Living Out of My Pantry – Days Eight and Nine

I am past the half way mark now. My urge to go to the grocery store is almost overwhelming. But for now I am comforting myself with preparing a grocery list. That’s pretty satisfying!

Day Eight – For dinner I made a meal that few people other than me would actually want to eat. But this is one of my favorite things. Cabbage sauteed with onions and Rotel. I love cabbage. I don’t know many folks who share my love of cabbage. Fortunately I started off this project with a whole head of cabbage on hand. Lucky!

I also love Rotel.

I try to always have a can of Rotel in my pantry. I believe that almost everything is improved by Rotel.

This could not be simpler to prepare. I used a quarter of a head of cabbage and sliced that fairly thin, and sauteed the cabbage and with some onion in olive oil.

Sauteing Cabbage and Onions

When the cabbage is wilted, pour in a can of Rotel – juice and all – and let that simmer for 5 or 10 minutes. If it gets dry, add a little water. It should be juicy!

Cabbage and Rotel - Yum

I usually eat this mixture over penne pasta but in this case I decided to use a whole grain. I had a bag of mixed 5 grain; farro, barley, brown rice, kamut and oats.

Quick Cooking 5 Grain Mix

I cooked this according to the package directions. It took about 20 minutes start to finish. My store sells this as a Store Brand so I doubt that it is widely available. You might look for something like it. It is low in calories, high in fiber, protein and nutrients. It is a little pricey but it tastes good, it’s healthy and it’s quick to prepare. The trifecta.

A Pot of 5 Grain Mix

This cooks up in very distinct grains. It isn’t at all mushy.

I was afraid that without pasta, I might not enjoy my cabbage quite as much. But it was great. The whole grains were tasty and a bit chewy. They were an excellent accompaniment to this dish. I ate it with just a little Parmesan cheese grated on top. I ate every last bite of that cabbage.

One of My Favorite Meals - Cabbage and Rotel

Husband passed on this meal. He does not share my love of cabbage!

Day Nine – I am really trying to be inventive about using up the perishable items that are currently available to me. After a quick inventory of my refrigerator, the two items that were nearing the end of their shelf life were coconut milk (opened that can on Day Two ) and the rest of the butternut squash (also Day Two)

I made a spicy black bean soup with butternut squash and coconut milk. This is a recipe that I improvised, combining ideas and ingredients from several other recipes.

I cut the remaining squash into small cubes, yielding about 2 cups.

The Last of the Butternut Squash

I tossed the squash in a bit of olive oil and but it on a foil lined baking sheet. I roasted the squash for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. It was slightly browned and quite tender.

Meanwhile, I cooked a cup of dried black beans with some chopped onion and 2 dried chipotle peppers in my small slow cooker. When the beans were tender I let them cool. In my new Vitamix blender, I pureed the beans, the chipotle chilies, the squash and a half cup of coconut milk. This turned into a beautifully pureed soup. I returned the soup to the slow cooker and let it simmer until dinner was ready. Just before serving, I added the juice of one lime to add a bright fresh note.

A Delicious But Homely Pot of Black Bean Soup

There is just no way to make black bean soup look pretty. Sorry!

To go with this very flavorful and spicy soup, I made a 5 Grain Waldorf Salad.

Some of the Ingredients for 5 Grain Waldorf Salad

I combined chopped celery, apple and toasted walnuts with raisins and leftover 5 Grain mix. I topped that with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and fresh lemon juice. The result was sweet and tart.

Really Good 5 Grain Waldorf Salad

This salad was spectacular. I can’t go on enough about how good this tasted. The grains were chewy. The apples and celery were crunchy. Nutty. Tart. Sweet. This salad really had it going on. Husband and I both loved this salad. It’s a keeper.

Dinner - Spicy Soup, Cooling Salad

The soup was spicy and full of flavor. The salad was fresh and refreshing. This was good combination and a great pantry meal!

Snacking on Beans and Grains

Here are some ideas how you can power up your daily snacks using beans and grains. Because beans and grains are naturally low in fat and calories, high in fiber and nutrients, adding them to your regular snack repertoire just makes sense.

