Saturday, March 3, 2012


Friday night's dinner was:

Pan-fried salmon
shells & cheese with truffle oil
home-canned green beans
homemade tartar sauce

I frequently get asked by people how we manage to make homemade meals like the one above on a nearly daily basis.  They claim that they're too exhausted to cook after working all day and can't figure out how we manage it.  I'll let you in on a secret - everything we make isn't totally homemade.  I knew by Friday night we'd both be tired and not into cooking anything elaborate so I chose an easy meal plan.  The salmon (wild caught) was purchased frozen at Aldi's, pulled out the night before to thaw and was quickly pan fried with some dill and lemon pepper.  I also purchased a box of shells & cheese at Aldi's to which we added a small dribble of truffle oil to boost the flavor.  Opened and heated up the green beans and we had an easy meal that took probably about 20 minutes to fix.  Deciding on what type of pizza to order usually takes us longer then this meal did to prepare.  Last night we also split up the cooking.  While I was cooking and prepping the green beans and mac & cheese, Matt cooked the salmon which took probably about 5 minutes since the fillets were thin.

It wouldn't have made sense to make an entire batch of mac & cheese for a side dish just for this meal so boxed mac & cheese can be a handy pantry item.  Depending on what it will be accompanying, there are a variety of items that can be added to pop the flavor and make it taste almost homemade.

* truffle oil - if you haven't tried truffle oil it is a huge pop of flavor and requires a very small amount to add a touch of gourmet taste

* bacon - take several pieces and chop into small slices then cook and sprinkle into the mac & cheese at the end - you might also want to sprinkle some on top

* broccoli - add about 1/2 cup chopped broccoli that's been steamed or you could add in to the pop with the pasta while the pasta is cooking (good use for leftover broccoli)

* bacon & broccoli - I'd probably cut the broccoli amount back to 1/4 so it doesn't overwhelm the bacon

* chopped green chilies - if you like spicy food add some chopped green chilies to taste

* sun-dried tomatoes - chop up a couple sun-dried tomatoes and add for color and taste

* add cheese - you can add a variety of additional cheeses such as smoked Gouda or sharp cheddar to change up the flavor of the cheese sauce

The options are endless.  The bland mac & cheese suddenly isn't so bland any more.  So rethink how you make basic things like mac & cheese and see if you can think of something to add to the dish to liven it up and make it more appealing. 

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