Monday, April 3, 2017

Around the kitchen table with the authors at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen



LINDA: We're back at the kitchen table and you know, we're having a lot of fun doing this monthly joint blog. From your responses, it seems that most of you are enjoying it also. We certainly hope that's the case.Today, our topic is one that is especially dear to my heart, what do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?

If I'm in that no-cooking frame of mind and ravenous, I opt for cheese (I usually have several varieties on hand at any given time), bread or crackers, and some wine. Ideal, tasty, easy and fast. But if I can hold off several minutes, I'll do a grilled cheese sandwich using my panini maker. As I mentioned, I always have some cheese on hand and these days, following a tip from fellow MLK Mary Jane Maffini, I slice a green apple to add to the grilled cheese. It adds a satisfying crispness and acidity to this old standby.

I will admit that it's easier to opt not to cook for those who don't have to worry about any other mouths to feed. I sometimes take it one step further, and like Lynn Johnston, the creator of that wonderful cartoon strip For Better or Worse, admits to doing now that she's on her own -- I eat, standing up at the kitchen counter. How freeing is that. And healthy, too, the standing up part.
The key phrase is: no cooking, no clean-up. Now, that's easy.


LESLIE: You mean, besides order pizza? Back when when one of the local restaurants had a take-out fridge, I picked up ribs for Mr. Right and crab cakes for me one evening, and mentioned to the chef-owner that I just didn't feel like cooking. He replied that he never felt that way -- which clearly means he had the right job!

On those nights, our go-to is usually spaghetti and meatballs. A couple of times a year, Mr. Right makes a good-sized batch of meatballs, using ground sirloin, Parmesan, Panko breadcrumbs, and red pepper flakes. He wraps them in plastic, 4-6 in a package, and tosses them all in a Zip-loc in the freezer. Heat the meatballs in the microwave, boil up some pasta, open a jar of marinara sauce and a bottle of red wine, and voila -- dinner!

But I do miss Chef Neil's crab cakes!

LUCY: Oh how I love grilled cheese--I've started adding sliced avocados, and the last time I made this, used both Swiss cheese and some fresh mozzarella. I make these in a frying pan with a little butter and olive oil--delicious! And we love crab cakes too, Leslie! And are fortunate to have a wonderful fish market in Key West that makes them to die for.

But if it's summertime, and the tomatoes are in season, my go-to no-cook recipe is chunks of tomatoes marinated with fresh mozzarella chunks, strips of fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and good olive oil. When it's time for dinner, cook the best pasta (I order from Eataly), sprinkle with parmesan, and dump on the tomatoes. Heaven, and so easy! (If you aren't worried about sodium, a few kalamata olives are a good addition too.)

SHEILA: My husband takes the easy way out: he makes Breakfast for Dinner, which is bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast or English muffins. My grandmother, who never learned to cook, settled for cereal and ice cream for supper (a real treat when my sister and I were kids!). Me, I have the most ridiculously well-stocked pantry I've ever seen, but there are days when I can't figure out what I want (well, maybe a French chef to drop in and throw together something, and of course clean up afterwards).


I'm fond of marinades and rubs, and things like fish which cook quickly, or spatchcocked chicken that I can just stick on a pan and bake for a while. But the most recent go-to meal is pasta. These days our market is carrying nice fresh ravioli and tortellini, which are easy (boil water, add pasta, drain--then fancy it up with whatever you have on hand) and taste really good.

LESLIE: Is there anyone who doesn't occasionally love breakfast for dinner? I was probably forty before I realized that when my mother made it for us as kids, it was usually because she felt a little in need of comforting herself!


 VICTORIA/AKA MJ

The old jokes goes like this:  'Question What's the best things she makes for dinner?  Answer: Reservations. Sometimes, that's fun, but more often I don't feel going out any more than I feel like cooking. That 'don't feel like cooking thing' comes on quickly.  My favorite rescue is a quick saute with garlic, parsley, lemon and raw peeled shrimp.  From freezer to ta table takes just a few minutes. This is so easy and it feels special.



But if it's confession time and it's just us friends here, then I'll admit that sometimes I heat up a can of mushroom soup and hide the evidence.  I may also be wearing pyjamas.  Shhh.

DARYL:

Lucy, I can never thank you enough for introducing me to Eataly. Whenever I go to NY, I have to stop in!  It's such a phenomenal store!  Linda, I, too, always have cheese around and gluten-free bread in the freezer. I love my panini grill!!! So that's definitely a good easy choice. I love cheese and wine and some sliced veggies or fruit as a meal. Simple. Slice it. Set the goodies on a napkin. Wash the knife. Done.  I'm all for taking whatever is in the fridge and making a smorgasbord, too.  Hardboiled egg, some lettuce with a drizzle of dressing, slices of cheese, and hopefully I have an avocado. When in doubt and out of everything in the refrigerator, scrambled eggs!  This [see picture] is a pretty pathetic looking empty refrigerator, isn't it? Guess what I ate last night?  LOL  FYI, I don't like to eat standing up. I still like a meal where I sit and listen to the news or go outside and listen to the birds or read a book. It depends on my mood.

KRISTA:
I confess that I'm a sandwich girl when I'm being lazy. Ham, or tuna, or peanut butter and jam are what I reach for when I want a quick and easy dinner. I have been known to make omelets or German pancakes, so I guess I do breakfast for dinner sometimes, too. Not very chic, but true.


