What is your favorite go-to meal when there is nothing to eat in the house? Mine has changed a lot over the years. I used to love instant ramen, until I became more health-conscious and realized how much salt and chemicals were in those things! I still love ramen, but these days I toss away the packet of seasoning and just make the noodles with some fresh ginger, green onions, and broth. Another old guilty pleasure was KD! Again, I’ve swapped this for a slightly healthier version. Now I use the mac’n’cheese from Annie’s Organics. These days though, I turn to my old quick-fixes less and less, because I’ve learned how to stock my kitchen with staples that can be turned into great meals any time you’re low on ingredients.
Today was a great example! This afternoon I found myself very hungry with nothing to eat. Time to get creative! I took quick stock of the stragglers I had in my fridge(for once there weren’t many) as well as the staples I always have on-hand, and then put my thinking cap on. The only fresh veggie I had was kale. Well that and some garlic and onions of course. I always have an abundance of dried beans, legumes and grains in the cupboard, so those helped too. Finally, I like to keep a few super flavorful items like olives, fresh herbs, lemons, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and pesto, so that I can dress up even the plainest meal and turn it into something special.
I love making pilafs like this, where I just use up leftover veggies and herbs to come up with a healthy and delicious meal. To stock your kitchen with the right mix of ingredients needed to ensure that even when there is ‘nothing to eat,’ you can still find something to make, just start buying one or two items every week to add to your repertoire. Start with a bag of dried rice, quinoa, couscous, farro, or other yummy grain. Add a bag of red lentils, and you have a rich source of protein that cooks in minutes without needing to be pre-soaked. Next, have fun investing in interesting sauces, condiments, and preserved items. They usually can last for months in the fridge. Pretty soon, you too will be inventing yummy new concoctions like this one!
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous, or semolina)
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- Pinch of red chili flakes
- 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 2-3 cups kale, roughly chopped
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium-large skillet. Add onion, sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the couscous, Italian seasoning, and chili flakes, and sauté, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes, just to lightly toast the couscous.
- Add the lentils, kale, broth, salt, and pepper to the pan and cover. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir the lemon juice and nutritional yeast into the pilaf (you can use Parmesan instead of nutritional yeast if you don’t mind adding dairy). Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Enjoy!