food: how do you solve a problem like…late night hunger? be resourceful!

Caroline's Precious Protein Salad

So i’ve been doing this whole healthy eating thing which primarily revolves around preparing food at home and cutting down on carbs. I’ve never fed into the whole Atkins/no carbs diet, I’m a staunch supporter of potatoes and pasta and I can’t go too long without carbs. I’m convinced that if I do, my blood pressure will drop and I will faint. At least one of my health fanatic siblings shares this belief with me and therefore I am allowed to hold this opinion since it’s in my genes. Anyway, regardless of my loyalty to carbs, I still don’t think it’s good to have potatoes, rice and pasta after 7pm. Lately, however, I’ve been pulling late nights cuddling with my creativity and so my eating and sleep schedule are out of wack. Last night was a particularly late one on my couch and so the need for dinner only hit me at about 10pm tonight, after 2 meals at home (avocado & egg whites in the a.m & a homemade corn/shrimp chowder after 2pm + watermelon at sunset). I pondered ordering food from out but, honestly, nothing attracts me anymore! I’m so off dining out unless it’s for the experience or company. Besides, why would I order food from out when I can get pretty much anything my heart desires from in my refrigerator?

It’s true, when I shop for groceries, I consider all options. I’m the kind of person who’s always on my way in and out of the house, and when things like my work or social life get busy, everything else around me ceases to exist. There’s always the risk that food which requires cooking will spoil with me. I shop with this in mind. What are the most resourceful ingredients I can have in my fridge? What can be used and re-used in countless different forms and not spoil or go to waste? This is, in fact, how I shape my whole entire life — recycling and repurposing everything from clothing to food to umm people.

(this is not an actual pic of my fridge. i wish)

(this is not an actual pic of my fridge. i wish)

What’s in my fridge?
A quick glance into my refrigerator will show you a lot of vegetables, the most useful of which are tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms and garlic. I may start keeping tofu in the fridge regularly because it can be spiced up in more formats than meats, and I get sick of the same meat over and over. I only buy meat within the 2 days I’m going to cook it. In general I’ve been trying to cut down on all meat over the past 6 months.

For snacking: Cottage cheese is also a recent addition to my fridge and one that can be used in many formats, from a snack with fruits to a topping in eggs and salads. I also can’t live without a jar of natural unsweetened peanut butter on the door of my fridge. I’ve realized this dependence recently when I didn’t have a jar for about a week and nothing tasted as good anymore. I swear by fruits like apples and watermelon, although you need to finish watermelon really quickly ’cause it tastes nasty if it’s gone bad. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy (though, worst enemy, if you are reading this, I hope your watermelon spoils on you). My favourite snack is apples and natural unsweetened peanut butter, the combination of which is an acquired taste for most but, once you acquire that baby, you will not let go of it. I also use peanut butter in Asian recipes. One tablespoon a day is good for protein.

Packaged: I keep some packages of noodles and brown pasta on hand, as well as quinoa and cous cous. I kinda overdid it on the quinoa earlier in the year so that’s on hold with me. There’s also this pretty awesome protein bread I found which can be eaten with anything you like, incl. curry, eggs and as a wrap. In the cupboard, I typically have at least one kind of lentil stored — chickpeas or black beans work well with most salads and chickpeas are also pretty good raw and heated up. My mom calls it ‘gram,’ a snack she used to share with us as kids. Honey, pasta sauces, soy sauce and spices go a long way, too.

Pre-made: At the supermarket I like to grab a few pre-made items for when I’m super lazy: tabouleh, hammous, artichokes and the occasional roast chicken can keep me satisfied for back to back meals over the course of days. At times my hermit instincts do require such storage. Oh, and you know what, if you can’t finish that roasted supermarket chicken, make something else out of it. Over the years, once bored with leftover roasted chicken, I’ve made soups, stirfries and casseroles with leftovers. I learned this from my uncle Lionel who used to make chilli turkey fry out of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey. See, resourcefulness is everywhere!

Recipe of the night
Back to my hunger. I looked in the fridge and I had about two tablespoons of red pepper hummus, a cucumber, a box of lettuce, some tomatoes, mushrooms and half a block of tofu left. I knew what I had to do. See, as creative and resourceful as a person can be, there’s no harm in crowd-sourcing your recipes. Half the time when I decide to cook or prepare something, my trick is to punch all the ingredients I have into Google and see what I can make out of it. Yes, this has led to search strings such as “cream cheese chicken cucumber quinoa.” Often you come up with something juicy and you can sub in alternatives for what you do and don’t have. It’s SO MUCH FUN to cook this way and though you will make mistakes here and there, you also learn a ton.

Tonight, the only thing I needed help with was my salad dressing. I had a feeling hummus would make a good dressing and I was right. So here’s what I ended up with:

Caroline’s Precious Protein Salad
(serves 2)


Half a slab of firm tofu
1/2 tbsp Peanut butter
1 clove chopped fresh garlic
A swig or two of soy sauce (that’s right, I called it a swig)
Olive oil (not too much)

Cooking directions: Marinate the tofu as long as possible in the rest of the ingredients. Or not. It’s not a big deal if you don’t. Heat up a pan with olive oil. Throw in all the ingredients and let cook till a crispy layer forms on tofu, or 10mins. Whatever.

Salad dressing:
3 tbsp ready-made red pepper hummus
3 swigs of balsamic vinegar
4 swigs of olive oil
optional: salt/pepper/freshly squeezed lemon

Dressing directions: Stir until all is uniform.

Salad mix:
Handful cherry tomatoes
1 chopped cucumber
3 handsful of arugula lettuce
6 mushrooms, chopped
Half can of drained black beans

Combine salad mix, tofu and dressing. Eat. Be merry.

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