CLEO: Marc and I are sandwich fans, too, Krista. We like to do Italian cold cuts with fresh lettuce, tomato, and banana peppers piled on crusty rolls. Or we'll put slices of salami on a plate with fresh mozzarella and drizzle it all with olive oil. Hot dogs are another quickie meal for us, and we have fun tarting them up with chopped onions and relish, or a bit of leftover chili or taco meat. Marc's Danger Dogs, on the stove or on the grill, are always guilty pleasures. Fast Tex-Mex is a quesadilla with whatever cheese is on hand with salsa and sour cream. And there's always good old peanut butter with honey, jam, or bananas for a no-fuss, no cook meal. Fun post and great ideas all!


PEG
I'm getting some great ideas from you guys! Sheila, spatchcocking a chicken and baking it is not "not cooking."  Just an FYI.  If I'm going to "sort of" cook I'll do pasta with clam sauce.  Saute garlic in olive oil, throw in two cans of chopped clams, heat and eat. If you want to get real fancy, add some chopped parsley.  But "not cooking" does not include washing and chopping parsley in my opinion.  I can't do pasta sauce in a jar--just can't. Unless it's Rao's but if I'm buying that I might as well buy a steak!  The price!  If I'm really not cooking and there aren't any leftovers in the freezer, I'll make us BLTs. 




How about you? 

What do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?

Let us know in the comments below...






35 comments:

  1. Love everyone's ideas! My go-to meals when I don't feel like cooking are simple omelettes and vegetable stir-fry dishes. Quick, nourishing, no fuss-meals. EMS591@aol.com

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  2. Great ideas! Cheese is always my fall back. On crackers or bread, with a glass of wine. Grilled cheese is good too. And it doesn't take much more energy to make a stovetop mac and cheese. Toss in some peas, or add a side of sliced tomatoes,and dinner's done.

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  3. I'm on team sandwich for those no cook days. I love this forum where you all share your ideas. Danger Dogs are on my next to try list.

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    1. Hope you enjoy the "Danger Dogs," Amy. When Marc makes them, I can't resist. Guilty pleasure easy dinner, for sure!

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  4. You gals are great! (Is that PC-- "gals")
    As to the grilled cheese with apple--add some thinly sliced red onion. It's a perfect balance to the other two.

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    1. I think Gals is fine with us Libby! and the onion is a great addition, maybe sauteed in a little butter first?

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    2. I love gals! It speaks of fun and friends!

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    3. You can call me gal, guy, or even girl (at my age, it's flattering). Just don't call me late for dinner!

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    4. We can rely on Cleo to add the proper touch! Considering "Cleo" is Alice and Marc, I guess we really could call them gal/guy.

      Lucy/Roberta, I think sauteing the onion first would be lovely, but isn't that cooking? Besides, the crunch is rather nice.

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  5. Pita bread pizza - sauce, seasonings and whatever cheese and vegetables I have on hand.

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  6. Quesadillas are always good, but I also love grilled cheese trying out all different kinds of cheeses, and of course the good ol' standby, breakfast for dinner -- pancakes in a bowl ~

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    1. Celia, quesadillas are always a good choice. So easy and you can add anything to them. Now, I have to admit, i'm not sure what pancakes in a bowl is. LOL ~ Daryl

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    2. Celia and Daryl - I'm intrigued, too! Does the bowl perhaps help pool the maple syrup? Could be a syrup-lovers dream come true.

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  7. I open a can of tuna fish and flake it, add a can of cream of mushroom soup and bring to a simmer.. add any melt able cheese that you like and mix it with pasta... cover with more cheese and bake till it is golden brown and dig in (we also added peas and or corn to it when the kids were little).

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    1. Mushroom soup is a guilty pleasure for me. I like it in anything. Good suggestion, Nora!

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    2. Nora and Mary Jane - Agree on the mushroom soup, a real shortcut for a lot of quick recipes!

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  8. I haven't ever grasped how to cook "just for two" so we always have lots of leftovers around which we eat for a few nights at a time. I freeze some of it into individual portions and then when I really don't feel like cooking (or we're tired of the current leftovers) I grab "freezer surprise" for dinner and reheat up in the microwave with serve with a side salad and crusty french bread.

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    1. Kim, I have the same problem! I'm still cooking for four even though there are only two of us now. But that's okay because I love those frozen leftovers. Although a few times I've opened a plastic container and wondered what IS that? I must get better at labeling them!

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    2. LOL! Freezer surprise. So handy! My hubby always makes too much soup and never remembers what's in what container. Usually works out well though (but not always: I'm talking to you, Fish Broth)

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  9. When we don't feel like cooking like on Monday nights we make brats and french fries. So easy and we really like if there are no fries in the freezer then we go with a salad just something easy to clean up and fast!

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  10. I usually keep at least one lasagna in the freezer. I can pop it in the oven. I also like making a salad when the weather is hot. Or I can tell my boyfriend it's his turn to cook which means we'll got out someplace.

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    1. Sandy - LOL on the "tell the boyfriend" menu solution. I'm also a fan of those big salads (a la Seinfeld) when the weather is hot. (We're still waiting on the balmy temps. here in chilly NYC.)

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  11. All the comments about grilled cheese made with a panini press are making me crave one -- again! So far, I've convinced myself that my hips are better off without one, but I'm beginning to doubt my judgment!

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  12. When I dont feel like cooking (almost always the case), I make a sandwich (pimento cheese, liverwurst, salami, whatever I have on hand) pasta of some kind and simple (soup, with just some canned tomatoes, rotel tomatoes, or just parmesan and always angel hair) or a salad. Although salads tend to be a big event for me as I have to add everything including the kitchen sink in one. Then it is so big I have to save it for several meals and honestly I tend to forget I have it. Now I havent a clue what I am doing for dinner. I also cant remember what I had for lunch. Oh wait it was a fried egg sammie.

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    1. Soup is always a good go-to, isn't it? Yum. ~ Daryl

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