 September 2011

"crunch time" dinners

Green beansI am a planner by nature. We joke that I make a spreadsheet for everything, and really, it's only half a joke. I love to have things set out in an orderly fashion! (I don't know what will become of me when we have kids. Apparently they do not fit so tidily into spreadsheets.)

So you can bet that a time crunch is not my favorite thing in the world.

Despite my plans, sometimes there is only half an hour between the moment I get home (or finish cleaning the bathroom or pull the last weed or hang up the phone) and the moment when dinner's supposed to be on the table. What to do? The question is a little harder now that we are eating fewer grains, and avoiding gluten as the main component of any meal. That means no pasta!

But not to worry. Omelets are always an option. Stir-fries or curries are perfect for hurried meals (especially served over quinoa, which takes 20 minutes to cook, max). You can make taco salad in a snap. Fish fillets pan-fry in less than 5 minutes. Many soups can be ready quickly too.

Then there's "skillet," an interestingly named dish that packs a lot of flavor and color into one simple bowl. All you need is sausage (or ground beef), potatoes, and some vegetables. No recipe, just technique. Use whatever ratio you want; I generally start with a pound-ish of meat, four medium sized potatoes, and a heap of green beans.


Skillet Stew
(I remember my mom making this but I'm not sure where the idea originally came from!)

several links of good sausage*
some baked potatoes, cubed**
fresh green beans***
a fresh tomato or two
a couple cloves of garlic, minced
some strong chicken stock
several tablespoons of olive oil or butter
salt to taste
several tablespoons of pesto^

1) Heat large skillet to medium-high and drop in sausage links. Brown on all sides, then add half-inch water, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove to cutting board and let cool slightly, then slice into small pieces.
2) Wash, destem, and halve green beans. Wash and chop tomato. In skillet previously used for sausage, heat olive oil over medium-high and add beans. Cook for a minute, tossing frequently, then add tomato and minced garlic. Salt generously and let cook for several minutes, until beans are crisp-tender and tomato is softened.
3) Deglaze pan with enough chicken stock to loosen the browned bits. (Stir in pesto too if you have that.) Stir in potato and sliced sausage.
4) Add more chicken stock and pesto as needed to create "sauce" for stew; season all to taste.

*Ground beef and turkey also work great, and honestly, I usually use that instead. (Cheaper.) Just brown it and then add more seasoning then you would with sausage.
**If I remember, I bake some smallish red potatoes at 400 degrees for 45 minutes ahead of time. If you want to use diced raw potatoes, saute them before adding the green beans.
***Or sliced bell peppers or chopped broccoli, if that is what you have! I prefer green beans though. And in the winter I use frozen ones because the "fresh" beans in the store are kinda nasty.
^Or other herbs and spices to taste. This is up to you, so you'll need to trust your culinary instincts. You can go spicy with paprika and cumin, or stay safer with parsley and oregano.

{image credit: smithsarahjane}

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