For a 25-year-old, my pantry is usually well-stocked. I grew up in a small farming town, where an overpriced grocery store was 15 minutes away, but my frugal parents would wait until we had to make a trip to a bigger town to stock up on all of our groceries. Their pantry always had enough to get us a year or two in the event of an apocalypse. I don’t have as much room for a pantry in my small apartment, nor do I have my own garden or a chest freezer full of venison. Taking an inventory of my pantry, I keep a stocked shelf of canned beans and vegetables, canisters of various dried beans, rice, quinoa, barley etc. I love having a lot of frozen vegetables on hand, steamer bags of brussel sprouts, beans, peas, corn. The hard part for me is planning ahead for fresh produce. I don’t go grocery shopping enough to always have it on hand, and it’s hard to balance between having enough and not letting anything go bad – especially when week days get busy. I had tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peppers, almond milk, and blueberries in my fridge, and various condiments.
Curry in a hurry:
It was Friday night, I had to work in the morning, and my parents would be to my house for lunch. I decided to prep a meal the night before, and put it in the crock pot in the morning (I feel like I’m cheating on this assignment, using a slow cooker…) I found a recipe to utilize the excess red lentils that I had, and I had curry on the brain since having curry cheese sauce last week. Through Yummly, I found a recipe for Crockpot Coconut Curry Lentil Soup:
I chopped up vegetables the night before, and put all of the dry ingredients right into the crock pot, so it would be easy to start in the morning.
Chopped Celery, carrots, and onion, to be put in the fridge overnight. Dry ingredients in the crock pot: red lentils, curry powder, cumin, and… Corn starch.
This is where I should have listened to the advice on mise en place. I assumed that I had a can of coconut milk, since it’s a regular in my pantry, but it was nowhere to be found. I did have almond milk in the fridge, and I tossed in the cornstarch to make it a bit thicker like coconut milk. I also did not have any ginger. I usually have a root in the freezer that I would have grated, but that too was all used up. Thanking my frugal self for saving a crusty, empty jar of ginger spread, I decided I would heat it up in the morning and wash the ginger flavor out with the almond milk. Oh yes, and I didn’t have any vegetable stock. (Seven out of ten isn’t bad, right?) In place of vegetable stock, I threw in 2.5 cups of water and two chicken bullion cubes. I did have tomato paste, and added a bit extra than it called for, because I thought it might help to thicken things up a bit more.
With everything in, I turned the crock on high and headed to work. Now, the curry was not in a hurry, but when my parents got to my apartment in St. Paul, there was nowhere to park. That made me happy for the sake of democracy (women’s march), but that meant they just picked me up instead of stopping for lunch. I turned the crock off an hour early and left it on the counter to cool down. When we finally ate it for supper, it was good, but didn’t thicken as much as I had hoped, and the lentils could have been cooked just a little bit longer. Still good! And I didn’t have fresh parsley for garnish, but I did have instant/freeze dried parsley that did the trick.
Spaghetti Squash Sunday:
My parents were trying to get rid of their spaghetti squash from the garden and brought along the mother of all spaghetti squashes. It was a beast to cut through, but I finally cracked it in half, gutted it, sprayed the pan with olive oil, and put it in the oven at 350. After 30 minutes I decided to increase to 375, and cooked for another 20 minutes- it must have been a bit old and dried out. While that was cooking, I worked on the Basic Tomato Sauce recipe from Thursday’s class. I had used the last of my onions in the soup, so I used onion flakes instead. I had thyme, but no marjoram, so I used Italian seasoning, which has both herbs, plus some. I was also surprised that I didn’t have a can of diced tomatoes either (time for a big grocery trip!), but I cut up a whole bag of Roma tomatoes. I was happy to use the rest of the can of tomato paste, and let the sauce simmer away. I like chunky tomato sauce, so I didn’t run it through a blender (and I’m lazy). I added a bit more olive oil, and it tasted amazing. To finish it all off, I added a lazy-steamed bag of Brussels sprouts for the side, and avocado and Parmesan for the topper. YUM!
Reflecting on it all – I realized my pantry was more thinned out that I had assumed. Even with taking inventory beforehand, I didn’t dig through every can and make sure I had all of the ingredients. However, that makes it more fun because it forces me to be creative instead of just searching for a different recipe that uses everything I have.