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Hot "pantry" dinners that aren't pasta...

So, in the interest of getting weeknight dinners on the table when I'm crushingly busy with work and other commitments, I've been trying to arm myself with a list of dishes I can make entirely out of my pantry for these evenings when I've forgotten to shop or plan ahead.

But, I'm finding that my list skews heavily towards pasta: pasta with clams, with artichokes, with shrimp, etc.

Help me break out of my rut, please.

And, I use the expanded definition of pantry, which includes anything I can keep in my freezer and defrost quickly and things that keep a long time in the fridge, such as eggs or parm cheese.

Also, especially this time of year, I lean towards wanting HOT meals. So, no dinner salads and such...

Thank you!


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  1. I often make grits & top with lots of things from the fridge/ freezer, using up leftovers. Grits are great under- leftover bbq pork, chicken in any form, any kind of shrimp, eggs anyway, roasted veggies. It's such a comfort food & takes only 10 minutes to cook (I cook longer than the package that says 5 minutes- I find 10 minutes of regular stirring does nicely, sometimes adding a bit more water as I go along. And, make it with 1/2 water & 1/2 milk for nice & creamy grits!).

    2 Replies
    1. re: tall sarah

      Agreed. Quick-cooking grits are a pantry must-have for me.

      Grits made with parm and cream are amazing topped with spicy shrimp. Grits with cheddar and a pinch of cayenne and topped with poached eggs? YES!

      Frittatas, fried rice (made with pre-cooked frozen rice), blackened fish, cuban black beans with coconut rice, any biryani, thai fish curry, risotto -- all with ingredients from pantry and freezer. Rice/bean combos are probably the easiest straight from the pantry. And you can either freeze your mirepois or buy pre-prepped mirepois from the freezer section. That's a real timesaver, IMO, with not a lot of quality loss.

      1. re: LauraGrace

        recipes please for the biryani and the risotto. thanks.

    2. For a quick, Thai-flavored pantry meal, sautee about 1/4 cup onion until translucent in canola or peanut oil, throw in pre-cooked chicken strips, chopped fresh basil (if you have it) a can of coconut milk, a can of straw mushrooms, a can of bamboo shoots, chicken stock to get to desired volume, then stir in red curry paste to taste. Right before serving, throw in a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves and garnish with more basil and/or chopped peanuts.

      You can make it less soupy and serve over rice, as well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: weezycom

        That's a favourite in our house too. I make something similar with tofu or shrimp, cabbage for veg and throw in some of those shelf stable udon noodles for the big eaters. But then I lighten it up with lite coconut milk and chicken broth. Its actually a good meal meal for balancing the different sized appetites in our house.

        1. Red beans and rice. I always have a couple of cans of kidney beans and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning on hand. Sauté onions and celery for crunch first. Some sausage or ham rounds things out nicely.

          We like brown rice which can take a while to cook properly, so I make up large batches and freeze it in two cup servings. If you let the rice cool completely and then store it as air tight as possible it keeps nicely in the freezer. I have one of those Food Saver gadgets but putting it in a bread/food bag (the kind that closes with a twist tie not a ziplock) and squeezing the air out works too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mandycat

            We like brown rice too, but is does take sooo long I thought I would try the microwave recipe on the Mahatma Brown Rice bag. Tt comes out PERFECTLY everytime in my microwave. I use a round, flat bottomed casserole sigh. It still takes 25 minutes, but I just start it first. I was so happy this worked so well!

            1. re: SparkleKristy

              I used brown basmati rice this week which took 25 minutes on the stovetop. Might be worth checking out if you can get it. I liked it more than normal brown rice, too.

              Not that anyone will care a year after the fact!

          2. My "pantry meals" all used to revolve around pasta. Now I've cut down on the pasta intake so this question is on my mind, too.

            I love any excuse to make beans and franks. We add some onion, pepper, garlic and a little soy sauce to the mix and simmer as long as we can.

            You say you keep cheese in the house. We keep all sorts of cheese, and good bread, in the house all the time. All you need for a good hot meal is to put together the cheese and bread, put it in the oven, and heat up some soup on the side.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shaogo

              If the beans are "bbq" style from a can, adding a good T mustard (any) will cut the sweet somewhat and add another layer of flavor.

            2. Last night I made a soup (not soupy) with week old escarole.. ditto parsnips, carrots, leeks, 1/2 diced onion, garlic, chicken broth, left over lentils. Started with diced pancetta, threw in diced root vegetables, S & P & red pepper flakes and let that sweat. Washed and ribboned the escarole and threw that in along with the broth and l/o lentils. Brought to a boil then simmered the concoction for about 20 minutes, while I fried some seasoned cubed Italian bread for croutons. We sat down in less than an hour. There's not a drop left.

              1. If you have time to cook on weekends, I would just make large batches of things that freeze well, like soups, stews, etc., and freeze them in correct portion-sized containers. Then a meal is as simple as defrosting something and quickly steaming or sauteeing a fresh vegetable.

                A good "fresh" option is a frittata. You can throw in leftover veggies or pasta and have it on the table in 15 minutes.

                4 Replies
                1. re: visciole

                  My work is very seasonal, and, for the next several months, I will likely be working 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week. I normally love to cook in big batches over the weekend, but not right now. I feel lucky if I have time to go to the grocery store, which is why I need some meals that are easy to throw together based on what I have on hand, without a lot of advanced planning...

                  Frittatas are perfect, though.

                  Lots of great ideas in this thread, folks. Keep 'em coming.

                  One ingredient I try to remember to employ as a pantry ingredient, for those who come along in the future, is tofu. Some brands are shelf stable. Easy to throw together with some frozen veggies for stir fry, or cube and add into soups, etc.

                  There's a recipe I love from Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley for tofu in lemon, wine, and soy that works nicely as a pantry meal.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Another good, very easy dinner is fish fillets. You can buy them frozen, or freeze them yourself, defrost them very quickly (take them out that morning, put them in the fridge), and simply bake or broil them with some olive oil and lemon, or honey-mustard, or soy-ginger, etc. Works with shrimp, too.

