Eat Well: Snow Days

The following post was written by my mother, WWW. Who does not live in the snow but did once for an entire TWO YEARS! I know, right? Read on, friends. And stay warm!
The other day I opened up my Facebook page to find five photos of fresh thick snow blanketing homes of family and friends in the East and Midwest. Even though I have lived 53 of my 55 years of life in sunny San Diego, the other two years were spent in the Watchung Mountains, the part of New Jersey that spawned the motto “The Garden State.” I still remember my first real snowstorm in December of 1981. Rebecca was six months old.

Our house looked like something out of a fairy tale and I was like a little girl, filled with awe and amazement at the sight…
...until I realized that we had no food in the house and I needed to go to the grocery store (Darn…the responsibility of a grown-up woke me out of my dream). I bundled Rebecca in her snowsuit, dug my car out of the driveway, and slid down the hill to the market.
1981 - when my hair was still safe! - GGC

... I realized from that moment on that it would be a good idea to have a supply of food always on hand in case of snow days or other emergencies.

I have learned over the years how to stock my shelves with healthy but easy foods that I can throw together in a moment’s notice. Even though the chance of heavy snow in my neck of the woods is zero, there are many days when I don’t have time for shopping or cooking but still want a healthy meal. When we were meat eaters, I would always keep a chicken and some hamburger meat in the freezer, but now that we are vegetarians, I have had to be a little more creative. Yesterday I took pictures of what I have on hand at the moment in my refrigerator and freezer as well as my cupboard. I thought it would be fun to share with you ways to create meals from these staples.

-Veggie burgers (my favorite is Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers) and buns.
-Several containers of frozen soup (when you cook soup, cook enough so you can freeze some for emergency meals).
-Pie crusts for quiche (I always keep some in the freezer, although you can make a crust-less quiche or frittata just as easily).
-Channa Masala from Trader Joe’s or other favorite frozen and healthy ready-made food that your family likes. Look for foods that are low in fat (The Channa Masala tastes like it’s homemade. With rice, you have a complete meal).
-Tortillas (I buy them at a tortilla factory and split them into packs of 12 to freeze).

-I always have at least 2 dozen eggs on hand which I can use to make frittatas, omelets, quiches, or huevos rancheros.
-Tempeh or tofu. I like tempeh better than tofu and make sure I keep a package in the refrigerator. You can fry it up with vegetables or steam it and grate it for soft tacos.
-Sweet potatoes
-Celery and carrots (they keep really well and I always have them on hand)

-Vegetable stock
-A good organic canned chili
-A variety of canned beans (black, garbanzo, kidney, and northern white are good choices)
-Tikka massala or korma massala by Seeds of Change—I love this brand.
I good quality organic pasta sauce
-Grains: I always have quinoa, oat groats, polenta and rice on hand
-Roasted peppers
-Canned tomatoes
-Good quality jar salsa
-Vegetarian refried beans (I like black best)

Quick Meals with the above:

1. Garden burgers with roasted peppers and other burger fixings of your choice.

2. Quiche, frittatas, scrambled eggs, or omelets. Use whatever vegetables you have in the house, canned roasted peppers or frozen spinach, drained and squeezed dry.

3. Baked sweet potatoes with good quality canned chili or on top. Add cumin and cilantro to give it more life.

4. Curried vegetables over rice. 1 jar tikka masala or korma masala and chopped vegetables stir fried until tender (if you don’t have any fresh, frozen peas are delicious in a curry). I made it here with my garden vegetables...broccoli, broccoli leaves and snap peas.
(Add cashews or peanuts if you have them.)

5. Curried garbanzo beans. Throw a can of garbanzos in with the Seeds of Change or other jar curry sauce and you have an instant meal that is delicious.
...You can add coconut milk to extend it and more curry seasonings if you want. (add a splash of fish sauce and some red curry paste for a more Thai flavor). You can add tempeh or tofu to this, too.

6. Spaghetti sauce over pasta or quinoa (with or without veggies). Add a pinch of cinnamon and a splash of red wine to make the flavor sing (of course you can add mushrooms, vegetables and onions if you have them on hand).

7. Quinoa with tempeh, and either fresh or frozen vegetables (add soy sauce, Braggs Amino Acids or Ponzu).

8. Canned refried black beans in corn tortillas with tempeh and salsa. Optional: You can add any fixings you have on hand such as grated cheese, sour cream, frozen corn, and cilantro.

