Wow! A record three weeks since I last wrote. Today’s post is some insight on what to eat when you are too busy to shop for groceries…which has been me the last three weeks. But before we get into that, here’s what’s been keeping me from blogging!
Dickinson 5 year Reunion
I cannot believe it has been 5 years since I was worrying about whether or not I could crank out a 20 page paper in 1 night (for the record, I could…and did…on numerous occasions). I loved my time in college; I built some amazing friendships (cheesy), I learned some hard life lessons (cheesier) and ate some of the best mac and cheese bites in all the land (literally, the cheesiest). I also spent a lot of time “studying” (aka…boozing.) Dickinson invites its alumni back after the kids head home for summer for a weekend of fun. We stayed in our old dorms, caught up with friends, made new friends (shout out to Dickinson class of ’80), ate late night food, and “studied” (and yes I still mean drinking.)
At the reunion, I also played my first, ever, round of golf. I got to share the experience with some of my favorite ladies and was blessed to play on a perfect, sunny day. I won’t give you all the ridiculous details* (because it was absolutely the most ridiculous scene of all time) but it was honestly one of the most fun things I have ever done. I can’t wait to get back out there (and maybe I’ll even keep score this time!)
*details include: golf clubs from the 1920s, 3/4 players never having played golf, a very hungover start, and an “mmm mango” mixed drink.
We also went on our annual Wolf Trap trip. Wolf trap is a fantastic concert venue where you can bring in your own food, beer/wine and of course cheese. We have done this the past 3 years with our friends, Chris and Debbie, and it is always a blast. This year was extra special (and sad) because Chris and Debbie are headed out west for a new adventure and it’ll probably be our last concert for awhile. We jammed out to Jackson Browne and ate some dank guacamole.
Debbie and I even went early to actually get seats on the lawn! The last 2 years, we have shown up too late and have had spots on the lawn where we were unable to see who was playing. High five, Deb!
Then we hit up the legwarmers; an 80s cover band that we love.
Since we’ve been busy or out of town almost every weekend, scheduled grocery shopping has become a distant memory. On normal, non-busy weeks, we plan, pretty methodically, our lunches and dinner to avoid eating out. Unfortunately, when we are busy, a lot of that food ends up going to waste. Days where we think we’re going to eat brocollini become nights out with our friends. Nights where we think we’re going to make burgers end up being nights where we are too tired to cook. Sad face.
Because of this, we’ve become pretty good at making complete meals with whatever is on hand at the time. The key: having the right things on hand. What do we have, you ask? Check out my list below.
It is amazing how much an onion or a clove of garlic will change up a dish. Having certain produce staples in your kitchen means that even if you don’t have much, you have something. I know, profound. The key: long-lasting produce. In our kitchen you will always find:
Spaghetti Squash: I think one time, we let a spaghetti squash sit in our kitchen for like a month and a half…and when we came around to baking it, it was still perfect. Maybe it was doused in some type of crazy pesticide but regardless, we now have 2-3 spaghetti squashes in our kitchen. This is great as a substitute for anything pasta (no joke, it actually tastes better sometimes because it soaks up all the saucy goodness) and keeps you feeling light and happy. Preparation: Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F, cut in half (careful, this can be terrifying), gut the inside seeds (like a pumpkin), rub in olive oil, place face down on a baking sheet with aluminum foil and throw it in the oven for 40 minutes. When its done, it will be hot as f***, so be careful when you turn it over. Get a fork and scrape up the inside and BOOM. Spaghetti squash.
There are like a million types of onions but we always keep 3-4 yellow onions handy. My favorites are red onions but Steven doesn’t like them and you know, you make some tough sacrifices for love. Onions are great because you can sauté them and trick people in your house into thinking you are cooking something totally delicious and complicated. They are great base when you are making any type of veg, essential for fried rice, great for sprucing up sauces in jars…they options are endless! They also last quite awhile (if you keep them in a cool dark place).
Ok if onions trick people into thinking you are cooking something amazing, the addition of garlic is pure magic. Garlic is a staple in everything I cook if for no other reason then it makes my hands smell delicious. I will throw it in a marinade, into a piece of foil and into the oven with roasted vegetables (you will eat them like candy once they are all cooked), diced up to make garlic bread, garlic fries….garlic anything! I pick up garlic almost every time I go grocery shopping. My mom also gave me a little garlic holder, making it near and dear to my heart! It makes me feel all grown up. Garlic lasts forever. It may get a little sprout-ie or shrivel a bit but they are still delish!