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      How about couscous with curry powder and frozen vegetables? That's very fast but satisfying, and usually feels like something different.

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Along the idea of a frittata but using tofu, my mom would quickly stir fry shrimp, remove, pan fry the tofu in cubes, add beaten eggs and cook until almost done, add shrimp back in, some chopped scallions. It's so filling.

                    2. Arroz con gandules is a great dish that fits the bill. The ingredients are rice, gandules (pigeon peas), tomato sauce, alcaparrado (a brined olive, caper, and red pepper mixture), recaito or sofrito (an onion, garlic, green pepper, cilantro, and culantro mixture, with or without tomato and red pepper), and ham. If you have a Puerto Rican market nearby, you can buy sofrito frozen in large quantities - sometimes sold as sofrito but fitting the definition of recaito, the difference being that sofrito has the tomatoes and red peppers and recaito does not. If not, Goya makes sofrito and all the other ingredients. The quality is pretty good, and they're actually very popular in Puerto Rico. I usually use recaito since tomatoes and red peppers (in the alcaparrado) are added separately anyway, or a mix of sofrito and recaito. I don't always use ham - sometimes I use another kind of pork and sometimes no meat. Pigeon peas are not true beans, and I find, unlike with beans, that the quality of the finished product is nearly as good with canned gandules as it is with dried gandules.
                      Here's a link to a good recipe:

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        i like that arroz dish, too -- and i use canned chick peas. the goya sazón packet with achiote is a useful thing.

                        the goya alcaparrado i have still has the pits in the olives, though. that's not a real "problem," but it does affect how one "chows down." ;-). the alcaparrado is also good to doctor up a can of black beans, to serve over rice with chopped white onion on top. i also use it in yellow rice, with chicken.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Arroz con garbanzos is popular in Spain. It's made in a fairly similar way to arroz con gandules, and actually is even more similar to Puerto Rican arroz con habichuelas. Chorizo, and sometimes panceta (salt pork) in Catalunya and Valencia, is used instead of ham. The sofrito is different, being composed of just onions, garlic, tomatoes, green peppers, and olive oil. In Valencia it is usually cooked in a paella pan.

                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                            you, my friend, are a wealth of knowledge! thanks! i just know pork of any sort works well with the beans and rice.

                            but, to be a little preachy, i LOVE LOVE LOVE "moros y cristianos"

                      2. I recently made a warm chickpea and butternut squash salad from Smitten Kitchen. It was pretty tasty. The squash is a PIA, but if you just dice it up you can freeze and thaw pretty easily which would be fine in this prep. I also make a pasta dish (you could up the lentils and omit the pasta) with french lentils, butternut squash, shallots, thyme and cream. How about black bean soup?

                        1. This is a ridiculously easy pantry meal. The recipe was a runner-up in a beef cooking contest in which my mom participated. You can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef if you want.

                          Black Bean Chili
                          1 lb. ground beef
                          1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
                          1 can black bean soup - the kind that is ready to eat - (I use Progresso)
                          1 cup prepared salsa
                          1-1/3 cup water
                          1/4 cup chopped green onions
                          sour cream or yogurt, optional

                          Brown beef and drain off any grease. Add all ingredients except onions and sour cream. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir in onions ( I often skip this step if I don't have any). Serve with the optional dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

                          I always make a pan of cornbread with this meal. My kids love it and I always make sure to have the ingredients n the pantry/freezer for a quick weeknight meal.

                          1. I'd suggest buying dried and freeze-dried ingredients to expand your pantry possibilities. Obviously, beans are in supermarkets. www.barryfarm.com has a wide array of diced and powdered dried vegetables which have intriguing creative possibilities (e.g. asparagus powder). While I wouldn't want to make a side dish from dried diced carrots, I'm happy to have them on hand if I am making soup and have no carrots in the fridge and the car is buried in snow and ice.

                            I have made stratas using canned smooth soups to replace some of the milk. For example, ham and cheese on rye sandwiches, diagonally halved, shingled in a baking pan and soaked in an egg/milk/pea soup mixture, then baked.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious

                              Thanks for the site reference - the dried vegetables offered are very intriguing!

                            2. I tend to always have lentils, rice and some or other type of canned tomato in the pantry, plus we always have bacon in the fridge. I also have frozen chicken breast, which defrosts fairly quickly, and make a killer dish that involves seasoning all of the above pretty heavily with whatever sounds good at the moment, and letting it simmer in a large skillet until everything is cooked.

                              We also keep cheap andouille in the fridge specifically for my Cajun Hash: diced andouille, potatoes (using a bag of "southern style" frozen hash browns affects the taste some, but I keep them in the freezer anyway for those "gotta make something NOW" nights), onions and garlic all cooked in a skillet to desired crispness, served with over-medium eggs and toast. Heaven.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: shanagain

                                love the cajun hash idea! where do you get your andouille?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  I buy the cheapest grocery store andouille for the hash (we're in West TX - not exactly andouille capital of the world) - it dices then holds up well and just "works" for this - Cajun Holler.

                              2. I find canned beans to be very handy for pantry meals. I like the roasted chickpeas with bulgur and lemon in Flexitarian Table as a main dish. I halve the bulgur called for, for a better bulgur-to-chickpeas ratio. It calls for an onion and lemon juice, so pretty pantry basic. Oh, I use more lemon then called for, too. Add a steamed or sauteed veggie, which you can do while the chickpeas/bulgur are cooking, and you have a good dinner.

                                I like a black bean-veggie ragout with Southwestern spicing that works well with pantry items: saute onion and garlic, and a bell pepper if you have one around, add chili powder and cumin, then drained and rinsed black beans, a can of chopped or stewed tomatoes, and some frozen corn, and simmer. You could toss in some pureed chipotle in adobo for a smoky/spicy note. Good served with brown rice or another grain, or spooned over a baked sweet potato (and unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes bake up well in the microwave).

                                There's a Kashi whole grain pilaf medley sold in packets that can be the basis of a decent one-dish meal if you toss in frozen shelled edamame or beans and some veggies from your freezer or chopped greens, plus seasonings.

                                You're probably sensing a trend here: whole grain something + beans, but those are easy pantry items to keep on hand and use.

                                Lentil soups, same deal - dry legumes that cook quickly and make use of longer-storing veggies like onions, carrots, etc.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  >>>Kashi whole grain pilaf medley sold in packets that can be the basis of a decent one-dish meal if you toss in frozen shelled edamame or beans and some veggies from your freezer or chopped greens, plus seasonings.<<<<

                                  caitlin, thanks for reminding me about that kashi pilaf. http://kashi.com/products/category/Pilaf
                                  it is awesome, and i forget to use it -- filling, hearty, and very tasty. when cooked in broth, it is so savory. it is flexible, too, as one can "add-in" beans or meat or ... whatever protein one wants.

                                  i also enjoy using the "near east" brand of couscous and rice pilafs. we esp. like the tomato lentil (and i'm not a lentil person at all). http://www.neareast.com/#products/tom...

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    Caitlin == Can you paraphrase the roasted chickpea dish from Flexitarian?

                                    I roasted some for a salad the other day and it was a revelation.

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      Karykat, I apologize that I completely missed this request, but if you look at this thread now that it's been resurrected over a year later and are still interested, you'll find the paraphrase here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5919...

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        Thanks, Caitlin. I'm just getting back to this thread. Your recipe looks good and I've set it aside to try.


                                  2. Quinoa is great for this, especially since it's so quick cooking. Last night I made this kale and quinoa pilaf http://www.food52.com/recipes/2434_on..., and it took twenty minutes -- I used feta instead of goat, because that's what I had on hand, and you could use frozen spinach in it if you don't have kale on hand. It would also be great with frozen and quick cooked shrimp stirred in toward the end. It looks disgustingly healthy, but it was very warm and comforting and delicious.

                                    Lentils are also a great pantry staple, because they cook so quickly -- you can keep some sausage in the freezer, chop it up while it's still frozen, then saute with onion and garlic and dried herbs, pull the onions out, add the lentils and chicken stock, then add some frozen spinach and the sausage at the end for a good soup or stew.

                                    I'm also a huge fan of good quality canned tuna as a pantry item, and one of my favorite recent super fast dinners for one is a warm white bean and tuna salad; start by toasting some panko in a saucepan, then when they're browned, tossing in a drained can of white beans, herbs, whatever green vegetables that I have around (spinach, arugula, some chard or kale if I have some already cooked and leftover), maybe chopped black olives, and then adding a can of tuna.

                                    I also have lots of meatballs in my freezer (made by me, but you could buy purchased ones if you don't have time for a meatball frenzy on a weekend), and since I browned them before freezing them, they make a quick meal straight from the freezer. You can take a can of tomatoes, puree, add to sauteed onion and garlic, let cook away, toss in herbs and salt, and add the meatballs and let cook for ten to fifteen minutes, and you're all set. Spoon over quinoa or eat with bread. Or you could do what I did tonight, and just add the meatballs in with some braising chard, or cook them with some chicken stock and add in some orzo and some frozen vegetables for a quick soup.

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                      Disgustingly-healthy is a-okay, preferred even, as long as it tastes good! I love quinoa, actually, an am always on the look-out for delicious ways to use it.

                                      I am really thrilled with the ideas in this thread. I'm going to put them in an excel spreadsheet along with a master shopping list and start using these. This is definitely going to help me out of my rut! You are all amazing, thank you!


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        My mom bought me a book called "Desperation Dinners" and the ladies who wrote it have a website kitchenscoop.com. Great ideas for how to stock your "extended pantry", which include the freezer and long shelf fridge items, and good recipes for dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. Uses some convenience foods, but none that didn't really appeal to me ( I'm not a big fan of highly processes, canned cream of anything soups, or "meals in a box") They use things like Pillbury biscuits, sometimes, and I actually made the empanadas fromthe cookbook that called for the refrigerated biscuits and they were really good. nice variety of soups and things that were not all pasta.

                                        1. re: sunflwrsdh

                                          I've seen that book before, but didn't know they had a website. Thanks for the tip!


                                          A lot of people recommend the six o'clock scramble, too, for fast (though not necessarily pantry) dinners, but their website doesn't have much free content: it's $55K for an annual subscription. http://thescramble.com/

                                          I've also been looking at "The Working Cook" column in the SF Chronicle for some ideas. Not a lot of pantry dinners, per se, but lots of "fast" ideas for meals from scratch. http://www.sfgate.com/columns/thework...

                                          I especially like her analysis of the "quick" columns of various food magazines, where she tested recipes to figure out which magazines had recipes that a) worked, b) met the time requirements stated in the recipe and c) was "worth" the time expended.


                                          At the end of the day, Bon Appetit, Real Simple, and Gourmet (RIP) were the ones she thought rose to the challenge.


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            While I admit it's a little silly for The 6 o'clock scramble to charge for their content, in their defense, the fee is only $55, not $55K.

                                            Great links, btw. I'm totally bookmarking them.

                                            1. re: novelgazer

                                              Yes, sorry. An annual subscription to 6 o'clock scramble is only $55, not $55,000! ! Weird typo on my part; thank you for clarifying that.


                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              As far as books go, I can't recommend the 30-Minute Cook by Nigel Slater highly enough - I've made a ton of stuff from there and it's all quick and delicious. His sausage and bean casserole is one of my standy-by pantry dinners and I also love the chicken with garlic, cider and cream recipe.

                                              Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater is also very good and he uses a lot of storecupboard ingredients, but I prefer The 30-Minute Cook.

                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                Funny! I have been on the lookout for 30-minute cook for ages, and just picked up a used copy of it yesterday! It's a sign!


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Y'all just reminded me of my 60-Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey and I just pullled out my copy. I haven't cooked from it in a LONG time but, when I did a purge a few years ago, it survived the "cut."

                                              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Thanks for the sfgate link. Looks good. I always liked her when we lived in SF.

