Culinary Wanderings #5

Sourdough rye beginning its second rise.

It has been a crazy month for us, as our house was packed up relatively early on, leaving us with one saucepan, one skillet, one baking sheet, one cutting board, one mixing bowl, and enough dishes for a single meal. On one hand, that this is the bare minimum shows just how fortunate we really are. Of course it also means that there was no pureeing, no grating, and there were certainly no complicated multi-pan meals. For the past several days, there have actually been no home cooked meals at all, as even our remaining supplies have been packed up and we’ve moved to a hotel for the time being. The focus of the month has definitely been on nutrient-rich single pan meals, and meals that used up the odd ingredients we had remaining in our pantry.

The Bread Experiment Continues

I did manage to try a couple of new breads, and was really happy with the results. I mentioned last month that I had tried a sourdough rye and it was just so-so, and that I was pretty darn excited by my brush with sourdough pumpernickel. This time, I tried a different recipe for sourdough rye and was thrilled with the result. It was so good that I made it twice, and plan to return to it again once I get settled and can grow myself a new starter. It was a bit sad sending my first one off to its adoptive home, but I like that there’s a living bit of me staying behind on Guam! Perhaps my favorite bread anywhere ever, I’ve decided, is the Russian Black Bread from Smitten Kitchen. It is absolutely not a simple recipe, but it is well worth the time involved. I can’t believe how flavorful it is, and with an excellent texture and rich color. I could eat it every day. The recipe also received bonus points for having seventeen ingredients, all of which I had on hand and was happy to use up in the weeks before we moved out of our house. If you enjoy the process of bread baking, setting aside the time necessary for this one is a treat to yourself! It was for me anyway.

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Chili, local avocado, and a corn muffin.

Do you ever get so excited about a hard to find or expensive ingredient that you can’t bring yourself to use it? I did this with a number of the things I had the daddy pick up for me when he was attending a conference in Hawaii several months ago. I told him to look for non-GMO, organic cornmeal, for one, and he brought me back a bag, which made me do a little dance. I promptly tucked the bag away for a special occasion and let it go almost completely to waste. In the end, all was not lost, however, because I was able to make cornbread to accompany our pots of chili – a perfect single pan meal.

First, I went with my default recipe: This moist vegan cornbread, which I paired with the gustatory fiesta that is the Moosewood Black Bean Chocolate Chili. Long ago, I noted that this first cornbread recipe was very tasty, but didn’t hold together all that well, and yet for some reason I have returned to it time and time again. For our second chili adventure of the month, this information was fresh in my mind, so I went with this vegan cornbread recipe from the always reliable Post Punk Kitchen. This one held together well, but lacked the slight sweetness I love about my old favorite. Next time I track down a bag of non-GMO, organic cornmeal, I plan to try my hand at finding a recipe that provides the best of both worlds. Given that we’re less than a week away from our return to the mainland, I suspect this will no longer be such a rare ingredient.

Beans

One of the pantry staples I found myself trying to use up was beans. Of course these were an excellent thing to cook with when we had limited pans, too, since they’re a protein source that both my soy, mushroom, and seitan-averse husband and I can appreciate. Making vegetarian and meat containing versions of the same meal just did not work out during this time, and beans really saved the day! In addition to chili, we found that we loved this recipe for an incredibly nutritious Bean Soup with Kale. Annabelle ate three bowls, and both of us adults were quite happy with it as well. I used fresh veggies instead of the recommended canned versions, vegetable instead of chicken broth, and garbanzo instead of navy beans and yet it was still so easy!

After two big chili meals, I was looking for a slightly different way to prepare kidney beans when I found another winner of a Moosewood recipe in these Sweet Potato and Kidney Bean Burritos, which I made twice and will surely return to again. They were a bit too spicy the first time around, even with less chili powder than recommended, but this could be because I always use ancho and chipotle chili powders instead of the more ambiguous chili powder that the recipe author may have had in mind. I have never compared the spiciness of the various powders, but I suspect there is a difference!

