What Would You Cook If You Couldn’t Leave the House?
Oh no! I can see it now. You walked out of your house to your car, hoping to drive to town and get some dinner. You put your keys in the ignition, but the car won’t start! Without transportation, your plans to purchase a Big Mac and fries are ruined. You drag yourself back inside the house, and stare at your pantry in agony. It’s time to be innovative: how would you satisfy your hunger if you couldn’t leave the house?
Choose ingredients based on the time of day.
If you want some some breakfast inspiration, eggs are a good start. Crack a few eggs into a bowl, and add some veggies. Lunches usually involve sandwiches – toast some bread and check your fridge for possible fillings. Dinners can start with a grain or starch, such as pasta. Boil some water, and then search your kitchen for ingredients that like to be boiled: potatoes, barley, or macaroni for example. Desserts generally begin with sugar and butter, so start your mixer and go from there. Use these stereotypical meal categories to jump-start your culinary creations.
Search the back of your pantry.
The back of my pantry is a Bermuda Triangle of ingredients. Half-empty boxes of brown rice. Chocolate-dusted boxes of cocoa powder. Sherry vinegar, cornstarch, oats, and rye flour. Separately, the contents of my pantry don’t sound very exciting to my taste buds. Rather than just staring at the same ingredients you always see in the pantry, go digging! Grab that tall bottle you see leaning over in the back corner. Ooh, it’s rice vinegar… maybe it’s time for a stir-fry. Turn the labels on your cans to face the front for easier reading. I forgot I had evaporated milk in the house! Brownies, anyone? Take out any ingredients that sound delicious, and put them on the counter. Now, match them up. Pair the balsamic vinegar with pasta, and add a can of tomatoes. Place the lentils next to the veggie broth and a can of corn. Experiment with different combinations.
Inspect your veggies and dairy.
Pull out the vegetable drawer in your fridge. Take out anything spoiled, and throw it away. Go through the remaining veggies, and ask yourself, “Will this spoil overnight if I don’t use it up?” If the answer is yes, then put that veggie on the counter. Plan your meal around that vegetable. Do the same for your dairy products. After you complete this exercise, you should have the beginnings of a great lunch or dinner. Maybe you’ll find goat cheese and broccoli, or sour cream and red peppers. Take that combination and add it to the pantry items you found. Eliminate anything that doesn’t fit from your new combo – for example, you really shouldn’t eat soy sauce, black-eyed peas, cabbage, and vanilla soymilk together. Well, you can if you want to, but don’t invite me over to dinner to try it.
Preheat the oven / Heat olive oil in a pot
Finally, start cooking! Preheat the oven if you’re making cookies or a casserole. Heat some olive oil in a pot to sauté veggies. By now, you should have a great combination of ingredients ready for your meal. Throw everything together in a pot or dish, and enjoy!
Homemade “Clif” Energy Bars
I’ve tried to make homemade energy bars in the past, and the ingredients always crumble into pieces instead of staying together in a bar. The crumbles are delicious, of course, but I need a snack that I can pack into my purse for some quick energy during the day. My friend M. demonstrated her wonderful kitchen creativity the other day when she invented these homemade energy bars. The results were so good; I wanted to eat the entire pan. These bars are very rich and chewy, and are made without refined white sugar. M. used up items in her pantry and saved some money on boxed energy bars in the process. Win-win!
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup skim milk
One small can of low-fat evaporated milk
½ cup whole wheat flour
Two tablespoons honey (add more if you want a sweeter taste)
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup coconut flakes, toasted
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 X 9 baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
Toast the coconut flakes and walnuts: put the coconuts and walnuts on a flat griddle on the stove, and turn the heat on medium. Stir the coconuts and walnuts occasionally to prevent burning. Turn off the burner when dark spots start to appear on the walnuts, and the coconut looks browned. If you don’t have a griddle, you can also spread the coconut flakes and walnuts on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes.
Heat skim milk, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat for two minutes, and then add in the evaporated milk. Keep stirring constantly for five minutes. Turn heat off.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, honey, oats, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg, and then stir to combine. Stir in the toasted coconut flakes and walnut pieces. Add the cocoa powder-milk mixture, and stir until combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then slice into squares or triangles.