9. Worlds easiest soup: I box vegetable soup, 1 can beans (kidney, black, or white works well), 1 can tomatoes, 2 stalks celery, 2 chopped carrots, one chopped onion, herbs of your choice, bullion cube or paste. Put together and cook until tender. (if you have other vegetables, they can go in it, too).

10. Breakfast for dinner. Scrambled eggs and pancakes or waffles.

11. Huevos rancheros. Fried eggs on warmed tortillas with salsa (cheese optional). Serve with refried beans.

12. Fried rice: Cook scrambled eggs in hot oiled pan until done. Remove. Add sliced green onions (if you have them) and cook until tender. Add Cooked rice to pan and a little more oil. Fry until starting to brown and add soy sauce or oyster sauce and frozen peas or other vegetables. Cook until peas are warmed through and add eggs back in. (You can also add a variety of fresh veggies if you have them on hand.)


What are your easy and healthy throw-together-from-the-cupboard recipes? I’d love to add them to my collection!



The Wh0le Story | 4:44 PM

My favorite "Eat Well" post so far! I live in Chicago, so I'm very much snowed in and searching for a few easy meals. Tonight, I made the curried chickpeas (before reading the post, obviously). Love all the tips :o) Being a vegan, it's nice to see that most of this stuff goes around my diet and beliefs.

Roxanne | 4:49 PM

Garden Rotini noddles mixed up with a little bit of butter and Parmesan cheese. It's the kiddo's favorite.

Thanks for all the great ideas!

Kitty | 5:00 PM

My daughter and her husband moved back home last year after the birth of their first child (he's active military and was relocated). They rarely eat out. I had been working a crazy traveling corporate job and we never ate at home. Over the past year, with my daughter's help, I have broken my fast food addiction and identified that I am gluten intolerant. Now we rarely eat out! My kitchen is well stocked and we feel so much better!

My go-to meal is chili. We live in beef country so we always have fresh local hamburger in the freezer. My best trick is to use one can of Rotel (or Aldi's copy cat) in place of one of the cans of diced tomatoes. Black beans, kidney beans, chili powder and cumin. Fresh onion, green pepper and garlic if I have them. Quick and easy with leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. My husband wraps it in tortillas with cheese in place of a sandwich.

Tatiana | 5:41 PM

Ok, this is going to sound crazy. And perhaps you have to be hispanic to really get it (or like it). But I LOVE white rice with 2 fried eggs (with yolk a little runny) on top. Mash it all up together, salt to taste and a cut up banana on the side. Yum!

findingmagnolia | 5:52 PM

We are still buried under snow, so this post was much appreciated! This also gives me some more ideas to add to my arsenal of last minute dinners.

Tonight we had a throw-together, use-up-random-cheese-bits dinner of farfalle and cheese (coastal cheddar, colby, three wedges of Laughing Cow) with "mediterranean vegetables" (frozen organic mix of peppers, carrots, squash, onion) and a whole lot of garlic and onion. Usually we have some leftovers for my husband to take to work for lunch, but not this time, so I guess it was a winner.

We often do pasta with vegetables and maybe cheese as an easy dinner. I'm also fond of couscous with vegetables and broken up veggie burgers (Morningstar Farms from Costco are our go-to) when pressed for time. We always have frozen organic veggies, pasta, and couscous on hand, and cheese if we're not doing a vegan fast. I like to also have veggie burgers or falafel around to punch up the protein in a hurry.

Kris Cameron | 6:09 PM

I love this post! I love all the Eat Well posts.

My favorite easy meal is udon with a soft boiled egg.

I will even get a can of good quality low sodium low fat soup and then add a soft boiled egg to that if I'm desperate.

Tatiana - I also love an egg with a runny yoke on top of rice all smushed up. I never do the banana on the side though.. :-)

Brooke | 6:14 PM

Your mom is just as cute as you are! Shout to Jersey!

h | 9:20 PM

We have to deal with my daughter's allergies to wheat, soy, oats, corn, egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and grape and we were vegetarian before that anyway so the last year has involved a lot of adapting my staples. I love your posts and thought I'd share one of my tried and true recipes:

I make a persian lima bean rice dish (a vegan adaptation)  You need:

a large 5 quart saucepan (I use all clad but it can be nonstick)
a large mesh strainer
some bowls
a frying pan
peeled and sliced potatoes (enough to cover the bottom of the saucepan)
two 15oz cans of lima beans
half a large onion
several cloves of garlic
dill weed
salt and pepper
canola and olive oil
three cups of basmati rice

This makes tons of food so you can halve it or use leftovers for lunch the next day.

