This week on SMB, we’re tackling the daily question “What’s for Dinner”
Join us all week long as our contributors weigh-in with different ideas and recipes related to the nightly dinner -time dilemma!
I am one of those cooks that is able to just open the fridge and figure out amazing and quick family dinners. Handsome husband says I shine the brightest when we both think there’s “no food in the house”. Truly, it is when I do some of my best work. About the time my husband says, “Honey! This is the best thing you’ve ever made!”, I sheepishly tell him that I have absolutely no idea what I’ve done and will likely never be able to replicate this heavenly dish. It’s a curse, I tell ya!
At the risk of making my husband think I am a little less magical, I am here to demystify my kitchen wizardry. I owe it all to maintaining a well-stocked kitchen. I’m not talking milk, eggs and cheese, here. I am talking about your spice rack, your pantry and your freezer. If you are well-stocked in these areas, you’ll never order pizza at 7pm again. (Though that DOES sound delicious…)
This list is not all-inclusive–I’ve tried to focus on the items that help me make quick, delicious dinners for my family in a pinch. (And though my family has some picky eaters, none of us have food allergies, so you may have to adjust this list accordingly.)
Boneless Pork Loin Chops
Boneless Chicken Breasts
Salmon/Tilapia/whatever fish your kids will actually eat
An assortment of basic frozen veggies (we use peas, corn, broccoli and spinach)
These meats are all quick and easy to thaw–especially the shrimp which will thaw in mere minutes in a bowl of water. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone from “what’s for dinner??” to “delicious!!!” in under 30 minutes because we had these items in the freezer!
We use fresh veggies most of the time, but it’s super handy to have frozen ones, as well. Unlike their canned counterparts, frozen veggies retain virtually all of their nutritional value. This helps when I’m making, say, an Indian curry and am short on veggies–I grab a couple handfuls of frozen peas to toss in and dinner is served!
THE SPICE RACK:
a great selection of basic herbs and spices (there’s too many to list, but basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, etc. The more you have, the more you can do!)
GIANT jar of minced fresh garlic in the fridge
Chinese 5-Spice (your stir-fry will never be the same!)
two great pre-mixed dry rubs
a few curry powders
whole nutmeg (you will never buy ground nutmeg again!)
cocoa powder (I toss this into chilis and stews)
I used to be a purist and would only buy garlic by the bulb. Buying a mega-jar of pre-minced fresh garlic is one of the best time-savers EVER (and your hands don’t get stinky)!
Fresh ginger, parsley and cilantro make SUCH a difference when you’re cooking. They are inexpensive and have a decent shelf life–they are ALWAYS in my fridge.
rice wine, red wine, cider and balsamic vinegars
leftover red wine
lemon and lime juices
your favorite hot sauce
roasted red peppers
canned, diced tomatoes (I prefer “no salt added” so that I can control salt levels)
assortment of canned beans (kidney, garbanzo, pinto and black beans, all low sodium)
a few jars of pre-made pasta sauce
a few jars of pre-made simmer sauces (we LOVE the Korma and the Tikka Masala at Fresh & Easy! They taste SO close to homemade!!!)
several shapes of multi-grain pasta
assortment of rices, pearl couscous, quinoa, or whatever your family will eat!
a great stock of root veggies: sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots
I use fresh lemon and lime juices when I plan ahead, but keeping a bottle of each in the fridge helps with quick marinades, dressings and to brighten up heavy, earthy dinners.
Artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, capers and black olives are so versatile! I use them in chicken dinner salads, homemade pizzas, pasta dishes, etc.
Here’s a quick recipe using only things on this list. I call it “Black Bean Salad/Quick Salsa/Easy Potluck Dish”
2 cans black beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes, small bag of frozen white corn, half a bunch of rough-chopped cilantro, a splash of lime juice and as much or as little pre-minced garlic as you’d like.
Dump everything into a bowl and stir.
You are welcome.