Wednesday, April 4, 2012

use your noodle(s)

no, i'm not nostalgic about noodles. read on! (ps- photo from here)

Yes, yes, I know, it's Wednesday, and subsequently a regularly scheduled nostalgia day. But oddly enough, I'm not feeling especially nostalgic lately. Work is becoming more consuming by the day and I'm talking to my mortgage and real estate brokers so often that I feel like I'm dating them both. Not to say there aren't exciting things to come in the very near future, but I'm just left without much spare time to pine away for my days sidled up to the counter at Bar da Gino in Venice, perfect cappuccino in hand.

So instead of subjecting you to any sort of wistful musings today, instead I'll just tell you about this great, entirely free service I accidentally signed myself up for recently. In some weird email quirk, I started receiving magazine-related emails meant for my mom a couple weeks ago. I ignored most of them, but one from Coastal Living caught my eye. I'm not usually one to enter contests, but their offer to enter to win a $5000 kitchen makeover seemed worth the effort. See, if I do buy a place, the kitchen is likely going to need the most work. So why not enter?  (When I was young I used to win random stuff all the time in little contests, and while I think that kind of luck has long since left me behind, a girl can dream {of new cabinets and a breakfast nook}).

When you enter, there's a whole slew of things you can opt to sign up for (along the lines of weekly newsletters and special promotions). I didn't think I had signed up for any of them until I started getting daily "dinner tonight" emails. At first, I was all that's so annoying, I really need to opt out. And then I started paying attention to them. Almost all of them sounded good (and more importantly, pretty simple, cheap, and like something I'd eat). So now any time I get one that fits the "simple/cheap/something I'd eat" qualifications, I save that sucker via Pinterest. Then, when I'm on the train home (or sitting on my couch at home), I can quickly see all my ideas in one place and pick something based on what I have on hand or what I can grab easily. 

Sunday was the first time I actually tried one of the many I've now saved. I had been feeling weird most of the weekend, but was finally pretty hungry Sunday evening. Having walked all over DC Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't inclined to go back out for ingredients, but this Asian noodles with chicken option played to everything in my pantry (minus the chicken, and we all know how I feel about cooking meat, so that deficit was fine by me). 

I'm not sure why the recipe says it takes 30 minutes, although I suspect it has to do with a)cooking chicken, and b)using rice or soba noodles, which soak in hot water for a long time versus spending 10 minutes or less in boiling water like traditional pasta. All I had was whole wheat spaghetti, so I just used that. Start to finish, I think the whole thing took me 10 minutes. While the spaghetti was boiling, I threw the sauce together with time to spare. And for the minimal effort involved, it was delicious. 

Oh and I just realized that I lied about just being short on chicken. I was lacking in green onions and cilantro, so I'd be curious to try the recipe again with all the suggested ingredients, and maybe tofu in lieu of chicken, but the  point is, if you, like me, have most of what is called for here, it's still going to be a perfectly satisfying Sunday evening dinner (and tastes perhaps even better straight out of the fridge on Monday for lunch). 

I've since tried a couple of other recipes (eventual reviews to come), but I've tested (and saved) enough of them to suggest that you also give this (free!) service a test drive. I think it's especially well-suited for people like me who don't really plan ahead, are often indecisive on the recipe-selection front, and who could often use a little inspiration standing in the grocery store aisles or in front of the pantry. 

Oh and bonus? The service is provided by My Recipes, which is a sister site of Cooking Light, so at least all of the recipes I've seen so far have been pretty healthy.

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