On Friday, Day Four of the pantry experiment, Daughter was driving in from Austin to spend Mother’s Day weekend with us. Whenever Daughter comes home, we always tell her that we will kill the fatted calf. It’s our little joke. Of course, no calves are ever harmed, as none of us eat red meat. But I do always go to the grocery store and stock up on her favorite things. With the no grocery store rule, I was wondering how this would work out.
At first she told me that she would not be home for dinner Friday night. That meant that all I had to do was get us through Saturday because we were going to a Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday.
But at the last minute she called and said that her plans had changed and she was on her way home and would be there in time for Friday night dinner. This would really put my pantry to the test. I needed to cook something from the ingredients on hand and it needed to be a dish that would make her feel at home.
Pasta! Even better – baked pasta. I cooked a half a pound of Barilla Farfalle for 8 minutes. It should be a little under-done as it will continue to cook in the oven.
I know that we are all supposed to be eating whole wheat pasta, but I don’t really like it all that much and I figured that since it was a special occasion, we could splurge on good old fashioned, highly refined pasta.
I had an opened can of whole San Marzano tomatoes.
I made a quick marinara sauce from that using Martha Stewart’s recipe, of course, store bought sauce would work too. To the cooked pasta I added some frozen spinach that had been thawed and well drained. I threw in about a half a can of drained chickpeas and a half can of drained quartered artichoke hearts. I added some marinara and grated mozzarella. Yup – I had all of those things on hand. I baked that at 400 degrees until it was hot and bubbly. Then I added a topping of bread crumbs, grated cheese, and enough olive oil to moisten. The whole thing went back in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt and the top to get brown.
Baked Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Artichokes
I had a half a loaf of bread in the freezer. I thawed that and sliced it thinly. I brushed the slices with some olive oil and toasted them.
Last but not least, I baked a batch of gingerbread for dessert. This has nothing to do with beans and grains but it was so good I have to tell you about it. I am not much on making desserts. I almost never bake sweets. It’s just not my thing. But I had a box of gingerbread mix in the pantry left over from Christmas.
I prepared the mix according to the package directions. The back of the package suggested a praline topping. I made the topping using 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 brown sugar, and 1/2 cup pecans (I should have chopped the pecans). I spread that evenly over the gingerbread and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to caramelize.
Gingerbread with Praline Topping - too good!
Oh my goodness! This is a new family favorite. I will try to keep gingerbread mix in my pantry from now until eternity. Fantastic.
This was a good dinner. Baked pasta is comfort food. My pasta was really a full meal. Artichokes and spinach provided the vegetable. The chickpeas provided some protein and fiber. The crunchy breadcrumb topping just made it yummy. The gingerbread was a really super dessert. That praline topping would make anything tast good.
I was very proud of how my pantry performed in a pinch!
On Saturday, Day Five, I was still on a pasta jag. For lunch I made a quick pasta salad using whole wheat gemelli pasta.
I cooked that according to the package directions. To the pasta I added the remaining half can of chickpeas from the previous night and the remaining artichokes. I chopped up green olives, sun dried tomatoes and fresh green onions. For good measure, I threw in a little bit of frozen spinach (thawed and drained). I dressed the whole thing with olive oil and lots of fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Although this had some similar ingredients to the baked pasta we ate the night before, it was a completely different meal. We didn’t feel at all like we were eating a repeat. Very good.
Pasta Salad for Lunch
For dinner on Day Five, I made pizzas. This is one of my specialties. I follow Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough that tastes great and is very simple. You just have to get it started early in the day. In needs some time to develop. I use King Arthur Bread flour. I don’t use whole wheat flour when I make pizzas. The bread flour makes a fantastic crust. I am willing to sacrifice the whole wheat in this instance.
To make the dough I mixed mix 3 and 3/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 teaspoon table salt. Stir that to combine. Add 1 and 1/3 cups water. Mix until blended. I found that mixture to be just a little bit dry. So I added a little more water, a tablespoon at a time, just until it came together. The dough will be sticky.
I put the dough in a Multi Mix container (available at Hardware stores for less than $2). I like letting dough rise in a container that is calibrated so that I can easily see how much it has risen. After about 5 hours, the dough will have more than doubled, punch it down and divide into 3 balls (this is enough for 3 pizzas, 14″ round). I made two pizzas so I froze the third ball of dough for another occassion.
For 2 pizzas, I cut two pieces of parchment paper into rounds the size that my finished pizzas will be. I press out the dough directly onto the parchment paper. This makes it easy to get off of the peel into the hot oven. Julia Child taught me that one! I topped the pizzas with sauce. I put olives, sun dried tomatoes and onions on one. The other pizza was a simple cheese pizza.
I bake my pizzas on my gas grill using a pizza stone. I can actually get 2 round stones on my grill so I can cook two pizzas at a time. My grill gets really hot so the cooking time is about 8 or 9 minutes. You can also cook these in a 450 degree oven. If you don’t have a stone, just cook the pizza using a pizza pan or other baking sheet.
I forgot to take pictures of the pizzas. We were in too much of a hurry to eat those gorgeous pies. But here is a picture of some of the leftovers. I realized after the fact that I had failed to take pics!
A few slices of pizza leftover!
Day Six of the Pantry Challenge was Mother’s Day. We went to brunch at a local restaurant. We had a lovely time and I didn’t do any cooking or cleaning. We were pretty full from brunch so we just snacked for dinner. We had some leftover pizza and some leftover baked pasta from Friday night.
I am almost a week in to my pantry project. I have had plenty of available options to prepare. There has been a fair amount of variety. But I do wish that I had some lettuce to make a salad!