Archives for January 2011

Delicious One Dish Meals for a Song!

Delicious One Dish Meals for a Song!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, so economical one dish meals are by far my favorite to cook. My ideal recipes contain three key ingredients: a protein, a carb and veggies. Also required is simplicity. I want to get that grub together in that pot one two three and I don’t want to run all over town searching for ingredients. I also want plenty left over to freeze for additional meals. The icing on the cake, of course, is ending up with only one main pot to clean.

Here are five recipes that hit my culinary spot. Their ingredients may be simple, but their combined textures and flavors are full bodied and heartily satisfying:

Beef and veggie stir-fry: Southern Living~ Featuring a colorful combo of veggies: asparagus, carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms and scallions and flavored with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce, this stir fry meal takes only minutes to cook. Served over rice, it’s also versatile. You can substitute your favorite veggies or even omit the meat if that’s your pleasure. Unlike restaurant take-out, you can be assured all the ingredients are of super quality and prepared with your own high standards of care and attention.

Lentil stew with butternut squash: Good Housekeeping ~ Around since Neolithic times (don’t ask me the date, but it sounds like forever), super economical and healthy, lentils are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.They’re also an excellent source of protein and dietary Fiber. This stew paired with butternut squash, another healthy heavyweight, packs a powerhouse nutritional punch. The only herb called for is 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary. While it does have Romano cheese shavings for zing, I’d sample it for flavor and if it seems a little too tame I’d add some additional favorite herbs — maybe thyme, basil or cumin — a bit at a time. Not having a slow cooker, I’d simmer this on the burner and start testing it for tenderness after about 30 or 40 minutes.

Potato, sausage and kale frittata: Food and Wine ~ This gem of a recipe can be put together, cooked and brought to the table in 30 breezy minutes. Bursting with the protein of both eggs and sausages, it also incorporates potatoes for stick to the ribs carbs along with kale for a gutsy veggie. Parmesan cheese adds a pop of flavor. This is one of those rare satisfying meals that seems both light and robust at the same time.

Skillet lasagna: Food Network ~ This dish appeals to me for 2 big reasons. I adore lasagna, but rarely use my oven (it’s a pain taking out and replacing all my pots and pans every time I use it) so employing a skillet to cook lasagna on top of the stove has my name written all over it. I see the recipe calls for fresh tomatoes which might be a little tricky in the winter, so if it were me I might substitute canned tomatoes or (let me whisper here) prepared tomato sauce. Because the ingredients are all yummy to begin with, I can’t imagine even a neophyte cook messing up this one.

Short ribs, carrots, leeks and rice with lime: Robin Miller ~ If you’re looking for a perfect winter night meal, this hearty dish of slow-cooked braised ribs, carrots and leeks simmered with sherry, honey, garlic and ginger over brown rice is the ticket. Cooking can be done either in a crock pot or if your kitchen is bereft of that appliance, in a dutch oven on top of the stove which will take about half the time — three or four hours. The brown rice calls for the painless instant variety and the lime zest is a snappy flavor addition.

20 Lowest Sales Taxes in USA

Before exploring the country’s lowest sales taxes, I always assumed New York was the primary sales tax monster, hitting us up for 8.875% sales tax* every time we New Yawkas made a purchase. But lo and behold, another state turns out to be an even bigger tax biter: the gentle state of Tennessee charges its southern citizens a whopping 9.41% combined state and local sales tax, the highest in the country.

Of the 20 lowest sales taxes in the U.S., the residents of five states are fortunate enough to be charged zero state sales tax. But of those five states, two charge local sales tax which leaves only three, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, with a combined state and local sales tax of absolutely zero. If you live in any of these three states and decide to purchase some new furniture for $3,000 bucks you will not have to tack on a penny for sales tax. But if you buy that same furniture in pricey Tennessee, you’ll have to cough up a whopping $282.30 to cover the sales tax bill. Quite a difference, especially if you’re on a super-tight budget, retired or thinking of furnishing an entire new home.

One reason why Alaska has a zero state sales tax rate (though it charges a local 2.15% sales tax) is Oil. Companies happily enrich the state coffers for the privilege of drilling for the stuff.

Combined State and Local Sales Tax Rates from Tax Foundation (September 2009)

  1. 0%       Montana
  2. 0%       New Hampshire
  3. 0%       Oregon
  4. 1.13%  Alaska
  5. 1.92%  Delaware
  6. 4.38%  Hawaii
  7. 5.00%  Maine
  8. 5.00%  Virginia
  9. 5.38%  Wyoming
  10. 5.42%  Wisconsin
  11. 5.52%  South Dakota
  12. 6.00%  Connecticut
  13. 6.00%  Idaho
  14. 6.00%  Kentucky
  15. 6.00%  Maryland
  16. 6.00%  Michigan
  17. 6.00%  North Dakota
  18. 6.00%  Vermont
  19. 6.00%  West Virginia
  20. 6.15%  Alabama

Check out Tax Foundation for the ranking of every state’s combined state and local sales tax rates.

* Includes 3/8% for the benefit of the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District.