Thursday, February 28, 2008

Staples to get a homecooked meal on the table when the craving grabs you..

I love my freezer, it's no secret. However, even I like to have a fresh homecooked meal from time to time. This weekend Tim returns home from being in Europe on business which is not as glamorous as it sounds, trust me. I used to do that sort of travel and it wrecks havoc on your eating habits. So this weekend I need to do hearty, satisfying meals that will start to re-adjust his system. I also don't want to go to the grocery store on until Monday when the Kid arrives for March break. Friday night we'll eat a nice light Chickpea Chowder from the freezer (I do love my freezer, did I mention that?). This recipe is a variation on the Chickpea Chowder recipe from Looneyspoons. If you haven't got a copy of this cookbook then I highly recommend it. In fact, you should have all 3 of the cookbooks written by the Podleski sisters. They are awesome... and the books are pretty great too! I've been making this recipe for about 10 years and it still stands up to the test of time and taste.

Now what to make for the rest of the weekend, keeping in mind that Tim's tummy will be used to large, heavy meals eaten out. Just by keeping a few root veggies on hand, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, turnip, onions, squash - you can whip together a stew. Now not everyone thinks of this but you don't have to use beef if you don't have some on hand (I happen to have a chunk of lean beef that will work perfect here). You could use chicken parts, removing the skin so you don't end up with a greasy stew, or you could use pork, veal or lamb. Whatever you have. Just be sure to brown the meat first as it adds so much to the flavour. My mom keeps a bag of stew veggies (it actually says that on the bag "stew mix") in her freezer and some stew beef. She whips up an excellent stew in a pinch. I'm going to find out what she puts in her broth to make it so tasty and I'll share the recipe with you. It's really good!

Another healthy option is to keep arborio rice to make risotto on hand. Toss in some frozen veggies, like spinach or asparagus and you are all set. A great vegetarian dish is good to go. However, to make a good risotto you need good parmesan or some type of hard Italian cheese. That is not a staple around here. When good Italian cheese comes into this house it never lasts long unless I hide it. I swear! The Kid is totally hooked on good Grana Padano.

Okay so what else is good to have on hand? Well how about pasta. Any shape or size will do. Keep a can of your favorite good Italian tomatoes in the cupboard. I add some frozen veggies like spinach, broccoli or brussel sprouts and a healthy meal is done! You can open a jar of your favorite sauce if you want to keep it super simple. The sauce is a veggie! Add meat if you are so inclined. This dish doesn't require good hard italian cheese to sprinkle on top but it's nice or you could add in diced feta, mozza or whatever tickles your fancy. But you don't have to if you don't have it on hand.

Do you know what my favorite pantry staple meal is? Tomato soup. Right from the can. It's nutritious, low fat and super tasty. Now that's comfort food even if it's not 'homemade'.

Bon Appetite

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