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Dinner Inspirations: March 2021

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

One of the best things that you can do to save mealtime energy, money and frustration though the week is Batch Cooking. I'm not talking about enough to feed an army, but if you're going to bother cooking rice/pasta/beans, then make it worth your while. Cook enough for two to three meals. But, here's the key: keep it basic and simple. Really plain. Then, the rice/pasta/beans can mix and match as your energy levels, taste buds and whimsy take you.

Every week, I'll get the Instant Pot out and make a batch of rice (brown, red, wild), then a pot of some other type of grain (Farro, Barley, Oat Groats) and usually a legume - either beans or lentils. Plain. Unadorned. KISS (you know what that stands for!).

The other night, dinner came together so effortlessly - and deliciously! - with brown rice, frozen riced cauliflower, quick cooking Japanese buckwheat Soba noodles, a big fat grated carrot, green onions, minced garlic and ginger, and some peas from the freezer. I adore frozen vegetables. I can dip in here and there, and before you can blink, I've got something pulled together.

Sauté the riced cauliflower, ginger, garlic, grated carrots, peas and onions for a couple minutes in a non-stick pan. Then, I added a few splashes of my new favorite condiment - Liquid Shio Koji.

While I was sautéing the vegetables, I boiled a fat handful of Japanese buckwheat Soba noodles. They take like four minutes to cook. Drain in a colander.

Add the brown rice and stir in, sautéing for a couple minutes. Taste and adjust flavors. I added a bit more of the Shio Koji.

Dump in the drained Soba noodles, stir in to combine. A splash of soy sauce was called for. Garnish (as shown below) with radish slices. Now that I think about it, some slices of pickled ginger would've been nice. Anyway, it was satisfying and filling. What's more, this took very little thought, and I had it on the table in about 15 minutes.

The other thing that I'd like to mention about this meal is that I prep early. Say about an hour before I cook. I relax, have a glass of wine, watch the news. Then, I can toss it in the pan just before we sit down to eat, and everything is piping hot and delicious.

Now, as it was St. Patrick's Day, and my husband's family hails from Galway, I had to do my duty with and Irish-inspired dinner. To that end, Colcannon - a classic Irish dish that as simple and frugal as it comes. Potatoes - a white and a red skinned, a yam and a carrot for good measure.

I always have a cabbage in the bin, along with plenty of carrots and potatoes. Colcannon is just a rustic dish of mashed spuds (and in this case a carrot, for good measure!) mixed with sautéed cabbage and onions (with some Collards that needed to be used up). I made a lightening fast gravy based on my Creamy Chikin Gravy ... with a twist. I added some whole grain mustard, and I'll do that again! It was grand. Seriously, this gravy, using the Maizena Roux Pour Bechamel takes all of about 6 or 7 minutes to make. Keep warm til time to serve.

As always, I'd prepped everything ahead so that it took about 15 minutes to actually finish and get it on the table. The gravy holds very well covered. I steamed the spuds and carrot ahead and held them warm until time to mash. The cabbage, onions and collards took about 6 minutes to sauté, and I let 'em sit covered for a couple more minutes whilst I mashed the spuds.

Mix it all together and you're ready to go. I could have served this with a plant-based protein, I suppose, but it was plenty without.

Ingredients for the two of us:

Steamed, mashed veg:

One each large-ish white and red skinned potato.

One medium sized yam or sweet potato.

One large-ish carrot.

For the sautéed mixed in veg:

About 1/2 of a small cabbage, roughly chopped.

5-6 big leaves of Collard Greens, roughly chopped.

1/2 medium onion sliced.

Gravy: (for details, see my Creamy Chikin Gravy post)

2 cups plant milk

2 big spoonfuls of Maizena Roux Pour Bechamel (or use a flour roux*)

A couple big splashes of Maggi Arome, or Worcestershire Sauce

A tsp of Better than Bouillon No-Chicken Base (just stir into the hot gravy)

1 tsp of onion powder

About a 1/3 cup rough chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground pepper

Salt to taste

For more information on thickening gravy with Roux, take a look at my post about Culinary Thickeners, and download the Quick Reference guide to keep handy in your kitchen.

So, I hope these ideas offer you some inspiration. Batch cooking, and prepping ahead will make all the difference - eliminating that frantic last minute OMG! routine that can result in ordering takeout.

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153 views2 comments


Mar 24, 2021

Regular soy sauce (I just looked at the label of a bottle of 365 brand) has a sodium content of 42%. The Shio Koji is 32%. Not a lot of difference. However, in as far as the taste is concerned: The soy sauce is, IMHO, pretty 'one dimensional'. Salty. The Shio Koji is much more nuanced - subtly sweet/salty. Rather if you'd taken and reduced equal pats of Mirin and Shio Koji. Does that make sense? Plus, it's lighter in color, which is what I'm after sometimes. P.S. - Thanks for your comment. I appreciate the feedback.


Amy Caruthers
Amy Caruthers
Mar 23, 2021

Is the shio koji as high in sodium as soy sauce? How is the taste different from mirin or soy sauce? Thank you- I love this recipe idea!

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