14 May 2008

Favourite quick fix meals.

When I'm feeling unmotivated to cook, I turn to my quick-fix meals. These are things like baked potatoes, or rice and _______ that are enough to fill me up until I feel like cooking, or will tide me over till the next meal. Today was too gorgeous to spend indoors, so I had to come up with something that'd fill me up after my romp outdoors. Enter Pasta and Beans.

This is one of those dishes that is perfect for everyone. I love it because it's easy. Steve loves it because it's tasty. Moms love it because they're able to sneak in vegetables and proteins that their kids might otherwise fuss about. It's also great for those who love garlic (lots of it) and those who don't (easy to pick out!). 

Pasta and Beans
1 lb pasta (short shapes preferable to long strands)
1 lb tinned tomato (preferably diced; you can use whole if you grind them as mentioned)
1 lb tinned beans, washed and drained (I like black beans; use any kind you like)
1 lb frozen veg of choice (run cold water over them to thaw quickly) [optional]
1 medium onion, diced [optional]
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole [optional]
1 - 3 TB olive oil
1 - 3 TB Italian seasoning, or your favourite seasoning blend [optional]
The skin should come off in one swoop. Leave the garlic whole. While the water boils,open up the tins of tomato, beans, and the package of frozen vegetables. Set the vegetables in a colander, and run cold water over them. Mince the onions. Grind the tomatoes with a hand blender, food processor, mini chopper, or blender. This will speed up the cooking process later. You may skip this step if you'd like. If you want to speed things up, and you only have whole tomatoes, just crush them with your hands. 

In a large, shallow skillet, pour in the olive oil. If you're watching your calories, use a nonstick skillet, and wipe the skillet with just a scant amount of olive oil. If you don't mind the extra fat, use the extra olive oil. It'll make up for the flavour of using tinned tomatoes and the like. Add the onions while the skillet is still cold. When the onions start to sizzle, add the Italian seasoning and garlic. Cook the onions and garlic until they're just soft. Add the thawed frozen vegetables. 

By now, the water should be boiling. Generously salt the water, and add the pasta. If you have it, squirt in a bit of bottled lemon juice to prevent the pasta sticking. Stir the pasta around. When the water starts boiling again, give the vegetables in the sauce skillet a quick stir. 

When the vegetables are just cooked through, add the drained beans. Stir the beans through the vegetables, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes. Drop down the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer until the pasta is cooked. When the pasta is cooked, drain out the water, and mix the sauce through. Eat!

You can actually leave out the tomato if you don't like it, and you'll still have a very beautiful dish. I just really love tomato, which is why I add it. I sometimes use the method of "hide it in something they're bound to like" to introduce my friends to vegetables they haven't tried before. Later, when I mention it, I can casually say, "Oh, that vegetable was in that one dish!" and they're surprised that they liked it. 

Happy sneaky cooking!