Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One Dish Pantry Meals

After reading my food prep scheme you might wonder why I bothered spending money on a kitchen, but I'm pretty happy with both my pantry cooking and the kitchen.

When I got to the grocery, I get a bunch of snack type fruits and vegetables, but not a ton of things that I turn into meals. Or, I blow through the fresh stuff and don't feel like stopping at the grocery again. Still wanting reasonably healthy food, I've concocted a scheme to make quick and easy one dish meals from my pantry and freezer. For example, tonight I made Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff in less than 15 minutes.

I started with the Mushroom Stroganoff dry side dish noodle package from Lipton/Knorr. This is to be boiled in 1.5c water and 0.5c milk. I don't have fresh milk because the stuff I bought for the holidays went bad and I forgot to restock my shelf stable milk drinkboxes. Ordinarily I'd use a quarter cup (half of a tiny can) of evaporated milk and 1.75c water, but I noticed some "healthy" condensed mushroom soup and used half a can of that instead. That stuff is unfit for normal soup applications where it's the primary flavor ingredient but it worked great for adding milky texture to the dish.

The next thing I do is add vegetables and sometimes meat or cheese. All of these things are kept in the freezer for doling out in 1 person servings without worrying about them going bad. If I have fresh veggies I might slice them in, but tonight, frozen peas were perfect. I also have a bag of meatballs, and several types of shredded cheese. I put 5 meatballs in when I added the pasta so they'd be cooked through. Just before taking the dish off the stovetop, I tossed in a handful of frozen peas and stirred until the dish regained its heat. Then, I tossed in a handful of frozen mozzarella and turned the heat off. The cheese cooled it down to edible temperature and I scooped it into a bowl so I could pretend to be civilized while I ate.

Basically, the trick is to keep dry packaged rice or pasta sides with preferred flavors and cans of either evaporated milk or soup in the pantry. Cans of mushrooms or corn can also be used, but for the veggies I generally used frozen. There are all kinds of frozen veggie mixes these days and whichever one has your favorites will work. If it has heartier stuff than peas, add it a couple minutes before the end of cooking rather than 30 seconds. Some cheese freezes better than others, but for this purpose, all of them do fine when shredded or crumbled. It does make enough for 2, or at least 1 and a half, depending on how much volume gets added, so it's not the perfect 1 person meal, but it's close. At least according to the old 4 food groups.

I eat like this fairly frequently, which is why it always flabbergasts me when people spend 3 hours waiting in line at the grocery the day before a storm. Spend the three hours baking the loaves of bread from the flour in the pantry, cycle through true emergency supplies as part of your regular routine, and get creative with your pantry stores. Three days without lettuce won't kill you. Even with a family one should have enough on hand to make it until the roads get plowed, especially if you've ever shopped at Cosco.

So, happy things today:
  • Got the goahead to move forward with my new process at work. Still requires a presentation and a meeting, but no big showstoppers have presented themselves.

  • A coworker brought in a selection of dried fruits to share. Her relative gave her too many for her household to consume in a timely manner. (No such thing in my family is untimely fruit eating.)

  • Had lunch with a friend after too many weeks of disconnecting. My parents were tiring, but her inlaws were a nightmare. If she wasn't so upset, it would be hysterically funny that she's been married for 10 years and her in-laws still don't quite know her name consistently, and weren't quite sure who was calling them or why when she notified them about their son's emergency surgery shortly before the holidays.

  • While I think it's alarming that I spent $160 restocking the bathroom supplies (deodorant, q-tips, breathe right strips, toothpaste (Wintermint! At the store!), face cleanser, feminine supplies, contact cleanser and other non-optional things) I'm happy that I can afford to do it without sacrificing other essential items like food.


Junior said...

Meowm says your pantry meals sould like a good idea to her. She ends up making a rather large pot of something and then eats it for most of the rest of the week....and she gets very tired of it.

And she says restocking bathroom and laundry supplies is a bitch....and necessary.

CrankyOtter said...

Oh, so necessary! Can't be stinky! Or hairy, or oily, or dry and flaky, or flyaway or... sheesh. I hate flying now because I can't take all my magic potions with me. Do I want shampoo, or do I want hair gel to combat the cowlick? Hence the drive to SanFran (that plus extra cheap gas).

Junior should ask Meowm to confirm her address with me so I can send some books home.

I made a giant pot of pea soup the other day. It was tasty. I made it through 3 meals of soup and then couldn't stomach the rest. If I'd just frozen half I would have been ok, but no, it's probably going bad. The chow-pow (bao) froze nicely though and microwave up really well.