Have you ever noticed when you’re just plowing along trying to keep up with life that some things start to slip? For me I’ve gotten into a bad habit of simply heading to the store, grabbing sale items, and planning the menu from that. Our grocery spending isn’t too terribly out of control, but I’ve slipped into the habit of staring at a full refrigerator and deciding there was nothing to eat. This leads to another trip to the store while some neglected vegetable wilts silently in the back of the produce bin. I don’t like being wasteful; not only does it feel ungrateful, I feel like I’m embodying a lot of stereotypes I don’t want to fit.
I put the brakes on a few days ago. I’m taking inventory and planning meals from what we have and not buying another vegetable until we eat what is already in the house. What do you always have on hand? I keep a pretty extensive spice collection, stock, pasta, dried beans, and tomatoes.
When I cook creatively, I don’t measure, it’s a throw it together kind of adventure. The idea terrifies some of my friends who are novice cooks -yes, I’m talking to you @JennieBinSC. There are many people in her shoes and I thought it might be fun to run through the process of a few magic creations and then open the comments to hear about yours.
One of my fallback, I am not in the mood to cook plans is what I call a Slacker’s Frittata, the kids call it egg pie. Steam broccoli (or mixed vegetables) until tender, then use a pastry blender or fork to break up the large chunks. If I’m in the mood to dirty a pan, I might sauté some onions and a little garlic. Toss all of these items together and spread in a greased pie plate or 9 x 13 pan (this depends on how many you are cooking for). Beat some eggs with a little milk, salt, pepper, and pour over the vegetables. Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350F until set.
If there are leftovers, crumble and wrap in a tortilla for a breakfast burrito. That, my friends, is fast food.
Butter, chicken stock, and herbs make a great simple sauce for pasta. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter, add a cup of chicken stock or broth and season with your favorite herbs, this week I used basil as someone hid my Italian mix. Boil pasta, steam vegetables (again break up the larger florets with a fork), find a stray can (or if you’re Jo-Lynne a jar) of tomatoes, black olives, great northern beans, all three or none of the above. Toss all of these items in a bowl with the sauce and serve with grated cheese.
Yesterday morning I stared into the pantry, willing a dinner idea to appear, but the dried kidney beans wouldn’t budge. So, I took them up on the challenge, soaked and cooked ’em When the time to cook rolled around, I sautéed onions, garlic, and bell peppers in a little bacon fat. I mashed the kidney bean, added beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, and Toronto Seasoning (I think that came from Heidi’s kitchen, I know I didn’t buy it). The beans were sloppy, so I added rolled oats to soak up the liquid and then shaped the mixture into patties. Once broiled and topped with cheese, they made excellent bean cheeseburgers.
Should I admit to eating three?
Tonight it’s going to be a variation of drunken Irish stew. I have stew beef, but very few traditional stew vegetables. It’s ok. I’ll be adding cabbage and cauliflower, as both are on the verge.
I would love to hear about some of your creations. What do you make without using a recipe to take advantage of what’s on hand? Many Home-Ec readers, like my friend Jennie, could be inspired to experiment.