Are you bored of making the same food in your tiny apartment kitchen, day after day, week after week? The realization that the food you’re making, or “preparing” is just plain boring may actually start to depress you. But have no fear, common sense is just an *egg crack* away!
There are a variety of reasons that the food you’ve been making is boring, or just not that flavorful. It usually starts with your abilities in the kitchen. If you’re limiting yourself to the microwave…well, that’s not a good start. Frozen entrees only have so much appeal after awhile. Another simple explanation of your lack of culinary expertise may be from your general knowledge of what flavors work/don’t work together. Being able to make the distinction between sweet/savory, and sour/tart can be extremely useful when making a list of different meals.
So lets cut the chit chat and get straight to it. Below are two of my recent favorites that will have your roommates peeking in and out of the kitchen, hoping there will be some shareable leftovers. These entrees are anything but boring, extremely nutritious, and relatively inexpensive as long as you aren’t shopping at Whole Foods:
1. Citrus Caribbean Jerk Chicken, served with Green Beans
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Caribbean Jerk Chicken is one of my personal favorites, and there are many ways you can prepare your poultry depending on whether you have access to a grill or just a stove-top frying pan. Let’s focus on the frying pan method for now.
The first thing you want to do is defrost your chicken and get it into the Jerk Marinade early in the day. If you’re leaving for work and want to prepare this meal when you get home, take the chicken out of the freezer. Use a steak knife and cut your boneless pieces into 4 or 5 strips once thawed, and then put them into a Ziploc bag. Next, pour your marinade (however generously) into the bag. As a general rule of thumb, you want the marinade to evenly coat all of the meat once in the bag. Swish the Ziploc bag around to make sure the marinade is evenly dispersed, and then stow the bag in the refrigerator to thaw and soak for the remainder of the day.
Now comes the easy part; throwing it on the stove while you prepare the green beans. Take out your frying pan and put it on low heat. You don’t need to turn it on high, that’s unnecessary. Add olive oil or coconut oil (based on preference) to coat the pan, and then add your chicken pieces. Cover the pan and let it sit on medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. After 5, take the cover off, add more oil if needed, and flip your chicken pieces. Put the lid on for another 5, and let the chicken simmer. After about 10 minutes, you can take the cover off entirely and let the chicken sit on low heat.
This last step is incredibly important. I can’t tell you how many slapstick chicken dinners I’ve had where the chicken was crispy on the outside, and undercooked on the inside. By taking the lid off at the end, you are actually allowing the chicken to breathe and finish cooking before you serve it.
After the chicken is done, take your vegetables (I prefer frozen organic), and put them in the microwave to defrost slightly. Finish cooking them on the same pan you used for the chicken to infuse the flavors, giving you the best of both worlds.
Season with salt and pepper, and serve with a lemon wedge (if you have) to enhance the chicken flavor.
2. Italian Sausage served with Sautéed Red Cabbage and Apples.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
This is a newer dish that I only recently discovered. I was a bit skeptical that the flavors would actually pair together, but they do, and quite nicely. There is good balance in this dish between the savory/smokey flavor you get from the sausage, and the sweetness you get from the cabbage.
The way to go about cooking this dish in a timely manner is to sauté the cabbage while your sausage has almost finished cooking in the oven or grill. The sausage will stay warm for quite some time, but if you make the cabbage too early, it will cool off and not be as fresh after reheating.
Making the sausage is really easy, just make sure you’re getting the right kind at the grocery store. Hillshire Farms is a consistently good and trusted brand, although they do use Nitrates to process their links. Look for key words like All Natural, Mild, Hot, Gluten-Free, and No Additives. Also, stay away from Jimmy Dean.
Once you’ve got your brand, preheat the oven to 350 and place your sausages on a baking sheet covered with Aluminum foil and some Non-Stick spray. Cut the tops of each sausage open so they will cook faster from the inside. Don’t be afraid to make deep incisions. If you want, you can season the inside of the sausage with Dill or Black Pepper. Dill, which is one of my favorites herbs to cook with, will give a hint of sweetness and overall subtle green taste to your food.
Bake the sausages for approximately 25 minutes and flip each sausage over halfway through the process. Once you have flipped your sausages over, you can begin with the sauté.
So, if you bought a head of Red Cabbage at the grocery store, slice it like you would a head of Romaine Lettuce, from the fat end first. You’re also going to need a thinly sliced apple (preferably red), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. The idea with the cabbage is to combine it with the sliced apple, and sauté them as one on medium heat in a little bit of olive oil. Once the apple slices and cabbage have started to brown, you can go ahead and “splash” the frying pan with balsamic vinegar. This “splashing” method is the same technique used when cooking sautéed mushrooms in a white wine sauce.
Once the balsamic vinegar has been absorbed, try a piece of the cabbage. It should be somewhat soft; definitely not still crunchy. Turn the burner off and sprinkle brown sugar over the cabbage while its hot and let the brown sugar caramelize for about five minutes.