Most people don’t have time to cook. You know this, no revelation. What’s left of you after a not-enough-time-to-breathe workday collapses over a menu at the next swabbed table. Other evenings find you and your child studying for tomorrow’s test as the car idles, waiting for dinner to be handed through a drive-through window.
Last year Mark Bittman wrote an article for the New York Times examining, then dismissing, the American notion that junk food is cheaper than fresh. Many of us believe, as well, a fast food dinner is — well — faster than a preparing a home cooked meal.
Cheap, fast food. That’s an easy pill to swallow in today’s no-time or no-cash reality. Therefore, fast food is easy to rationalize, even though we know a diet based on highly processed food is unhealthy. Every day we’re barraged with statistical data on the super-sizing of American’s population, in large part due to the proliferation of diets based on fatty-laden fast food. According to healthland,time.com (August 2011), for every grocery store in American, there are five fast-food restaurants.
If your New Year’s resolution is to buck the trend and eat nutritious food, one of the best places to start is in your own kitchen. And if you have the right recipe arsenal at the ready, you can eat healthier, save time and — surprise! — money.
I’m an advocate of dietary balance. This means after six weeks of celebratory feasting — my dinner table groaning under a parade of well-marbled meat drenched in gravy, potatoes loaded with cream and butter, and torts laden with luscious whipped toppings — it’s time for recipe whiplash. I’m not talking calorie counting — oh no, no, no — not something that extreme. I just plan to trim the sails, and I’ll have the best control over my direction when I cook my own meals.
My wallet is also feeling the pain of those aforementioned excesses. Reviewing December’s credit card statement, it’s time to batten down the hatch on my grocery bill as well. Cooking healthy food quickly and on a budget is not as daunting a task as one would think. But (and here’s the spoiler), you must shop for groceries and turn on your stove.
This recipe is a favorite home-cooked/fast-food nutritional meal. Fresh fish, even wild-caught varieties, are often on sale at area groceries. If you find a particularly good sale (cod is often discounted to the $6 per pound range), load your cart and freeze it. And what could be quicker and easier than dumping a can of diced tomatoes over the fish then popping it into the oven? Save even more time by purchasing a can of Italian-seasoned tomatoes, and omit the fresh herbs.
Serve the fish with whole grain pasta, quinoa or a baked sweet potato. Round it off with a steamed vegetable. Throw in a slice of whole grain bread; the sky is the limit. Feed a family of four for under $20, which is competitive — if not down right cheaper — than any fast food you can find on the road.
Six weeks of holiday excess followed by six weeks of moderation will land me at Valentine’s Day. A juicy steak topped with gorgonzola followed by a luscious chocolate mousse with be lovingly embraced.