Lenten Challenge 2013 Day 23: The “..it Just Got Real” Post

I was wondering when this would happen: when the food would run out, now that we no longer have the budget to stockpile. It happened today. Corn oil and olive oil: all gone. Cous cous: one serving left. Potatoes? Gone. Instant brown rice? Thin pasta that cooks quickly? Fresh vegetables? Gone, gone and gone. Well, we still had enough rice to make a decent dinner… but we didn’t have enough time.

Here’s what we did to stretch out what we have left:

  1. Placed our last three sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced, into the slow cooker. As I was making the rest of the dinner, scooped out the insides and let the preschooler mash in some butter and cinnamon sugar.
  2. Found two thin tilapia fillets in the freezer. Took them out to thaw this morning. Sprinkled them with salt, pepper and curry powder, then steamed these in the microwave over one cup of vegetable stock and about half a cup of mead we had in the fridge, waiting for a reason to be gone from this earthly plane. (6 min on high power)
  3. Took the remaining half of a bag of frozen broccoli and the handful of carrot sticks leftover from lunch. Chopped up the carrots and mixed them with the broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl. Took the remaining cup of vegetable stock, poured that into the nearly dead jar of minced garlic. Swished it all around and then poured it all on top of the veggies. Covered and microwaved on high for 8 minutes.
  4. Spread some freezer-burnt bread with butter and garlic powder and pan-toasted it.

Was it luxurious? Was it clever? Was it creative? No. Was it food? Yes. It was also an opportunity to talk to the kids about how many families in our own town have to eat like this all the time, and not by choice: no leftovers, and the grown-ups gave much of their tilapia to the kids.

I was able to get groceries after dinner, so that’s a relief (yay cous cous!), but it was a real eye-opening dinner.


Seitan Fried Rice

3 T mixed oils (we used olive oil and corn oil, but if you can tolerate sesame, do so)
1/2 a batch of seitan, chopped
3 c frozen vegetables of your choice (we used broccoli, carrots, corn, green pepper strips)
1 can of crushed pineapple, drained, reserving juice
1 T grated fresh ginger (more or less to taste)
1 T minced garlic (more or less to taste)
1 egg, beaten
2 T plum preserves (optional)
3 c cooked rice

Heat oils in a large, heavy skillet or wok. Add seitan and vegetables, stirring frequently until thawed. Add ginger and garlic. Pour pineapple juice over all and stir throughly, placing lid over top to help steam the vegetables, about five minutes. Add beaten egg and stir until egg is cooked and evenly distributed. Add crushed pineapple, plum preserves and rice, stirring to combine and heat through.

This comes together within half an hour if you have all the pieces put together as you have time throughout the day (for example, mince the garlic, grate the ginger, and put them aside until you’re ready to cook; cook the rice when you have a moment, then set it aside).

Vegans: skip the eggs. Can’t do sugar? Skip the plum preserves. Enjoy!

A Festival of Firegrilled Flatbread

Here’s another one so easy that I can barely call it a recipe.

  1. Heat up the grill.
  2. Make a batch of quick thin-crust pizza dough (we were very hungry after a day of creek trekking, so I made a batch and a half).
  3. Stretch out dough into 2-4 circles.  Brush with olive oil.  Grill 3-4 minutes/side.
  4. Cut flatbreads into wedges.
  5. Serve with toppings, such as:
  • Shredded cheese
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Teeny Tiny Taco Topping
  • Flavored cream cheese
  • Mushrooms in olive oil and thyme
  • Obatzda
  • Hummus
  • Black bean spread
  • Tomato salad, aka chopped tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic and fresh basil.  I made a batch of this while the dough was resting; my kids dug into it, and then I had to make more while the pizza was on its first side; my kids dug into it, and then I had to make more while the pizza was on its other side; then I put the tomato salad on top of the refrigerator and told the children to go away until dinner was actually served.
  • Whatever bits of vegetable and meatless protein you have on hand.  This is a great way to use up leftovers.


Leftover Magic!

Last night we had Immigration Night at First Shift of Kids’ school: students show their presentations on different countries, they dress up as immigrants and bring an “ethnic dish” to share, thus creating an international buffet.  Our family’s countries were China and Ireland, so we just brought soda bread and a bag of White Rabbit.  We sampled a bit of everything from shrimp lo mein to bean flautas to marzipan covered in chocolate, but we still came home hungry.  We ended up picking up Chinese food but having lots of leftovers.  Tonight’s dinner, then, will be leftover vegetable lo mein bulked up with some leftover brown rice, shredded carrots, and some seitan cutlets from the freezer. 

Not exactly a recipe, but at least I’m sticking to my “blog the whole meatless Lent” thing.

Thursday Leftovers

Incidental to having meatless Fridays in a weekly cycle when groceries are usually procured on either Thursday or Friday, we usually have to clean out our perishables on Thursday. Frequently we have, say, deli meats or leftover beef taco filling that still would be safe eating on Friday, but since we’re not eating red meat or chicken on Fridays, that would leave the leftovers to Saturday, by which point they might be a little too, um… gamey. So. Thursday has become the day to make magic with what otherwise would be growing mold in another two days.


McTortilla Soup in the Slow Cooker
(The title has nothing to do with a fast food joint. It’s just my way of warning people that, “Hey, the Irish girl is cooking in a medium in which the Good Lord may never have intended Irish people to dabble, so don’t expect authentic cuisine here.”)

2 cups-ish of leftover taco filling: ours is ground beef, corn, the last of the homemade salsa, diced tomatoes
1 15.5oz can black beans
1 15oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes (we’re using cilantro & lime)
1/2 c chunky salsa
3 cups tomato juice
2 tablespoons uncooked hominy (aka “quick grits”)
Corn chips or tortilla chips
Toppings of your choice: shredded cheddar, sliced olives, sour cream, avocado, chopped cilantro, etc etc

Put all but the chips and toppings into your slow cooker. Cook on high for 2-4 hours, low for 6-8 hours. Pour into bowls and garnish with a handful of crushed chips. Top otherwise as you see fit.

UPDATE: 2 out of 3 children surveyed gave it an Empty Bowl Rating. Not bad. The toddler (1 of the 2 out of 3) was eating it by the fistful, because apparently the spoon wasn’t fast enough.

Mr. Mackerelsnapper and I have begun the discussion about what to do for tomorrow night’s (Friday’s) dinner. The family schedule is such that it would be far more practical to just eat out, and we even have a Long John Silver’s near enough to make that both affordable and manageable. However, we could really stretch ourselves and pack a meatless dinner. That part’s not so hard. The hard part is where to eat it, given that it’s cold and wet out there. The only option is to eat in the car. I think First Shift of Kids is ready for that. Second Shift, however, is picky and a toddler (I know, is there any other kind?), so decisions need to be made.

I feel a bit silly asking the Holy Spirit to guide us on something so trivial, but I’m asking anyway!