Soup, Salad and a Sandwich

The past week has been testin’ this foodie girl’s patience.  With my kitchen in complete disarray (not that there was much order there to begin with) and my favorite space invaded, I was compelled to seek the path of least resistance.  That being, the simplest suppers imaginable.  We’re talking soup, salad and a sandwich.

I was finally at peace with the changing of seasons, thoroughly enjoying autumn’s welcomed arrival, new seasonal favorites in the produce box and working outdoors weather.  Then came the ants.  An invasion, the likes of which I have never seen before.  Red ants literally crawling out of the woodwork in droves, from every nook and cranny, like a scene from a horror movie.  In the kitchen…of all places!  My food place, my favorite space.  Oh…what’s a girl to do?

Keep my calm and carry on, right?  We are constantly spraying and sprinkling all sorts of non-toxic, food-safe, eco-friendly deterrents in a desperate attempt to avoid calling the dreaded bug guy.  Doing my darndest to make sure every single crumb, scrap of food, dirty dish is wiped clean before bed…only to rise and realize it was to no avail.  It doesn’t matter what we do, they just keep coming!  With every inch of food prep and cooking surface occupied and dirty dishes a major dilemma…let’s just say, we have been keeping it simple, as far as meals are concerned.  And what is simpler than soup, salad and a sandwich?

When the weather began to cool a bit, one of the first things I did was get out my handy-dandy little sprouter.  This little plastic container makes it a cinch to grow sprouts of all sorts right on the kitchen countertop (of course, when the ants invaded, we had to relocate the growing seedlings to a safe zone).  And from a girl who struggles to keep the cactus alive, that’s sayin’ something.  We love having fresh, homegrown sprouts in the house!  Throw them on salads, stack ’em on sandwiches, snacks for the lunchox…we eat them by the handful!  For the first batch of the season, I chose our favorite mix of broccoli, radish and alfalfa seeds.  A classic mix.

And at the end of the work week, our little sprouting container was filled to the brim with nutrient-packed super sprouts just waiting to be play a part in some fabulous superfood production.  Alas, poor sprouts, your timing was off.  The production’s on hold, there will be no fabulous show starring super sprouts this week.  The ants, you know.  But not to worry, we will find something fun for you to do.  We will not let all that crunchy, tasty super-nutrient power go to waste!

Alright, what do we do for lunch?  Salads are always a great way to create a quick, healthy, no-fuss meal in a matter of minutes.  And with very little cooking or prep work, it is the perfect solution for lunch or dinner during times of chaos and disorder.  With a bowl full of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, an avocado, fresh basil and a little balsamic vinegar, we made ourselves a simple palate pleasing salad that satisfied our lunch demands perfectly.

One thing I love about a salad is its versatility.  For one, who needs a recipe?  Just toss a bunch of fresh and filling ingredients into a bowl, toss it and you’re good to go.  Secondly, it never gets boring.  With innumerable salad possibilities, you never have to eat the same salad twice (unless you want to, of course).  And then there is the flexibility of a salad: side dish, condiment, light lunch, appetizer or entree.  It is easy to transform a simple side salad into a healthy and hearty entree.  For dinner one night, I made myself a very delicious and satiating raw kale salad starring some of those stunning yellow cherry tomatoes, some roasted red peppers leftover from my perfect picnic, artichoke hearts, garbonzo beans and a made-up salad dressing we’ll refer to as a “vegan ceasar dressing”.  It was delicious!  No mess, no fuss and it easily played the role of the evening entree.

Yesterday, as I aimlessly wandered the web, I came across a recipe for a vegan tuna sandwich.  I am not a seafood lover.  I love sea creatures, but I would rather see them swimming in the ocean than sitting on my plate.  However, once in a blue moon I get a hankering for a good ‘ole tuna sandwich with lots of mayonaise, crunchy celery and dill pickle bits.  This vegan version was made out of garbonzo beans, which I adore.  They are a great source of protein and not at all fishy.  This sounded interesting, yummy, very simple and…oh!…what a perfect part for the sprouts!  A sandwich.  They will be so pleased.

This “tuna” style filling was so simple to make and can easily play the part of a salad or fill the role of a sandwich.  It is perfect for your lunchbox or pair it with a bowl of soup and a side salad and your simple, no fuss dinner is complete.  To make the filling, I used one can of organic garbonzo beans pulsed in the food processor until they were coursely chopped.  Just be careful not to over process or they will start to form a mush (in which case, you might just proceed to make hummus instead).  In a bowl, I mixed the beans with some chopped celery, dill pickles, a tablespoon of lemon juice, vegan mayo, salt, pepper and a handful of fresh dill.  Done.  And yum!

Well done, super sprouts!  And now for the soup.  Making a big pot of soup is a great way to use up whatever random veggies are left in the fridge and canned goods from the pantry.  This week, soup was a lifesaver.  All I needed was enough clear counter space for a cutting board and I only had to worry about one pot to keep clean.

Let’s call this meal “produce box soup”.  The ingredient list includes whatever fresh vegetables are left from the weekly organic produce box, a can of whatever beans are left in the cupboard, vegetable stock (or the powdered boullion I keep on hand for emergencies), a can of diced tomatoes (if I happen to have them), various fresh herbs if they are available or dried ones if they’re not.  Sometimes I toss in leftover rice or quinoa or perhaps some gluten-free pasta.  What I love about this soup is that it’s never the same twice.  Every pot is slightly different from the last and there are always plenty of leftovers for tomorrow.

The veggie list for this week’s Produce Box Soup included onion, garlic, celery, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, turnips, green beans and a little bit of spinach.  I also threw in some leftover pan-roasted delicata squash, some fresh oregano (slightly past its prime, but fresh enough) and a can of cannelini beans.  Naturally, no measuring required, just combine and concoct to your heart’s content.  With some leftover chickpea cakes on the side, a warm bowl of this one-pot wonder is best served out of reach of those pesky critters crawling around the kitchen.  I dare say, it’s a good night for a patio picnic.

 Sometimes simple is best.  Nothin’ wrong with sandwiches for supper or picnics on the patio.

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