There is a certain lovely rhythm you can fall into in the kitchen that lends itself to creating simple meals and snacks with what you have on hand. A pinch of this, a handful of that, some leftovers, and a pot of beans, and dinner is served.
While I continue to experiment with some new recipes to bring to you at The Nourishing Gourmet, I wanted to share some of my “un-recipes,” or methods that are so simple, and pliable to what you have on hand, that an exact recipe is not needed.
I will link to some easy recipes as well, to get your thought process going. But I find that a well-stocked kitchen can often supply delicious meals without a recipe and just a dash of creativity.
You will notice that some of these snacks and easy meals are inspired by the books I read as well.
Bed of Greens + random bits and pieces
Cover a plate with fresh greens of choice (I use the baby salad greens), and top with leftovers such as shredded meats, cooked grains, chilled vegetables, leftover (or canned) beans, fresh vegetables, and top with dressing of your choice (here are 8 of my favorite dairy-free salad dressings). Other options: Canned fish, fried egg, boiled eggs, diced, homemade croutons (fry diced older bread cubes in a pan with melted butter and olive oil and salt and pepper).
I’m amazed at the delicious meals I am often able to make using just the little bits and pieces of leftovers used over salad greens.
If you keep frozen fruit in the freezer, it’s easy to whip up a last minute meal or snack. Add salad greens for vegetables, or cucumber or zucchini. Use banana or some juice to sweeten it. Add protein by using white beans, collagen powder, or a spoonful of nut butter (like in this recipe )
Easiest soups ever
If you have broth, you can make a soup with leftovers or pantry items. For example, many soups can be created with a few vegetables, and some eggs (egg drop soup [PDF file]is one of my favorites!).
Or heat broth and add leftover vegetables, rice, and diced meat. Or saute vegetables, add broth, and then add some leftover pasta and meat. There are as many variations as you can imagine! If your broth is homemade and flavorful (just salt it well!), you can get away with adding less to it, and it still being delicious.
Apples and Cheese or Apples and Nut/Seed Butters
This makes a light meal or a snack. Slice apples and cheese, and enjoy. Or slice apples and serve with your choice of nut, peanut, or seed butter. (We love this DIY Maple Pumpkin Seed Butter too).
Celery Stick and Peanut butter or nut/seed butter
You know the drill, slather celery sticks with nut butter of choice, and top with raisins, if desired. If you want to get even fancier, there are other versions as well according to Google.
Swedish Rye Bread and Cheese
Weston A Price noted that Swedish villagers used dark rye bread and a large slab of grass-fed cheese (about the size of your hand) for meals. When both the bread and the cheese are using nutrient-dense ingredients, you get a surprising amount of nutrients in such a simple meal. It’s important to remember that people in the past didn’t have time to make elaborate meals, but their bread and cheese were often more nutrient dense because of the ingredients and methods they used to produce them. (Grilled cheese is also delicious, and to make it more “grown-up” you can always add grilled onions or vegetables, or serve with a soup or salad on the side). Our kids also love quesadillas!
Slice an avocado in half and fill with egg salad, top with sliced boiled eggs, or tuna or chicken salad. Yum!
This is a favorite from my husband’s childhood. Follow the recipe once, and never need it again!
I love this Norwegian tradition. Use hearty sliced bread (I use gluten-free) and serve with leftover sliced meats, hard-boiled eggs, butter, sliced cucumbers, and radishes, baby greens, leftover cooked fish + whatever you have on hand, or want to use! People can make their sandwiches as they like it. You can even put out lettuce cups for those not eating grains or use a paleo bread.
Again, using leftovers, you can create excellent meals. Fry up leftover rice or quinoa into fried rice/quinoa. Use diced meats, frozen peas or corn, or saute up some vegetables and then add pre-cooked ingredients to the pan. Read, The Art of Skillet Dinners, for more ideas, including some grain free options.
Fried Bread (inspired by James Herriot)
James Herriot, in one of his beautiful books, talks about his wife making him fried bread to bring along when he was driving to visit a farm in his veterinarian duties. It makes a delicious snack! Basically, you pan-fry a slice of bread in butter, olive oil, or bacon grease, and serve nicely browned, while warm. Top with sandwich makings, if desired, or enjoy as is! This is like toast, but better.
Eggs in a Million Ways
Eggs are the perfect fast food. Scrambled, fried, boiled, soft-boiled, and on. Serve it for dinner along with sausage and toast, and everyone is happy. One easy recipe – Simple Deviled Eggs.
This makes an easy and delicious snack (or dessert!). Use leftover cooked and chilled grains such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, or oats. Cover with milk of choice, lightly sweeten with sweetener of your choice (pure maple syrup is delicious), dust with cinnamon, and then serve cold or warm.
Sliced leftover meats with veggies, cucumbers, or baked goods
Put out a platter of leftover sliced meats (like pot roast, which is delicious cold), serve with cucumber slices and carrots and red bell pepper slices, and toast, muffins, or biscuits (biscuits are easy to make last minute!).
Leftover Baked Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes
I always try to make extra when we have these for dinner (see how to make sweet potatoes in a slow cooker here), and then I can quickly reheat them and serve with butter and salt and pepper, or stuffed with cheese or sour cream, or diced meats or leftover shredded beef. I also make roasted sweet potatoes rounds on a regular basis (another recipe where you really only need to use the “recipe” once or twice, before you have the method down).