Friday, October 7, 2011

College Staple Spif-up

College students! Tired of that same old Mac and Cheese? I know I am. Even when it's the best of the best (Annie's Shells & Cheese, duh) it still gets boring! For a few minutes extra you can boost flavor, nutrition and excitement in that mid-week meal. While you are boiling the water, saute some diced bell peppers and onions in some olive oil. Prepare the mac and cheese as directed but at the end, add some chili powder and stir in the vegetables. Seriously, it's that easy.

With very little time to spare this week, I tried to come up with the fastest and healthiest meals I could contrive. My favorite ingredient was tofu. It is a great source of protein, requires very little preparation and lends itself to almost any flavor. The first dish was straight forward and rather obvious: tofu, broccoli and onion stirfry served on top of a bed of lettuce. This meal is absurdly easy, low calorie and very tasty. Start by sauteing some diced onions in some oil. Don't salt these because soy sauce provides all the salt it needs. Add in broccoli and any other vegetables you want. Once they start to brown, add in the tofu. Drizzle with soy sauce, rice vinegar and some sesame oil. If you are a peanut butter fan, adding a teaspoon gives a nice creamy quality to the sauce. Once the sauce is reduced a bit, put everything over a bed of mixed greens. Meal one, done.

After getting tired of Asian food, I had to get creative. I had boxed butternut squash soup, carrot-ginger-cashew soup, mushrooms and tofu. I started by sauteing some garlic in olive oil and a bit of butter. Next I browned the sliced mushrooms, then added the tofu and sprinkled in a pinch of salt. I deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine. I heated some butternut squash soup in a pan and added a bit of curry powder, put the soup in a bowl and added some of the tofu-mushroom mixture. It turned out quite delicious. An ordinarily boring, smooth soup suddenly had new life.

So, with some extra vegetables and proteins, your same-old same-old weeknight dinners can be something to look forward to.