Saturday, February 14, 2009

Judgey McJudgerson, Table of One

So here's how it went down.

Earlier this week Sweetie gave me the wonderful gift of taking care of the dogs after work, which allowed me to go straight from the train station to the gym. This is key, because more often than I like, going home = staying home, regardless of my intentions. I survived the ass-kicking Fat Burner program on the stair stepper, did my weights, and a little more cardio.

As I was leaving I was accosted by a salesperson by the front desk. "You're not really going to go home and cook, are you?" she said. Uh, yes. I'm hungry.

"It takes so long," she said. "You can eat really well without having to do so much work."

She was selling pre-packaged, healthy meals. I told her the sample smelled great, but I really do cook and chop actual vegetables. Long story short, she has met judgey People Who Cook before. She waited for me to tell her that the devil himself lives in freezable trays, that the American way of life depends on boiling your own pasta, and that Big Food could not be allowed to win the hearts and minds of Atlanta families.


Broccoli is broccoli is broccoli. And whether you chop it with your own knife or some machine cuts it and seals it in a baggie, it's still 1,000 times healthier for you than French fries. And if someone is depending on pre-packaged food because she works full-time and goes to school part-time and tries to spend her remaining time with her kids, what's with the judgey?

For the record, she made me curious about how much time I spend chopping vegetables. I decided to have Kitchen Sink Pasta for dinner (whatever pasta-friendly veggies I have in the fridge, pasta, and a smidge of cheese on top). To hack up one dinner's worth of yellow crookneck squash, tomato, red pepper, and broccoli took 4 minutes. That includes the time peeling and squooshing the garlic clove... for whatever that's worth.

And in fact, I'm kinda being one of those could-be-slackers right now. I've been sick for 3 days - out of the past 48 hours, I think I've slept for 40. I had planned to make a Red Velvet Cake for our Valentine's Day dessert - it was our wedding cake. But then the whole sleeping thing and, well, no cake. So then I was going to run out to Whole Foods and buy a few slices, and even that is beyond me at the moment. I love to cook and truly see value beyond price and nutrition in preparing my own meals, but the last thing I'm going to do is get all cookier-than-thou about someone who's too sick, too tired, too bad of a cook to do it all from scratch everyday. Isn't life too short?

So in honor of my Valentine I am pulling it together long enough to get one of his favorite meals on the table - Chicken Parmesan. In this case it would actually be more work for me to drive to the store and buy a jar of prepared spaghetti sauce than to use what's onhand at home. I smooshed two cloves of garlic into a little olive oil, opened a can of San Marzano tomatoes, and pulled a dollop or two of tomato paste* out of the freezer. Then I sat down and waited for the Magic of Heat to turn it into sauce. When it's cooked down a little I'll add some oregano and basil. Done.

I line this up assembly-line style on the counter - chicken on the left, then a dish with the beaten egg, then a dish with the bread crumbs, then the skillet.

The breadcrumbs, by the way, are from the Honey-Oat Bread I made a few weeks ago. Making homemade bread is WAY too much work to just toss the bread when I was tired of it, so not wanting to waste all that effort I sliced it, dried it in the oven, and ran it through the blender to make breadcrumbs, which I keep in the freezer. And there's nothing in the world like real breadcrumbs to inexpensively bring the dish up to the next level.

*I never, ever use a full can of tomato paste for anything. Get out some waxed paper, put 1-tablespoon-sized dollops of paste on the paper, and freeze. The next time you need tomato paste just get whatever you need out of the freezer.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Chicken Parmesan
Healthy Chicken - Barbara Chernetz

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (OR crushed gluten-free corn flakes)
2 cups spaghetti or pasta sauce
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced (or shredded, it doesn't matter)
1 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese (if you can, do real Parmesan and not the green can)

1. Place each piece of chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound gently to flatten each piece to an even 1/4-inch thickness. (Note - I used what I had onhand, which was chicken tenders).

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg with 1 TBSP water. Place the breadcrumbs on a flat plate.

3. Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then in the bread crumbs to coat.

4. Coat a large nonstick skillet with vegetable cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Spread 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce over the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan (I just use whatever baking dish is handy). Place the chicken on the sauce, then top with the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake until the dish is hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I mean, if everyone cooked their own food, I'd have to get a real job! :)