The rice has to be rinsed until the water runs clear, then soaked overnight or at least 2 hours.

To make the lima besn portion fry onions in olive oil until soft, add about a tbsp tumeric, your garlic crushed, and two tbsp dill and salt plus pepper too.  Fry more and then add the rinsed beans.  Fry until a little brown.  Set aside for now.

Put rice in the saucepan and fill water to an inch above.  Bring to a boil and boil about a minute.  Check the rice, put a grain on your finger and use your nail to break it in two.  You want the inside to still be a little hard.  Drain  asap and run cold water on the rice so it stops cooking.  Put the saucepan on the stove and put canola oil to cover the pan bottom.  Heat it medium and cover the pan bottom with the potatoes.  Then layer a third of your rice, then a tbsp of dill, then half the lima bean mixture onward until you end with rice on top.  Poke 4 holes in the rice and put a bit of olive oil in each hole.

Put a dish towel over the pan lid and hold it on with a bowl when it goes on the pan.  Increase the heat to high until when you test a wet finger on the top of the pan's bottom third it hisses.  Then turn to low for 40 mins to an hour.  When you remove everything to serve you mix the rice and beans and top with the potatoes.  The potatoes are called tahdig and are crispy.  I serve this with a tomato and onion salad with a lemon and olive oil  dressing.

It gets easier to make but it is kind of a lot of steps. Persian cooking is not usually quick.

Wendy Woolf | 10:36 PM

Love your recipe ideas!

Tatiana...the eggs and rice makes sense to me...I love poached eggs in a bowl of polenta. I forgot to add that to my quick is AMAZING!

HSW, that sounds so delicious! I am bringing a vegan dish tomorrow night to a friend's house and I think I'll try it! I am not sure I got the towel part you put the towel UNDER the lid or on top of it?

Anonymous | 7:13 AM

Yes! I am all for working with what you've got, on all fronts! This may not be your cup of tea, but I thought that you might be a good source to ask (or your readers...hi team!) I am taking a stab at getting better with coupons etc to be saving the moneys, but I'm finding it so hard to find coupons/deals on the brands that we shop for. IE: I don't buy pillsbury biscuits for my family every week so the 5,000 coupons for those don't really help me out. Any tips on saving $ while shopping the healthier aisles? Is there some amazing organic food coupon site that I don't know about? Somewhat related, I made a quinoa risotto this week that you might be interested in. Happy Wednesday!

MommyLisa | 8:10 AM

I love making fried rice when I have left over!

These were great ideas.

My mom always made a good veggie soup with canned/frozen veggies or some fresh carrots and celery and onion and a can of V-8 Juice!

JCF | 9:46 AM

@amelia walton--We're in the same boat. I think it you buy whole foods, rather than processed, you're not going to have much/any luck using coupons. I just try to buy whatever produce/meat/dairy is on sale, and I stock up on things that are a good price (if they're non-perishable or can be frozen). I also buy a lot of staples on sale on, using subscribe and save (extra 15% off!!!)--canned tomatoes, pumpkin, tea, dish detergent, etc. are all things I've recently purchased by the case and gotten a good price for. But those people who get their groceries for free (or close to it) through couponing? They're buying stuff I'm not willing to, so I've accepted that's never going to happen to me!

We used to be vegetarians but are not any more, though we still eat meat-free most nights. I also keep 2-3 dozen eggs on hand. I'm sick right now, and last night we ate homemade whole wheat waffles with fried eggs on top. I always keep carrots, celery, and frozen peas on hand, since they all last a while, and my kids will devour all of them.

Whenever I make something that freezes well (soup, chili, tomato sauce, lasagna, etc.) I make a double batch and put half in the freezer. I always freeze soups flat in plastic bags, so they stack easily and can be defrosted in just a few minutes in a sink of water. I also keep ingredients on hand so that I can make biscuits, cornbread, or bread at the last minute to go with our soup or chili.

Heather | 10:06 AM

I always have the ingredients for a fast curry that I think I got out of a Lorna Sass cookbook a few years ago. You put all this in a pot: 10oz block of frozen spinach, a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, a can of chickpeas, some garlic, 2 tsp curry powder, 1/3 cup unsweetened dried grated coconut and some salt. Heat it up for ten minutes, and serve over rice or quinoa. So fast and so good.

