• Twenty Minute Meal

    by Jon on February 28, 2007 · 10 comments

    7:30 PM. Head to the kitchen. Scratch head. Open frig. No idea what to make for dinner.

    8 PM. Sit down to a very delicious and satisfying dinner.

    A perspective and attitude change has gradually taken root in my brain. This has allowed all home-cooked dinners to take place with a giant amount of willingness and love baked or cooked into every morsel.

    Since my Celiac diagnosis in November 05, we’ve been eating home quite a bit, as you can imagine. No longer can we, on a whim, run out for a quick bite. It’s just not that simple. While there are definitely Celiac-friendly restaurants in our area, it still is a bit of a production, what with explaining to the waitstaff and then praying they don’t bring your salad with croutons. It just ain’t worth it. So, we eat home. A lot. A lot more than we ever used to. It’s actually been an amazing transformation for meJ. And I like it a great deal. We both do.

    Ok, sometimes I whine, mostly to myself. There is still a part of me that would love to drive two miles to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. #2, #6, #36, #103. I don’t remember the Vietnamese names of these culinary creations, but the taste of each of those dishes remains indelibly imprinted in my brain and on my tongue. Unfortunately, once I discovered that they cooked the rice noodles in the same water that they cooked the wheat noodles, we stopped going there. Stomachache explained. Tiny kitchen, frenzied activity which you can clearly see from the dining room. No place in which to take a chance any longer.

    So what constitutes the perspective and attitude change? Two behaviors have contributed to this change. Drum roll please. This is big for me.

    #1: I deleted the idea from my head that insisted meals had to include a big hunk o’ meat, vegetable, and starch. Even though I’ve been cooking my way around the globe over the last umpteen years, more often than not, I revert back to that old way of preparing meals. Once I changed my way of thinking, our dining experiences became much more varied, much less predictable, in fact more interesting.

    Last night is a perfect example. We dined on freshly made Szechwan slaw and leftover Brown Rice with cabbage and onions. Not an ounce of meat anywhere near our plates.

    #2: The other way in which our dining experiences have evolved and morphed is that I often challenge myself to open the frig and come up with something based on whatever is lurking in the crisper drawers. That’s what happened last night. Green cabbage, red cabbage (sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, doesn’t it?), one red pepper, some carrots. Oh yes, my brain begins to quiver with excitement. There’s a recipe somewhere in my files for a cabbage concoction that is not your usual run-of-the-mill slaw recipe. It’s an Asian twist on the typical American coleslaw. Crispy, sweet, with a little bite from the ginger. Rummage through files. Ta-Da! There it is. My adaptation of a recipe from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook. Took about 20 minutes to prepare. Heat up the leftover brown rice from the previous nights’ dinner. Done. Delicious. Try it, you’ll like it!

    Szechwan Slaw
    Serves 8

    ¼ cup rice wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
    ¼ cup safflower oil
    ¼ cup sugar
    2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
    ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
    ¼ cup minced cilantro
    ¼ cup minced fresh mint
    Salt to taste

    3 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
    3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
    1 large red pepper, seeded and thinkly sliced
    4 scallions, sliced thinly and on the diagonal
    1 large carrot, grated
    1/8 cup black sesame seeds (found these at local Asian market)

    Prepare the dressing by combining the vinegar, oil, sugar, ginger, red chili flakes, cilantro, mint, and salt. Set aside.

    Prepare the salad by mixing the cabbages, pepper, scallions, carrot, and sesame seeds. Fifteen minutes before serving, toss the salad with the dressing.

    Optional: Can add ¼ pound snow peas, use a combination of red and yellow peppers, use light colored sesame seeds instead of black sesame seeds.

    { 10 comments… read them below or add one }

    Lynn Barry February 28, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    I love slaw…period! I can’t have mayo so this baby looks fab! Thanks.
    Well, are we going to get an update on the experimental cookie baking? Did you? and were they? nosey me…HUGS


    Sea February 28, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    This looks really yummy, and best of all, I’ve got fresh mint growing on my balcony right now. Yum, yum, yum- and I’m always looking for more ways to use cabbage. black sesame seeds are also one of my very favorite things. 😀 I will definitely have to try this!


    Visit my gluten free blog at


    Jean Layton-GF Momma March 1, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Wonderful and tasty looking salad. Just wish I kept mint in my fridge.
    Wonder if basil would be as good.
    Thanks for the inspiration


    Ellen March 1, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Lynn – haven’t tried cookies yet, but OH SO WANT TO. Just have been busy with work stuff. Will try though in next few days. Plus want to make hummies (hamentaschen) for Purim which is this weekend.

    Sea – you are so lucky to have fresh mint growing right on your balcony. Wonder if I could do that here in the northeast? Do you think it would grow on my windowsill while there is a foot of snow on the opposite side of the window?

    Jean – I bet it would be good with basil. Hey, I learned a trick from Alton on Good Eats (Food Network). Take fresh herbs, lay them on a lightly misted paper towel, roll up, then wrap in plastic wrap. I tried it for the first time last night. I’ll see how long my fresh herbs last.


    Mike Eberhart March 1, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I like the sound of mint and cilantro in there… not sure about the ginger, but I’ll bet it is good since you are going for that Asian style. Looks good, and healthy too.


    Wheat Free March 2, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    That’s the way I like to cook. I’m not much for choosing recipes, planning meals, and shopping to a list of ingredients. I’d rather buy whatever looks good in the store, then figure out what to make with it when I feel like cooking.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who things that way.

    Once you get good at it, you can open a nearly empty fridge, and make a pretty good meal out of apparently nothing!


    Dianne March 2, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Wow! This looks fabulous and I love a good slaw!



    Fourbeesand me September 22, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Served this today for a luncheon and got rave reviews. We did this with a fall menu of grilled pork loin and cooked apples so you don’t have to just go asian for this to work. We left out the mint, backed off a little on the cilantro to taste and used Olive Oil with more vinegar to balance. It was fantastic!


    bob March 20, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Wow. I have only recently made the same changes as you. Changing the whole idea of what dinner (or any meal) would look like is good for me, as my dietary restrictions no longer fit the western diet. It means I am adding more vegetables, herbs, spices and vitamins to my meals. It's no longer about substituting rice pasta in a dish and adding peas. No no. Now it's about embracing what I can still eat, and filling up on veggies. If only I had found this post earlier! (Although I was still eating gluten in 2007, so it would have been quite a coincidence!)

    Thank you Ellen, I will have to try this slaw soon. It sounds so yummy and I like the Asian twist!


    Gluten Free Diva March 28, 2011 at 1:05 am

    You are most welcome! I think you're so right. It's not about what you can't eat but about what you can eat. That's a much more positive approach!


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