Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quick Dinner

I was thinking whilst I made my regular dinner that maybe others could benefit from my method. I like to cook but I also like to eat without waiting too long. This meal takes about 15-20mins. This is for one person but I'm sure you could adapt it fairly easily.

Notes on ingredients:

My philosophy is to get the best ingredients for the best price. But I'm not travelling crosstown to get some cinnamon. I mostly use the supermarkets and occasionally a deli.

Ingham Chicken Selections, Sweet Thai Chilli, Chicken Breast
These are one of the few microwaveable chicken portions on the market (the other brand I tried was awful). They are not 100% chicken but are 88% chicken breast which is formed. They taste good and are ready in 4 mins. They are 19% protein, 8.4% fat and 7.1% carbs.
There is a honey mustard version which is OK but I prefer the chilli. You can't really taste chilli and it's not at all hot, it just has a nice flavour. I am not a fan of chicken breast as they are often bland and dry but these portions are tasty.

Heinz Lite Salad Cream
We have used this in my family for many years (although Mum used the full fat version). It tastes great and has a distinctive flavour. It is 18.9% fat, so I use it in small quantities.

Sacla Italia Classic Pesto Pasta Sauce
This has 36% basil and 5% parmesan and tastes great. It is 44.3% fat so I use it sparingly.

Always Fresh Fusions Black Olive Tapenade
I'm a recent devotee of olive tapenade. This is has 83% olives and is 18.5% fat. Small quantities.

Ayam Chilli Sauce - Hot
This is 25% chillies and as it is hot you only need a small amount for that chilli kick.

Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Premium Reserve
This is reasonablely priced, cold pressed (retains goodness) and made in Victoria, Australia. People say you shouldn't cook with extra virgin olive oil as its strong flavour is lost or its too expensive. I would agree generally but when you are cooking some garlic on low heat it adds flavour to the garlic. So there.

Sasso Balsamic Vinegar - Modena
Modena is the place where the best balsamic vinegar is made and this is one is good.

Mazzetti Balsum Wine Vinegar Dressing
This is a nice vinegar which contains grape must which adds depth of flavour. Also from Italy.

Firstly, don't ever buy oregano in a packet all chopped up. These are the leaves of the plant and have hardly any flavour. Go to a good italian deli and get a bunch of oregano which is the smaller flowers and they have a strong flavour, so you don't need much. I recently bought a bunch that comes packaged in plastic and it is very good. Previously I got a loose bunch from a local fruit and veg grocers. It takes a bit more work, as you have to remove the flowers from the stalks and branches and put them in a jar. It took me about 15 mins. It is totally worth it. It keeps indefinitely and depending on how much you use should last at least 6 months.

Bird's Eye Frozen Vegetables
I live alone so I don't buy fresh vegetables much as they don't last long in the fridge. I use frozen vegetables and am happy with the quality. This brand are made in Australia which is very important to me. Must support our farmers.

Ingham Chicken Selections - 1 piece (they vary between 110g to 130g)
Bird's Eye Broccoli Florets - 100g
Bird's Eye Julienne Carrots - 40g
Bird's Eye Baby Beans - 40g
Garlic clove - 1, minced or chopped finely.
Heinz Lite Salad Cream - 10g
Sacla Italia Classic Pesto - 10g or Always Fresh Fusions Black Olive Tapenade - 20g
Salt (sea)
Pepper (freshly ground black)
Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 teaspoon
Ayam Chilli Sauce Hot - 1 teaspoon (optional)

1. Microwave the vegetables in covered glass/ceramic dish for 3mins on high (650watt oven). I use a Pyrex glass dish with a loose fitting glass lid.

2. Whilst the vegetables are cooking, chop/mince the garlic.

3. Set aside vegetables. Microwave the chicken in a covered glass/ceramic dish for 2 mins on high. I use a bread plate covered with a desert/breakfast bowl.

4. Whilst the chicken is cooking, cut the broccoli florets and beans into smaller bite size pieces. This helps to speed the rest of the cooking, allows more sauce to cover them and is easier to eat!

5. Set aside the chicken. Microwave the vegetables for another 3 mins on high.

6. Whilst the vegetables are cooking, pour the olive oil into a medium sized solid based saucepan on low heat and put the garlic into the oil. Make sure the oil covers the garlic. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't fry and brown which makes garlic get bitter. The idea is to soften the garlic and release the flavour. Add salt and pepper to taste, the salt draws out moisture from the garlic helping to stop the garlic from burning.

7. Whilst the garlic is softening get your serving bowl (I use a deep sided round bowl as it helps in the mixing stage and saves having too many dishes to wash) and put in the salad cream and pesto or tapenade (and chilli sauce optional).

8. The vegetables should be finished cooking by now. Put them aside. Microwave the chicken for 1 min on high.

9. The garlic should be ready now. Turn off the heat but leave the pan on over the burner (if electric remove from element). Put some oregano into the pan, I use about half to one teaspoon, I use my hands and rub it between my fingers to release the oils and flavour as I put it in the pan. Mix the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and oil together and put in to the bowl with the salad cream etc. Mix it together. Add a half to 1 teaspoon of vinegar if you like. Vinegar has a lot of acetic acid which when taken with food slows the gastric acids from emptying the stomach which helps give a feeling of satiety and also acts a glycemic index lowerer as well. It is very good for you.

10. The chicken should have finished cooking by now. Remove the cover and microwave for 1 min on high. I have found that if the chicken is covered for the whole 4 mins it tends to sweat and get wet. I like it dry but moist so the last minute uncovered dries it out a little.

11. Put the vegetables into the hot pan, add salt and pepper to taste. Mix and cover. This absorbs some of the excess moisture and keeps the vegetables hot whilst finishing off the rest of the tasks.

12. The chicken should be ready now. Get a sharp vegetable/carving knife and slice the chicken so you have small bite size pieces. Put them into the pan with the vegetables and mix them together.

13. Put the chicken and vegetable mix into the serving bowl and mix the sauce through.

14. Voila! Eat a healthy meal that will stop you being hungry for awhile. For variations I alter between the pesto and the tapenade and the vinegars. Occasionally I add the chilli. I'm sure you could come up with some other flavours. Fresh basil, flavoured oils, lemon zest, lime juice etc.

If you give this meal a go I know you will enjoy it.

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