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BEST PREPARED FOODS Minneapolis 2001 - Tony Linden Hills Co-op

Screw cooking. There, we said it for you. You already make it through the hectic work week without so much as boiling an egg, subsisting on a patchwork food quilt of leftover Chinese, frozen burritos, and cans of tuna. (No, adding mayonnaise does not qualify as "cooking.") So what makes you think that just because you're having a few friends over for dinner on Saturday evening you're suddenly going to be transformed into Emeril Lagasse? Everyone remembers the vegetarian chili that you served the last time you had them over, the one dish in your repertoire that might charitably be labeled "interesting." Serving it again would just be pathetic. So cheat. Rely on people who actually do this for a living and have a stable of ingredients at their disposal slightly more expansive than salt, pepper, and garlic powder. We're not suggesting that you ring up Golooney's for a large pie. But your local purveyor of fine foods? Why not? You'll do just fine at Byerly's, the Wedge Community Co-op, or Whole Foods Market. But our favorite is the tony Linden Hills Co-op. Start the meal off with some fine roasted-red-pepper hummus and fresh-baked bread. For a main course, how about barbecue tofu "spare ribs" and a side of Thai peanut rice salad? Too, uh, vegan for you? Then try the chicken with basil and Asiago (whatever the hell Asiago is). Or tarragon chicken. Or Mo's Texas BBQ chicken. Or, well, pollo agrodolce. Whatever your choice, it will surely top another dose of that vegetarian chili. Will your friends notice? Probably. Will they be rude enough to mention that their entrée looks suspiciously like something they encountered while picking up bean sprouts the other day? Never. They'll be silent and thankful as they help themselves to another serving.

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