Before we left, we had done a rather admirable job of eating all our perishables, so on returning, there was nothing to eat -- in a manner of speaking. There was no fresh food, but enough canned, dried, and otherwise packaged food to keep two people going indefinitely. This time, I created something I call the mix-in.
A mix-in has three ingredients: a box of soup, a package of frozen vegetables, and a cooked grain. For our return
dinner, I used a box of tomato-roasted pepper soup, some spinach, and brown rice. Just cook each ingredient separately, then mix them together. If the soup cools down while you're combining ingredients, just give it a minute in the microwave for a big bowl of steaming hot goodness.
I admit it: this is no big deal. Three ingredients and you're done. But it's terrific! I had to keep reminding myself that I was eating a pantry dinner. The secret, I think, is the boxed soup. Every variety of every brand of boxed soup I've tried has had a really bold flavor that pops with the essence of the featured vegetable.
This saucy little combo is only the beginning. Another of my favorite boxed soups, from Pacific Natural Foods, is curried red lentil, which also works great with spinach and brown rice. (By the way, mix-ins work equally well with fresh vegetables and steamed rice.)
I'd love to hear about other mix-in combinations, so send them along!