Friday, August 20, 2010

Quick and Easy

Ever since last year's first few weeks of school, I have been planning to rethink my menu choices for the beginning of the school year. Why? Because the first few weeks of school involve long hours in the classroom, and I don't have time to cook a long and involved dinner when I get home.

So I have been planning to compile a list of quick and easy dinner recipes that are good for twelve-hour workdays, and upon the suggestion of a friend (thanks Audra!), I thought I'd share the recipes with all of you.

Cooking from a box makes me depressed, so all of the recipes I will post over the next few weeks are (for the most part) from scratch. I tried to find recipes that don't call for lots of veggies to be chopped up (that's time-consuming) or lots of pots and pans to be used (that creates a hectic, messy kitchen). Also, hopefully you live close to a Trader Joe's because that is my favorite place to buy groceries, so lots of the ingredients in these meals are found there. You'll be able to find the ingredients elsewhere, but it just might be a little bit more expensive (for things like sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts).

To get us started off, here's a meal that we ate this week that definitely falls into the Quick-and-Easy category.

Parmesan Fish with Asparagus-Cooked-the-Best-Way-I've-Found-Yet and Ciabatta Garlic Bread

Parmesan Fish:

  • 1 fish fillet per person (Recipe calls for catfish, but I used something called basa fish, which is apparently a cousin of the catfish. You could also use cod, sea bass, orange roughy, or something similar)
  • 3/4 c. unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbs. chopped dried or fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • 1/3 c. butter, melted
  • In a wide, shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic powder. You can increase the amount of the spices if you like stronger flavor (like me). 
  • Dip each fish fillet in butter, then in bread crumb and Parmesan mixture. 
  • Arrange fillets in a baking dish and sprinkle with paprika. If there is any butter left over, drizzle that over the top of the fish, too. (Tip: Before you put the fish into the pan, double-line it with aluminum foil, so when it's time to clean up, all you have to do is throw away the foil. No pan-scrubbing required!)
  • Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. 

Ciabatta Garlic Bread:

*Note: I buy a mini par-baked Ciabatta loaf from TJ's for $1.99. It is our favorite bread to have as a side for any meal, and one loaf lasts the two of us two meals. I cut it in half and freeze the other half. 

*Note: Start the garlic bread when the fish has 15 minutes to go.

  • 1 Ciabatta loaf
  • Butter
  • Garlic salt
  • Slice the bread in half vertically.
  • Spread each half with butter.
  • Sprinkle each half with garlic salt.
  • Put the halves back together and stick it in the oven next to the pan of fish when the fish has ten minutes left. (Don't wrap it in foil). When the fish is done, your bread will be hot, soft, and just a little crispy around the edges. YUM. (This bread is seriously like dessert for me).


*Note: The asparagus cooks very quickly, so start this when the fish has just about five minutes to go in the oven. 

  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbs. Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Trim ends off of asparagus
  • Pour enough water into a wide frying pan to be about 1" deep. Bring water to a boil, and add asparagus. 
  • Most important step: TIME THE ASPARAGUS! If you have nice thin stalks, boil (covered) for only one minute. If your asparagus has thicker stalks, boil (covered) for two minutes. As soon as your timer beeps, turn off the heat and drain the asparagus. 
  • Toss asparagus with lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan, and salt to taste.

In 25 minutes, you will have a yummy dinner on the table! I'm not a wine connoisseur, but I think some kind of white wine would be really good with this. 

If you try this meal, let me know how it turns out for you!

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