What’s for dinner? Instead of getting take out or running to the grocery store, consider “using what you have on hand”. A beauty YouTuber called it ‘shop your stash’ as she described using what you have one hand. With that, I will share a simple dish I recently prepared that my family really enjoyed.
I had a bag of pasta shells on hand; I often venture into trying different foods, and it was purchased in the past few months. This pasta isn’t made from semolina flour as most pasta but from brown rice flour. People are looking for alternatives to traditional grain food products, and the food industry is offering many alternatives – many without gluten, etc.
A few months ago, I prepared linguine made from soybeans, and I just didn’t like it. I couldn’t get over the texture, and the flavor didn’t make up for that. I don’t know if it was the ‘brand’ but having that experience deterred me from cooking the brown rice pasta shells for a few weeks. And if I don’t like it, it’s fair to say my family won’t either (I’m like “Mikey”, I’ll eat just about anything!).
I decided to make a chicken/pasta dish since I had a roasted chicken on hand from the deli that needed to be eaten, and I wanted to try the brown rice pasta shells. I prepared the brown rice pasta shells first (I almost always put a little olive oil in my water), and they turned out pretty good! The shells were tender and had no ‘off taste’. Of course, I tasted the pasta when it was just cooked and still warm, and I liked it so well, I decided to prepare a ‘hot’ chicken/pasta dish!
I like to saute diced onions with a small amount of minced garlic in olive oil to enhance/build flavor in dishes. When the onions were tender and ‘glassy’, I added the (drained) pasta and some cilantro. I used dried cilantro; fresh would work too. I also added a small amount of all-purpose seasoning (you can omit that if you do not want the added sodium). Lastly, I added the chicken (I had already pulled off the bones) to the pan, stirring it in. My creation tasted okay but needed ‘something’. So, I drained a can of diced tomatoes (saving the liquid) and added theses and a few sprinkles of Italian seasoning and basil.
I believe the tomatoes hit the nail on the head – it was just the right amount of sweetness and acidity the dish needed to lift the flavor! I ended up adding the tomato juice, too – I thought the chicken/pasta dish needed more liquid. I also added a little cottage cheese – maybe a serving spoon-size scoop. I love using (1% fat) cottage cheese in cooking – it adds a little bit of ‘sour’ and an extra flavor along with protein, calcium, some B vitamins, and other minerals.
By the way, if you use olive oil and saute for more than just a couple of minutes, your food will ‘soak up’ the olive oil and possibly stick to the pan. And, you may find your dish ‘drying out’ if you heat it for too long.
And that’s all I did. We had croissants and black beans with it. (I like to use canned black beans by draining, rinsing, placing in a frying pan with onions, olive oil, and adding cumin and cilantro) Easy! I wasn’t planning to add many ingredients to my creation but wanted it to taste just right, and I was blown away by the flavor change upon adding plain, diced tomatoes! I continue to learn, but the right amount of acidity, sweetness, and savory is such a fun balance to achieve!