When G and I don't have dinner planned (and by that I mean, when he doesn't have dinner planned since he generally takes on cooking while I put Sloan down for bed), we generally resort to one of two things: ordering in or "scrounging." Since ordering in is far from the most economical option and scrounging generally consists of a cheese plate plus candy, we've recently adopted a new strategy of concocting recipes made entirely from ingredients we can keep in our pantry or freezer almost indefinitely, or at least for a few months. The recipes are simple, but cooking something delicious from scratch, even if it isn't necessarily from market-fresh ingredients, feels infinitely less sad than a back-of-the-fridge cheese plate. Here are three recipes we've made recently that take just a few minutes to whip up, and are made entirely from pantry and freezer ingredients:
Creamy Pea Risotto
Serves 4, plus leftovers
2 cups arborio rice (risotto rice)
2 liters vegetable or chicken broth
1 bag frozen peas
Bonus if you have it: Lemons, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, additional vegetables like asparagus
How to Make It:
1. Add a glug of olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed pan and heat till shimmering. Add two cups of arborio rice directly to the olive oil and use a spoon to mix and coat the rice.
2. Set heat to high and add one to two cups of broth. When mostly absorbed by the rice, add one to two cups again. Continue in this manner until broth is absorbed by the rice and you have creamy risotto (it will expand to about six times the amount since you're adding so much liquid!).
3. While the rice is still hot, add in frozen peas and simmer until warmed through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Optional: Add some Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon if you have it on hand, and serve!
Dashi Broth with Soba Noodles and Tofu
Serves 2 to 4
1-ounce kombu (dried kelp)
1 cup bonito flakes
3 tablespoons red miso
One 8-ounce package soba noodles, cooked according to package instructions
7 ounces firm tofu, drained, rinsed, and cut into 1⁄4'' cubes (you can store tofu in the freezer, then defrost it by placing it in the fridge the morning you plan to use it for dinner)
Bonus if you have it: Kale (or any leafy green)
How to Make It:
1. Place kombu in an airtight container, add 4 cups water, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, remove and discard kombu.
2. In a medium pot, bring kombu stock to a boil. Remove from heat and add bonito flakes immediately. Let stand for 2 minutes, then strain. At this point, you have dashi, a simple Japanese broth that you can use as the base for things like miso soup!
3. Add the dashi back into the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk in the red miso until dissolved, then add the defrosted tofu and simmer until warmed through, about one minute. Add the soba noodles before serving. Optional: At this point, add in any leafy greens you already have in your crisper drawer, from spinach to kale, to bolster the bowl of soup.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
1 pound spaghetti
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce, homemade then frozen or store-bought (Tip: If using homemade, which I recommend if possible!, make a large batch, then freeze it in 1 1/2 cup portions to make it easily accessible for dinnertime.)
1 bag Trader Joe's Frozen Turkey Meatballs
Bonus if you have it: Parmesan cheese
How to Make It:
1. This is such a simple recipe that chances are you've already made it a million times! Cook spaghetti according to package directions, draining and reserving 1 cup pasta water.
2. Add the pasta back into a large pan and add the sauce and meatballs - cook until warmed through. Optional: Top with cheese before serving!