Carrots/Celery (2/3 of the Holy Trinity).
I guess I could have lumped these together with onions (1/3 of the Holy Trinity) but I used carrots and celery less than I do onions. Carrots are awesome as a dinner side (I usually go with honey glazed carrots), as part of fried rice (yes, I love fried rice, make your jokes), and in the crock pot. Celery is also an awesome staple of you are crock potting chicken. We use a lot of celery when we juice as well. Carrots and celery also last a long time in the fridge (3-4 weeks).
Lemons and limes add an INSTANT burst of freshness to any dish. Not only are they amazing squeezed on top of vegetables (like spinach or arugula) or fish (or any seafood), but if you zest them up, they add an additional “pop” (as they say on Food Network). I don’t even have a zester but not a problem! I just use a peeler, get some of the yellow skin off (try to avoid the white as it is super bitter) and then finely mince up the shavings. Lemon/lime juice also gets the fish smell off your hands better than soap AND if you give it a squeeze down the garbage disposal, it’ll smell like you Mr Clean just took a whiz in your sink! Lemony fresh!
I will say that the moment I felt like a real adult was when I realized our spice collection was complete. For the first two months Steven and I lived together, we had to buy spices every time we wanted to follow a recipe. Now, 2 years later, we’re all set. I love having dried herbs (because fresh herbs go bad so quickly) and find they do the trick in most recipes that lack a bit of freshness. My dream is to one day have an herb garden but for now, my little spice rack will do. Spices make any piece of meat better and can truly transform a dinner.
Ever had those moments where you go and look in the pantry only to be sorely disappointed because “nothing is there”? Well fret no more, because I have the secret to alleviate that issue. Actually, you’ll probably still initially feel like there is nothing in there, but if you look a little harder and muster up some will power, you will be able to cook up something delicious. In our pantry, we always keep:
Since we got a baller rice cooker (the kind that looks like you should be able to stream Game of Thrones on), rice has become a staple in our diet. It is a great way to “heft up” a meal that is mostly veggies or small amounts of meat and absorbs sauce deliciously. We also have quinoa for a lighter night or if we want to do quinoa bowls (aka throw whatever you have in a bowl and consume.) Grains make a meal feel whole and are an awesome way to make something out of nothing. We normally consume grains quickly but I’ve never had an issue with it going “bad.”
If you have pasta, you have a meal. We’ll eat it with some garlic, olive oil, shrimp (or whatever meat you have) and oregano. Or with some jar pasta sauce. We keep a lot if different types in the pantry and stock up when they are on sale at the grocery store!
Pasta sauce is super versatile. You can use it for spaghetti (see above), pizza, lasagna, or a bake. We have our favorite brand but always end up throwing onions and peppers in to make it seem less “jar” like. It will last forever (forever = date on the jar). Refrigerate after you open for a 2 weeks ish!
Because everything in the freezer actually lasts forever (within reason…if you are good with freezer burn), we always turn to our freezer when we feel like we don’t have anything to eat.
Defrosting shrimp is quick and easy. I usually throw them into a bowl of cold water and let it sit for a few minutes. That means no remembering to defrost in advance (crucial for my mushy brain.) We put shrimp in pasta, rice or on top of veggies. It is a great break from chicken (we don’t eat much red meat) and makes the meal feel a little fancy!
Frozen Veggies: Peas, Spinach, Asparagus
Frozen veggies get a bad rap, but I found that they do the job just fine, especially if you are tired of wasting money by throwing away fresh veggies that have turned. For the most part, I just throw veggies into whatever sauce to make them more interesting but if you are trying to just eat veggies as a side, heat them up in a shallow dish of water in the microwave (30-60 seconds), drain, and then sauté or bake. This will make it taste almost (kind of, sort of) like they are from the market!!
Turkey Sausage Patties
Perfect for breakfast sandwiches or a “meat fix” if you are having one. The perfect ingredient for a “breakfast for dinner” type of night.
Because what can’t you do with eggs!? Perfect on their own (scrambled or fried) AND they make for an amazing decadence, poached, on top of pasta, pizza, or bread like substance! They also last for a bit but we eat ours so quickly so we never have to worry about it.
With these key ingredients, we are able to make SOMETHING that with fill us up and not break the bank. It definitely helps when we are in a pinch and are starving!
I’m back blogging with some more dedication, I promise. So I can say with confidence, see you next week!