Monday, May 16, 2011

A Week of Pantry Dinners aka Rain Food

If you check the weather for this week in Upstate NY, every single day forecasts rain. Compared to the deluge that is soaking the folks of the South, it seems foolish to complain. However, when the first day to have less than a 60% chance of rain is Saturday, it makes my heart and soul feel positively soggy with a serious longing for summer, grilled cheese and tomato soup. It also makes me incredibly reluctant to shlep my girls in and out of the car through sopping wet parking lots.

So, what's a mama to do? Compile a pantry friendly menu for a week of rain.

Tuesday: Vegetarian Chili and Cornbread
Bob's Red Mill TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein), 10-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4)I love my pantry. I know there's canned tomatoes, diced and whole. I know there's Goya Black Beans, frozen corn downstairs, still on the cob from the CSA. I have onions, garlic, a pepper that needs to get used or thrown out and a huge bag of Red Mill's TVP (aka Textured Vegetable Protein) and their Stone Ground Corn Meal following a trip to Ocean State Job Lot. I know it's a sketchy, sketchy place, but it's worth the trip for the Red Mill alone. That and the Crocs: the Ultimate Summertime Kid Shoe. Aaaaanyway.

1. Saute onions, bell pepper and garlic, while reconstituting TVP with Osem Parve Beef Bullion in the microwave.

2. Toss it into the pot with cumin and chili powder. Saute until fragrant.

3. Deglaze with the tomatoes. Pour in the rinsed beans. Bring up to temp.

4. Add frozen corn 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with Cheddar, fresh onions, whatever you have on hand. The best thing about TVP is that you get to eat dairy with it!

 Wednesday: Tuna Melts

I do my tuna melts in the oven. I toast up the bread before hand, ideally a broad sourdough, but use whatever you have on hand. Then, add the tuna, covered with cheese and stick it under the broiler for 3 minutes or so. Instant pantry dinner. If you're feeling fancy, add fresh tomato.

I can't give you a recipe for tuna fish. Everyone has a way that THEY like it, usually a variant of the way their mother/grandmother packed it for them in their lunch box. I can tell you I add mustard, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to mine. Onions and celery make the cut, and sometimes red bell pepper. I'm neutral on pickles and anti jarred relish. Tuna fish should NOT be sweet in my book, nor too heavy on the mayo. Basically, use the same seasoning as you would for your egg salad, and you'll be in good stead. Stick to Chunk Light Tuna  for the sake of mercury and bring on the cheesy goodness.

Thursday: Eggs

Whether you're doing Breakfast for Dinner or Quiche, the complete protein that is the egg cannot be beat. I have frozen pie shells in my deep freeze, along with plentiful amounts of grated cheese and frozen zucchini and summer squash. Frozen spinach or broccoli could also do the trick. Hell, caramelize some of those in season Vidalia Onions, sprinkle on the cheddar, and call it a day. If you are without pie shells, grease a pan and call it a frittata.
Vidalia Sweet Onions - 10 LB
1. Preheat oven to 375. Mix up your eggs with 1% to whole milk (do NOT use skim). I use a 5 egg to 2 cups liquid ratio (This may end up being two quiches, depending on the size of your eggs). Add your seasonings of choice, including any herbs you have about. I like using thyme with eggs and my garden is already starting to burst with it. If you are using dried herbs, add them in step 2.

2. Meanwhile, saute up your veggie of choice. If you're caramelizing your onions, a little brown sugar will help speed up the process. Season as you go: salt, pepper, dried herb of choice. Allow your spices to open up.

3. Remove from heat. Heap inside pie shell or greased dish. Place dish on sheet tray. Sprinkle on a good handful of cheese. Pour on the egg mixture. Sprinkle on a little more cheese for good measure and pop it in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until puffy, gold brown and nearly set, with a slight jiggle in the middle. Share and enjoy.

Friday: Sherry Roast Chicken and Challah
I have one in my freezer. Seriously. Pull your chicken on Wednesday morn, leave it in your fridge, it'll be ready to go, bacteria free, by Friday. If you don't have chicken in your freezer, run through the raindrops and try not to melt.

I've shared this recipe before, but it's a great one. And it uses that staple of the Jewish pantry: Onion Soup Mix.

Suzi Goldman's Sherry Chicken
Root Veg - carrots, potatoes, celery, onions etc
1 chicken
1-2 cups Sherry
1 pkg onion soup mix

1. Preheat oven to 350. Peel and chop your veggies. Place in a dutch oven. Clean and trim your whole chicken. Place on top of the veggies. 

2. Mix the soup mix with the sherry. Pour over the chicken. 

3. Cover the dutch oven and place in your preheated oven for 1/2 hr per lb of chicken. Remove the cover for the last half hour. 

4. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve to oohs ahh and gasps. Bask in deserved praise.

Saturday: Baked Ziti Americana

Newman's Own Sockarooni Sauce -- 24 fl ozThere is nothing fancy about this ziti recipe. My Italian husband eats it and enjoys it. Would it be better with homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella and artisanal Parmigiano Reggiano? You bet. Will this be delicious and warm and good anyway? Absolutely. Serve it with frozen green beans, own up to the semi-homemade nature of it and curse out Sandra Lee for good measure.

1. Preheat your oven to 400. Boil water for pasta. Cook 1 pound pasta to al dente (Read the box and set the timer!!!). Grease a 9x13 or similar pan.

2. Mix 1 lb pasta with 1 jar Newman's Sockarooni Sauce and 1 good handful of mozzarella.

3. Layer 1/2 of the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Cover with a layer of grated mozzarella and Parmesan. Add the second 1/2. Cover again.

4. Place in over. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to set for 10 minutes. Serve with Roasted Asparagus if you've got it, frozen green beans or peas if you don't. It's damn good.

As always, share and enjoy. Read a good book or go splash in the puddles. Pray that the humidity holds off when we hit 83 degrees next Monday.


  1. I love pantry menus. Sometimes when I get lazy and want to avoid shopping, or when I am just trying to tighten the budget a bit, I can get by for a week or more without any groceries. Pretty good feeling!

  2. I was aiming for a budget friendly week, but best laid plans of mamas and men: David brought Nomi to school yesterday, and came home with lunch meats, split chicken breasts and plans for chicken cacciatore.