I miss dining out! Covid19 and hazardous air quality from the many fires have reduced our options. Indoor dining is limited due to social distancing regulations and outdoor dining has been impossible due to the poor air quality. As much as I love to cook, there are times when I can’t face spending another whole day in the kitchen! If you feel that way, my advice is to take a day off!
It’s easy to say, but you and your family still have to eat something! And unless you have another family member willing to cook, my solution is to clean out the refrigerator. Frittatas, salads, soups, one-pot dishes, are all good candidates for using up what you have with minimum time spent in the kitchen (one hour or less). Of course, heating up leftovers is always a good idea. But I am talking about creating something fresh. Last week, I combined leftover braised pork shoulder, cabbage, cannellini beans, carrots, leeks and lots of herbs with some stock and made a yummy soupy stew. An Italian Chopped Salad that takes less than 30 minutes to make is a perfect example of a delicious, full-meal-deal on a plate. Just use up all of those small amounts of vegetables in your crisper. Add some cheese and salami or ham or leftover chicken. Serve breakfast for dinner, which requires very little prep or kitchen time. No one will complain if dinner is a simple salad and a plate of cheese, salumi and bread.
It helps to have some convenience ingredients on hand that can be transformed into simple, quick meals. Here are some of my recommendations:
⁃ Prepared Marinara and Dried Pasta for simple pasta dishes
⁃ Chicken and Beef Cooking Stock for soup
⁃ Canned Beans (Black, Cannellini and Garbanzo) for quick chili, soups, and salads
⁃ Tuna (Nicoise Salad)
⁃ Bacon & Ham for omelets, frittatas
⁃ Eggs and cheese
⁃ Onions, Garlic, Celery and Carrots because you need them for almost everything
⁃ Savoy Cabbage, holds well, great for salads, side dishes and adding to soups
Also, plan ahead. When you are in a cooking mood, make some soup for the freezer. Cook a pot roast for dinner and freeze half. Meatloaf on the menu this week? Make a double batch and freeze one loaf (uncooked) for another time. If you are grilling steak, cook extra for a steak salad the following day.
Remember, it’s ok to say you are tired of cooking and to take a day off! You deserve it!
Here are a few of my favorite pantry staples: