Many evenings I want to talk myself out of cooking and order in. Then I realize there’s usually a bunch of food in my fridge, freezer and pantry that even if it doesn’t make sense, I’ll make it make sense. Plus to be honest, it’s a slow time of year for me real estate wise, the spring season is picking up and I have a couple of deals going, but that payday is still a way’s away.
Lentils are one of the most versatile pantry staples you can keep on hand. They are a cheap and easy source of protein and fiber, and they can take on so many flavors and forms – soups, stews, salads, patties, etc.
This particular stew was just a weeknight meal that came together in about 45 minutes and is great leftover for lunch. Eat it on its own, or carb it up with some nice crusty bread, some grilled pita, serve over polenta, mashed potatoes, pasta, etc.
Remember, this was a fridge clean out kind of meal. You don’t have to follow my ingredients or quantities – play around on your own.
WEEKNIGHT GREEK-STYLE LENTIL STEW
2 cups dried Lentils, rinsed 2 links Loukaniko (Greek sausage with orange peel – I like the Old Neighborhood brand) 8 ounces Ground Pork 1 medium to large Sweet Onion 4-5 cloves Garlic 1 tablespoon Olive Oil 1 cup chopped Carrots 2 cups Strained Tomatoes 2-3 Bay Leaves 2 tablespoons Greek Seasoning 1 tablespoon Oregano Dash of Celery Salt Salt and fresh ground Pepper, to taste Parsley, for garnish
1 – Boil the lentils separately in lightly salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside. This process takes at least 20 minutes, so you may start next steps. 2 – While the lentils are boiling, using a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic until minced. 3 – On a medium setting, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or small stock pot and add the onion mixture, stirring occasionally. 4 – While the onions are heating, place sausages in the food processor and grind into granules. Add the sausage and pork to the onion mixture. Heat until pork is browned. Add the tomatoes, carrots, and seasonings. Be careful not to over-salt as the mixture will reduce and increase the salinity. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. 5 – Add the lentils to the stew. Continue to simmer, about 30 minutes, until the carrots are softened. If the stew feels too thick, you may add a bit of water, up to one cup. 6 – You may serve immediately, or chill and serve at a later date. The stew may be stored in the fridge and re-heated up to one week, or frozen and thawed at a later date, up to 6 months. Garnish with parsley before serving.
In pre-pandemic times I would host many dinner parties and cook for others. It’s obviously been increasingly difficult in the past year to cook for more than just myself and my boyfriend (Who isn’t even with me seven days a week to have all our meals together).
I enjoy batch cooking but I also do not enjoy eating the same thing over and over again. I like variety so one of the things I enjoy doing is reworking leftovers. One way I do this is by making a bit batch of some sort of protein, so then dinners come together quickly with this base already done.
I was in the store the other day and there was a nice price on pork butt so I decided to take advantage. Even though I got one of the smaller pieces it was still over 3 pounds. One of my favorite preparations for pork butt is Carnitas and specifically preparing it in a pressure cooker. I cannot take credit for the recipe that I use, you can find that recipe from My Lilikoi Kitchen here.
I probably made 4 to 5 different dishes this week with all the Carnitas I made. Just my luck that the boyfriend is on a diet so he is reluctantly avoiding some of my cooking. I’m sharing the three ways I enjoyed this protein dolled up most.
FIRST UP – CLASSIC STREET-INSPIRED TACOS
This recipe is not really about quantity but what I like to have on hand when I making tacos. I am a huge advocate of soft corn tortillas, they are my favorite for a taco. Remember you cannot take those puppies straight out of the package and enjoy them they must be heated up. Are usually just warm mine up in a skillet. I have yet to find that Abuela who is going to give me homemade tortillas and right now I don’t have the time to make them myself.
For tonight‘s tacos:
Soft corn tortillas
Fresh Guacamole (not pictured)
Quick Pickled Red Onion
The picture is pretty self-explanatory assemble with your desired ingredients. I like red or white onions on tacos but when they are completely raw I don’t like having bad breath for days. As I’m getting the rest of my dinner ready I take the diced onion and let them soak in a bit of white vinegar, orange juice, and salt. This takes the “bite” out of the onion while still maintaining crunch and enhancing flavor.
Some girlfriends and I went to dinner the other night at Casual Habana Cafe here in Hackensack. I highly recommend the restaurant, their food is amazing!
I ordered the baby Pernil and got a huge shank. After amazing apps and salad and tostones I took most of the pork home, contemplating what I would do with it.
I had a bunch of citrus fruit but I used it to make a batch of sangria. Rummaging through my fridge I came up with a plan – tacos!
The sangria was going to give me everything I wanted in a braising liquid for the pork – wine to tenderize and lots of fruit and flavor! I poured about a third of a cup in a small skillet, shredded the pork off the bone, and cooked it covered over a low flame for about 15 minutes. I then uncovered it and raised the heat until the liquid evaporated.
Meanwhile, I warmed corn tortillas with some cheddar Jack cheese in the middle. I then tossed some greens with a squeeze of lime (shamefully I picked the lime out of my sangria but it kind of worked!). Dinner, boom.
As I get the Accidental Pantry Project underway, I made my first dish tonight with stuff in my pantry and fridge. Recently I went a Thai restaurant with some girlfriends and fell in love with the Pineapple Fried Rice. I tried to recreate the same at home. Overall I am pleased with the dish, but the rice turned out stickier than I would have liked. Next time I am going to cook the rice itself (meaning single ingredient, not whole dish) with a bit more oil and let it cool before mixing it into the stir fry.
My project is still in its early phases, and I have not taken full inventory of the food I have here at home, but I will add the food cost/savings at a later date.
THAI CHICKEN AND PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE
1 cup Thai-style Jasmine rice
1 pound chicken, cut into strips or cubes
2 cups frozen pineapple chunks, thawed and chopped into smaller chunks
1/2 onion, diced
3 scallions, chopped – white divided from green
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1 tablespoon red curry paste
2 tablespoons ginger paste
1/4 cup sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup liquid aminos or soy sauce
2 eggs, raw
Prepare rice according to package directions, set aside to cool
In a wok or large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, add chicken and stir fry until browned and about 75% cooked (do not overcook because it will get cooked again later). Remove from skillet and set aside
In same wok, heat about another tablespoon of sesame oil. Add onions, white scallions, and garlic. Cook until lightly browned
Add cashews, ginger paste, and curry paste. Cook about another minute
Add rice, rest of oil, liquid aminos, and chicken. Stir fry mixture about 3-4 minutes until rice starts to take on a golden brown color. Adjust seasonings to your preference
Crack eggs above mixture and stir into the rice, cooking about one more minute