Living in an urban area with no car, you’d think I wouldn’t know how to make myself a good meal very often.
That’s the whole point of city livin’ when you’re young, right? Carrie Bradshaw never cooked. Her dinner always consisted making reservations at a swanky restaurant for a romantic dimly lit dinner date at that week’s hottest new restaurant with Mr. Big or a New York Yankee.
Not that Sacramento is anything like New York City or Chicago or even San Francisco, but hey. It’s not hard to eat out every night when you live within walking distance of half a dozen fairly nice restaurants.
My goal each week is to avoid that trap.
It’s not easy to make meals from scratch every night. I would be lying to you if I told you I did. But I do buy fresh produce from the market (or my parent’s backyard) (or from a box) every week, and it makes a huge difference in my meals. With fresh meat and produce, you can go a long way… especially with the help of Trader Joe’s:
I got most of my groceries from TJ’s in college, but there aren’t very any that are conveniently close to me now (why wait for a ride when I can walk 4 blocks to Safeway?). TJ’s makes it easy to make meals at home. Pre-made sauces, actually appetizing microwave meals, you name it. When I was in SF a couple weekends ago, I stopped in Berkeley on the way back for coffee and chit chat with my long time friend Briana, and was stoked to see she lives right above the amazing Trader Joe.
I picked up some Luna bars, some cookie butter-stuffed dark chocolate, and their Harvest Grain Blend. This stuff is really good — a mix of Israeli couscous, orzo, mini garbanzo beans, and red quinoa — and though it would be fine on its own, it lends itself perfectly to a 20-something who needs a quick dinner, but wants to add their own personal culinary flair too.
This recipe isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a challenge. I challenge you to buy the Harvest Grain Blend…or some other grain you’ve never tried before…and add whatever you want to it! Add your favorite veggies! Or your favorite sauce! I added the last of my parent’s summer garden veggies. I served it with chicken to my parents. Add whatever you want, just add something. Gone are the days that being 20-something means take-out every night. Free yourself! And your wallet :-)
Now I will get up off my soapbox and just show you all the recipe already.
End of Summer Skillet
serves 2-3 as a side dish
1 Cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend (or grain of choice — Israeli couscous, orzo pasta, barley, rice, etc)
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 bell pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 small tomato
1 tsp dried basil
Prepare grain blend per package instructions. While it’s cooking, dice all veggies to a similar size and shape (except tomatoes). Set aside cooked grains when finished.
In a somewhat large skillet on medium heat, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add zucchini and bell pepper and cook until slightly soft. You don’t want to fully cook it yet, but you want there to at least be some brown bits on the pan. When this happens, add white wine and use spatula to deglaze the pan. Let the wine bubble until much of the liquid has evaporated.
While your other veggies are bubbling, chop the tomatoes to your preferred size, making sure to reserve the juices. Once most of the white wine liquid has evaporated in the pan, add in both the cooked grain as well as the tomatoes, tossing to make sure everything is coated.
Cook until heated through, and add basil, salt & pepper to taste.