Thursday, October 27, 2011

Going Solo

My "Bella Burger"

Lately Patrick has been taking a lot of business trips, which means a lot of "me" time.  I wish I could say I've been wildly productive, with a stack of finished books, a spotless apartment, or even a haircut to show for it - all of which I of course had planned to accomplish.  

But, no.  

Instead, topping the list of achievements for the week (aside from going to work) include beating the computer in scrabble (twice), checking the mail (twice), emptying the contents of a bottle of wine (a feat I only seem to accomplish when Patrick is out of town), and taking way too many photos of this rainbow shard that appeared on my floor the other day:

Rainbow Shard

That said, there is one thing that I do pride myself on getting done whenever Patrick is away... and that is eating.

Admittedly, it takes some motivation to prepare a meal from scratch when you're by yourself.  I've had my share of dinners comprised of Lean Cuisines, scrambled eggs, or, my personal favorite, popcorn and Welch's fruit snacks (my argument being at least I'm getting my fiber and vitamin C).  

But here's a couple meals I scraped together last minute that actually turned out pretty fantastic.  And they both happen to be vegetarian... which I can only get away with when my carnivorous husband is out of town.

Bella Burgers

We roast portobello mushrooms at work on a daily basis for our portobello club.  So of course I had to try it at home.  Here is my own version of a portobello burger using this technique:

Portobello Mushroom Caps (stems and gills removed)
Olive Oil
Optional:  Garlic, Thyme
Whole Wheat Bun
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Goat Cheese (or Mozzarella Cheese if you prefer it)

Drizzle the portobello caps with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  (Optional:  Top with a few sprigs of thyme and some crushed garlic cloves.)  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the spinach with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  
Add sun-dried tomatoes.
Toast or grill a whole-wheat bun.  
Place the portobello cap upside-down on the bun and top it with the sautéed spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled goat cheese.  

Sesame Noodles

Sesame Noodles

The best part of any stir-fry noodle dish is that you can use whatever leftovers you have in your refrigerator or freezer... steak, chicken, eggs, corn, scallions, cabbage, carrots, edamame, udon noodles, soba noodles, etc.   Here's what I happened to have on hand (unfortunately I didn't measure anything):

Tofu (cut into paysanne or cubes)
Roasted Asparagus
Roasted Portobello Mushrooms (from the bella burger)
Spaghetti Noodles (cooked)
Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
Rice Wine Vinegar
Garlic (minced)
Red Pepper Flakes

Heat a non-stick pan with some oil on medium-high.  Season the tofu with salt and pepper and sauté until brown on all sides, then remove from the pan.
Saute the onions until translucent.
Add the remaining vegetables.
Add the noodles and tofu.
Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and red pepper flakes and add to the pan.
Continue to cook until piping hot.  


By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was ready for some meat... and for something out... which then transpired into a sudden craving for gyros.  A quick Yelp search led me to Plaka Grill, a little eatery tucked into a nearby shopping center that boasts authentic Greek food prepared daily from fresh ingredients.

It was a rainy day, so thankfully I got a prime parking spot:

Though I did peruse the menu momentarily before ordering, there really was no question as to what I would get...

I have never been to Greece so I can't speak to its "authenticity" (then again, it was called a "Chicago gyro")... but, whatever the case may be, this one did not disappoint.  It was pretty much everything you want in a gyro... a warm pita that's not too doughy, fresh, crisp veggies, and plenty of tzatziki sauce and meat.  Also the fries were nice and crunchy and were dusted with a flavorful herb seasoning... addictive, as fries are meant to be.

On second thought, I think I've been pretty productive going solo after all.


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