                                              3. re: sunflwrsdh

                                                I have this book. It has saved my bacon on more than a few occasions.

                                                Their mu-shu pork is actually to die for, as is the chicken marsala.

                                              4. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I was pretty amazed at how delicious the kale/quinoa pilaf was, and I made it into a whole meal by whipping together some quick salmon cakes from canned salmon that I had on hand. This was the first time I've ever bought canned salmon (Trader Joe's brand), and I bought it a while ago in a stocking up the pantry frenzy, but I'm glad that I did -- a can of the salmon, some herbs, a squeeze of lemon, an egg, a handful of panko and a quick sear on a hot pan made for a nice dinner. You obviously could have the pilaf alone, but it was a nice compliment.

                                              5. re: JasmineG

                                                For quinoa-with-whatever-is-lying-around meals, I find that simple tahini dressing,--tahini plus salt plus water plus lemon plus garlic buzzed with the immersion blender--is really more than the sum of its parts. Something about the nutty quinoa flavor or something. Also, I know lots of people aren't into meat substitutes, but I LOVE quorn, a processed mycoprotein thing found in the freezer section of like whole foods or wherever. It's weirdly delicious and takes 2 minutes to microwave. I always dump some in with any beans'n'grains'n'stuff meal and it's really heaven. And no, I'm not a vegetarian, just love the stuff.

                                              6. When I want something health and hearty, I make a "Moroccan" chickpea stew. I don't follow a recipe exactly but use what I have with a base of cans of chickpeas and tomatoes. Stewing longer is great (which is why I love my crockpot, but it works fine if you let it go 20 minutes or so, and leftovers are even better. Serve with instant couscous. This is the general idea, but I throw in frozen veggies or whatever I have on hand.


                                                For a sweeter version, you can add dried fruit:


                                                It's a great way to get in a lot of vegetables in one meal.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  to take your chickpeas a little further east -- to india -- add to a can of chickpeas some sauteed onions, frozen spinach, chicken broth, garam masala, cinnamon stick, garlic -- and rotel tomatoes or a storebought fresh pico de gallo. serve over basmati rice, or with trader joe's multi-grain tortilla.

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    That's why I like the dish so much--so many great variations. In the summer, I use fresh zucchini, corn. In the winter, more root vegetables. Good idea w/ the rotel tomatoes. I've found decent frozen Salvadoran corn tamales, which would work great with that.

                                                2. Are frozen chicken thighs "pantry"? If so we usually manage to have mustard and OJ on hand: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                  Another staple are those weird tubes of polenta. They are shelf stable and don't contain much more than cornmeal and salt. You can slice those up and bury them in tomato sauce (maybe with a few veg) and baked with cheese on top. I like hiding a bit of blue cheese in between the sliced which them melts into the sauce and improves the basic canned stuff. Or you can fry a couple slices and top with a bean salsa.

                                                  When I've been that busy, I ate too many poached eggs on piles of spinach or microwave baked potatoes (or both).

                                                  1. I rely on rice as the basis for my pantry dinners. Also when round steak or pok loin is on sale, I buy alot and then slice it very thin before freeezing half pound amounts. In the time it takes for the rice to cook, I do a stir fry with steak or pork, whatever frozen veg I have and a shot of hoisin sauce. I try to have the frozen broccoli florets on hand because they do really well with this. Cocoanut milk is a nice addition to the rice in this case.\\

                                                    1. 1. Middle Eastern Mujedrah - rice, lentils & caramelized onions.
                                                      2. Israeli couscous (yea, it's a pasta , but not italian stylr), w/ chick peas & caramelized onions.
                                                      3. Kasha varnishkas (bow tie pasta, again not Italian) w/ (you guessed it) caramelized onions.
                                                      4. Chicken breasts topped 1/2 w/capers, 1/2 w/ chopped Kalamata olives & a lemon/chicken stock sauce.
                                                      5. Channa Masala

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Rmis32

                                                        Once upon a time I read (maybe in one of Peg Bracken's books), "If you don't know what to make for dinner, fry up some onions because it always smells so hopeful!"

                                                        1. re: Jeri L

                                                          That's funny. I'm always so horrified to hear about people being allergic to onions, as almost everything I cook starts with them ... That and being allergic to tomatoes would be extremely bad news for me.

                                                      2. My pantry dinners are all of the Korean variety: fried rice, kimchi jjigae, cham chi jjigae, etc. I have a friend who heats up a small can of tomatoes, brown rice, and canned chickpeas on a regular basis and finishes it off with a handful of cheese. The beans + grain + seasoning/broth/stock sounds good in theory, but not so much in execution, methinks, although she seems to thoroughly enjoy it.

                                                        1. Rice and beans are great. I keep a few boxes of Spanish Rice on hand and several cans of pinto beans (but if you don't care to make your own, refried beans). Some taco shells or tortillas and you're in business. I cook up the rice, refry the pintos with olive oil and a sprinkling of onion powder and ground black pepper. Add fresh tomatoes, if I have them or salsa if I have it, lettuce if it's on hand, but if it's not, no worries, roll up in a tortilla or spoon into taco shells and you've got a quick dinner.

                                                          I also throw beans, some pasta and stock into a pot for quick soup; or beans and white rice and stock.

                                                          Tuna melts always work and experimenting with adding different flavors to your mayo can change the sandwich.

                                                          Patties made with canned salmon (deboned) or canned tuna, some ketchup, some onion powder, egg and breadcrumbs or matzo meal, then gently fried, are delicious, quick and have protein. Can be served with a salad or even some instant mash.

                                                          Instant mash with some spices added makes a great coating for a variety of things that are then fried.

                                                          Have you tried mashed beans? Small white beans or cannelli beans warmed in a fry pan with canola oil, salt to taste and pepper, lots of thyme and then when warmed right through, mashed with a potato masher. It's a great side-dish or main dish, even.

                                                          White rice, cooked to which baked beans are added is made yummy when some curry powder, additional coriander and corn, green beans or peas are added.

                                                          I'm sure I'll think of more and add them later.

                                                          1. Paella With Tomatoes ( Bittman)

                                                            Canned tomatoes work fine. I add a little chile powder for some heat.

                                                            1. i was happy last night with my frozen shrimp, onions, rotel tomatoes and butter, plus some ouzo. yeah, buddy!

                                                              1. I like to keep a well stocked kitchen! With the ingredients I have on hand I can make any of the following: Steak and potatoes, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken & Dumplings, Chicken Parmesan, Beef/Chicken fajitas, Shrimp Scampi, BBque Shrimp, Shrimp Bisque, Meatloaf, Chili with cornbread, Meatball Subs, Pizza, Calzones, Tacos, Enchiladas, Quesadillas, Burritos, Chicken/Shrimp Stir fry, Chicken with Japanese Curry, Panang Curry, Massaman Curry, Swiss Steak, Chicken Cacciatore, Carne Guisada, Gorditas, Grilled Chicken, BBque Chicken, Shrimp or Smoked Salmon Sushi, Egg drop Soup, Hot and Sour Soup, Omelette (breakfast for dinner is always fun!), Fried Rice, Chicken Fried Steak, Jambalaya, Polish Sausage with Cabbage, Chile Rellenos, Korean BBque, Beef Stew, Potato Soup, BLT’s, Tomato Basil soup with Grilled Cheese sandwiches, Egg Foo Young, Beef/Bean Nachos, Tom Kha Gai (chicken coconut soup), and Chilaquiles.

                                                                IMO keeping some fresh veggies and herbs on hand can really enhance a meal. For example, I always keep tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, limes, and peppers on hand to make Pico de Gallo to liven up Mexican food.

                                                                1. You could do creamed tuna over biscuits ... back when I was cooking from my mother's pantry, I often turned to creamed tuna ... however bare it might be, there were always cans of tuna ;) Which reminds me how lovely it is to cook in a kitchen one has stocked oneself ...

                                                                  1. One of our staple pantry dishes (involving firm white fish like Chilean sea bass from the freezer) is baked fish using a sauce I make from sauted garlic in olive oil, red pepper flakes, anchovies or anchovy paste, a 15oz can of diced tomatoes, capers and mixed pitted olives.
                                                                    Reduce the liquid in a skillet after sauteeing the rest of the stuff, pour over the fish in an 8x8 baking dish and bake for as long as it takes for the thawed fish to be opaque. Usually 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness.

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      i do something similar, and add artichokes and some ouzo. delicious, indeed. the combination is magical.

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        Of course, YOU add ouzo :) I need to reread that thread and do more cooking from it.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          ouzo-schmoozo, it's that good! ;-)). anything with seafood -- esp. if tomatoes are involved -- really benefits from ouzo.

                                                                          shrimp, tomaotes, onions, feta, ouzo over linguine. heaven on a plate, i tell ya.

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            Ouzo is Greek for Pernod, right? ;-)

                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                to modify that, i think the pernod is more complex in the ingredients, but i understand ouzo has variants within the genre. both pernod and ouzo are anise-based.
                                                                                "Like most quality absinthes, Pernod Fils was produced by macerating herbs, including wormwood, fennel, melissa and anise in a neutral spirit of agricultural origin (usually wine) in a copper alembic where the mixture was then distilled, to produce a transparent liquor. Part of the distillate was then steeped with additional herbs, such as hyssop and petite wormwood, to produce a green-colored fraction that was then filtered and reunited with the main part[4]. The coloration process was done primarily to impart additional flavor and aroma to the absinthe, but the ensuing light olive tint also had the added benefit of enhancing its visual appeal. The colored distillate was then reduced in strength, with the 68% ABV product representing the most popular version of the brand. The predominant flavor in Pernod Fils, like all absinthes, was primarily anise - a flavor commonly misidentified by anglophones as "licorice"." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pernod_Fils

                                                                                hey, look at pernod ricard's recent lobbying bill: 2d Q - $180,000 http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireSt...

                                                                      2. re: mcf

                                                                        I haven't fixed this fish dish from Chow but it sounds really good to me and quick:


                                                                      3. I've been into fried rice in recent months. Unlike risotto, you don't have to stir for 45 minutes, so it can be quick. Ideally, you should use leftover rice, so choose a starchy rice like Cal Rose or Jasmine, and if you can think ahead, make it the day before.

                                                                        Many recipes use ham, frozen peas, carrots, mushrooms, shrimp. I like to cook and freeze bbq pork. Pretty much anything goes in terms of veggies. I suppose you could use frozen instead of fresh, and I truly have no idea of what the outcome might be with canned veggies. Scrambled egg should be cooked separately and chopped. Freeze pieces of green and red pepper if you like those.

                                                                        1. One of my quick not pasta dinners is Cajun Mustard Shrimp. I always keep shrimp in the freezer and the other ingredients are also on hand. With rice and a veggie dinner can be on the table in half an hour with the majority of the time occupied in peeling the shrimp and cooking the rice.

                                                                          REC: Cajun Mustard Shrimp

                                                                          Serves: 3

                                                                          1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
                                                                          1 T olive oil
                                                                          1 T butter
                                                                          1 medium clove garlic
                                                                          dash crushed red pepper
                                                                          ¼ c dry white wine or vermouth
                                                                          4 T jalapeno pepper jelly
                                                                          2 T whole grain mustard
                                                                          2 T Dijon mustard

                                                                          1. Heat skillet with olive oil. Saute shrimp in batches until pink but not cooked entirely. Remove from skillet and set aside.
                                                                          2. Melt butter in skillet and crush garlic into pan. Add crushed red pepper and saute until aroma of garlic is evident.
                                                                          3. Add dry white wine and scrap up any browned pieces from bottom of pan. Add jelly, and two kinds of mustard. Whisk together and let cook for 2-3 minutes.
                                                                          4. Return shrimp to skillet and finish cooking in the hot sauce.
                                                                          5. Serve over rice.

                                                                          I use 21-25 size shrimp.

                                                                          1. Black bean and cheese quesadillas. Or if I have leftover meat, the meat goes in either in addition to or instead of the beans. It's one of our go-to "pantry meals". I'm sick of pasta too.

