Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More with less

I make it a point to keep my kitchen fully stocked with cat food and treats, since Bunny and Phil get cranky if their meals aren't just right, and right on time. But sometimes I run low on the staples I usually rely on for my own meals.

Instead of getting cranky, though, I see this as an opportunity to get creative. It's time to make up a recipe, and use up the odds and ends that tend to be neglected when "the usual" is readily available. Often these turn out to be the most satisfying meals.

That was the situation when it was time to pack lunch this morning. I was out of bread and tofurkey, too - and, as always, short on time. But there was a bit of pasta in a box on the counter.... And just like smoothies, pasta salads leave a lot of room for improvisation, and they can come together quickly. Here is today’s "recipe," with ideas on ways to vary it to fit what you might have on hand.

1 cup whole-wheat penne pasta, cooked, drained and cooled.
Pasta cooks quickly, so it was done in the time it took to make coffee. Then I set it aside to cool while I got ready for work. Just about any pasta shape would work; or cooked rice or another grain could stand in for pasta.

3 oz. smoked tofu, cubed
If the tofu hadn’t been in the fridge, just waiting for something to do, a half-can or so of chickpeas or white beans would have worked in its place.
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
6 pimento-stuffed olives, chopped
The prep took perhaps 10 minutes – and that’s because I’m slow with a knife. Wish I had thought to grate a carrot, too, for extra color.... You could add or substitute other veggies that appeal to you.

I dressed the pasta and veggies with about 2 tsp tahini mixed with 2 TBSP plain soy yogurt (it would be simple to substitute vegan "mayonnaise" for the yogurt – or to use another kind of dressing altogether), seasoned with salt, pepper and dulse flakes to taste. The dulse flakes were a last-minute addition to add a bit of color. A garnish of 2 TBSP raw pumpkin seeds added more color and flavor.

The result was plenty tasty and filling -- and two people in the break-room at work commented that the dish looked good.

Do you have any favorite strategies for putting together a good meal when the shelves are getting bare?

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