I view my kitchen pantry, spice cabinet, and refrigerator in the same way as I view my clothes closet. My closet has staples that I pull out because they are comfortable, they give me confidence when I wear them, or they are easy to throw on and get out the door. But then there are also accessories and clothing items that I mix and match with the standard pieces for variety, and to create a little flair with my outfits. These pieces are how I express my style. I have pantry staples like dried and canned beans, pasta, quinoa and other grains, broth cubes, dried fruit, nuts, and rice. I use my spice cabinet to accessorize those staples. I have three different ways I store my spices. In Ritual VS. Habit, I shared my favorite set of spices that I use for my homemade brewed Indian chai. I also keep spice packets in a loaf tin, as well as a vintage medicine cabinet.
My refrigerator is stocked with specialty items and very little ‘real food.’ I’m a sucker for sauces and condiments. Wasabi paste, anchovy paste, mustards, mayonnaise, ketchup, fish sauce, citrus juice, soy sauce, nut butters, chili pastes. These also enhance my staples. These items are my little weapons to combat the ordinary food choices. They are ingredients that inspire my creativity to put my own spin on a dish.
My freezer also mimics my closet with easy go-tos, like frozen ground turkey and chicken breasts. But it also has a few special items to dress up a dinner like pesto, herb oils, and leftover sauces. You’ll find frozen peas, corn, edamame, chopped bananas, and berries in there too. The fruit is easily thrown into smoothies and the vegetables add a pop of flavor and color to soups, stews, and stir-fry. Freezing proteins, oils, and sauces makes menu planning extra easy. It’s all on hand so there is less to buy each week. I love bread products so much so my freezer also holds piecrusts, empanada disks, tortillas, wonton wrappers, phyllo dough, and Indian flatbreads. They are completely non-essentials, but they provide freedom to step outside the box when I have those items available. They are like the items in my closet that give me confidence when I wear them. Those key ingredients that make the ordinary extraordinary.
My housemate and I have a joke, when we don’t want to spend money ordering out or haven’t been to the market and really have no plan for dinner, we challenge ourselves to use what is in the house and we call it, “Poor Dinner.” What a downer of a name, but it always makes us laugh, so it’s hardly a bad thing. One of our best “poor dinners’ is quinoa burgers! The ingredients are almost always in the house and they are truly one of the most delicious things to come out of our kitchen.
One of my best-loved clients gave me $20 a few years ago and asked me to go try the quinoa burgers at one of the local bistros in her neighborhood and try to reproduce them. I think I owe her $20 because I have gotten so much mileage out of her request. In the voice over booth, I have a good ear. It is easy for me to mimic others and many of the jobs I get are as a sound alike. When it comes to food, my palate is just as keen as my ears. It is very easy for me to identify ingredients by what I've tasted. When I sampled the quinoa burgers, I was anxious to get home and create my own version. I make them for all my clients now. I even turn them into adorable little sliders for cocktail parties.
So as we are still waiting for the real Spring to show its sunshiny face, take these next few weeks to stock up. Fill your pantries, fridges, and spice drawers now so dinnertime will be effortless and less of a struggle, yet still creative and satisfying. It’s time to go outside and play and no one wants to be slaving over a meal plan or a grocery list. And make these burgers! They will be on the hit list for the whole season!
Quinoa Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise
- 1 ½ cups uncooked quinoa
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup shelled edamame (or frozen green peas)
- ¾ cups breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil
- Burger buns
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 T wasabi paste
Method: Prepare the quinoa, boiling the grains in the vegetable broth, covering and simmering for 15 minutes, pour into a large bowl and let cool. Once the quinoa has cooled, add the next 4 ingredients, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands and form into 10 medium sized patties. Preheat a skillet on the stove with a thin coat of oil. Gently place 3 or 4 patties at a time into pan and cook for 3 minutes each side until golden. Add a bit more oil to the pan and repeat until they are all cooked. Wipe out the skillet and toast the buns. Combine the mayo and the wasabi and spread generously onto your burgers. Why did I make 10? Because they freeze perfectly for an even easier mealtime preparation!
And for those of you who follow a gluten free diet, use gluten free breadcrumbs and buns. It’s an easy swap out so you won’t be missing out on all the burger goodness!