Get ready for a recipe blitz. It’s not dirt cheap, nor is it fancy, but it’s cheaper than convenience foods, almost as fast and takes advantage of good condiments. We find that cheap basic food (like rice and beans) with a little expensive condiment (like Indian pickles or really good mustard) makes you feel like you’ve eaten well and is still affordable.
Fast Night # 1: Lentils and rice
Make enough lentils and rice to feed your family with a good amount left over. For our 2-adults-plus-toddler family, I make a cup each of rice and lentils, dry. I have a rice cooker, so off that goes, and the lentils get underway in a big saucepan. While the lentils are cooking in their pot, we chop up a small onion and as much garlic as we think we can stand, then brown that up in a little olive oil.
When the lentils are done (but not too done), drain them and add a little good olive oil, the onion stuff and salt / pepper to taste. Serve with the rice, cottage cheese, raw tomato and (here’s the secret ingredient) Indian pickles and / or chutney. We like Pataks garlic pickle and curried fruit chutney. If you have an Asian market in your area, look for Indian condiments there; just about every supermarket carries some form of chutney, though. Try to get a bit of everything on your fork. Lentils cook much faster than you think, we time them out at about 20 minutes if they have not sat on your cupboard shelf for the last three years. Do not let them get completely mushy; then they’re gross.
Faster Night # 2: Sausage and potatoes
This is the most expensive night of the blitz. Be on the lookout for a good deal on sausage links, especially chicken. If you live in Trader Joes territory, this is not hard. A “good price” to me is around $ 3.99 / lb, and for our family of four, a pound and a half works out to be just right for one blitz.
Slice up 3 potatoes for every two people into quarters. Start up a good size pot of boiling water (but not too much; enough to cover your sausages and taters). Throw the sausages and potatoes into the pot and cook them til they’re done. Now, this is important: SAVE THE WATER. It is now a lovely sausageage-potatoey broth. Put it in the fridge, or the freezer if you’re not going on to night # 3. Take those potatoes and some sliced up garlic cloves and enough of the cooking broth to get things going and smash them. Serve with really good mustard (like Plochmans … mmm!) And a green salad.
Fastest Night # 3: Revenge of the leftovers soup
… aka Refrigerator Soup Version 1.0 (you will run into Refrigerator Soup a lot around here). You will be amazed how fast this goes together. Get out the cooking water / broth from last night and the leftover lentils and rice from the night before, along with a can of stewed tomatoes (the Italian kind stewed with herbs is good but any kind will do). Throw the whole shebang, canning liquid and all, into a pot. Well – put just enough sausage broth in to make a soup. Save the rest for another time in the freezer.
If you have any leftover sausages, just chop them up and throw them in along with the leftover mashed potatoes. Yes, really. They’ll give the soup some body. (This is also a good place to throw in any other leftovers lying around. Try to think ahead: Would these items taste good together?) Heat it all up, add some salt and pepper, and ta-da: REALLY good soup. In about 10 minutes. And it tastes like you worked really hard on it! And it’s practically free – we price it at 44 cents for the can of stewed tomatoes on sale! Imagine if I had my kitchen garden in and canned the tomatoes myself.