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Getting imaginative with kitchen staples

March 15th, 2007 at 12:34 am

For us, cooking and eating at home is one of the best ways to keep our monthly expenses down. Back in my bachelorette days, I thought nothing of having a salad and a microwaved veggie burger in front of the TV for dinner. But now that Iím married, I feel much more compelled to prepare a real meal AND eat it sitting down at the table with Mr. Bean. Research indicates there are many health and social benefits of family meals for families with children- surely some of these benefits apply to those of us without kids, too! My desire for a sit down meal isnít completely altruistic, I love being able to have a nice hot lunch (microwaved leftovers) without having to leave my office the next day.

In order to cook at home most days of the month, you need to have a repertoire of go-to meals. But what to do when your go-toís are all gone? Or for when you havenít been to the store recently? Such situations are when we fell victims to ordering pizza- (mmm, pizza).

In effort to avoid such quandaries, Iím trying to expand my repertoire of go-toís meals that can be prepared with staples- things that we have in the refrigerator or cupboard on most days of the week even if the last trip to the store was some time ago. For, us this typically mean meatless since I only buy meat when I have a special recipe in mind. When I find a new a winner, Iíll share it here. I realize the staples in my household might not be the same as yours, but hopefully this will still be interesting.

I made the following recipe Sunday night. We were hungry and need of something hearty. All of my typical meals seemed unappealing for various reasons. This recipe was quick, filling, spicy (a problem with a lot of my go-to meals is that they have a similar flavor profile). I love that the dish uses things we almost always have on hand. The recipe was originally published in Vegetarian Times.

Indian Lentil Pilaf
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped carrots (next time I might try peas for variation)
1 cup basmati rice (I used brown basmati)
3 gloves minced garlic
1 TBS fresh minced ginger
1.5 tsp garam masala* (I used 2 tsp)
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes**
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
Cilantro for garnish

*Garam masala is a blend of spices frequently used in Indian cooking. You can buy it at large grocery stores or ethnic stores. Also, you can Google a recipe and make your own- the ingredients are all common.
** I used fire roasted, but plain diced tomatoes would work well

1. Cook lentils is ~ 4 cups water until tender firm. Drain, reserving water.
2. Wipe out pot. Heat oil over medium heat and sautť onion until golden. Add carrots and rice and cook three minutes until rice is toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly. Add ginger, garlic, garam masala and cook 1 minute more.
3. Stir in tomatoes, broth reserved lentil water (you may need more than whatís called for is using brown rice), bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand five minutes, fluff with work and serve. Garnish with cilantro (If you have cilantro-use it! The flavor contrast is great!)

I spooned individual portions of the leftovers into 2 cup Rubbermaid containers and froze. In fact, I had one for lunch today!

2 Responses to “Getting imaginative with kitchen staples”

  1. PRICEPLUS Says:

    That meal sounds wonderful!Smile

  2. monkeymama Says:

    Sometimes I wonder why we had to have kids to eat better and sit down and talk at meal time. Of course now is the only time we see each other it seems - the hub and I. Figures. But I can see that - benefits are there without kids even...

    The recipe does look divine. I love Indian food. Will have to print this one out. Thanks!

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