Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Lazy Carnivore's Guide to Delicious Dinners.

Just a little announcement before we begin: Reflections of a Shallow Pond, from this point forward, will be a food blog. No more twisted fiction, no more raunchy rhymes, future posts will contain nothing but photos of my food—a bag of pretzels from the vending machine, half of a stale maple bar from two cubicles over—you'll see everything I eat accompanied by three to seven funny hash tags.

Aw, I'm just kidding. I'm actually getting started on a young adult series where our hero is a clown with rabies. Somehow he only manages to kill bad people, and you really start liking him by the end of book four.

Today, however, I really do want to discuss cooking because it can be fun, yes? In my opinion, nothing beats a leisurely Sunday afternoon spent preparing something delicious. Pot roast, salmon, maybe some grilled kabobs—most things taste terrific when we're bestowed with a relaxed timeline to really cultivate a meal.

Problem is, on those weeknights where everyone converges at home around six, a deadly tandem of low blood sugar and teen-induced, finicky entitlement can force a nice evening to break bad in a hurry.

Whether we're tapped out after riding the bus for an hour next to a guy soaked in Axe and Olde English or just can't justify going to the taco truck for the third night in a row, we need to crank something out and move on. Hit it and quit it, as the kids used to say.

I know most of you feel my pain, so I'd like to share the dishes I prepare when confronted with whiny family members, profound lack of motivation, or both. None are accompanied by fruit or vegetables, so feel free to shake out a bag of salad to ease your parental conscience. And as a typical work week essentially consists of four dinner days (Monday through Thursday), here are my top four hasty tasty dinners:

4) Pizza: Ive eaten so much of it in my life that my DNA has become indistinguishable from the genetic code of Canadian Bacon. So why not learn to make it, right? You know, teach a man to fish, yada, yada.

It's pretty straight-forward. Buy two boxes of Appian Way pizza crust and stretch out the dough on a greased cookie sheet. Try using latex gloves to reduce stickiness. Bake the crust alone at 425° for ten minutes, then remove from the oven. The Appian Way sauce is good, but take it a step further and mix another brand in with it, like Contadina or Ragu. Add your toppings and bake for an additional fifteen minutes. You'll be watching Wheel of Fortune before you can Sajak!

3) Beef stroganoff: Your brood will come a runnin' for this fun frolic of noodle and cow. It's nothing but meat and carbs, but even a tattered coyote would taste good after marinating for nine hours in the crock pot. Combine stew meat, two cups of beef bullion, a tablespoon each of ketchup and Worcestershire in a slow cooker. Go to work or your local bar for the day.

In the evening, add mushrooms and two tablespoons of flour and stir until thick. Mix in a cup of sour cream and pour over egg noodles. Hot freaking damn it's good, and the back of the recipe book makes it even better:

In this woman's world, crockery is no mockery.

2) Sloppy Joes: This is a lowest-common-denominator meal, whether you're in a crunch to get to the science fair or in front of Netflix for the season finale of Broadchurch. On the bell-shaped curve of food preparation effort, it falls somewhere between unwrapping gum and washing a fork.

Fry up a pound-and-a-half of ground beef (or a combo of beef and ground turkey), drain it and combine with the Sloppy Joe seasoning, a cup of water and tomato paste. Throw in some of that sauce from pizza night to give it an added zing. Toast hamburger buns and top them with the bubbling, saucy deliciousness. Add shredded cheddar and you'll discover there's nothing sloppy about these Joes, yo.

1) French dips: In our house, French dips continue to dwarf the other easy dinners. Why? They taste as good as the restaurant version and no one has to tip the bastard in the kitchen. You can go all Safeway on these, too, from the sandwich rolls to the frozen steak fries to the deli roast beef to the au jus.

With two minutes remaining for the fries to bake, lightly butter the rolls and broil. During that time, heat up the roast beef in the microwave. Everything comes together in a magical synergy as you top your French Dip with horseradish; grilled onions and melted provolone are optional.

Well, there you have it—a week's worth of dinners that take about the same amount of energy as scratching your tuchus. Try them and I promise you, your family will embrace their mediocrity with a watered down passion you haven't experienced since Ted Cruz picked a running mate.

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