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!