Taking the full measure of life

A tasty, quick lunch . . . and this week’s meal plan

November 11th, 2007 · 10 Comments

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I wrote a post on another blog a long time ago about the importance of keeping staples for quick meals, especially when you are only cooking for one or two people. Some of the staples I like to keep on hand are these:

nuts (pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, etc.–bought in bulk)–which I keep in the freezer for long-term storage
dried pasta (rice pasta or quinoa pasta now)
hard cheese (a kind you can grate–sheep cheeses like pecorino for me these days) and soft cheese (goat cheese, which I keep in the freezer if I’m not using it quickly)
olives (not canned–those taste tinny–the ones in jars)
jars of sauce (I used to keep tomato sauce; with my allergy to tomatoes, I try to avoid them now; so instead I keep red pepper sauce, artichoke sauce, etc.)
canned beans (Northern beans, black beans, etc.)

With these staples and a few random things on hand, I can usually create a meal quickly if I need to. That’s what I did today for lunch. My husband called today’s lunch gourmet; it was attractive and tasty, but it wasn’t hard to make. Here’s what I did:

I pulled a tube of pre-made, herbed polenta from the pantry, cut it open, and sliced the tube into 1/2″ to 3/4″ pieces. I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on med-high heat and pan-fried the polenta for about 4 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan on low, I heated up a jar of tomato-free red pepper sauce from Whole Foods, combined with 1 T 10-years-aged balsamic vinegar and 1/2 can rinsed Great Northern beans.

I used a large knife to flatten a few black Spanish olives so that I could squeeze out their pits.

I sliced soft goat cheese.

I toasted a couple of tablespoons of (frozen) pine nuts in a dry pan on med. heat for five minutes, shaking them up twice.

I layered the food on plates–polenta, then goat cheese, then pepper/bean mix, then pine nuts. I added a sprinkle of olives and a garnish of basil leaves pulled from my balcony garden.

Voila. Easy, tasty, fancy-looking.


Here’s my meal plan for the coming week:

Sunday (tonight): Eat dinner with simplicity circle. I made chocolate-orange vegan, gluten-free brownies with a chocolate/hazelnut praline icing for the meeting.
Monday: Easy broth-based soup with organic chicken basil sausage, apples, pears, turnips, pac choi, and herbs
Tuesday: Seven-course tasting dinner at Whole Foods (With wine! For $15!)
Wednesday: Quinoa pasta with roasted acorn squash chunks, onion, kale, and shaved pecorino with a browned ghee/sage sauce
Thursday: Work late–make the crockpot beef stew I never got to last week (I’ll use gf beer–and great pastured, organic beef from a local farm)
Friday: Southwestern salad with sweet potatoes, fresh corn off the cobb, and black beans (I’m throwing in the last two things)
Saturday (the beginning of a full week off work!): Eggplant lentil stew with pomegranate molasses

The source of most of my vegetables and nearly all of the meat I use is my local community-supported agriculture group that I joined.  If you want to know more about finding really fresh, really tasty, local products to purchase, check out this CSA link.  Many CSAs are served by local farms that do not use pesticides, whether or not they are actually certified as organic; by using local agriculture like this, you reduce the amount of pesticides you eat and the amount that runs into our groundwater, you get food that is far fresher than most of what you buy in the grocery store (tastier and higher in vitamins), and you reduce the pollution that comes from the typical trucking of our food across the country.  It’s a win-win situation.  (I also pay less for my CSA food than organic food costs at the grocery store, but I’d be willing to pay more.  I’m willing to sacrifice elsewhere in my budget.  I think it’s worth it.)

I’m sending my meal plan over to Gluten Free Sox, who is hosting this week’s gluten-free menu swap.  She should have a variety of great menu plans up tomorrow!

Tags: allergen-free recipes · autumn · meal planning · quick meals · vegetarian

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kristen // Nov 12, 2007 at 7:28 am

    sounds yummy. i buy polenta like that, too. my favorite is grilling it with some zuchinni and carrots. yum.

  • 2 Kim // Nov 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Hey Sally,

    The picture that you asked about was from the Chihuly Glass exhibit at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA. It was VERY cool. The picture I posted wasn’t even one of my better shots. I’ll post some more just to show you how different it all was.

  • 3 Grumpy Chair // Nov 12, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    You are a great example that you don’t have to eat chicken breasts, garden salad and rice cakes to lose weight. So many people think you have to eat like that, when in actuality, you can eat healthy, gourmet food and still lose the weight.

    I love how you write out your planned menu for the week.

  • 4 Natalie // Nov 12, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Sounds like a gourmet week! Those brownies sound heavenly!

  • 5 Mary Frances // Nov 12, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I have to agree with your husband; that is one awesome looking lunch! I enjoyed looking over your pantry staples. I love seeing what other cooks consider essential to their kitchen.

  • 6 HotThickChick // Nov 12, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Oh my S.P.A., your polenta creation looks HEAVENLY!

    I wish our Whole Foods was doing this $15, 7-course tasting with wine! Thats a steal!

    And finally, C and I were just walking home from Whole Foods lamenting the fact that we hadn’t signed up for a CSA program yet, which I am going to do now! Thanks for the link!

  • 7 Flamenco Mom // Nov 14, 2007 at 8:21 am

    My family loves polenta! Even though we have to make it without cheese, it’s marvelous–your lunch looks absolutely delicious. I also love that you post your weekly menu here; it serves as an inspiration for my own meal planning. Brava!

    BTW, thanks for posting the CSA link. I’ve been looking for delicious, local produce; as well as ways to support local growers.

  • 8 Sarah // Nov 14, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I signed up for a CSA program after reading your post! I am so excited to try this and am looking at it as a little adventure and hopefully I will try some fresh new yummy veggies!

  • 9 Meg Wolff // Nov 14, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Fantastic post! If people knew how quick and easy this CAN be (and how great it makes you feel) more people would be eating this way. Your husband is one lucky guy! 🙂

  • 10 Menu-Plan Monday (Menu Swap) November 12 « Gluten Free Sox Fan // Aug 28, 2008 at 11:30 am

    […] at Aprovechar, has a menu full of wonderful fall vegetables that she gets from a local community-supported […]

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