I used to make the excuse that I was too tired to cook dinner after work waaaayyyyy too frequently. Unless I snuck over to my mom’s house and mooched a home-cooked meal from her, my excuses usually led to either too many calories (half a box of mac and cheese one night, the other half the next) or too few calories (a bag of low-fat microwave popcorn and a can of Coke Zero). Either way, the choices were horrible and the food tasted like crap… which, coincidentally, was how they made me feel.
The truth is, I was always the one that helped my mom prepare meals growing up and am usually her designated sous chef for holidays and family gatherings so, there was really no excuse for me not to have known how to feed myself a little better. Despite whatever culinary skills I may delude myself into believing I possess, however, you actually need very little (if any) skills in the kitchen to prepare some basic and healthy meals during the week. Trust me, your body will thank you and I bet you’ll save a lot of money as well. Take-out and prepared foods at the supermarkets are REALLY expensive and often not that healthy.
Monday afternoon, I received an email from my boyfriend with this link, along with the following message: “I’ve been craving gazpacho for a while. Would you make this for me, please?”
Spanish vegetable soup for dinner on the first day back to school and after a SERIOUSLY SWEATY hot yoga class?… I was up for the challenge!
Now, I may not be a lot of things, but one thing I am certain that I AM is practical. Practicality comes in handy when you need to get a task done quickly and efficiently. Weeknight Cooking Tip #1: The first thing you should always do when making a new recipe for the first time is analyze how you could simplify it without taking away its nutritional value or flavor.
If you open the link to the recipe, you’ll see that it calls for 2 lbs of fresh tomatoes. Can you imagine having to slice and dice 2 lbs of fresh tomatoes and adding water to get them to the right consistency?!… not to mention having to worry if they were sweet, unripe or mealy when you got them from the produce isle? In the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Instead, I used whole, canned San Marzano plum tomatoes in their own juice. These can be bought in 1 lb cans and have a sweet flavor and the perfect texture.
Everything else was easy. I just dumped it into the same bowl and blended it! Notice I said “bowl” and not “blender.” Weeknight Cooking Tip #2: Invest in an emersion blender (hand-held stick blender). It will be the best $45 investment you ever make for your kitchen and you will be eternally grateful to me for having given you the brilliant idea. It will save you so much time and mess that you’ll be more willing to make recipes that used to make your kitchen sink look like a war-zone. I use mine to blend my pumpkin soup right in the soup pot, sauces on the stove, smoothies in plastic cups and even salsas in their serving dishes.
From prep to finish, I think the whole meal took me about 15 minutes to make. And voila! We had a pretty healthy and delicious dinner on the table.
The recipe suggests adding either basil or cilantro as a topping to the soup. Cilantro is DEFINITELY the way to go here because it pairs better with the chipotle, if you ask me. Some people have a bizarre aversion to cilantro, however, so do what tastes best to you…
How about the protein, you ask? Well, some gazpacho varieties are traditionally garnished with chopped hard boiled eggs. We always have a carton of eggs at home so I boiled a few of these up and served them along side the soup. If you are vegetarian/ vegan, however, it would be just as tasty with some sauteed extra-firm tofu cubes floating on top (maybe dust them with a little onion powder, garlic powder and cumin)!
Weeknight Cooking Tip #3: Make enough for left-overs! Guess what the best thing about this meal is?!… We had it for dinner today too, which meant NEITHER of us had to cook 😉
Do you have any go-to weeknight meals?
Is there a web site you love to go to for to search for recipes?
Any great cooking short-cuts you’d like to share?
Any great gadgets YOU think are must-haves for they kitchen?
Please share! As always, I love hearing from you.