Making a Meal With What’s On Hand
If you’ve ever had a period where you just weren’t able to get to the grocery store, this post is for you. My family boasts that I can make a meal out of ingredients that might baffle most people. I’m fortunate that I have learned to prepare simple meals using what I have on hand. Clearly, I am my mothers child.
One pan/bowl meals are some of my favorites which offer some forgiveness with what foods you can combine and get good results. Meaning, your family will eat it AND actually enjoy it. The food goes on a sheet pan, in a bowl, casserole or roasting dish, sometimes in layers and gets served as is, cooked on the stove or in the oven. Bonus, the cleanup is easy!
Dish One I’ve been eyeing a recipe for Baked Feta with Cherry Tomatoes for awhile. Found a version of it on the Smitten Kitchen website which called for chickpeas. I didn’t have chickpeas, however, I substituted one small raw cubed chicken breast and added it to the pan before baking. Wow!
- 8-ounce (225-gram) block feta
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
- 1 1/2 to 2 pints (3 to 4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 a red chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, dill, basil, or rosemary, or a mix)
- Flatbread or toasted pita wedges (gluten-free, if needed), for serving
Heat oven to 400°F.
Place feta in the middle of a 9×13-inch or other 3-quart baking dish. Pour olive oil over it and around the pan. Add tomatoes to the olive oil. Sprinkle tomatoes with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and toss to coat with oil. Scatter chili pepper over feta.
Roast for 15 minutes, until tomatoes begin to release some juices. Add chickpeas (or chicken) to tomatoes around the feta, plus more salt and pepper, stirring to coat them with the oil. Return pan to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes or until tomatoes are as juicy as you’d like them to be.
Transfer the dish to the broiler part of your oven, or crank the oven heat as high as it goes. Broil for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the tomatoes and feta take on a little color.
It is a creamy combination that I could see adding additional ingredients to like spinach or penne pasta to make it heartier. It’s a winner, in my opinion.
Dish Two Bread and Greens Salad. This hodgepodge usually makes an appearance when the fridge has an assortment of salad greens and veggies and I have leftover French, focaccia or pita bread hanging out in the freezer.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Tear up bite size pieces of French or pita bread onto a baking sheet. Drizzle a quarter cup of olive oil over the bread. Add salt, pepper and rosemary to the bread and toss together on the baking sheet. Into the oven for 15 minutes until bread is crisp. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Set aside.
Into a large bowl, tear up enough salad greens for your meal (I estimate a generous cup or so is good). Add tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, scallions, fresh herbs (if available) and shredded cabbage. The more colorful the better. I’ve been known to throw in a handful of seedless grapes, chopped apples or pears, toasted nuts and perhaps a little freshly grated Parmesan. Again, use what you have.
Add your toasted bread to the salad and mix gently being careful not to break up the bread. I dress this with a lemon vinaigrette, or you can use your favorite salad dressing.
Dish Three Eggs. Since moving to Ohio, I’ve been spoiled by friends who keep chickens and share their bounty. My friends, Heidi, Dana, Jenny and Ruth have been my suppliers over the years and their eggs have been stellar.
My personal favorite way to enjoy eggs is scrambled or over easy. Add bacon, sausage and a piece of toast, A plate of this and I’m good.
This tasty one dish skillet meal combines eggs, diced tomatoes, torn leaves of fresh basil, smoked maple bacon and Parmigiana Reggio cheese.
Turn oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large ovenproof skillet on the stove until hot. In a bowl, lightly beat with a fork 4-6 eggs with a tablespoon of water. Add to the hot pan swirling gently, lower heat. Add to the eggs 2 chopped small tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes work fine here), 3-4 leaves of torn basil, chopped bacon (substitute sausage, smoked salmon, bits of chicken or whatever you have on hand). Add cheese.
Place pan in oven and bake for 7-8 minutes Watch carefully just until the cheese melts and the eggs are set
Serve immediately in wedges.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and collaborative lifestyle brand. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at select Northeast Ohio businesses including:
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