Also, this veggie chili mix:

An aunt sent us some back in the low-carb days, and we are hooked. You can throw any veggies in, three cans of beans, a bottle of beer and big can of diced tomatoes. So good.

Amanda | 10:13 AM

I love these. We've recently adopted a meat-free life (trying to be as vegan as possible too) and these recipes have been so delicious and easy. I love you two for sharing them with us. They've definitely made our kitchen a more loved place.

Laura | 10:31 AM

What a great pantry list and idea for how to put together yummy, nourishing meal. As a nutritionist and as a foodie and a busy person - I love this post! Thanks!

Anonymous | 10:42 AM

@JCF...that is a fabulous tip, thank you!! :)

Anonymous | 12:13 PM

I love this post too. I'm just really getting into cooking for the first time in my life and I've been working on creating a nicely stocked kitchen too. I prefer to use dried beans over canned. They are so inexpensive and I think healthier, no? I also just started making fritatas for the first time and I'm really enjoying them. I also like to keep some nuts and dried fruit on hand. My favorite combo is raw, unsalted almonds mixed with unsulphured raisins. I use this as my snack when I am craving sweets. Also lots of teas,


You guys rule. That is all.

Anonymous | 1:29 PM

I just remembered a few more things I like to have on hand. I always like to have apples and some kind of nut butter for dipping. Makes a great snack any time of day, or night. Also, humus is a great standard. I'm gluten free so I use carrots and peeled cukes for dipping.

Wendy Woolf | 2:07 PM

Thanks for all of your feedback! Yes, is hard to coupon when eating whole foods, but I buy tons of stuff in bulk and that is so much cheaper..nuts, seeds, all my grains, beans, dried fruit, and even baking goods I buy in bulk. I think also I am saving because I don't buy a lot of processed foods which are expensive.

Clare | 3:10 PM

I love this. I'm in Wisconsin, so there are a lot of times in winter when I'd rather what we have in the house than venture out to the store.

I make sure our freezer almost always has something that can be defrosted as a good meal. I tend to make a big batch of burritos once a month (various combinations of vegetarian refried beans, brown rice, chicken, cheese, onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers--all wrapped in whole wheat tortillas) and freeze them. They're way healthier and tastier than any frozen store-bought burrito, and are perfect for nights that I just don't feel like cooking.

I also freeze single-portions of soup for a lazy day.

We buy day old baguettes, slice them in half, spread with earth balance and minced garlic-- freeze. We always have delicious garlic bread to go with our soup.

Freezer staples:
Chicken breasts
Boca breakfast sausage
Morning Star chick patties
Frozen spinach
Frozen peas
Frozen bananas (smoothies)

Other staples:
Peanut butter
Garbanzo beans
Refried beans
Whole wheat pasta
Sriracha sauce
Olive Oil
Sea salt

We're lucky enough that my brother's family is big on canning, so we have a whole bunch of fresh tomato sauce, salsa, dilly beans, etc. on hand.

h | 6:20 PM

The towel absorbs moisture so the order from the bottom is pot, towel, lid, bits of towel sticking out, bowl to hold the extra towel bits up. There are pictures of this method on the site "My Persian Kitchen" - I'm holding a napping baby and internet-ing on my ipod touch or I'd dig up a link. Some people make it with fava beans, it is called Baghali Polow but it usually is made with beef in it. So glad my version sounds good, I love it.

Wendy Woolf | 11:17 PM

hsw...I LOVE your site! Thanks for the recipe and I am going to try it this week. I will let you know how it turns out.

h | 3:06 PM

It isn't my site but I'm a big fan of it, I'm so glad I could introduce you to it! I am making the dish tomorrow for some dear friends who love it, I wish you every success trying it. When we still had milk and wheat products I also served it with cucumber yogurt (kind of like tzatziki) and pita bread, there are nice possibilities. Pita bread freezes well, too!

Lara | 3:14 PM

OMG, Rebecca, I LOVE YOUR MOM!!! I kind of wish she was my mom. Or at least my aunt. These posts are so much better than any cookbook I could ever purchase. Thank you!!

h | 2:55 PM

WWW, I decided to take some pictures to go with the recipe in case they help. I made a recipe blog to share them, here is the link:
I will post the recipe with more details when I get a chance but I wanted to share the link with you in case you were still curious to make the dish.
Congratulations two your family by the way!