This can be a stressful time of the year with the holidays approaching and the extra expenses that entails.
Despite it all, life goes on. How do you cope when there's just not enough time to prepare the healthy and filling meal you'd like to offer your family?
Most grocery stores have pretty good delis these days, and herein lies our salvation.
The folks who cook for those delis are on the whole pretty competent, occasionally very good, and they put out some delicious food. But going to a deli and buying a meal already prepared is just take out and there's little love there.
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So why not buy some pre-cooked foods -- roast beef or pork that would take too long to accomplish at home -- and use that as a base for partially home-cooked meal?
This can be a time- and money-saving tactic. The quantities of roasted pork or beef that are needed are quite small. Sometimes a cup or so will be more than enough. So swing by the grocery store on the way home, pick up a few things from the deli and surprise your family with a quick-cooked meal.
Some of the better grocery stores have house-prepared meats, beef, turkey and pork, so make sure to take advantage of that bonus. Try making a Dagwood-style sandwich that will satisfy your family's cravings, not break the bank, and be delicious as well. Add to it a ready-made soup, and you are home free.
Using yogurt instead of mayonnaise is a healthy option that is delicious as well.
Below are a few suggestions for quick and easy meals:
Red ripe tomatoes
Thick-sliced smoked turkey
Make sure the bakery rolls are baked in-house, that way you can be pretty sure they are fresh. Slice the rolls open, and if you want a less-filling sandwich, remove some or all of the soft white bread inside. Slice the tomatoes, but not too thin, then slice the red onion in the same way. Take a sharp knife and slice the avocados all the way to the seed, then rotate the avocado so it is sliced all the way around. Twist the two sides in opposite directions to separate them. Now give the seed a good whack with the knife, so that the blade lodges in the seed, give it a turn and remove the seed. If you want better presentation, slice the avocados, then peel. If you don't care, just remove the flesh with a spoon. From there on it is nothing more than building the sandwich; slather on a good portion of yogurt,
then add the thick slices of smoked turkey, follow on with the avocados, onion, tomatoes and cheese. Run under the broiler to melt the cheese if you like. Serve with soup and crunchy chips.
PORK AND BLACK BEAN STEW
This is a slightly different take on Cuban black beans. The roast pork in the grocery store deli is pretty good, and buying it there will save you hours in the kitchen. If you like and want to be a little more authentic, add large diced pumpkin instead of the squash.
1-2 cups roast pork
2 cans black beans
1 chopped red onion
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
1-2 sliced yellow squash
2-3 cups chicken stock
Red pepper flakes
Open the cans, strain out the liquid, and then give the beans a good rinse. There is too much salt in the liquid for most people. Add a little olive oil to a sauté pan and cook the squash over medium-high heat until they start to take on color, sprinkle in a good pinch of red pepper flakes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more, then add the stock, pork and 1/2 cup of the beans. The beans will cook down and act as a thickening agent. Simmer until the stock is flavorful. Add the beans and cook just a few minutes more. If the stew is not thick enough, thicken with a little cornstarch, a tablespoon at a time, mixed in a quarter cup of cold water, but be careful, if you use too much cornstarch the stew is ruined (four tablespoons per quarter cup of cold water is about the maximum). Serve in large bowls and garnish with plenty of red onions. If you want to make it extra filling serve with steamed rice.
The roasted brisket you find in many delis is quite good, and as with the pork above, you will save many hours of cooking when you buy it precooked. The oil and juices that come with the brisket are packed with flavor, so don't discard it.
2 cups roast brisket
1 package soft corn tortillas
Cilantro or chopped lettuce
2-3 sliced jalapenos
Optional Greek-style yogurt
This is about as easy a recipe as can be found, as it involves mostly construction, after the simple prep work required. Pull the brisket apart -- if it is still warm that will be an easy task. Chop the tomato, jalapenos and the onion, mix them together along with a little olive oil. This is a primitive salsa. Load the tortilla with brisket, top with the salsa and garnish with hot sauce and, if you like, yogurt.