14 November, 2011
Lots of food, but nothing for dinner?
by guest blogger Natalie Mann
I often look in my pantry and fridge and mumble, “I have nothing to eat.” But sure enough, there’s food in there, because I can’t begin to see the back wall. How does one end up with so many items and then condemn them to stay in the can or turn into some moldy object in the back of the fridge? The usual answer comes in some version of ‘I don’t know what to do with it.’
So, let’s break down some of the most common items that wind up banished to the pantry, and look at some simple uses for the foods you already have. Using my own pantry as a guide, I’ve discovered plenty of themes that might result in actual meals: first, lots of legumes–all types of beans, from chickpeas to kidney beans. There are also varieties of crackers and random boxes of pasta. With cans of tuna along the side, this is not merely a random mish-mosh of cans and cartons, but actually a solid start toward a snack or even something more substantial.
If one thinks about meals in the most basic terms, there’s usually a carb, a protein, and at least one vegetable. I often feel I need a theme or some grand meal idea, but that thinking can be counterproductive to using what’s on hand. Constructing a repast is more about bringing elements together into a whole, and less about trying to construct a specific recipe that may require ingredients that aren’t immediately available.
Start simple with an appetizer: grab those crackers as your base. Take a half can of the chickpeas (or soft kidney beans) and mash them with a teaspoon of olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper, then spread a spoonful of that mixture on the cracker. Open the can of tuna and mix it with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise or ranch dressing. (Salad dressings are an excellent alternative for kitchens bereft of mayo, or for experimenting with different flavors.) Add a teaspoon of dried dill, parsley or other green herb, and mix together well. Put a teaspoon of the tuna mixture on the cracker, and you have a satisfying snack to curb the munchies, or a quick solution to entertaining guests. Feel free to be inventive, perhaps sprinkling a little paprika across the top for color — now you’re cooking, without even turning on the stove.
This is the first in a series of ideas. In the meantime, take another look at that pantry -– what meals are already there, waiting to be discovered?