It’s no secret that we like things homemade and handmade here at Fland-made, but I would be lying if I said I make everything from scratch. Within the “foodie” community, recipes that are nothing but the assembly of processed ingredients (or quite silly directions for cooking something from some of Food Network’s celebrities) are met with nose-wrinkling criticism, but the truth is that some of us are just trying to get food on the table for our families as quickly, conveniently, and healfully as possible.
Now, I’m not advocating for the abandonment of the handmade and carefully constructed for convenience — this blog would not exist if that were so — but show me someone who doesn’t occasionally (or frequently) scramble to get food on the table and I’ll show you someone who is way more together than anybody I know (and I know some really organized individuals).
Anyhow, if you are one of the many who scrambles, here is a < 30 minute weeknight meal that satisfies the tastebuds, comfort center, and niggling voice that pipes up, “Eat something healthy today!”
A quick note on convenience and processed foods, however, before I give you the “recipe”: Grabbing a package off a shelf and sticking it in the microwave or a pot of boiling water is extremely easy and requires nearly no thought, which is especially attractive after a long day of work, childcare, etc. If, however, you are attempting to go Zero Waste, reduce your footprint, or watch what you put in your body, you probably feel a little squeamish when you do this. Here are some things I try to keep in mind when I buy packaged, processed foods:
- What is the packaging made of? Glass and aluminum are easily recycled, with aluminum recycling being the most efficient (see any article on recycling), and cardboard/paperboard is a renewable, biodegradable resource. Plastic is a whole different story, with much of the “recycled” plastic ending up in landfills or other unspeakable places, so I try to avoid it.
- What is in it? My favorite processed food is Teddy Peanut Butter, which has one ingredient: peanuts. Other foods will have more ingredients, but I tend to go by the rule that if I can pronounce it, it isn’t so bad. My favorite jarred tomato sauce, Newman’s Own, has all “whole” ingredients in it — tomatoes, dried basil, salt, sugar. There aren’t any ingredients on that jar that sound like they came from the environmental lab downstairs.
- Where is it from and who is getting my money? I am a lot more likely to buy processed foods that are from my state (our grocery store has handy “Close to Home” labels for products made in Maine) or fair trade or support charities (like Newman’s Own — plus, everybody loves food with Butch Cassidy on it).
- Am I eating it in moderation? Organic Annie’s Mac ‘n Cheese is still full of things that aren’t so good for you. But if it’s something I’m eating once or twice a month, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Even so, it’s a good idea to be aware of how much added sugar and salt there are in these products (especially things like jarred tomato sauce).
So, all that said, here is my weeknight meal.
Andouille Tortellini with Garlic Kale
1 package spinach ricotta Barilla tortellini (for a healthier meal, substitute a package of whole wheat pasta and double the rest of the ingredients)
1/2 jar Newman’s Own Cabernet Marinara
2 Andouille sausages (I love the North Country kind, but they do come in a plastic package), cut into small pieces
Parsley, for some extra green
1/2 bunch kale, tough stems removed and leaves cut into smaller pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Set a pot of water to boil of the pasta and cook the pasta according to directions.
2. While the pasta water boils, heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add kale and sauté until wilted (I use two spoons to stir it to keep from dumping too much kale overboard), adding minced garlic halfway through. When the kale is slightly singed but still green, remove it from heat. I find the little bit of singiness gives it a kale-chip-like taste. Yum. But you’re certainly welcome to remove it before it gets to that point, particularly if it is the more tender type of kale which cooks more quickly.
3. Put the kale in a different receptacle and use the same pan to heat the sausage until it is browned. Add the marinara and heat until warm.
4. By now, the tortellini should be done, and you are ready to eat! Garnish with parsley for an extra flavor boost.
Quick meals: They’re as fun as Moxie’s toy fish is to her! Happy back-to-school Monday, everybody!