                                                                            1. frozen cream dory/sole fillet. defrosted. pan fried in butter until half cooked. transfer to a baking dish. top with a mixture of cream cheese, mayo and chopped garlic. bake in a 400 degree preheated oven until bubbly. serve with oven roasted baby potatoes.

                                                                              1. Mujadarrah - I use Deborah Madison's recipe. Really easy. I like to throw in extra onions. Leftovers are great too; makes a great lunch or dinner with a salad.


                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: pamelak52

                                                                                  Yes, I use her recipe too, it's a staple for us. Delicious, and so few ingredients! I think it's lentils, rice, salt & pepper, olive oil and of course the onions. I like to add spinach at the end sometimes and let it wilt into the dish.

                                                                                  1. re: prunefeet

                                                                                    Just tried the spinach variation - excellent!

                                                                                2. Groovy - my blog is essentially all about pantry meals, though not all of them are "quick." I'll second Moros y Cristianos, which I do in the crock-pot - a tip for dried beans or other foods that need soaking, if you soak two or three times what you plan to use, you can freeze the extra. Then you start the cooking process from there.

                                                                                  "Burgers" are another quick pantry meal: bind a protein and some starch with egg, make patties, fry them up. I do them with salmon for salmon eggs benedict and with hoppin' john.

                                                                                  Polenta is a quick and easy food - you can add stuff to it, or use it as a "piecrust" for a quick quiche or pot pie. I prefer to make it with cornmeal and broth, though - I find the stuff in a tube has "off" flavors.

                                                                                  You could always do beans and cornbread - a cowboy staple, gets your kitchen hot but doesn't take that long to whip up.

                                                                                  If you purchase or pre-make rounds of empanada dough, there are any number of quick fillings you can use that will make a fast meal. You can sub puff pastry, or even several layers of phyllo.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: mhays

                                                                                    I actually started looking at this thread as it is 10 minutes to 6 and I have no idea what to make. Lots of great ideas, I will be back!!

                                                                                    Meanwhile, some ideas for you:

                                                                                    I know you said no pasta or salads, but when I am in the mood for an impromptu meal I love a salad topped with warm poached egg and bacon lardons. i also love all variations of bread salads.

                                                                                    Baked potatoes topped with broccoli that has been lightly saute with salt and garlic is also on my top 5.

                                                                                    What else? Paninis! Leftover pot roast, pork roast, meat loaf, rot. chix, or anything else you have hiding in your freezer will get you there. Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil and you are in heaven. Or speck, parma ham, ricotta...

                                                                                    White beans, straight out of the can, scooped into a pan to warm then on to a crostini, drizzled with same stuff mentioned above. If you have any kale, blanch or saute up and put it on top.

                                                                                    This one is really, really bad! I am ashamed as I put it in writing....tortilla chips, canned refried beans, avocado slices, chopped tomatoes, salsa, and cheese, melted together. Must be washed down with alcohol.

                                                                                    Soup consisting of 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 1 can of chix stock, TJs frozen mini meatballs, and dried tortellini.

                                                                                    So why haven't I started making something????

                                                                                  2. Frittata are my life saver on busy evening that everyone will eat! I follow Marcella Hazan's method and it super easy - no need to flip, etc.. and the combinations are endless. They are also a great way to use up any small amounts of random leftovers in the refrigerator.

                                                                                    I also like canned salmon cakes or salmon soup - both of which are a flashback to my youth!

                                                                                    And I will also agree with suggestions of frozen rice. It seems silly to buy since it's easy to cook, but some nights I don't have the hour to make brown rice. The individual frozen packs of brown organic rice from trader joes are a life saver!

                                                                                    One last idea are pre-bought simmer sauces. There are some really nice indian ones - I like seeds of change brand. You just brown your protein on choice, throw on the sauce and in ten minutes you have dinner. Serve with frozen rice!! :)

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: JennyHunter

                                                                                      JennyHunter - I'm curious about the salmon soup - do you have a recipe or a link to one?

                                                                                      1. re: JennyHunter

                                                                                        I second frittatas. You can change them up almost endlessly and they're also a great use-up for those random half-cups of leftovers you sometimes find yourself with. My most shameful frittata story involves leftover Manwich (which my husband enjoys on occasion) with sliced green onions on top. It got inhaled.

                                                                                        If you want a slightly lighter frittataesque recipe, I absolutely love this one:
                                                                                        http://www.care2.com/greenliving/wint.... I use frozen spinach, so it really is a pantry recipe. I like to add aleppo pepper and I cube the potatoes pretty finely instead of slicing, but it's a definite winner.

                                                                                      2. This is an easy dish that's really good, especially if you spice it up a bit:


                                                                                        1. Are you cooking for family, or just for yourself? These are things I tend to make for myself when I'm crazy busy and come home hungry, but there's no reason you can't serve them to your family.

                                                                                          Soup. I like clear soups, and tend to throw a protein, starch, and veg into chicken broth. For protein I often use shrimp, tofu, egg (scrambled and dropped in) or chicken (either pre-cut, cooked and frozen, or off a barbecue chicken from the grocery store.) Veggies are often bok choi, broccoli or frozen spinach, and I use rice, quinoa or some sort of noodle as the starch. Flavour with sesame oil and a chunk of ginger for Asian flavours, tomato paste and basil for Italian.

                                                                                          Another easy and super-fast (under 5 min) meal is from brown rice (I use the Uncle Ben's in a packet, but pre-cooked and frozen is probably better,) frozen spinach and tofu. Mix it all together with some sesame oil and sesame seeds, or mix it with creamy caesar salad dressing. This is a meal that's good either hot or cold, and one of my more common lunches.

                                                                                          I also make a lot of what my husband calls "White Dinner." The whiteness upsets me, but he loves it. (I think he also loves how much the lack of colour bothers me.) It's tilapia, cauliflower and quinoa or rice. The tilapia defrosts really quickly, and I saute it in a little olive oil and lemon. Steam or saute the cauliflower, serve with quinoa. It's white, but healthy and quick. (Under half an hour.)