Muesli and Fruit

Great for breakfast, but also makes a good daytime snack. Not a bad stand-in for dessert.

Muesli with raspberries and blueberries

Mix a quarter cup plain non-fat yogurt, a quarter cup low fat milk or milk substitute and quarter cup of rolled oats. Add either vanilla or cinnamon to season. Sweeten with a teaspoon or so of honey or agave syrup, to taste. Cover the mixture and stick in the refrigerator for at least an hour but over night is OK too. The mixture will thicken and the oats will soften.

I use Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats.  You can’t use steel cut oats here because there is no cooking involved. The steel cut oats won’t soften adequately.

When the mixture has softened, serve in a pretty bowl topped with fruit of your choice. Berries, bananas, pineapple, mango are all good. Top with slivered almonds. This recipe makes a single serving but can easily be doubled, quadrupled etc.

To take this as a snack to work or school, consider using  frozen fruit.  The frozen fruit will keep your muesli cold for a couple of hours and when the fruit has thawed it will make a good mid-morning snack. I particularly like frozen cherries!


Edamame – The Easiest Snack Imaginable!

Edamame is immature soybeans still in the pod. This is a popular appetizer to order at sushi restaurants. At my store I can buy frozen edamame in a bag that is microwave safe. You just throw the whole bag in the microwave for a few minutes, open and drain. Then toss the edamame in a bowl with a little bit of sea salt.

Frozen edamame in a microwaveable bag

This is a great snack because you basically have to shell the edamame. The best way to do that is with your teeth. It’s a tasty snack that takes a little bit of work. It slows you down a bit!

Edamame with a bit of sea salt

At the sushi restaurant we go to regularly, they serve a spicy edamame. They toss the cooked edamame in a mixture that I would guess is soy sauce and chili paste. They are messy to eat but still quite good.


Roasted Chickpeas

You can serve roasted chickpeas in a bowl, just like you would serve nuts. They are crunchy and salty like nuts. The bonus? Chickpeas have fiber whereas nuts do not!

Chili Roasted Chickpeas

You will need two cups of cooked chickpeas. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Using a clean kitchen towel, get the chickpeas dry as possible. In a large bowl toss the chickpeas with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil. I season this mixture with chili powder but here are some other ideas:

  • a simple sprinkle of sea salt
  • Old Bay
  • curry powder
  • Tabasco
  • any favorite spice rub or blend

Put the seasoned chickpeas on a foil (or Silpat Mat ) lined baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Using a large spoon, stir the mixture once or twice during baking. Let cool slightly before eating or cool completely and store in an air tight container for a couple of days.

These are great as a snack but also make a tasty, crunchy salad topping.


And Don’t Forget the Popcorn!

Yes my friends, popcorn is a whole grain. Don’t get the microwave kind. It has too many weird additives. Just buy plain old, simple popcorn. I buy Bob’s Red Mill Premium Popcorn but you can get whatever you find on the shelf in your store.

And here is a simple way to cook it in your microwave. In a large glass, microwave safe bowl, combine 1/4 cup popcorn and a splash of canola or other vegetable oil (leave out the oil if you want it to be fat-free). Cover the glass container with a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 2 to 4 minutes until there are 1 or 2 seconds between pops. Remove the top carefully so that you don’t get a face full of steam. Your microwave may take more or less time, so don’t walk away from it.

Now I am going to give you some of the best advice you will ever receive. When making microwave popcorn stop the microwave cooking sooner rather than later. You may think “Hey I want every last kernel popped” but don’t do it. Burnt popcorn is awful. It will make your house smell. It will leave a bad taste in your mouth. So sacrifice those last few kernels. Popcorn goes from perfect to awful in the blink of an eye!

You can top your popcorn with a drizzle of butter or olive oil. And be creative with your seasonings. Yes a little salt is good. But try some chili powder or some grated Parmesan. Or give it a dash of curry powder for a real twist! A quarter cup of unpopped popcorn yields about 3 cups popped.