Through nobody’s fault but my own, I had about 30 minutes to get supper ready, and I had forgotten to set anything out for supper.
In half an hour we were sitting at the table with:
Broiled fish; cheesey cauliflower with asparagus; a salad of baby greens and cherry tomatoes; pickled beets, sliced cucumbers; and a sort of tortellini alfredo. As it turned out, one of the three young people I feed was sick, and she only ate a few bites of cucumber. If I’d know that, I’d have not made the tortellini, but that’s okay.
Here’s how I did it:
I turned on the oven and started frying half a package of bacon that was in the fridge. I filled a small saucepan half full of water and set it over high heat to boil.
I got one package of tilapia filets and two packages of cauliflower out of the fridge. I put the cauliflower in a bowl and microwaved it. While it was heating, I put the fish in the sink and ran cold water over the filets, and I flipped the bacon.
I pulled two cartons of cream cheese out of the fridge, along with leftover asparagas, a package of tortellini, parmesan cheese, half a cucumber, a bag with about a cup of grated cheese in it, and some milk.
The cauliflower done, or at least, mostly done (the center pieces were still a bit icey), I dumped it into a 9X11 (roughly) baking pan, put the two packages of cream cheese in the bowl that had held the caulflower and heated that in the microwave. While the microwave was melting the cream cheese, I flipped the bacon again, and got out paprika, garlic, dry mustard, salt, and pepper.
Before they were completely done, I put three pieces of bacon in the bottom of a pie pan. I put the fish on top of that, cutting the pieces in half so they would fit well. I sprinkled them with smoked salt, paprika, and pepper.
I turned off the heat under the bacon.
The microwave was done, so I pulled the bowl of cream cheese out and mixed it up with a bit of grated cheese, some dry mustard, sour cream and milk, onion powder, and garlic.
I cut up the rest of the bacon (with shears) into the cauliflower, and then I stirred about 2/3 of the cream cheese mixture into the cauliflower and put it in the oven at about 400. I put the pan of fish in there, too- both on the top rack with the oven on broil.
The water now boiling in my saucepan, I poured in the tortellini and stirred it well. I sliced the cucumber into sticks and got out the pre-made salad, cherry tomatoes and the salad dressings.
The tortellini I had only takes two minutes to cook, so I drained it and stirred it into the rest of the cream cheese mix (I had now used the same bowl to cook the cauliflower, melt the cream cheese, and now it was the bowl I would mix and then serve the tortellini in).
I cut the asparagus into inch long pieces and put them in the pan of bacon grease to reheat.
I flipped the fish and rotated the cauliflower.
I cut up some basil leaves (I have two pots of basil on my window sills) and stirred them into the pasta, along with some cream cheese.
I added some cut up asparagus to both the cauliflower and the pasta. I turned off the oven.
My husband started filling water jars and got down plates and serving spoons.
I sat down at the table and played a word game on my phone while my husband and son set the table and I sort of kept the Cherub out of the food.
We sat down to eat at 5:30
But there’s a back story to all that. I wasn’t suddenly able to do that- My first experiences with cooking were over 45 years ago. I was making one meal a week when I was 10 or so, I was catering my mother’s functions at 13, and it’s been 33 years since I first became a wife, solely responsible for her family’s meals.
I’ve been reading cookbooks for fun since I was about 10 or 11. I’ve been forced to live on an extremely restricted budget, and blessed not to have to do that any more.
I have an adventurous spirit in the kitchen. I like to experiment and make things up and try new recipes. There’s really no adequate substitute for experience.
I had things on hand- the package of fish filets that defrosts in minutes under cold running water, the half a cucumber, the package of tortellini, the cream cheese, the ready made salad of baby greens, etc.
I knew what I had on hand.
My husband is not a picky eater. My son is pretty limited about the vegetables that he’ll eat, but if there’s meat, he eats, and he does like pasta (I don’t).
I’ve collected thousands of recipes. I’ve made a slightly different version of the cauliflower dish. I’ve cooked lots of fish under the broiler. I have made pasta sauces from scratch over and over.
Even so, it’s not perfection. In retrospect, I wish I had made a different sauce for the pasta- sliced the cherry tomatoes, tossed them with a warmed Italian dressing and some basil and a sweet onion. I only made the tortellini because if all of us ate, there really wasn’t enough fish to satisfy the boy, and he loathes cauliflower. He’d spent several hours this afternoon working construction at the neighbor’s business, and I knew he’d be starving (he was trying to pick raw bacon out of the pan and ended up grabbing a cold biscuit to tide him over while he showered and I got supper).
As it turned out, one of the mouths I expected to feed ate almost nothing, so the Boy ate her share of the fish and he wasn’t feeling as deprived as I thought he would- he still had one good helping of the pasta, but there was more left over than I like, and the cheese sauce was good for the cauliflower but too heavy for the tortellini. There’s another bit of experience. to include. If I had made the sauce separate, to be drizzled over the cooked pasta, it would be more appealing tomorrow as a pasta salad.
I could have done other things as well:
If I had no bacon, I could have gone vegetarian with the cauliflower or added lunch meat, sausage, or even canned tuna.
If I had not any leftover asparagus, I didn’t *need* to have another green vegetable at all- I just happened to have it and it needed to be used. I could have tossed it in an oil dressing with the tomatoes and added it to the pasta.
Another way to use cooked asparagus is in a sandwich, the same way you would have a slice of avacado. I tried this yesterday and was surprised at how much I liked it.
I could have sliced and microwaved or steamed two or three potatoes instead of cauliflower and mixed that with the cheese sauce.
And of course, we could have gone to town and picked up pizza. Sometimes we end up doing that, too.