Staples

This is not a post about Mitt Romney’s triumphant work at Bain Capital, and the resurrection of a moribund office supply chain.

I was inspired by that Ruhlman post I recently linked, where he solicited suggestions for staple meals. I thought I’d share some of ours.

My wife’s spinach and black bean enchiladas follow no particular recipe. She uses corn tortillas from the refrigerated case at the grocery. She uses canned beans, canned enchilada sauce, pre-shredded cheese and fresh spinach. Sometimes, she’ll throw in some frozen corn kernels and cilantro, but usually it’s just the canned goods, tortillas and spinach. It’s fast, easily made in bulk and when topped with some avocado, sour cream and chipotle salsa, it’s one of the best one plate meals that we eat. I love them because they’ve appeared on the table when I’ve had a tough day. They go also go great with a cold beer. As an aside, I should say that she once experimented with green enchilada sauce. I rejected this change and have indicated that should she do it again, there would be threats and recriminations.

Relatedly, we enjoy Mexican Pizzas, a fancy name for pita bread with refried beans and cheese on it. Again, add some salsa/avocado or sour cream and some yellow rice, and you’ve got a good supper.

I cooked at Chili’s for part of a year during college, and at one point rose to the level of salad/nacho cook. This meant I learned how to make quesadillas. They’re indispensable on those weekends when I’m at home alone with the boys, E is working and E’s parents are traveling or otherwise occupies. Cheese on a whole wheat tortilla folded in half makes H happy. I’ve gotten adventurous recently, creating a spicy sweet potato puree by mixing chipotle salsa with mashed sweet potatoes, then spreading that with cheese on the tortillas (I use two for adults), and heating the whole thing through in my cast iron skillet.

I experimented with eating vegan for consecutive Lents in 2004 and 2005. This was really an excuse to leave work during my planning period and go to the Whole Foods to shop for things that I’d read on the web were processed vegan foods. I still miss easy access to the Newman’s Own Salt and Black Pepper Pretzels and relatively inexpensive Larabars. I also acquired and have kept a couple of vegan cookbooks. Dragon Bowls from The Garden of Vegan: How it All Vegan Again are a favorite holdover. It’s simply steamed kale, carrots and green onions with fried tofu cubes over brown rice with a what’s called Sarah and Tanya’s You Must Make This Dressing.  It’s tough to fry tofu unless you commit to using more oil than most people are comfortable with, because it sticks and breaks apart. The dressing is really what makes the dish, with its odd juxtaposition of maple, mustard and dill flavors.

Quorn nuggets, macaroni and cheese (homemade, preferably, although I’m not above Velveeta Shells and Cheese), baked beans (for H & I) and steamed frozen veggies are also popular, especially later in the week, when the collective family energy is at its low point. We used to be big fans of Trader Joe’s fake chicken nuggets, but they don’t have that here, so we wait until Quorn is on sale at the grocery, then pounce. Quorn is a mycoprotein (that’s fungus among us) that tastes nothing like mushrooms. Our son has been eating them for at least 2 years without knowing that he wasn’t eating chicken. Someday he’s going to look back and think that his parents were a pair of goddamned hippies when he realizes all the fake meat products he’s been subjected to during his childhood.

Crepes for breakfast are a favorite. I like them because I can make the batter and then wait thirty minutes, as is suggested in The Joy of Cooking. On a Sunday morning that thirty minutes means I can get into the newspaper or listen to some NPR or goof off with the boys. I enjoy Nutella (or store brand Hazelnut spread) in them, but have also made the elusive and delicious “bacon crepe,” which was just a crepe with crispy bacon pieces dropped into the batter. They feel fancy, but really aren’t, and given the choice, H will ask for crepes rather thank biscuits, pancakes or waffles.

 

 

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