Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Making something out of nothing

I mentioned last week that I’ve been sustaining myself on frozen food and Kind bars because I was too busy to cook, let alone go grocery shopping. Well, the other night I still had not gone grocery shopping, but I was hungry and I wanted to cook something resembling real food. So I raided my freezer and my pantry to pull together whatever I could find, and the results were not half bad. (Pretty tasty, actually!)

What I found:

A box of elbow macaroni
A bag of frozen spinach
Frozen green beans
Frozen ham steaks
Italian cheese/pizza cheese blend
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh garlic
Fresh ground pepper
Red pepper flakes

My mom ended up coming home early, so in addition to my regular pasta, I boiled up some brown rice pasta for her (she has Celiac disease, so she has a gluten intolerance.)

First, get some water boiling with a bit of olive oil in it. While the water boiled, I thawed out the ham. It’s even better if you have non-frozen ham.
Cube the ham (I used one large ham steak) and sautee in a pan. Add frozen green beans to the pan and let it all cook together.
Once the water boils, toss in as much pasta as you’d like, let cook to a nice al dente and drain.
Thaw or steam the spinach and drain to get rid of the excess water (there will be a lot.) Add to the pan with the ham and green beans.
Mince one small clove of garlic and add to the pan. Add plenty of fresh ground pepper and a small palmful of crushed red pepper flakes to add just a bit of heat.
Once the spinach cooks down, add some olive oil to the pan–just a drizzle.
Put pasta into bowls, followed by the ham and spinach mixture. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil (mine’s closer to a pour than a drizzle) and top with the cheese. Heat in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese, if necessary.

Finished product

Finished prodcut 3

Finished product 2

And the best part--leftovers! Made a great lunch at work the next day.

Sometimes life gets in the way

Whoa. I’ll be honest, I knew it had been a while since I’d posted something, I did. but I didn’t realize it had been quite this long–two and a half weeks is quite a gap.

I’d like to explain. You see, I’m coming to the end of what may be the busiest month of my life. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m involved in theater and am currently in production for a cabaret-style show going up TOMORROW NIGHT! (Yikes!) Needless to say, that has encompassed an exorbitant amount of my time lately. One of my best friends from college also got married last weekend, and so wedding preparations and travel also added to my load. The last few weeks have been meticulously organized, with every minute of my days after I leave the office planned out.

Unfortunately, this kind of overload does not leave much time for culinary explorations, or even food shopping for that manner. So, I have been largely subsiding on frozen meals, take out and the occasional vegetarian treat from the cafe down the street from my office. The quantity, overall, as well, has often been minimal.

This feels like a dirty, dark confession from a self-proclaimed foodie and food blogger, but nonetheless, it is life. Sometimes we’ve all been just too swamped to sit down and prepare a delicious healthy meal or savor a wonderfully prepared dinner from our favorite restaurant.

I’ve been trying to get better about making something out of nothing–that is, looking in the fridge and pantry and trying to assemble a meal from what’s there, but it’s been pretty scant–perhaps I just lack the creativity and inspiration to create a fantastic meal out of deli ham, greek yogurt and plums. (Seriously, though, if anyone has suggestions I’d love to hear them! Let’s get creative, folks!)

Now that the weather’s warming up (though that’s a relative statement–it’s been an unseasonably warm winter) I’m getting inspired to expand my culinary repertoire.  I don’t know the first thing about gardening, but I want to grow fresh herbs. And I want to have picnics by the water. And I really can’t wait to bust out the grill again.

But right now I’m just trying to get through opening and closing night, so if that means subsiding on pizza, Kind bars and alcohol for the rest of the weekend, so be it. We all deserve it sometimes, after all.

But this situation has inspired me–what is your biggest gastronomical “sin?” I’ve actually had a double-whammy this month (whoa baby, I’m gonna be in trouble for this one):

  • First, the wedding prep. I borrowed a gorgeous dress from my younger sister for my friend’s wedding. But my sister is skinnier and narrower than me, so the dress just fit. Therefore, I was determined to drop a couple of pounds by the wedding so I could actually have some wiggle room in the dress. (Because, come on, I wanted to EAT! Is there any doubt about that one?) So the last two weeks were focused on a high-water, low-sodium diet culminating in a week where I ate a LOT of celery, yogurt and peanut butter and drank a ton of peppermint tea. Result? The dress fit with room to spare and I admittedly (and probably expectedly) gorged myself at the wedding. (Cocktail hour was mostly great with a few misses, same with the Viennese dessert table. The actual dinner? Barely touched it, didn’t even need it.) Fun note: By the end of the night, I indirectly got the entire bridal party drinking French martinis–and I wasn’t even in the bridal party! Such a trendsetter I am.
  • The second one’s no secret–the aftermath of the wedding diet resulted in me laxing up even a little more than usual on what I eat. I tend to try to stay pretty healthy with obvious and acceptable exceptions here and there. This week wasn’t awful, but more exceptions than I usually make. Plus, living off of frozen and drive-through food isn’t the healthiest, no matter which way you slice it (and definitely the antithesis to my low-sodium kick of the past weeks.)

However, we all do it, and we all recover. When life gives you lemons, sometimes you have no choice but to make really sweet, terrible-for-you lemonade. And you know what? You enjoy it.

**So tell me–what’s your biggest gastronomic offense? Trust me, I’m in no position to judge!**

Ingredients game: Guess that recipe

OK, let’s play a game. Based on the photo below, can you guess what I’m making?

Red onion, tomato, minced garlic, basil

*****************************************************************************************************ANSWER BELOW*****************************************************************************

If you guessed bruschetta, good work!  You win…the knowledge and satisfaction that you know what those four simple ingredients can make!  Sunday night was bruschetta night in my house, since it was simple, quick, tasty and nutritious.  The longest part of this recipe is all the prep–chopping onion, garlic, basil and tomatoes. (Hint: a garlic press really helps cut down on time. Seriously, I’ll never stop espousing the virtues of the garlic press.)  Anyway, once all the prep work’s done, it really takes only a minute or two to put everything together.

Bruschetta

2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded
1 ring chopped red onion (this is a very strong flavor, so feel free to use less–honestly, if it was up to me I would’ve used very little, but Kevin had some say in this too, and he loves red onion)
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic (again, a personal palate thing–I used closer to 2 teaspoons but regretted it later; it ended up being a very strong garlic flavor and overwhelming aftertaste)
Handful chopped fresh basil
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Chop tomatoes, onions and basil and transfer into a medium mixing bowl. Mince or press garlic and add to the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Mix to incorporate all the ingredients well. Serve with crostinis. (See below)

If you choose to serve the bruschetta as a traditional appetizer with crostinis, then you need some nice toasty bread.  We bought some pre-sliced saloio bread from the supermarket (this was about speed and convenience–and of course, flavor), which has a nice crusty, Italian bread flavor mixed with a sourdough. Any crusty white bread, thinly sliced, will do. To make the crostinis, arrange a single layer of bread slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil. Place under the broiler for one to two minutes on each side or just until golden brown and crispy.

Before broiling: arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil

After broiling, golden brown. Make sure you flip and broil both sides

Pile the bruschetta on the hot, crispy crostini and enjoy! Drizzle with a little more olive oil, if desired.

The finished product--yum! But a bit spicy. (Go easy on the garlic and onion if you're spice-sensitive like me)

UPDATE:  We had leftover bruschetta after dinner, so I mixed it into some brown rice and quinoa and added some chopped rotisserie chicken–instant delicious, healthy lunch for work! (Sometimes I wish I could do a whole post on leftovers!)

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