I love to cook, but more often than not, I find myself driving home from work wondering “hmm… what am I going to cook when I get home?” Then I do a mental scan to determine what ingredients I have to make a nice savory dish and surprise, surprise, there is always at least one ingredient that I am lacking for my perfect recipe!
You know, I honestly wonder if recipes are a blessing or a curse because I have discovered that I feel the most inefficient when I try to plan around one. Here is the deal, when I decide to follow a recipe, then I discover I am missing an ingredient; I eventually come to the conclusion that I have nothing at home to eat and I get frustrated. It doesn’t matter that my cupboard is full of other various ingredients and that my fridge is not empty. What matters is, I don’t have all the required ingredients for my recipe and that translates into I have nothing to eat. Now, I am beginning to realize how big of a lie that is, and I am going back to my roots, back to what my mama taught me.
When I was growing up, my mom taught me to cook with “five loaves and two fishes” (i.e. “whatever I had at that moment in time.”) You see, my mom is an amazing cook and I never once saw her open a recipe book when we were growing up. According to her, there was always something to eat and no matter how bare the fridge or cupboards were we always had somewhere in there, our five loaves and two fishes. My mom’s method was simple. It went like this – open the fridge, do a quick visual scan, pull out whatever she saw, combine the ingredients together with some seasoning and voila!Dinner was done and OMG! It always tasted absolutely amazing.
Nowadays,since it is important to use everything and reduce waste, I really see the value in this method and honestly it has served me quite well and challenged my creativity. So now, although I do love following recipes,( and I still do but I don’t let them limit my creativity), I still incorporate the “throw it all together” method my mom taught me. So for instance, I look in my fridge, I see red peppers, onions and broccoli, I look in my cupboard and I have half a box of pasta, I sauté the veggies, add some red pepper flakes (I must have my hot spice), add some basil, salt, pepper and the universal spice – garlic, I cook my pasta, toss it with the veggies and add some parmesan cheese and voila! I have a meal fit for a king and I do not need to look at a recipe book to put that together. And if I want to get some sauce in the mix, I just open a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (those canned products come in handy, but I only use on rare occasions) and add it to the sautéed veggies, then toss with the pasta or rice.
I almost always have chicken so another option is to season some diced chicken breast with salt, pepper and any vinaigrette salad dressing you have hanging around in your fridge, heat up some olive oil in a pan, add diced onions and garlic, sautee then add the chicken. Once its cooked, eat it with a side of any veggie like sautéed/grilled broccoli or asparagus or a with a baked potato. Or, you can marinade the chicken in the salad dressing vinaigrette with garlic and of course some red pepper flakes (if you don’t like spice then use black pepper), bake it in the oven and eat with a side of veggies or a salad.
Spice up your life a bit. Let the contents of your refrigerator and your cupboard dictate what you will eat at least one day a week. Surprise yourself. Discover what happens when you choose a couple of everyday ingredients and combine them together with some garlic, onions, salt and pepper. The options are unlimited when you finally get the hang of it and life does tend to be a little easier when you don’t have to follow the rules …
You know what? I think I will start sharing more about my impromptu meal concoctions once in a while (I promise to also let you know when they turn out absolutely awful or amazing) and I would also love to hear yours so why don’t you take the time to share what you have in your refrigerator or cupboard? I am sure we can come up with some really cool meal ideas together. And whenever you feel like Mother Hubbard, remember that the sky is the limit when you have five loaves and two fishes.