Saturday, April 23, 2011

When life hands you lemons...(or not?)

Normally, I am a person who lives and dies by my menu planning. I sit down with my cookbooks and spreadsheet and plan out my meals for an entire week. I do this for several reasons - one, I don't enjoy grocery shopping, so I'd rather do a week's worth of shopping in one trip; two, I don't like having to think about what I'm having for dinner every single day; and three, it enables me to better plan out a week's worth of nutrition and balance heavy meals with lighter ones, big cooked meals with big raw salads, pizza one night with a light soup the next, etc. The way I look at it is, I'd rather have to think about what's for dinner once a week rather than having to decide every single day.

However, sometimes life doesn't work out as planned. Case in point, my 2-year-old son was sick this week. This happened approximately when I was nearing day 7 of my week's worth of meal plans and groceries. I wanted to spend my time nursing and comforting my son, not worrying about menu planning the next week's meals or even wondering what was for dinner over the next couple of nights. As such, I had to get creative and try to cobble together some healthy dinners with a less-than-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry.

There are a few staples I always try to have on hand for emergencies such as these. Canned beans (black, garbanzo, and cannellini, especially), canned tomatoes, jarred salsa, seeds and grains (quinoa, millet, wild rice mix, cornmeal), dried peas, pasta, and frozen vegetables can definitely help stretch your meals (and your budget, too!) a couple of days and hopefully quell the urge to order takeout. Fortunately, even with my low provisions, I still had what I needed to assemble some tasty and easy dinners. A bag of dried split peas, some carrots, some celery, an onion, broth powder, water, and seasonings were tossed into the crockpot one morning while my son was napping. Voila, split pea soup bubbled away all day while I watched Toy Story and Curious George with my son. I threw together a simple salad (baby romaine, tomato, and yellow bell pepper) and tossed it with some homemade "honey" mustard dressing (agave nectar, dijon mustard, and white balsamic vinegar).  Normally I love to squeeze fresh lemon juice onto my salads, but alas, there were no lemons in the fridge :( But no matter, the dressing was delicious!

A few nights ago, I made some hummus quesadillas. I only had one can of garbanzos in the pantry, so I grabbed my last can of cannellini beans and threw that in the food processor, too. Rinsing the beans in hot water not only removes excess sodium, it also makes your hummus super smooth!! I added some jarred red bell peppers, red wine vinegar (again, no lemon juice :( , salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and olive oil. I whizzed it all in the processor, streaming in more oil and water until I got the desired consistency. It turned a lovely shade of pink due to the red peppers, and it was my first totally improvised hummus. Not too bad!

I heated up my cast iron skillet, added a whole wheat tortilla, and then spread it liberally with my hummus. I topped one half of the tortilla with my last couple of scallions (chopped), a few sprigs of cilantro, a few spoonfuls of salsa, and a couple of shakes of Cholula hot sauce, then folded over the other side to make a half moon. I added a second tortilla to the skillet, repeated these steps, and folded that one over so I had two half moons cooking at once. After they got browned, I flipped them and cooked another few minutes until crispy. I put them on a plate, cut each into three pieces, and topped with some more salsa. I would have added some mashed avocado to the tops, but when I cut into my (last) avocado, it was all moldy on the inside - boo!!

The next day, I quickly ran into the grocery store on the way to my son's doctor's appointment. My goal was to grab whatever I could in the few minutes I had! I nabbed a head of broccoli rabe, a tomato, a big bag of oranges, a big knob of ginger, and some bananas. Maybe not the most conventional assortment of produce, but I didn't have a lot of time and I couldn't grab anything that needed to be refrigerated. I wasn't sure what I would do with this stuff, but I knew I'd come up with something! After we got home from his appointment, I sauteed up the entire head of broccoli rabe with some sliced garlic and grapeseed oil. I grabbed a tortilla, spread some leftover hummus on it, and added the broccoli rabe. A little salt, a little pepper, and a little Cholula on top, and boom, I had a tasty wrap in a few minutes' time!

Last night, I had to get downright creative and invent a recipe. I decided early in the day that I wanted to have some kind of cold quinoa salad for dinner. I looked around my fridge and pantry. Hmmm, a can of black beans, a jar of salsa, some nutritional yeast. An orange. Some baby romaine. The last few sprigs of cilantro. Half a cucumber. Some olive oil and red wine vinegar. How about a Mexican-inspired quinoa salad? Perfect!!

As always, I blended up some delicious smoothies for breakfast :) Since I couldn't find any frozen cherries at the store, I had to settle for some rather simple (but delicious!) old favorites, Chocolate Mint and Chocolate Ginger. Here's a Chocolate Ginger:

Chocolate Ginger Smoothie
Makes 1 large serving (or 2 small servings)

1 1/2 cups water
1 large frozen banana
1 heaping tablespoon raw cacao powder (I use Navitas Naturals brand)
1 heaping tablespoon cashew butter, almond butter, or nut butter of choice
5-6 drops vanilla liquid stevia (I use SweetLeaf brand)
1 large knob of ginger, peeled
6-7 ice cubes

Blend on high until smooth. It's really delicious and a nice, spicy treat!

What's for dinner tonight? Stay tuned!

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