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: looz

                                                                                            One of my faves is quiche. You can throw pretty much anything in it and get your protein, veg and starch all in one dish. Another great one is meat pie/ pot pie or Cornish pasties. All have the same ingredients they are just a bit of a different form. But again, you can throw anything in them like ground turkey or beef, leftover chicken, leftover sausage etc and any vege you have frozen or fresh laying around.

                                                                                            But my most common standby dish is baked potatoes. You can grill up some mushrooms or onions, steam any veggies you have. Make a quick cheese sauce, or even pour cream of mushroom soup over top. Even better you can do them in the microwave. Or start them in the microwave and finish them in the oven.

                                                                                            Another great one is fried rice. I toss lefotever rice in a pan with whatever else I have lefotever. Throw in soy sauce, ginger, maybe some sesame seeds, then break and egg over top of it all and stir it up and cook it through. My mom made this a lot growing up and she liked to toss in cashews as well.

                                                                                          2. I haven't read all the responses, so if this is redundant, I apologize. I've started subsituting quinoa for pasta- I make the quinoa in the rice cooker,and then have it in the fridge and add veggies, sauces, etc, as one would with pasta. Much healthier and very easy.

                                                                                            1. I'm hoping to try this one of these days: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Speedy-S... - it's called Speedy salmon casserole. Most of the reviews are pretty good. It looks kinda comfort-foody.

                                                                                              Open grills are pretty good too. Especially if you have some cooked shrimp in the freezer and some avocado. Mix with a little white sauce and top with cheese. Great on a thick slab of fresh bread.

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                  Ursy, I'm just re-reading this thread (what fantastic suggestions I got)--did you ever try this baked salmon casserole from all recipes (see corrected link in DonShirers post above).


                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    Hi TDQ - I'm afraid not, simply because the link is redirecting to a recipe I've never seen before! The one I was talking about had mashed potato in it - and it seems to have disappeared from Allrecipes altogether.

                                                                                                    I have to say, this recipe looks pretty good so it could be a happy accident :)

                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        Yes, that's it! Comfort foody!

                                                                                                        I did try that one, it was pretty good but I suspect a bit stodgy, which is probably why I haven't made it since... but a useful pantry meal recipe to have nonetheless!

                                                                                                        1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                          OK, well mystery solved. Thank you!


                                                                                                2. For me (feeding just myself), I'll throw stuff in a tortilla, roll it up like a burrito and either nuke it or if I'm feeling a bit fancy, crisp it up in a saute pan.

                                                                                                  I don't much like veggies, and need to get in lots of protein, so these are combinations I've used:
                                                                                                  -Scrambled egg and shredded cheese. I sometimes add my favorite canned chili, or a cut up cooked sausage link, or chopped ham
                                                                                                  -Diced cooked chicken, pesto, mayo, sriracha and roasted cashews (used to be Roly Poly #30)

                                                                                                  Veggies could be added to any combination of foods you have on hand.

                                                                                                  1. We've been really into the flavor of a vegetarian barbecue sauce used to season Hot Pot dishes. I steam a package of frozen stir-fry vesgetable (add protein if desired), stir in a couple of spoonfuls of this sauce and serve over rice. Very quick and easy to vary.

                                                                                                    Shrimp creole is fast and if you have a frozen onion/pepper/celery mix there's no chopping! I like it served over yellow rice. If you want my recipe I'm happy to post.

                                                                                                    I made a quick, hearty garbanzo/tomato/greens soup tonight. Sauteed onion & garlic. Add 1 can rinsed garbanzo beans, 1 can diced tomatoes, a few jarred anchovies (no need to chop, they cook up), some merken chili blend, Penzey's Greek seasoning and chicken broth. Once the beans are softened to your liking, stir in some fresh or frozen chopped greens. Cook a little longer. I had no bread, so served it with croutons and parmesan. Turned out really good! Made 2 good sized servings.

                                                                                                    1. I love bean soup, and you can make it using mostly canned items.
                                                                                                      3 can black beans, unseasoned
                                                                                                      2 cans Rotel
                                                                                                      1 can Mexicorn
                                                                                                      1/2 cup each onion, celery, carrot, chopped
                                                                                                      Saute the veggies in oil until slightly softened, then add the beans, rotel, and corn. Let simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, and fresh cilantro. You can also eat it with corn chips.

                                                                                                      1. One of my favorite meals that is not quite, but close to a "pantry" meal (I always have yogurt and frozen chicken breasts on hand) this this puppy. The only thing that you'd need to "plan ahead" for is zucchini, but it's easy enough to keep on hand if you're doing other things like stir frys. The sauce can be made ahead by a few days even, the couscous, as long as it's oiled, is good for just as long. I premake servings and keep the yogurt mixture separate. It's great both hot and cold!


                                                                                                        1. I love making a quick curry...red or green curry paste with TJ's frozen basil pods, coconut milk, a bit of chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar plus whatever protein I have (chicken or shrimp usually), canned chickpeas, onion, frozen spinach, canned tomatoes, thinly sliced red or green pepper, cubed potatoes...seriously, ANYTHING I have laying around that will be tasty with the sauce will get thrown in there. I'll finish it off with a squeeze of lime and some chopped cilantro if I have it.

                                                                                                          1. Rice can be the basis for a lot of easy meals, one of my favorite simple comfort dinners is short grain brown rice topped with kim-chi from the fridge, a sunny-side up egg, and some chopped peanuts. Alternately, a can of black beans and some garlic added to the rice makes black beans and rice.

                                                                                                            Polenta is another great pantry staple grain, a quick warm polenta can be combined with whatever veggies or meat I've got lying around sauteed with onions and a can or tomatoes or a little leftover pasta sauce.

                                                                                                            Greens and beans, if you have some greens, is a simple one, good with crusty bread or over polenta - saute kale or chard or escarole or collards in garlic and olive oil, add salt and red pepper flakes and a can on white beans, cannellini preferred.