The rest of our one pot meals were mostly me blindly tossing things into a pot, and while the result was always edible and well-rounded, I didn’t come across anything I felt the need to repeat and turn into a proper recipe. One thing I do love to have on hand is spice blends, the recipes for which I always find on old, reliable food.com. Having a cajun blend and a fajita seasoning, especially comes in very handy on those evenings when I just want to toss together something simple. A pot of rice with vegetables and beans or some other protein source really comes to life when you season it with a well-balanced spice mixture.

What tricks do you have for coming up with quick and easy meals when time is in short supply? Do you have any recipes for favorite one pan meals? I’d love to hear your ideas for simple meals, or any meals at all! Feel free to add your links and share what you’ve been cooking up lately. If you post recipes regularly, more than one link is just fine!

15 thoughts on “Culinary Wanderings #5

  1. Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama

    That black bean and chocolate chili recipe looks amazing! I just pinned it.

    Our easy meals include homemade pizza, crockpot chili, crockpot vegetarian Indian meals (using organic premade sauces from Whole Foods which we love), and a few delicious pasta meals that include beans and veggies. I’ve been meaning to post the pasta recipes on my blog and will hopefully do so soon :-)
    Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: A weekend without plans… (LINKY)My Profile

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      Ooh, I would definitely love to see some of your pasta recipes! :) That all sounds great!

      Reply
  2. Amy @ You Shall Go Out with Joy

    Seventeen ingredients and you had them all on hand? Impressive.

    I love cooking using only things I already have in my cupboards–I think it gives a good chance to experiment and develop cooking skills. A complete clear-out, with minimal equipment, sound quite tough, though!

    Best of luck with your last days in Guam and your move!

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      I suppose that’s only partially true. I did have to use some alternative flours to get rid of what we had, and I subbed purple onion for scallions. Mostly I had it all, though! :)

      I agree that cooking with what’s on hand is awesome. I can’t say I managed a complete clear out, but I tried! Thanks so much for the well wishes!

      Reply
  3. teresa

    These posts always get me excited about cooking and eating! I’m going to post as soon as I can and link. I made a yummy gluten-free lasagna. I didn’t think it could be so good.
    That bean and kale soup will be my first try from this post.

    Reply
  4. Laura Patricio

    It is admirable how you could make such delicatessens with a-nearly empty kitchen. There lies the real talent, I am sure.
    Thinking of you in these last days on Guam.

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      That’s all I managed in a month’s time, though! I’m not sure whether that’s grounds for boasting about my cooking skills, but I really do appreciate your kind words! Thanks for thinking of me – I need it! :) I hope you’re feeling well!

      Reply
  5. Amy

    I always love the recipes you share! I was actually planning to make black bean chili tomorrow night, but hadn’t planned on adding the chocolate. I think I will now!

    I love making “bowl meals.” My husband always makes fun of me, but I just love mixing everything together. Maybe it’s a meatless thing?

    I did a frittata last night that was easy. I used harissa (or my homemade version) of it, and we all loved the flavors. Another go-to meal here is some more of taco or burrito bowl. And, sweet potatoes. we could have them every night in a different form!

    Good luck on the move!

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      Thanks, Amy! I had never heard of harissa before – thanks for introducing me to something new! A taco or burrito bowl sounds delicious, too, and we can definitely relate to your love of sweet potatoes in our house!

      Reply
  6. Rach

    Those all sound delicious. You’ll have non GM cornmeal coming out of your ears I’m sure in your new home. It’s one pot meals all the time around here, just so easy.

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      I’m thinking I may need to do more one pot meals when it’s not “necessary.” I could use more simple cooking nights on a regular basis!

      Reply
  7. Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network

    When camping and similar circumstances prevail, we use one pot meals with vegetables beans and spices. A favourite meal is ‘Boston Beans’ which uses a couple of tins of Baked Beans, olives, red peppers, onions and a touch of molasses-delish:-)

    Reply

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