Wednesday, February 02, 2011

on standby

I don't think I'm alone in this one...correct me if I'm wrong. Doesn't everyone have standby meals? Something that you almost always have the ingredients for? Something you could make blindfolded in your sleep? We had one of our standby dinners last night, and as I was making it, I thought I'd share our standbys in hopes that you might share your standbys and we'd all be standby-erific. You following my logic here?

So, beyond pasta and jarred sauce, which is frankly delicious when you don't feel like cooking and sometimes when you do...especially if you doctor the sauce with whatever veggies are about to go to veggie heaven in your crisper and some herbs and a little red wine...and then you add cheese. I'm pregnant. I'm hungry.

So, like I was saying, beyond pasta, what are your go-to dinners? For us the need for go to dinners usually arises from my not remembering what I planned to make for dinner and not being able to make sense of the ingredients in my house. This scenario normally occurs when I write the week's menu on the same paper that I write the highly organized grocery list upon and chuck straight into the recycling bin upon arriving home...before I transfer said menu to the calendar on the fridge. I have a system, and when I fail at my system, there is chaos. There is a need for standby dinner.

Our two basic standby dinners, which are mercifully two of my daughter's favorite meals in existence are noodle soup and fried rice. We had noodle soup last night. It's essentially chicken noodle soup without the chicken. I have to plan for meals with meat as there is never meat in my freezer, and if there was meat in my freezer, it would be frozen and no good for when I realize it's time to cook dinner and there is no menu on my calendar. You still following me? This is how the noodle soup goes.

I peel and dice a bunch of carrots. Or I just chop up some baby carrots. Then I clean and chop up some celery. Peel and mince garlic. Peel and dice onions if there are some laying around that need to be used. Then I heat up some olive oil in a soup pot. Then I cook all those yummy veggies until my kitchen smells delicious enough. Then I add salt and pepper. I read in Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food that one of the keys to making good soup is to make sure that the ingredients are well seasoned (at least well seasoned enough that you'd actually eat them on their own) in each step of the process. And, therefore, I add my beloved salt and pepper. Next I add chicken broth or chicken stock or water and bouillon...whatever is around. I bring it to a boil. Then I reduce it to a simmer and let that stuff simmer away until the veggies are a yummy, soup-appropriate consistency. Then I add a bag of extra wide whole wheat egg noodles. Those cook through...then I add fresh parsley if I have it...but I never add dried parsley, though there is no logical explanation for that. Maybe it's just that dried herbs aren't as pretty. That's it. Noodle Soup ala Ouiser. Rocket science, it ain't.

As for fried rice...I cook some rice. Then in a chef's pan, I heat a couple of tablespoons of veggie or canola oil over high. I add the rice and stir it up to let the oil absorb. It's not called fried rice for nothing. Then I push all the rice to one side of the pan. On the now empty portion of the pan, I saute whatever veggies I saved from their slow veggie death. Usually it's a myriad of diced bell peppers and whatever onions I need to use. You could use anything, though. Really. I think anything. Once those have cooked for a couple of minutes (to crisp tender), I mix them into the rice, and I add some soy sauce. Sometimes I add too much. Sometimes I don't add enough. I should consider measuring. Once everything is combined, I push it all to the side of the pan again, then I scramble a couple of eggs on the empty part of the pan. Mix it all together, and you're done. Dinner is served. And, peeps...there's carbs, veggies, and protein in this one. Drink a glass of milk with your dinner, and you've got all of your food groups covered. Wicked, huh?

So, those are our standbys. An added bonus is that both of those meals are also excellent for lunch the next day. Now, as I said, pasta and jarred sauce makes a pretty regular appearance around here as does the Ouiser family favorite bread/fruit/cheese combo. Or brinner. Yum. Eggs and biscuits.

I have no idea why I've rambled on about this for so long, but I'm done now.


Strongmama said...

Our standbys lately are eggs and pancakes or waffles. Not from a box though! Also, I usually have one or two chicken breasts on hand, as well as some frozen broccoli (or fresh), some couscous and a lemon. Dice and cook the chicken and remove from pan. Add broccoli and some italian seasoning (fresh or dry), about a cup of chicken broth. Cook for a few minutes if using frozen broccoli, a little longer if fresh. Add couscous, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cover and let the couscous get fluffy. Add the chicken back, serve. Takes about 10 minutes too! If you're even in more of a hurry, you can use one of those near east packets of couscous and foreget about your own seasonings, but still add the lemon zest.

Bianca said...

Fried rice is a good one I never think about. Veggie Chili is one of ours (my hubby is a veggie, you know) that can be made from pantry staples. Dice onion and pepper and carrots or whatever, saute them in a little oil until soft. Add chili powder, cumin, and brown sugar (sometimes cinnamon). Then add a can of tomatoes (diced or stewed) and a can of diced tomatoes and chilies. Finally add 3 cans of drained beans, any kind (I like black, kidney, and pinto)and a cup of texturized vegetable protein. Let it simmer together until it's yummy. Also makes enough for left-overs.

Leslie said...

I have two standby meals:
1. Jubilee - this is a little of everything: cut up veggies, some olives, cheese, crackers
2. Rice or quinoa with veggies and whatever Trader Joe's jarred indian sauce I have on hand. Usually, masala sauce.

die Frau said...

Our standby is much like yours...pasta and sauce. Or we do another version of that: We always have a few Jennie-O smoked sausages on hand, so we make Israeli couscous, cut and warm up the sausages, and add pasta sauce, seasoned salt, and mozzarella cheese until it's all melted and mixed together.

We also tend to have bread, cheese, and tomato soup on hand, and T makes grilled cheese (with multiple cheeses if possible), cuts it into quarter triangles for dipping, and heats the soup. YUM. I will also puree a can of cannellini beans with a tablespoon of mustard and spread a later of that on the grilled cheese for extra protein and kick. Trust me, it works.

Or we just go to Moe's and get burritos.

Paper Bird and Little Fairy said...

What does it say about myself that my standby is a large bowl of popcorn:)


Wonderland said...

PB - It means you're my kind of girl. :) (Mine's chips and salsa)

Jolene Slothouber Galbreath said...

ours is lentils. Every so often I soften a ridiculous quantity of the holy trinity: onions, carrots and celery and store them in silicon muffin liners in the freezer. At our house, there is almost always a bit of chorizo in the fridge and 'just in case' lardons in the freezer.
The boys chop the chorizo which I saute in a cast iron pan. Then we add one or two liners of the trinity (still frozen), enough lentils (usually puy and red), paprika and a bay leaf, some water or stock. The boys love their 'little pebbles.'

We've also been known to do a large bowl of popcorn :) I like the other ideas...we're always on the look out for a go-to dish to add to the repertoire.