I wanted to make dinner tonight and I had the perfect meal in mind. I was going to make tilapia served over orzo with fresh basil, tomato, carrots, and onions in it with sauteed asparagus on the side. For dessert I wanted to make a sugar-free yellow cake and icing.
That didn’t happen.
I was missing half the ingredients I needed: orzo, fresh basil, asparagus, sugar-free icing (we buy it in a container). I was just going to go to Kroger and buy what I needed, but my dad convinced me to make do with what we had. At first I wasn’t too happy about that, I mean I had the perfect meal planned! But Kroger was not an option, so I had to compromise.
The tilapia was the main course, we had a package of the frozen fish in the freezer and it is extremely easy to cook. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com for a lemon garlic tilapia. We had nothing garlic flavored, so mine became lemon glazed tilapia. Next time I make this meal I would add the garlic to add another dimension of flavor to the fish. But all in all, the fish was tender and yummy.
The first thing to go was the orzo. We had brown rice already cooked in the fridge, so I used that instead. To make it taste fresh, I sauteed half of a red onion in extra virgin olive oil and then put half of it in a wok pan. (The other half will come in later) After the onion, I diced half a red pepper and sauteed that in the same pan that the onion had been in, I think it enhanced the flavor of the red pepper. That also went in the wok with the rice and onion. For some extra color and flavor, I tossed in half a can of diced tomatoes. The juice from the can made the rice taste fresh and new. A week of watching Food Network taught me that I needed to unite the flavors on a plate. Each item is not an island, but the the plate should have some unifying feature to bridge the gaps in the flavors. For this meal I chose lemon to be my unifier. I squeezed some of the leftover lemon juice on the rice (not very much at all) to unite the flavors of the fish and the rice. After adding a little salt and pepper, I let the rice heat up in the wok on low heat.
Next thing to go was the asparagus. I really wanted a nice, crisp, green vegetable to add to the flavor of the tilapia, but we only had canned and frozen green beans. Although I wasn’t thrilled about cooking with either one of them, I went with the frozen because I thought I could make them taste fresh and new. I decided that I would saute the green beans instead of boiling them. I put them in a pan with olive oil and butter and the other half of the cooked onion. Like I said above, I wanted to unify my dinner so I added some lemon juice on the green beans too. The lemon juice added a zing to the green beans that I really enjoyed, it is something I would do again.
The final thing that had to be changed was the dessert. I didn’t feel like making a cake with no icing and I couldn’t make my own icing because my parents don’t eat sugar, so any icing made with powdered sugar is out. Instead, I decided to go with a strawberry shortcake recipe that I found on Betty Crocker’s website. It was super easy to make because I used a pancake mix as my base. However, it presented a problem because our milk was soured. Thankfully we had almond milk in the fridge, so problem solved. My next stumbling block was the fact that I had very few strawberries to work with. My solution was to make tiny little biscuits and put a small amount of strawberries on top, I had to be very frugal with my strawberries. I topped it with some sugar free whipped cream that I found in the freezer and served it right out of the oven. It was delicious. The only thing I would do differently would be to cook the shortcakes a little less time because mine ended up being a little dry and very brown on the bottom.
All in all, I overcame the pantry with some creative assistance from my Dad. I liked the taste of the meal (the lemon juice definitely tied the entree together) and the dessert had the perfect touch of sweetness. It was a light meal, just that kind that you want on a hot, humid summer day.