I’m tired. The deadline just passed for grant applications to the NSF (National Science Foundation) for SBIR and STTR grants (Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology TRansfer). These are special grants that help small businesses get early-stage funding to develop their innovations for commercialization.
As grants consultants, my partner-in-crime and I assist clients with navigating the application process, editing grant applications, and often even helping them write much of the content. These deadlines come around once every few months for different government agencies. It’s really interesting work, because I get to learn about a mind-blowing variety of cutting-edge technology. It’s also a big responsibility. We want all the proposals that go through us to be top-notch: only about 15% of the SBIR/STTR grant applications submitted to the NSF are funded.
We try to arrange everything so that we’re not insane-o crazy busy right before deadlines: we start working with our clients as much as three months in advance, so that the grant proposal can go back and forth numerous times, going from a vague, rough draft to a polished, final application with clear strategies, goals, and outcomes.
Regardless, we always seem to find ourselves insane-o crazy busy right before deadlines. As my grad school advisor used to say, “I love deadlines because of the whooshing sound they make when they go by.” However, in this case, if the deadline goes by, there IS no grant application. And therefore, no money for either client or consultant.
This last cycle was no exception. The day before the deadline, I was working on applications at 6 a.m., and didn’t finish (or, more accurately, decide that sleep was necessary) until midnight. I really can’t complain, though: my partner went 48 hours with less than 10 hours of sleep.
These are the sorts of days when it’s very tempting to reach for a take-out menu. BUT…[speaking in my best Foghorn Leghorn voice]…I keep my pantry stocked for just such an emergency!
I always make sure to have my pantry full of basics like pasta, rice, lentils, beans (dried and canned—yes, I said CANNED—they really come through in a pinch!), diced and crushed tomatoes (again: canned goods can be life-savers!), tomato paste, GOOD ramen noodles, beef and chicken broth, and coconut milk. Or at least, that’s what I come up with off the top of my head without getting up to go look in my pantry (I’m tired, remember?).
In the condiments/sauces department, I keep chili garlic sauce (sambal), fish sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sri racha, green and red curry paste, and a bunch of different hot sauces. We like it hot in this house.
My spice drawer is all over the map, from Lawry’s whatever-it-is to garam masala. There are several types of chili powder and pepper flakes.
Really the only fresh ingredients I frequently need are garlic and onions (both kept in their bin in the—you guessed it!—pantry), celery, and carrots. A bunch of parsley is nice, but it’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t have any.
It’s always nice to have stuff in the freezer too—like chicken breasts, ground beef, leftover ham, neck bones, lemon grass, kaffir leaves, and…OK, let’s not get too crazy.
But here’s what I mean. If I know my day is going to be insane, I might get up a tad early, defrost some of the leftover ham I have in the freezer, sauté some onions (pantry), celery, carrots…hell, let’s throw in some garlic too (pantry). Then I’d wash some dried beans (e.g., navy or black; pantry) and throw the whole mess into the crockpot. Add the chopped-up ham, broth or water, S & P, bay leaf (you can add other spices later), cover (TURN ON), and BOOM! 8 hours later, there’s dinner.
Or there’s always pasta. You can have a fantastically good pasta dish on the table in 15 minutes. Have you heard of penne all’ Arrabbiata? Or its sexy sister, penne alla vodka? All you need is penne (pantry), a can of crushed tomatoes (pantry), olive oil (pantry), garlic (pantry), and crushed red pepper flakes (spice rack). If you want to go the extra mile and create the sultry, decadent “alla vodka” version, you will also need heavy cream and, of course, a skosh of vodka.
For me the other night, when I realized that I had to eat SOMETHING, I made “Grown-up Ramen Noodle Soup.”
And so, without further ado, I’ll share this recipe and link you up with three other of my favorite “Pantry Raid” Recipes for those extra-stressful times, in hopes that these ideas will help save you from take-out hell!
All the best,
- 1 package of Ramen noodles throw away the flavor packet
- 2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove finely minced
- ½ cup rehydrated mushrooms optional, liquid reserved
- 1 carrot grated
- 3 cups vegetable or meat broth (got rehydrated mushrooms?
- Use the strained liquid!)
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce or to taste
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- Generous squirt of Sri Racha
- 1 egg optional
- ¾ c. chopped Napa cabbage or bok choy optional
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger; stir until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Stir in your broth and soy sauce; bring to a simmer. Add in your noodles. NOTE: if you don’t like slurping up long strands of noodles, you can crunch up the noodles while they’re still in the package. Otherwise, stir as they soften in the broth to break them up. Squirt in the Sri Racha.
If you are using an egg, you can add it now. Note that you have a couple of different options here: 1) you can crack the egg into a ramekin and drop it into the broth, in which case you’ll have a perfectly poached egg hiding out beneath your noodles; or 2) you can beat the egg and swirl it slowly into the broth, which will give you little ribbons of egg strewn like confetti throughout your broth.
In either case, allow two minutes to let the eggs set, then stir in the carrots and cabbage (if using). NOTE: If you went the poached egg route, stir only very gently so that you don’t break your yolk. Cook for an additional two minutes.
Dish the soup into bowls, garnish will scallions, and enjoy!
this is one of my family’s straight-from-the-pantry meals. It’s done in well under 30 minutes, but packs a ton of flavor. With the addition of a couple more ingredients (I’ll let you guess what ONE of them is!) you can have Penne alla Vodka!
comfort food at its best, this soup is incredibly easy to make with the “throw it in the slow-cooker and go” strategy. I always make a big batch because it freezes really well and really comes through when I need an easy dinner or don’t have any food in the house (like after vacations!).
cans of beans and tomatoes come together with pasta, onions, carrots, and celery—and a few other goodies—to make this quick version of the Italian comfort food classic.