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.