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Monday, November 12, 2007

Got 15 minutes? You can cook a healthy meal

It's 7:30 p.m. You've managed to escape the office alive (and without inflicting serious injury). You've hit the gym. And now, as the minutes tick by, the rumble of your stomach is almost enough to drown out the three-cheese, stuffed-crust pizza come-on that's blaring out of the television. Almost.

So you give in, and who can blame you? Seems that in the modern world, you can have it all -- the job, the girl, the house -- everything but a decent home-cooked meal. That's what Applebee's, your neighborhood multinational restaurant chain, is for.

Sure, you'd love to eat a dinner that tastes like it took hours to cook, but you have only a few hours of wakefulness left, and you certainly don't plan on spending one of them wrestling a chicken into the oven and another cleaning up the wreckage.

Same with me. I work hard and often, but I stop short of the drive-thru. Being indolent by nature, I consider fast food a slippery slope I'd best not start down. So I cook, and most of the meals I eat take only 15 minutes to prepare.

Now, I admit I enjoy cooking. To me, it's like making a Zen widget -- a simple task that I can focus on while blocking out everything else. Besides, knifing an onion is good tension release -- and much more effective than kicking down your cubicle wall.

Not convinced you can cook a meal in 15 minutes, too? Well, you can always invite Mom to move in and help feed you. . . . Didn't think so.

KOREAN-STYLE PEPPER STEAK

You'll need:

1/2 lb sirloin, sliced diagonally into thin strips

1 c bite-size pieces red or green bell pepper (or 1/2 c of each)

1 c bite-size pieces onion

2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

Plus: 1 tsp sugar; 1 1/2 tsp olive oil; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 tsp red-pepper flakes

How to make it:

1. Dump all the ingredients into a large ziplock plastic bag. Go James Bond on it -- well shaken, not stirred. No, really throttle it. You want the soy sauce and oil to permeate everything in the bag.

2. Pour the meat, sauce, and vegetables into a medium-hot cast-iron skillet, stirring frequently until the meat is seared and the vegetables begin to lose their water (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Extra credit: For a more authentic Korean-style flavor, use toasted sesame oil instead of olive oil and add 1 Tbsp rice-wine vinegar.

Eat with: 1 c Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, Whole Grain Brown (the kind you can microwave in 90 seconds)

Makes 2 servings
Two servings of a healthy meal don't make one "super healthy meal..."


Per serving, including rice: 623 calories, 37 grams (g) protein, 58 g carbohydrates, 27 g fat (9 g saturated), 4 g fiber, 604 milligrams (mg) sodium
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