Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cook What You Have

Yesterday I prepared dinner by opening the fridge and going, "Hunh, what do we have?"
Into the cast iron skillet went:

  • a quarter of a cabbage (leftover from a previous meal)
  • half an onion (also leftover)
  • some garden tomatoes that were a little tired (the season is over; these have done their best)
  • garlic (we always have a Costco canister of ground garlic; it's just too darn useful)
  • thawed tofu (regular tofu that has been frozen, then left in the fridge to thaw; it makes for a more interesting texture.
I added a little olive oil, water and a dried herb from our garden (I can't remember the name and what does it matter? plants doesn't come when you call them anyway ;-), put on a lid and set the heat to medium.  I also put a sweet potato (or yam, or some orange root anyway) into the microwave, after piercing the skin to avoid explosions.

The Unnamed Dish In the Pan cooked on medium heat as I wrote, The Lovely Wife enjoyed a book and we both listened to music. Occasionally one of us would get up to stir, and eventually it was done. It didn't get photographed beforehand and it's too late now since it was too tasty to leave leftovers. This meal, so satisfying and yet so economical in time and money, lead me to ponder our Three Meal Preparation Styles:

  • Massive Planning: We have the ideal of planning a menu Sunday morning, then shopping that afternoon. This is a very good idea! But in practice, we usually vary from the plan. Make no mistake, we try to shop prudently. When there's a sale, we stock up like crazy (it sure is nice having a basement!); we buy in bulk at a discount; we avoid premade food (although not entirely.)  Would better discipline help? Probably, but it's not on the horizon; planning a week's menu and sticking to it hasn't worked for us; we're flawed human beings and there you have it.
  • Pickup Shopping: Often do we prepare for dinner by saying, "What do you want to eat?" "How about XYZ?" "Ok, but we're short of Y; I'll go get some." There's nothing horribly wrong with this, but it is inefficient. You end up making a lot of extra shopping trips, which is expensive in time and money, and the leftovers add up.
  • Cook What You Have: So long as you make sure you stock healthy food in your home, cooking what you have is just as nutritious as the other methods. The trick is to make it as satisfying. Sometimes it's not obvious which ingredients go together, but that just makes the whole thing a game. Anybody can make a well-balanced dish by going to the store and just buying something; the challenge is to do the same by Cooking What You Have. That this is both economically and environmentally responsible, since it minimizes spending and food waste, is a bonus!

1 comment:

Small Footprints said...

Your "what do we have" dinner sounded lovely. I actually really like this method of cooking ... it uses up ingredients which would otherwise be waiting for a meal plan and it promotes creativity. My hubz and I take turns cooking and it becomes a challenge to see who can come up with the best "what we have" meal. So far ... he's winning! :-) So glad that you linked up your "green" tags in the Meet & Greet ... I enjoyed this post!