"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Healthy Eating: Pantry Cooking Simplified


Pantry copyright 2012

I’m always aiming to simplify my meal planning and I believe that a key to doing this is to have a well stocked pantry. What foods you keep on hand should be determined not by what is on sale that week at the grocery store, but by what you like to mostly eat.

My heritage is Italian and I tend to enjoy primarily Italian cooking.  Italian cooking really melds with the simple living philosophy because it is simple to cook, and it usually requires few ingredients per recipe. It is also healthy, especially traditional, as my mom calls it, “peasant food.” “Peasant food” tends to be high in nutrients and low in fat because meat is used as a condiment, much in the way that Chinese use it, vegetables and grains are really the centerpiece of this type of Italian cooking.
So what is in my pantry? Things that can make a quick meal. When I plan my meals for the week I don’t think about rotating different types of meat.  I think about which grain will we have tonight. So, I tend to have on hand: different whole grain pastas, brown rice, quinoa, barley, polenta and potatoes. To work with these grains I keep: jarred tomato sauce, jarred Asian sauces like: Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer, they also have a really good lemongrass sauce. You can pour these over any fish or meat, make a grain and a veggie - and you got a delicious ethic meal.
I also keep cans of tuna, beans, and olives, along with some pickled vegetables. Any of these items or all of them can be mixed together with pasta or rice for a yummy quick meal.
In my refrigerator I usually always have celery and carrots, along with onions  these three ingredients are the foundation for most soups and stews. In France these vegetables are called, Mirepoix, they are viewed as the French Holy Trinity.  Of course, as an Italian, I have garlic on hand too. And staples like: cheese, eggs, and milk. (Keep some Parmalat non-perisable milk on hand, in case you run out.)
In my freezer I keep: hormone free chicken tenders or breasts, uncooked peeled shrimp, fish sticks, meatballs, sausage (either pork or chicken) veggie burgers and buns, along with a loaf of bread in case we run out. The vegetables I have frozen are peas, spinach, and green beans, plus a stir fry veggie mix. I also keep some frozen corn, which is a grain, I think the dish succotash is at fault for confusing this grain for being a vegetable in American’s mines. 
From just what I have on hand I can make a week’s worth of dishes. I don’t usually do this. I usually pick one new recipe a week and buy the ingredients for that dish then see what leftovers I have too, but if I was forced to cook from my pantry this week here is what I would probably make: (Because my pantry is well stocked. I rarely have to make emergency trips to the grocery store which are time consuming and waste gas.)
Sunday: Tuna, olives, and tomato sauce over pasta. (If mixing a can of tuna fish into tomato sauce sounds strange to you, trust me, it is really delicious. This a cheap version of a classic Sicilian dish. If you add a jar of capers it would be truly authentic.  This is such an easy, refrigerator free meal we often make this dish on camping trips. 
Monday: Chicken tenders with curry sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans.
Tuesday: White beans, spinach, tons of garlic sautéed together over polenta.
Wednesday: Stir fry veggies, shrimp, soy sauce, garlic and ginger over brown rice.
Thursday: Veggie burgers, salad, pickles.
Friday: Chicken noodle soup with onions, carrots, celery. (Freeze some of this for another dinner) 
Saturday: Frittata with leftover vegetables and cheese served with rustic bread.

copyright 2012

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4 comments:

  1. Forgive my ignorance. Do you heat the tuna "sauce" mixture? I'm always on the lookout for a tasty new pasta dish. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is actually a good question. Yes, I heat the whole mixture in order to blend the flavors.

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  2. Having a well stocked pantry will save you tons of money! I love your meal ideas and would have never thought to add tuna to tomato sauce, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was inspired on a camping trip. Great to make out in the woods.

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