We have all been there. Some of us pretty much live there. "There" being the dreaded 5 pm "what are we going to eat for dinner" pang. Try as I might to plan meals, things happen. Ingredients that should have been bought fall through the cracks. Sometimes, it's as simple as nothing sounding good. But something struck me the other day (no, not a box of cereal as it fell out of the cupboard...well, at least not this time). A formula. For LIVING. Er, EATING!
It's an extremely basic formula:
Grain + protein + vegetable + flavors = dinner
Sounds ridiculously basic, right? It's all about keeping a small selection of things in the pantry, and picking up a few fresh things when you're out. Using this formula, you can go to the market and choose whatever is in season/ looks best.
First, a caveat: this is ridiculously simple because it's something highly individualized. What I'm sharing here is really just a loose pattern. To make it work for you, first you're going to need to compile a few quick lists. These lists are the framework that make food happen.
Here are my lists, to give you an idea. They're obviously skewed towards my own tastes, but that's the beauty of the system: it SHOULD be skewed towards your own tastes. Why bother eating some one else's idea of what delicious is?
Grains - keep in stock in pantry:
- Bulgur Wheat
- Sauces, pre-made
- olive oil
- various vinegars (balsamic, red wine, white wine, rice...)
Vegetables (fresh is better, but keep some in freezer for quick fix/"emergency" meals):
- Whatever is in season and looks good!
- A can of tomatoes (You can get a crazy amount of mileage out of this.)
Protein (again- mostly buy fresh, but keep a few on hand in freezer for emergency meals):
- More beans than one can shake a stick at
And here's where all that hoarding comes together.
There's a tremendous amount of directions you can go with all these goodies, but if you're stumped:
Start with frying an onion and/or garlic. Add to this the vegetables and spices. Add to that the protein.
- With tons of broth/water, it's soup.
- Served over pasta, it's...pasta.
- Served over grains, it's a stir fry.
- Served in tortillas, it's burritos/tacos.
You get the idea. The secret to variety is in the spices. You might want to start keeping track of combinations you really like. Or maybe I should write some up for the blog. (I happen to have a recipe for an easy lemon dressing that knocks the socks off of more dishes than you'd think.)
What do you think? Have any spice/sauce combinations you'd like to share? Comment!