What do I do on a Friday night by myself while Mark is away? I make something with mushrooms because Mark is not a fungi fan. Cooking on Friday nights always feels like a bit of a chore to me – after a long week at work, I want something super simple to put on the table in a hurry. This dish fits the bill perfectly.
I was also inspired by the conversations happening all over the web about food bloggers cooking elaborate meals vs the large proportion of Americans who rely on convenience foods on a daily basis. Michael Ruhlman stirred the pot with a BIG spoon this week, and I adore him for using his prominence in the food world to get conversation flowing. Ruhlman’s premise is that we’re being sold a raft of 30-minute meals as designed by corporate food scientists that includes frozen bags and boxes of who-knows-what, when you can get real, home-cooked food on the table in that same amount of time. Simple, un-fancy food is mostly what’s served in our house. I know I mostly blog about the more special meals because maybe you don’t want to know that we eat some version of bacon-egg slurry pretty much every week.
Anita, of Married with Dinner, crafted the perfect response to Ruhlman, which you should go read immediately (or, as soon as you finish reading this post- right?!). Anita admits that sometimes cooking is even too much work for her, and confides that simple meals are what grace her table a majority of the time. Amen, sister! Each time I read a blogger admit this, I sigh in deep relief that I am not the only one feeling a little pressure to show you all the “good stuff,” when everyday fare really rules the day.
My secret? I do 80-90% of my cooking for the entire week on the weekend. I get all of our breakfasts and lunches knocked-out for the entire week, chop veggies and portion them in snack bags for quick snacks and get 3 dinner meals for the week done and in storage containers for easy re-heating mid-week. I’m no different from anyone else – after a day in the office, I want to come home and get to relaxing as soon as possible, so a dinner of chili or soup with a green salad is typical weeknight fare. This pasta dish is simple, hearty, and can be on the table in 20 minutes – perfect for a Friday night.
What are your top tricks for cooking healthy food at home, while avoiding being a slave to your kitchen? Share your kitchen hacks in the comments section below…
Mushroom and Leek Pasta
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 T butter
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 T cooking sherry
salt to taste
3 oz brown rice penne, uncooked
fresh grated parmesan to garnish
- Bring 3qt of salted water to a boil for the pasta. When the water has come to a rolling boil, add the pasta, stir and cook for until al dente (about 9min for Trader Joe’s brown rice penne). While the pasta cooks, saute the veggies. Heat a pan over medium heat and add the butter, leeks, mushrooms, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and leeks are soft and wilted. Add the sherry, stir, and turn off the burner and set the pan aside until the pasta is done. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the vegetables and toss to coat. Add the parmesan cheese, stir then serve.
Thank you so much for the shout-out. 🙂 I definitely pre-prep ingredients, although I tend to do it a day or so ahead, often after dinner the night before, or sometimes the morning of, if time permits. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my tips as the series progresses, and of course hearing more of yours. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, Anita! I feel so honored to have a blogger celebrity in our midst! It’s fun to be having these conversations across the web on all of our blogs. I’ve gotten to be a little OCD on my planning and prep for food for the week ahead, but it’s working for me to make weeknights less fraught with “to-dos.”
Jen, that looks so amazing! Sauteed mushrooms are the BEST!
Thanks, B! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night! For being a quick, tossed together meal – this was one of the best in recent memory. The little glug of sherry added a nice sweetness to the dish. YUM.
looks great to me – i’m definitely cook the heftier stuff on the weekends too, and i’m a big fan of leftovers, so i always make sure that whatever i’m making durign the week feeds 4 (which means lunch the next day!).
on the other hand, when i get home from work, cooking is relaxing to me, so i don’t really mind standing around at the stove for an hour, sometimes two if i’m really crafty 🙂
Yep – I love the leftovers too! Yeah, I sometimes NEED to unwind at the stove after a rough day at work, too…I try to prep 3 dinners for the week ahead, to leave me that wiggle room to be creative when I feel like it, but not have to force it. Seems to work most of the time for us…but 2 hours at the stove on a weeknight – dang, that IS crafty!
Jenn – looks great, even though I am not a big fungi fan either – my husband is in this house. I am getting better though. I prefer shiitaki so far. Do you think it would be good with them?
I also find cooking for an hour every evening therapeutic. I guess I’d rather cook during the week because my weekends get filled up too quickly with other stuff and before you know it, it’s getting late and I don’t want to cook!
Thanks, Renee! I think this would be great with Shitakes – they have such good flavor. Hen of the Woods are always a favorite, too, but I won’t be able to get those until the farmer’s markets open here!
Yep – cooking in the evening is definitely therapeutic…I’m just finding my evenings are too full right now with training to run a half-marathon every night…by the time I get home, I’m wiped out!
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Great recipe! I cooked this up for my dad’s birthday and it was definitely a hit in our party! It really went well when we paired it with a tall glass of cold coffee made from one of my coffee grinders from australia. Thanks for sharing this to us! Kudos!
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This recipe looks so delicious! The combo of leeks and mushrooms sounds divine.
I wish I were better about prepping ahead of time. Dinner is often an arduous task for me. I’m getting better as time goes on (at least I make a meal plan now) but I have a ways to go before I’m up to your fine example!
Thanks! Prepping ahead is all or nothing for me – either I’m on top of it all week, or I’m dragging in the dust and needing to put more effort in than I like to on weeknights – we all go in phases. Leeks and mushrooms are definitely meant for each other, though – and for a quick meal, this one is hard to beat!
Yes, it really did have a great flavor! My husband wants to go searching for some porcini this weekend. I wish we could come back to Chicago in the spring and get some morels. My husband worked for the Chicago Park District for a while and we knew where they all usually were(!). They would taste wonderful in there.
If your husband wanted to whisper in my ear where the morels can be found, I wouldn’t mind! 😀 I haven’t found any morels since moving here, but I grew up living in a state park in Michigan, and we’d go morel hunting in the spring and fall, and would have more than we could eat – we’d give a bunch away and dry some for winter…oh, how I miss that now!
Wooded Island is one place I remember…go wander next spring. I don’t remember finding any in the fall. I grew up going mushroom hunting with my dad and grandma. My grandma liked to follow the railroad tracks in SW Ohio. Morels and hickory nuts were her things. I never got to go to No MI for morels. One of these days! No morels in NM. But we have others.
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Made this for myself tonight – awesome! Your simpler recipes are always welcome to a novice chef like me. This was just my speed.
Glad you liked it, Christine! I’d forgotten about this one, but it’s a goodie – and I have some aging mushrooms in my fridge, so this might be on the menu this weekend!
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