Quick and Easy Dinner for a Busy Week

Quick and Easy Dinner for a Busy Week

I don’t have a photo, because it didn’t even occur to me until this morning that the dinner I made last night was a good illustration of what we’ve all been talking about this week — eating at home is not rocket science.

As you can tell from the erratic nature of mid-week blogging, my day job has been a little insane lately. I’m lucky enough to have a remote position with a  Big Corporation, but the level of fear and anxiety that working in a Big Corporation entails these days as layoffs fall all around like autumn leaves in a cheesy movie, well, means that my weekdays are eight to ten hours at the computer that leave me feeling like the guy in the black chair in those old Memorex ads. It’s been a little intense.

Last night I rattled around the house for a while trying to figure out what to eat. I actually heated up a little gratin dish of the sauerkraut I made a few weeks ago, with a couple of potatoes and carrots cut up and mixed in, and a sausage from our local butcher, Matt. But by the time it was getting anywhere near being cooked, I didn’t want it anymore. My stomach was in that funny state where something sour felt like a bad idea. So I tucked the failed dinner in the fridge and started over.

Spaghetti with bacon and peas. It turned out that what I wanted was spaghetti with bacon and peas — something warm, and comforting. It had started to snow again. I put the water on to boil, took two strips of Matt’s fabulous bacon out of the package (thick cut, home cured and smoked) and cut them into pieces about half an inch wide. I put them in my trusty cast iron skillet with a small sliced onion, and let the whole thing saute while the noodles cooked. I like my bacon in this dish on the soft side, not crisp — I wanted that nice pink color that good bacon takes on when it’s cooked but not crisped up. When the noodles were ready I poured the water out (hint, if you want to heat your single-chick dinner bowl, pour the hot water from the pasta into it while you finish up), threw the noodles and a handful of frozen peas into the skillet, and then gave it a little lashing of cream. I have a lot of cream around the house these days — the Milk Lady’s cow is giving me nearly a quart a week these days. A quick pass with the peppermill, a grating of parmesan, and there it was, a really yummy dinner in 20 minutes.

Now I’m sure the fat police will have a fit — bacon! cream! But really, it’s not like I eat this every night, and I don’t know, I don’t pay that much attention to that stuff. I’m hardly skinny, but I’m not obese either. I’m a normal sized person who eats real food and walks two miles a day. Julia Child is my model — eat real food.

But this was a delicious dinner that took very little time to prepare, and was pretty cheap — I had everything in the fridge, all the food was real, and on a night where I got a late and chaotic start. It made me very happy. It made me feel all warm and okay in a terrifying economy in the middle of a week that feels like a battle every day, a battle to prove oneself. It made me feel like maybe today I can get back in there and do it all again.

4 thoughts on “Quick and Easy Dinner for a Busy Week

  1. Eat well and enjoy.

    I nearly spewed my coffee this morning when CNN had a piece on “NEW INFORMATION” – “It’s not WHAT you eat, it’s HOW MUCH. Take in fewer calories and you’ll lose weight”.

    Um, gee, thank you Captain Obvious.
    And WHO paid for the researchers to discover this?

    We are sooooooooo screwed as a society. So go enjoy bacon and cream 🙂

  2. Yeah, the food purists annoy me. If everyone just stopped eating processed food (especially pop — evil evil thing) then we’d all be better off. The Michael Pollan/Julia Child rules — eat real food, mostly plants, not too much. So lunch will be a nice minestrone — lots of veggies —

  3. I’m discovering that lots of people just don’t have enough cooking experience to do what you did (and what I do nearly every night). They don’t really know how to cook, and certainly not without a blueprint. All they can do is follow a recipe, which feels a bit complicated and fussy to them already. If they’re missing an ingredient, they have no idea how to make an appropriate substitution, and then if they don’t care for the finished product, they throw it out, get discouraged that they spent time and money fussing over something that was inedible, draw the conclusion that cooking is stupid and go back to eating reliable, predictable prepared foods. I’ve heard basically this same story from people time and time again.

    I think throwing a few things into a skillet or a soup pot is a no-brainer, but I have good instincts, LOTS of practice, and I’ll eat just about anything. I don’t worry too much if something doesn’t turn out great, I just won’t make it that way again. I’d guess that most people aren’t like this. I think a lot of people prefer the safety of packaged foods – they know exactly what the outcome will be every time. Over the years, I’ve watched my husband make the transformation from packaged food to real food (when he cooks) – it’s been slow, with a lot of trial and error. I’m still often brought in to “consult” on the project. 🙂

  4. I think it’s one of the reasons it’s important to cook with kids. Our mom made sure to cook with both my brother and I — it was one of the things we all did together, especially after we went to live with our dad and spent weekends with her. During the years he lived alone, Patrick got kind of lazy and ate all sorts of crap like Lean Cuisine and Hot Pockets — but during the 5 years we lived together, I put my foot down about that stuff, and we cooked dinner most nights. Over time, he got much better at just making dinner. I remember a year or two in when he looked at me one night as he was making a quick pasta sauce from a can of tomatoes, a sauteed onion and some garlic and said “why did I ever buy sauce in a jar? this is just as quick and it’s so much better.” So yeah, a lot of it is practice. Like anything really …

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