Thursday, October 5, 2006

Quick Curry Veggies and Shrimp

We all need to eat. How often we eat depends largely on where we live in the world. In some areas, people place a huge focus on lunchtime, and really don't eat the rest of the day. In other areas, lunch is important, but dinner is the main event. Some areas never even bother with breakfast. In America, the standard is three meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some people add "snack" in there somewhere, and certain fast food restaurants are trying to convince us that there's a "fourth meal" that happens late at night when we really should be eating. Regardless of when we eat, there's a certain amount of calories that we need to consume on a daily basis. If we eat too many of them, we gain weight. If we don't eat enough of them, and certainly of the right kinds, then we get malnourished. This is especially important for expectant mothers to remember.

This is why I make my wife eat more than just a candy bar for dinner. She doesn't usually want to eat dinner at all, so I have to try and convince her otherwise. Last night I came up with a quick and easy meal for her that I knew she would love, and that I would hate. That's okay, I already had my own dinner covered, and it didn't include broccoli.

I hate broccoli. I don't like the flavor, I don't like the texture, and there's plenty of other veggies out there that work just as well. I do enjoy the occasional cauliflower. My wife loves both, and so a while ago she bought a bag of frozen broccoli and cauliflower. Regardless of how much I like or dislike them, I do have a favorite method of cooking them: steam. I also know that there's a spice blend that goes really well with them, but especially with cauliflower: curry. And what else also goes nicely with all of this? Shrimp.

This is one of the quickest and easiest meals I've ever prepared, especially off the cuff. I took a small 7-inch non-stick skillet, tossed in a handful of frozen veggies, gave it about a quarter inch of chicken broth, a couple of teaspoons of Madras curry power and three pieces of frozen shrimp. I slapped the lid on and brought it to a boil. Since I was using a clear lid, I was able to look at the shrimp and tell when it was done. Since shrimp gets rubbery when overcooked, I pulled it out as soon as it got pink, and set it aside. I let the broth reduce down to almost nothing, put the shrimp back in, turned off the heat, and stirred occassionally until the liquid was pretty much gone. I poured into a bowl and brought it to my grateful wife.

The whole process took somewhere between five and ten minutes. I had a lot working to my advantage here. First of all, because everything was so small, it didn't really matter so much that it was frozen. The fact that I was cooking it with steam, which is actually a pretty gentle method, didn't hurt either. I didn't really need to stir the curry powder in, because the steam was all over the place, and it was taking the curry with it. The broth was already salty, even though I was using a lower sodium variety, so I didn't have to add any additional salt. And because I let the broth reduce down all the way, the chicken flavor concentrated and infused itself into the rest of the food. And of course, because everything was just sitting in my freezer, there was no prep time involved. It was quicker, easier, tastier and a good deal more healthful than a number of microwave dinners out there. Bonus for some: it was also low-carb. But it would be really perfect served with rice.

So stop limiting yourself to bad food or no food, just because you've had a long day and are too tired to prepare anything. Keep some frozen veggies on hand and maybe some frozen shrimp too. Try making up a big old batch of rice on the weekends and portioning it into little containers. If you're going to microwave something for dinner, it might as well be something that you prepared yourself. Then you'll have a few carbs to go with your shrimp and veggies.

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