I know you’ve all experienced it; that mid-afternoon phone call from your spouse that elicits nothing but fear, cold sweats and utter distain.
“Hey babe! What’s for dinner tonight? I hope it’s ok that I invited the So-and-So’s over.”
*Pause for dramatic effect, moment of heart palpitations, eye bulge and any additional illustrative expressions.*
“N…No… It’s not ok! I, I don’t have anything to cook. I’ll have to go buy something! The house isn’t clean- I have NOTHING to cook!”
We’ve all been there. Inevitable last-minute get-togethers manifest in the most unlikely situations. Be it by-the- hand of your sporadic spouse, or other family and friends, these situations will spring. Trust and believe.
I try to keep my pantry stocked, bet let’s face it, sometimes a girl just wants to bank on a night of Bachelor Pad, Chef Boyardee, and boxed wine. If you haven’t caught on yet, my veg-out plans were squashed earlier this week- and I’m venting.
But, to say my night was ruined by an inopportune dinner party would be completely untrue. If anything, I learned that those moments of shear-panic and lack of inspiration can breed the most creative, and delicious, results.
What’s a girl to do when the So-in-So’s pop in and all eyes are on her to perform? Roll up your sleeves and get crafty!
And I did. After the initial shock wore off, I got down to business. Instead of focusing on everything I didn’t have on-hand, I made an assessment of what I did have.
Pasta… (just enough fettuccini and just enough angel hair) a jar of Alfredo…. A few chicken breasts … Cinnamon Toast Crunch … (wait, that’s no good)… feta … and … an eggplant.
At last, an epiphany.
By the time I left work that day I was almost skipping through the parking lot- eager to see if I could pull off my endeavor.
Separately, I only had enough pasta, chicken and eggplant for two- but combined and treated as a single unit- the ingredients could serve many.
Eggplant is great for many reasons. Not only is it rich in nutrients, but it also has a uniformity that makes it adaptable to many menus. My plan: slice the eggplant in thin vertical strips to match the consistency off the fettuccini and angel hair. By varying the thickness of the strips I was able to mask the mismatched pasta and tie it all together. I took the following ingredients:
1 handful angel hair pasta
1 handful fettuccini pasta
1 jar alfredo sauce
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large eggplant
4 chicken breast halves (skinless)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
And made magic happen.
Here’s what I did:
After preheating my oven to 375, I followed the directions on the packages for the pasta. While the pasta was boiling, I sliced my eggplant as previously noted and set it aside. I took 1/2 of the olive oil and heated it in a skillet, then added the chicken breasts and simmered them on medium high heat until the centers were no longer pink. Halfway through simmering the chicken, I added my eggplant to the skillet, along with the spices and seasonings, and cooked them until tender. Along the way I shredded my chicken with two forks as it simmered with the eggplant and spices. Once my pasta, eggplant, and chicken were cooked I tossed them together in one large bowl. Once all the ingredients were combined I coated a glass baking dish with the remaining olive oil and added my mixture to the dish. Next, I topped it off, evenly, with the jar of Alfredo sauce and sprinkled on the Feta. I popped it in the oven for 45 minutes (until the top was bubbling and slightly browned).
After 20 minutes of baking, the smell of the pasta was so enticing; no one noticed the less-than-fresh scent of my carpet. (Talk about killing two birds with one stone!)
Served with a loaf of olive-oil coated crusty bread and a hearty conversation, this meal had the So-and-So’s giving satisfying sighs all evening. I had taken an uninspired situation and made it look like the whole thing happened on purpose. Victory!
For more inspiration on creating meals with the bare essentials, check out this month’s 5 Ingredients or Less recipes.