No Food, Only Ingredients!

This is the bane of my existence…I’ve got nothing ready to pop out of the fridge and eat on a busy (ahem…lazy) weeknight, but I’ve got tons of great ingredients, if only I weren’t so lazy/pressed for time/unmotivated to cook.  For a long time, if nothing jumped out at me after staring deep into the soul of my refrigerator, John & I would decide that nobody felt like cooking any of the food we had–maybe we should just order pizza.  Cue a complete lack of logic (when did scrambling eggs ever take longer than waiting for delivery?) and some wicked unhealthy meals (because Pizza Luce’s buffalo wings are delicious, and obviously need to accompany any pizza into my life).  Not a horrible decision every once in a while, but when you find yourself contemplating how likely it is the same pizza dude will ring your doorbell for the third time this week?  Bad news bears.

So hubby & I decided to clean up our acts, pull out our Adult Cards, and start eating home-cooked food on weeknights.  (If we made new year’s resolutions, that’d be it.)  We have been going strong since late December (only five delivered dinners so far in 2015, and we’re already through August!).  That’s not to say we always hit the healthy mark, but we’re eating so much better than we had been (and our wallets are much happier not paying for take away all the time, too!).

One thing that’s been really, incredibly, helpful?  An arsenal of quick, easy, staple meals–things we always have the ingredients on hand to make, and that don’t require a sous chef, an array of cooking pots, and 5 to 6 hours to put together.  (You may think that last bit is hyperbole, but I shall direct your attention to weeknight boeuf bourguignon.  It’s happened, on more than one occasion.  Though it might better be termed “how to eat dinner at midnight”!)

We’ve come up with a few hits on our own, but I’ve also been leaning pretty heavily on this 2007 article from Mark Bittman: Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.  It’s got tons of ideas (some super simple, like #101 – beans & hot dogs, and some pretty decadent, like #12 – boil a lobster, serve with butter).

And I’ve discovered the joy of soups!  WhatchaGot Stew (comprised of, you guessed it–whatever you have on hand) happens pretty regularly.  A few variations:

  • Root veggies + broth + maybe some meat + canned beans + maybe some cream = tasty winter soup.
  • Loads of sliced onions + beef broth in the crockpot = slow cooker onion soup, just add swiss cheese & croutons!
  • Raw beets + raw cucumber + stale bread + tomatoes + vinegar + olive oil = gazborscht (a hybrid of gazpacho & borscht that’s really quite awesome hot or cold!)
  • Raw corn sliced off the cobs + cobs + onions + carrots + beans = sweet summer soup, great hot or cold (obviously, pull the cobs out before serving).
  • Lamb soup bones + barley + onions + a little cream = pure cold weather comfort soup (just pick the lamb meat off the bones before serving).

This summer, we also learned how to make a pork shoulder roast on the grill (I know, how did we make it this long missing an essential life skill, right?!), so now quite often we will make a 4 pound roast on the weekend, then turn it into dinners for the week: sliced roast to pulled pork to tacos to soup (with the bone and whatever summer veg we have lying around).  We also learned how to make pizzas on the grill (future post coming on that!)–outdoor cooking is awesome since it doesn’t heat the house up, and you get to sit around the grill (perhaps with an icy adult beverage) while everything cooks, so it mostly feels like you’re just relaxing in the back yard–win win!

Anyhow, this post is getting a little rambly, but I thought it might be fun to share some ideas!

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