Sometimes the dinner hour rolls around a little faster than you expected. After a busy day, it can be tempting to declare, “We have nothing to make!” and reach for the phone to call your favorite Vietnamese restaurant for delicious, steaming-hot, take-out vegetarian soup (hypothetical scenario, of course …). However, it’s infinitely easier on your pocketbook, not to mention the environment, to take a second look around the kitchen and see what presents itself.
Digression #1: I take food waste very seriously. It’s a huge problem nation-wide, and the statistics about the amount of food thrown away by Americans each day are both startling and sobering. Food thrown in the garbage not only represents a massive waste of time and money, but also contributes to harmful methane gas produced as food rots in a landfill (not to mention the ethical concerns … another post for another day).
Digression #2: Here at the Thistle Field, most of our meals are cooked at home, and all of those meals are cooked from scratch. Heavily-processed foods, convenience foods, and anything microwaveable are persona non grata in my kitchen. (Good thing, because I do not own a microwave). I don’t say this to discourage you if those things are in your kitchen, but rather to demonstrate that a quick and healthy meal is possible even without “convenient” options.
So, back to the old “We have nothing for dinner!” dilemma: As I stood in the kitchen this evening, I had NO idea what we were going to have (planning fail) and I found myself staring at a whole pile of potatoes that had decided to rebel by turning wrinkly practically overnight. (How dare they). Now, I usually keep pretty tight tabs on what is in my kitchen, but sometimes things escape my attention. Case in point: Potatoes. It became obvious that potatoes were on the menu tonight, but how to make the best of their sudden turn for the worst?
If you are faced with a similar situation with any of your vegetables, don’t throw them away (or even in the compost … not yet)! All you need to do to save the day is turn the oven up high and roast those veggies into submission. They will be so delicious that nobody will ever know they were a little wrinkly / ugly / old. This is especially true of root vegetables, but works for practically everything.
So I heated the oven to 450 degrees, chopped the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes, threw them on two big sheet pans, and tossed them in some extra virgin olive oil, seasoning them simply with salt and fresh-cracked pepper. (I often also reach for additional spices, but I wanted to keep these potatoes simple, due to the quantity. I will use them for several meals and didn’t want to pigeonhole myself with a particular flavor).
Fast-forward 35 minutes and the potatoes were beautifully roasted: Crisp and golden-brown on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. In the meantime, I also found a gift from Past Me to Future Me: Two servings of vegetarian chili that I had frozen from a too-large pot of chili. I heated this over medium heat while the potatoes roasted, and we enjoyed them together, topped with big dollops of locally-made, Greek-style yoghurt from Fiddle Creek Farm (yum!). Sliced apples with raw honey finished off the meal nicely.
Digression #3: What if I hadn’t had the frozen veg chili? Well, the potatoes would have paired perfectly with eggs any style, to begin with. This is a perfectly acceptable quick meal in my book, especially if presented alongside some fresh fruit or veg. They also would be delicious served on top of a salad with the vegetables of your choice and a simple vinaigrette! Or, you could top them with cheese and bacon if you wanted to get really crazy. I also could have turned the potatoes into a creamy potato soup in very little time by chopping, boiling in stock with some onion, seasoning to my taste, and pureeing.
So, hooray! We ate a healthy, organic meal, nothing was wasted, no new money was spent, and there are extra roasted potatoes waiting in the fridge for breakfast or lunch tomorrow. Win.
Have you ever rescued food from the brink?