Monday, February 1, 2010

Savin' My Bacon

Currently I am experiencing something close to lunch ecstasy.

How, I'm sure you must be asking yourself, is someone who serves 5 meals a day most days enjoying her lunch experience?

Well, let me tell you!

First of all, the normal lunch whine around here goes something like: I don't know what to fix, the kids are sick of the same old meals again and again, they want trash and I'm aiming for nutritious and delicious, I couldn't think of any good ideas while I was at the grocery store so really now we're scrapping the bottom of the fridge.

Enter my impulse purchase at the Whole Foods magazine rack two weeks ago: America's Test Kitchen 30 Minute Suppers, 96 tear out cards.  Standing there I thought, wait!  this works.  I easily spend 30 minutes moping around the kitchen trying to figure out what to make and cobbling some lame thing together.  So why not be prepared to spend those 30 minutes cooking?

Because the magazine is produced by Cooks Illustrated and their test kitchen, I knew the food was going to be good.

And the magazine is brilliant.  First of all the format works - each page has four 4x5 tear out recipe cards.  The front of each card sports a tantalizing picture of the meal in question, grouped by protein source: chicken, beef, pork, soy, veggie. The back covers the usual recipe basics: ingredients and directions.   Did you catch that there are 95 recipes?  This means even if my family only likes 1/3 of the recipes, I have an entire month's worth of novel, delightful lunches.

Now on Sunday night I pick 5 meals, tear the cards out, flip them over and enter the ingredients list directly into  Then I post the cards on our bulletin board.  Viola, lunch is planned for the week.

What I most love about the recipes, besides the fact that they really do only take 30 minutes to prepare and they taste wonderful, is that 90% of the ingredients use whole foods.  Other quick recipes that I've used call for all sorts of processed foods to create the illusion of a nutritious meal. Speed at the cost of quality is not my thing.

A definite advantage I've discovered to this new system is that when we're out on a homeschool adventure and I know there is a 30 minute delicious, nutritious meal planned, it is so easy to say no to the kids' begging to go out for lunch. Honestly, aside from fast food, rarely does a restaurant seat and serves us food all of us will eat in less than 30 minutes.  Since we're easily out several times a week, we're talking measurably enhanced nutrition and money saved.

And did I mention the food is great?  Today we enjoyed muffuletta panini.  The other day there was a chicken parmesan so good I'm still geeking out about it.  Later this week I'm anxiously awaiting the Thai chicken curry with sweet potato and green beans.

Magazines usually only last a month at the stands - so run quick and grab one of these so you can join me in lunch nirvana.


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