Coming home from work, sometimes making dinner is the absolute last thing you want to do. There are far more important things to do. Like pouring a hefty glass of wine and continuing Friends-fest on Netflix 2015. Kitchen smitchen! It’s Couch City, Population: Me.
But ultimately, in the battle of Hunger vs. Netflix, Hunger typically emerges victorious and I retreat into the kitchen. As much as I’m lamenting, I love getting into the kitchen and whipping something up. Let’s be honest: after a long day, a simple meal may take a teeny amount of extra effort but is such a morale booster. What looks better, a plate of spaghetti for the fourth time in a row or chicken breast topped with sautéed veggies + a dollop of pesto?
I keep my pantry stocked with seasonings and various items to take the basics to the next level. Sometimes, all it takes is a seasoning to jazz up a dish. Think of it like adding a statement necklace to your jeans + white tee outfit. A finishing touch that makes the
outfit dish pop!
Wegman’s Basting Oil: Typically, I reach for the regular EVOO stuff but when I’m feeling a bit fancy, Wegman’s Basting Oil is IT. The oil comes seasoned so there’s really not a whole lot to do besides drizzle it over your veggies as they sauté or as the final touch before you serve the meal (read: eat dinner on the couch, no shame). Basting Oil + Brussels Sprouts + Panko Crumbs = Flavortown. Any Triple-D fans out there??
Dijon Mustard: People seem to either love or hate mustard. Which camp am I in? Let’s just say, when I moved, I had a box dedicated to various Weber’s Mustard products. This could be a contributor to my single status. I can’t help it though and I’ll shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE MUSTARD! Dijon mustard is a rockstar in my avocado tuna salad and also tastes fantastic in a vinaigrette over greens or a cold pasta salad.
Pesto: Probably my favorite sauce EVER. I would eat it straight from the jar if it was socially acceptable. I would easily write a sonnet about my love for pesto. I like it so much, I should put a ring on it. You get the idea. One of my go-to dishes is seared tilapia with sauteed grape tomatoes and a healthy spoonful of pesto. It tastes delicious and keeps me away from reaching for the pasta far too often.
Pasta: Since we’re only 2 weeks past New Year’s, pasta is still very much a four letter word. Growing up in the throes of Atkins Diet-mania, pasta and carbohydrates are very much plastered with red letters. But in moderation, pasta can be a comforting meal! Just be sure to load it up with veggies and take it easy on the sauce. I tend to drown mine in marinara sauce…
Panko Crumbs: I’ve already mentioned Panko once in the post but when I bought them on a whim, I was definitely apprehensive. What do I have to put bread crumbs on? Well, apparently, a lot. Panko makes an incredible topping for mac ‘n cheese, brussels sprouts and as a sear on tuna steak or your choice of protein.
Balsamic Vinegar: Once you make your first vinaigrette, you never go back. I always try to keep several vinegars on hand to whip up a dressing or marinade. It’s 1/2 vinegar : 1/3 cup EVOO. Sorry in advance for ruining store-bought vinaigrettes for you.
Soup: Trader Joe’s really kills it in the soup department. His canned minestrone soup tastes incredible and is chock full of veggies. If I come home and really just cannot bear the thought of cooking because I will combust if I don’t eat something NOW, I know TJ’s soup is there for me. You can also doctor up the Roasted Red Pepper Soup with a spoonful of pesto and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
Red Chili Pepper: I never know what to say when people ask me if a dish is spicy. To me, a meal isn’t a success unless I’ve managed to unclog my sinuses and there are tears from the heat. If there is one spice I feel like I’m continually restocking, it’s my red chili pepper flakes. If you want just a smidgeon of heat, add a pinch of flakes to the oil heating in a pan before you toss in the veggies or protein.
Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning: In my quickest last-minute lunch, I love just adding this seasoning to steamed broccoli or cauliflower. This cowboy has everything it needs to bring the flavor from your steak to the steamed veggies.
Todd’s Cajun Dirt: Todd’s Dirt is out of this world good. I learned about them a few years ago at the DC Cooking Show. They used the Cajun “Dirt” primarily on chicken but adding a couple of shakes to melted butter will do wonders for your popcorn. You may think I’m crazy. And you may be right. But just trust me on this one.
Ground Cumin: At its simplest, sauté bell peppers + shake generously with ground cumin. Add chicken + brown rice (or quinoa) and you’ve got yourself a Chipotle bowl at home! Bonus points if you have guacamole. You can also use it as a dry rub on chicken or red meat. Talk about a lot of mileage for one little spice.
Not Mentioned: With the Brown Rice + Quinoa Fusili, I forgot to talk about grains. I always keep a box of quinoa in my pantry and Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice in my freezer, it’s almost too easy to make a big batch on Sunday and then just add a 1/2 cup to your dishes throughout the week.
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