                                                                                                            Slow cooker bean soups could be your friend. Pulses (lentils, split peas, etc.) can cook quickly enough to start from dry at dinnertime. Carrots, onions, celery, and thyme with some lentils and you have a great lentil soup.

                                                                                                            A quick tuna salad on bread with cheese makes a tuna melt. Similarly, canned seafood can be used to make salmon croquettes or crab cakes, etc.

                                                                                                            Roasted sweet potatoes make a great dinner. Homefries made with potaotes and sweet potatoes and topped with a runny egg make a fine dinner.

                                                                                                            A friend recently shared a great chickpea spinach curry recipe, which more or less goes as follows and can come entirely our of a well stocked pantry, if you include frozen spinach as a pantry item. It's vegan, healthy, quick, and delicious.
                                                                                                            Saute onion and fresh ginger in oil and add curry spices. Add canned tomatoes, chickpeas, handful of raisins. Add spinach, salt, pepper. Serve with rice or naan.

                                                                                                            Miso comes to mind as useful as well. A quick miso broth can make a tasty meal of almost any leftover bits you have in the fridge.

                                                                                                            1. Thanks, all, for this thread (I have a blog project on this subject and you're giving me many ideas.)

                                                                                                              Tonight, I am doing an incredibly lazy supper: we have soft pretzels, and I'm planning on serving them with avocado puree and pimento cheese.

                                                                                                              I think I've mentioned on CHOW before: one of my faves is a salade nicoise with sardines instead of tuna, just all mixed up in a bowl and eaten on crackers. Or you could use tuna!

                                                                                                              Mark Bittman has that whole "101" series that's a terrific resource.

                                                                                                              1. A take on the corn dog, without deep-frying: I needed to use up some expiring corn muffin mix and the fridge was short on meat options. So I diced up some hot dogs and browned them a bit in oil in a nonstick skillet. Added some sweet pepper relish and chopped scallion to the batter, poured over the hot dogs, reduced heat and covered until the mix was cooked through. Inverted and cut into wedges, with a mustard drizzle.
                                                                                                                Traditionally you'd bake cornbread in the oven but this worked fine.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                  I am SO doing this. My husband will go nuts for it!

                                                                                                                2. Your thread is coming to the surface again. Which is timely. Especially with the "pantry diet" you mentioned the other day!!!

                                                                                                                  A few posters have mentioned rice. I'm interested in doing some more things with rice, maybe combining it with a low fat bechemel sauce and whatever vegies are on hand.

                                                                                                                  But have been trying to think of ways to make this more interesting. Spices? Other things?

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: karykat

                                                                                                                    I picked up some rice salad recipes off of this recent thread:


                                                                                                                  2. I cook a lot of pasta too, but this one does not have pasta, but does have rice. It's a Bayless recipe, I just have it linked to one of the food blogs I read.

                                                                                                                    Red Chile Chicken http://ellysaysopa.com/2009/09/01/red...

                                                                                                                    Also these pork chops were ridiculously easy and tasty. I made them with boneless smaller pork chops, not the huge bone in ones called for in the recipe. The sauce makes enough for 4 chops: http://traceysculinaryadventures.blog...

                                                                                                                    1. So this question was asked two years ago, but a few ideas popped into my head, so why not share?

                                                                                                                      Dinner salads can be hot! Lentils cook up into about 15-20 minutes (I use green lentils, which are like Puy lentils, as I prefer their texture and flavour). Roast up a few carrots (lasts for ages in the fridge) in the oven before starting on the lentils. Drain lentils. Add carrots. Sometimes I add vacuum-packed beets (plain, not in vinegar) which you can find easily in the UK. Dress with olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice. Add goat's cheese. If I have any leaves to hand (spinach, rocket) I add those, too.

                                                                                                                      Or Bill Granger's dhal: red lentils, ginger, garlic and an onion, along with a few spices. Cook the onion in some oil still starting to soften. Add two sliced cloves of garlic, a peeled and grated (or finely chopped, in my case) thumb of ginger, a teaspoon of cumin and one of turmeric (the turmeric is my addition. The colour is a bit unfriendly without). Cook until the onion is soft and add 1 cup lentils and 3 cups water. Simmer for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the water levels: it shouldn't boil dry or be too soup. At the end, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a bit of fresh coiander or mint if you have them to hand, but no worries if you don't (I recommend the lime juice though). Serve with naan bread, pita bread, or bread bread.

                                                                                                                      How about couscous? The giant wholegrain couscous I've been buying recently is more filling than the tiny grains. Cook, drain, add salad leaves and leftover shredded chicken and feta and whatever else you fancy.

                                                                                                                      Though to be honest I used to just eat storebought garlic bread heated up in the oven. Difficult to get away with, and harder on the conscience, if you have a family, though.

                                                                                                                      1. given the revival, i thought i'd chime in with a few recent hits with the BF...

                                                                                                                        TJ's quick cooking farro, some quick roasted garlic (don't judge me, but nuked in the micro on medium for a couple of minutes to soften and caramelize), some quick wilted spinach, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and onion powder... sometimes a pinch of mustard powder. and if his tummy can take it a sprinkle of shaved asiago/romano or parmesan.

                                                                                                                        baked (healthier) nachos - i take tortillas which we have in the freezer, cut and bake til crisp, drizzled with lime juice and salt. poach and shred some chicken breasts in the freezer. top with diced onion, salsa, beans if on hand, sliced avocado if on hand, then melt some cheese and thin with a little reduced or 1% milk, and stir in a little chipotle in adobo (a little goes a long way), then serve with a little low fat sour cream and chopped and/or roasted scallions.

                                                                                                                        pureed soups - we always have onions and garlic, so i'll roast or nuke those til soft, then cook whatever veggies i want/have on hand (often lightly steamed/boiled in water and reserve water for puree if necessary), then blend til smooth, thinning with almond milk. return to stove and simmer, stirring in herbs of choice, and seasoning with salt and pepper.

                                                                                                                        quick veggie soufflé - cooked veggies, onions, garlic, herbs, a little rice flour, salt, pepper, almond milk, and beaten egg whites...