How long will it take for this to get boring for you, dear reader?

The challenge tonight is what it is for most families, I suspect.  The Child — or, if you prefer her new Native American name, She Who Hums While Watching TV — had a Girl Scout meeting about an hour and a half after I got home.  As I’m sure you’ve gathered, we could just scatter chicken nuggets on the table with a few olives and she’d be fine.  The Picky Eater and I needed real food.

Looking for inspiration, I glanced at what we had in the fridge and found these notable ingredients — portabella and button mushrooms, yogurt, shallots, carrots, and some other sundries.  With that in mind, I decided to first focus on the mushrooms.  I opened Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (a must for everyone who likes to cook, not just vegetarians) and spied … a mushroom broth recipe.  Whoops, wrong page.  After finding the proper page, I saw a recipe for sauted mushrooms with a white wine reduction, cream, and sour cream.  That I can work with.

Here is where my wife’s food peccadilloes cause some problems.  What’s wrong, you might ask?  Sour cream.  A doctor told her sometime ago that she’s allergic to it and, sure enough, when she eats it she doesn’t seem to feel well.  That means no sour cream unless I want to see dinner more than once (if you catch my drift).  Experience does suggest that a plain yogurt will usually be a good substitute, but this was a white wine based sauce.

Ah, what the hell…no time to think, I just did it.  I cut up about 10 oz. of a mushroom combo, one whole shallot, and 2 TB of butter and cooked them up.  While that was going, I boiled some water for a hidden gem in the cupboard, namely a spinach fettuccine.  Once the mushrooms and shallot reduced, I put about 1/2 cups of of white wine and let it reduce.  Once that was done, it was a quarter cup of both cream and yogurt.  Once that was nicely mixed in, I reduced the heat to low and dropped in some fresh parsley and tarragon from the garden along with some chopped garlic.  Five minutes later, it was sitting on top of a pile of fettuccine.  The accompaniments were 1) a Northern bean salad with balsamic, olive oil, herbs de provence, carrots, and onion, 2) a slice of toasted bread and 3) for me, a quick pan fry of squash, zucchini, and onion.

All in all a fine meal.  I got protein in the wife, enough food for me, and the dinner cooked, eaten, and cleaned up in 1 1/2 hours.  I’d probably make more of the sauce if given the opportunity, because the pasta just soaked it up.  But not bad on a moments notice, eh?

What’s your short on time cooking strategy?  What did you cook the last time you didn’t have a lot of time?

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  • Maureen  On May 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    That’s when my stock of whatever frozen food I have comes in to play, fish fillet sandwich and fries, I used to love morning star farms mini corn dogs (and most of their other products) but I can’t seem to find them in regular St. Louis grocery stores. I also keep frozen toasted ravioli on hand for quick meal nights or I just cook some pasta.

  • mrr  On May 28, 2010 at 3:13 am

    I’m hungry just reading this, and it’s 9 am!
    I used to make 3-4 soups/stews/1 dish dinners early in the week to heat up when time got tight. Guess that is why I got fired.
    The bean salad side was a stroke of genius for complete protien, our resident family cook wants to know if you made it yourself and how.

  • sdmcclurg  On May 28, 2010 at 6:25 am

    @mrr…I did make it myself and it was nothing fancy. I chopped up one carrot, 1/4 an onion, one can of Northern white beans, and splashed the oil/vinegar/herbs on to taste. Probably some salt and pepper too. Its a simple combination, but it packs a health and taste punch.

  • sdmcclurg  On May 28, 2010 at 7:17 am

    @Maureen…you should totally check out Trader Joe’s. They probably have what you’re looking for or a good substitute. Plus, they’re reasonably priced. There is one off of Olive (near Lindbergh, I think) and another at the 40-170 intersection.

  • me  On May 28, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Growing up I hated mushrooms. But I have learned to accept them once in a while. The one mushroom recipe I do make and really like is Michael Chiarello’s. Here it is to add variety to your menu. (

  • mrr  On May 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    @sdmclurg, thanks- I hope I’ll get some bean salad for dinner this week!

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