We all have nights where we really don’t feel like cooking. There are even those nights when take-out is too much trouble. Besides – take-out usually equals too much fat, too much sodium, and too much guilt afterward!! I had one of those nights last night, so I decided to go through my pantry and see what I could find… (You’ll have to excuse my lack of pictures – I wasn’t thinking blog post as I was doing this!!)
I found a bag of vegetable radiatore pasta, a can of artichoke hearts, a jar of roasted peppers, a jar of manzanilla olives, 2 cans of water-packed tuna, a can of chickpeas, a jar of capers, and some vinaigrette. BOOM! Dinner! I boiled the pasta, chopped up the artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and a few olives, drained the chickpeas and tuna, took a couple of tablespoons of capers (drained), and a little of the vinaigrette and tossed it all together to make an AMAZING pasta salad! I also happened to have a little chunk of smoked mozzarella in the fridge, so I cut some into tiny cubes and sprinkled them over the top when I served it. Quick, cheap, and healthy! Of course you could use whole wheat pasta (which I also had – but I just thought the veggie pasta was pretty!!), add whatever other veggies and stuff you want to. It was a definite hit in our house.
There’s always something healthy hanging around in the pantry…sometimes you just have to be creative to make a meal out of it!
What are some of your favorite pantry staples? Do you have any “toss it all in” recipes that you come back to often for a quick dinner?
I decided this week to cancel my Weight Watchers monthly pass subscription. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to, but it was based on several factors. I wasn’t really getting what I had hoped to out of the meetings since the messages seem to be recycled over and over again…that is when I would actually go to the meetings. I think the only thing I was really getting was the weigh-in, and I can do that for free at home rather than paying $40 a month to stand on a scale. The most important factor was that I realistically will not be counting points for the rest of my life, so I might as well just learn to eat well. I’ve been working with a great nutrition coach, Suzanne (check out her website here), and with her help I’ve been much more intentional about the food choices I’m making. Without counting points and all that, I’ve managed to lose a little over 8 pounds since right after Christmas. Not too bad if I do say so myself. I do have a long way to go, but I’m in this for the long haul this time.
One of this week’s choices was in a dinner we made – and by we, I mean my husband and I. He’s actually taken an interest in cooking, which is great. It’s fun for us to cook together, and he is learning little by little what really goes into making dinner each and every night (and he is very appreciative of all the effort)! The local Borders bookstore is going out of business, so with my multitude of gift cards I picked up some healthy cookbooks for us to experiment with. As much as I love E-Mealz (and I do!!) there are some nights when we are craving something in particular that’s not on the menu for the week. This time it was macaroni and cheese.
Okay. I know what you’re saying… Macaroni and cheese is LOADED with fat and calories! It’s so terrible for you! Not in this case! One of the books I happened to buy at the Borders clearance sale was the Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman. I own his How To Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and love them both. In the Food Matters Cookbook, there is a recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Mac. It sounds weird, but believe me it really works! Pureeing the cauliflower with a little chicken broth creates a creamy sauce without having to make the typical cream sauce needed for mac and cheese. By using a super sharp cheddar, you don’t need too much to get the flavor. The sauce also includes dijon mustard for a little kick. Just like my regular recipe, it has a bread crumb crust on top – but it calls for whole wheat bread crumbs and just a hint of parmesan cheese. It was DELICIOUS! We made some homemade baked chicken tenders to go with it, and some salad. My husband learned the method for breading and baking the chicken and did an amazing job!
My other favorite lightened up mac and cheese recipe is from Ellie Krieger’s book The Food You Crave. It uses frozen winter squash puree as the base of the sauce, and includes small amounts of flavorful cheese and a little cayenne pepper – again with my favorite crunchy crust on top. Obviously, the whole point of both recipes is to eliminate the majority of the fat and calories that come from the bechamel sauce base. Both recipes do an excellent job of getting the flavor and texture of the classic without all the downsides.