The hardest part of making family meals is deciding on a recipe. It’s easy to do early in the week, when the fridge is full after a big weekend shop, but by Wednesday or Thursday, the pickings are slim, and we must look everywhere for inspiration. A well-stocked pantry full of flavour boosters like bacon, canned tomatoes and parmesan cheese is the secret weapon to spinning “nothing” into dinner gold, so try adding some of these simple ingredients to your meals to get you out of a family food rut.
Split Peas, Lentils, Beans
If you’ve got split peas, lentils or beans, and a litre of stock, you’ve got great soup. A favourite for both kids and adults alike is split pea soup. To make it, simply sauté a little chopped carrot and onion in butter and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add dried split peas, stock, and some smoky bacon. Simmer about 45 minutes until peas are tender, and then whirl with an immersion blender, if desired, and serve topped with buttery croutons.
Whether you prefer your bacon served sweet or savoury, there are very few recipes that can’t be elevated by the addition of your favourite cured meat. Cook and crumble bacon and scatter it over a stack of maple syrup-topped pancakes, stir it into pastas, add to quiche, and mix into potatoes you cook in the slow cooker for the easiest, most delicious breakfast recipe you can also serve for dinner. This dish can cook while you are at work, and a pan of scrambled or fried eggs and a nutritious smoothie completes the meal in mere minutes.
Hunt’s Heirloom Tomatoes
These Roma-style tomatoes are picked fresh from the vine and go from field to final product in less than 24 hours, creating a product that’s superior in both taste and quality. This pantry hero is the backbone of many popular meals, like our wonton lasagna cups. In general, they add great taste to soups, stews, sauces, casseroles and chilis and your kitchens should never be without them.
If you have lemons on hand, you are well on your way to a crowd-pleasing dinner. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook a pound of capellini noodles until al dente. Meanwhile, melt a cup of butter in a skillet and add the zest and juice of 2 lemons to the pan. Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. When pasta is cooked, use tongs to transfer it to the skillet. Toss with the lemony butter mixture, adding cooking water to thin the sauce, if needed.
Parmesan cheese is the sort of ingredient that can make a humble salad feel special or turn a plate of ho-hum pasta into a company-worthy feast. For example, roast any vegetables in your crisper with olive oil and sea salt and cook a pound of pasta until al dente. Toss together with more oil and toasted breadcrumbs and top with shaved shards of cheese. Make frico by spooning tablespoon-sized mounds of Parmesan cheese onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spreading each mound about 2 to 3-inch wide. Bake at 375°F for 5 to 6, or until melted. Cool completely and serve these lacy cheese crackers with bowls of soup for dipping.
There really isn’t a more versatile ingredient that we can keep in our refrigerator. Inexpensive and full of protein, eggs are a lifesaver when it comes to quick-cooking dinners. From scrambled eggs tacos to spicy eggs baked in a baguette to salads, eggs know no bounds when it comes to family meals. They are the great base for a kid-friendly Cobb salad (lettuce, cherry tomatoes, bacon, chicken, eggs, avocado) and soft-boiled eggs with toast soldiers are a crowd-pleasing choice on breakfast-for-dinner night.
This post is brought to you by Hunt’s Heirloom Tomatoes but the images and opinions are our own.