Thursday, November 21, 2013

Convenience Food

"Feed me with food convenient for me." Proverbs 30:8

Whoa!  Do I have a proof text for fast food?  Just what I've been looking for, hehe...

Okay, here it is in context:
"Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." Proverbs 30:8-9

I looked up "convenient" in the dictionary.  It comes from a Middle English word that can mean "appropriate, befitting".  The writer is asking for just enough.  Nothing too rich or fancy.  That might cause him to forget that he is daily dependent upon Almighty God.  Too big for his britches, you might say.  But, not too poor, either.  Absolute starvation could cause him to steal out of necessity or other acts of desperation, thus ruining his testimony.

And what about the vanity and lies part?  How often are we guilty of projecting that we are of more consequence than we really are.  A sort of keeping up with the Joneses, if you will.

I find here the simple life advocated in a most winsome way.  " 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be; And when you find yourself in the place just right, 'twill be in the Valley of Love and Delight" -Shaker Hymn

I would like to start a series on Convenience Foods.  Food that is simple, healthy, frugal, delightful.  And ways to make such food truly convenient and doable in today's complicated world.
I will begin with Beans and Rice.
Yawn....
Wait, not just any beans and rice.  Exciting Beans!  Celestial Rice!  Not Your Great-Grandma's Beans and Rice!!  Nourishing and Exotic Beans and Rice from all over the world!!!

Are you excited now?

Good.

My family of 6 was in raptures this week with a substantial meal I prepared using 1 cup of rice, 1 pound of beans, 1 1/2 chicken breasts and 1/2 a cup of cheese.  There were a few extras required, (such as 1 can tomato sauce, some spices and some veggies and tortillas) but this is the basis of our Chicken Fajita Fiesta with Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, Restaurant Style Queso and Pico De Gallo.

It was really good.  And filling.  Not only did my dear hubby personally eat 5 fajitas, there was enough left over for lunch the next day!  Move over Taco Bell...  This is real convenience food!

It begins with a really good pot of beans.  I try to fix several pounds of beans every few weeks and freeze them for some fast food.  Here is how I begin:

Mexican Beans

Rinse 1-2 lbs dry pinto beans, put in large pot and cover with water.  Add1/2 tsp baking soda to the soaking water.  (helps cut down on gas)   Either soak overnight or bring to a boil for 2 minutes.  Let sit an hour or more.  Rinse and drain beans.  Place back in pot.  Cover with fresh water plus 2 inches.  Add (here's where it gets fun!)  a few spoonfuls of bacon grease, butter or vegetable oil.  The oil keeps the beans from foaming so much.  Bacon grease is the most flavorful.  You decide!  Chop and add 1 large onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Stir in a generous amount of chili powder and cumin, maybe a tablespoon of each, up to you.  Simmer 1 1/2 hours, salt to taste and continue to simmer until fully cooked, maybe another 30 minutes.  Your house is going to be smelling heavenly by now...
These beans are perfect to eat as is, over rice, added to Taco Soup or Chili or, my favorite...

Refried Beans

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add butter or bacon grease, about 1 tablespoon.  Ladle in several spoonfuls of Mexican Beans, trying to put in more beans than juice, but definitely need some juice.  As it begins to simmer, use a potato masher to mash the beans smooth.  If it's runny, just bring up the heat and let simmer until thick.  Add extra salt, chili powder or cumin to taste.

We had our leftover refried beans today in Grilled, Stuffed Burritos.  Originally, they nestled on our dinner plates next to their BFF:

Spanish Rice

Heat 1/4 c oil in skillet with lid. (don't use the lid just yet)  Stir 1 cup of rice over medium high heat until golden.  Stir in 1 chopped onion, 1/2 a bell pepper, 1 tomato and 2 cloves of garlic.  Let saute about a minute.  Stir in one 8 oz can of tomato sauce, 2 cups water (I use the tomato can to measure) 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp of chili powder.  Place lid and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Chicken Fajitas

I had 1 1/2 chicken breasts in the freezer.  The first half of the package had been put to noble use in Sick Day Chicken Soup  When partially thawed I sliced into thin pieces, placed them into a plastic container and poured about 1/4 cup lemon juice, dash of worcestershire, dash of liquid smoke, garlic salt and lemon pepper.  Snap on the lid, shake and let marinate a few hours if you have time.  If you don't, just finish thawing in the microwave.  Slice 1 1/2 bell peppers and 1 1/2 onions.  Cook the chicken in a small amount of oil until done, about 8 minutes, add the veggies and cook on high until the onions are slightly carmelized.

You are going to want some Queso and Pico to top things off.

Restraurant Style Queso

Melt a 1/4 cup butter in small saucepan.  Saute 1/4 finely minced onion and clove of garlic.  Stir in 2 Tbs flour and whisk until smooth.  Add 1 cup of chicken broth or 1 cup water plus 1 cube of chicken bouillon.  Stir while boiling until thick and bouillon is dissolved.  Add small amount of milk, maybe 1/4-1/2 a cup.  Don't let it boil now.  Stir in 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar or Velveeta until it's thick and smoothly melted.  You can add minced jalepeno, some canned green chili, Ro-tel tomatoes or chipotle chili powder for a little heat.

Last but not least...

Pico De Gallo

Chop 1 onion, 2 tomatoes and a few jalepeno slices.  Mix in a bowl with chopped cilantro (if you have it, if not it's ok) lemon or lime juice (or vinegar in a pinch) salt and pepper.

Warm tortillas between damp paper or dish towels in microwave 30 seconds.

It may all seem like a lot of work, but if you can spread it out over the course of the day, it's not so bad.  And it sets you up to have a lot of useful leftovers, particularly beans.  Stayed tuned for more beautiful bean footage...