Last week, most of the United States experienced a blast of Arctic air that set record temperatures from the West, all the way through the Heartland to the East and of course the Deep South. So if you were like me, you were either stranded at home because there is only one car that can run in this weather (Randy’s macho diesel truck ..complete with “gelled” fuel…sat in front of our house for almost a week), or you stayed home with the kids for a couple days because they were off from school. Whatever the reason, experiencing cabin fever in this Arctic weather isn’t such a bad thing if you have a nice hot meal to look forward to, especially for evening dinner. I need to come clean with you first though. I am a bonafide grocery shopaholic. You see, when you open one of our pantries or our refrigerator at home, watch out. You might have a bottle of salsa hit you in the head while at the same time a bag of flour falls on your toes. Our kitchen is a true danger zone. The pantry? A culinary jungle!
So I took advantage of being stranded, without any access to another grocery binge (thank goodness), and came up with some good nighttime, rib-sticking and healthy meals. Monday night’s meal was Triple Mustard Salmon (dijon, mustard seed and dry mustard, two of which were in the back of my spice rack) topped with a dollop of low-fat sour cream, a couple drops of lime juice and chopped cilantro (you can used dried cilantro if you are out of fresh) with a side dish of green beans sauteed with shallots and toasted pecans. Dairy products such as sour cream cuts the heat of the mustard while the cilantro and lime add a brightness to the dish. Tuesday night was Fish en Papillote, which is any type of delicate fish ( I used what happened to be sitting in my freezer for the last month, which happened to be cod), quinoa, julienned carrots and zucchini, leeks, slices of lemon, a sprig of thyme, olive oil and a splash of dry white wine, baked in parchment paper. If you haven’t ever cooked or enjoyed food baked this way, you are in for a treat. Baking in parchment paper traps all the moisture and aromas of the food. As a diner of this culinary delight, you will experience all of those tantalizing aromas when the paper is opened after baking, adding to your elegant, but “at home” dining experience.
Wednesday night I “found” the ingredients for a superb (if I say so myself) Spicy Beef Black Bean Soup. This was a real pantry and freezer cleaner: I used the beef roast that had been sitting in our freezer, but more importantly, cleared 5 cans (2 fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 black bean and 2 tomato and green chilli) from my pantry. It also was a really warm, rib-sticking meal for a cold night. Since it had a healthy dose of heat (spice not temp), I cut the fire somewhat with the same garnish I used on Monday night: low-fat sour cream, a couple drops of lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro. Please note, I have tried this recipe previously with lamb shoulder steaks instead of beef roast and it too was delicious. Randy says the lamb option trumps beef, though he gobbled both like a Norseman.
So you see, no reason to despair if you are stuck at home in this cold frigid weather. You can always turn to the back-of-the-pantry and bottom-of-the-fridge for ideas that will warm you up for that special candle-lit, comfort and cozy meal.
Recipes will follow later this week.