Monday, March 1, 2010

The Clean-Out-My-Closet Challenge

I've got a pantry filled with all kinds of crazy stuff that I've collected through the course of cooking.  I've got some things that I had to buy an amount of to only use a small bit (masa harina, nonfat milk powder, dark Karo syrup, almond flour, unsweetened coconut) or a partial amount (all manners of pasta and grains: rice noodles, ditalini, udon, farfalle, somen).  I've got some stuff that I bought, but never ended up using (Ro-Tel tomatoes, inarizushi no moto, whole peeled tomatoes).  It's been adding up, and it's been grating on me as the weeks go on.  Let's not mention my freezer, which has all manners of frozen meats and vegetables.
Enter the Clean-Out-My-Closet Challenge.  Here's my goal - I'm going to make dishes for dinner that can be made using these ingredients - I want them in my belly (and out of my closet).  The only stuff I'm willing to buy to make these things is produce.  Have I been taking pictures?  Of course not, because I feel like these dishes, while delicious, aren't exactly what I'd consider photogenic.  Here's what I've been cooking up:
Five-spice pork & shrimp with udon noodles:  In the midst of rearranging and such, I found a sad and lonely pork chop in the back of the freezer.  I also had on hand like a third of a bag of frozen shrimp, 2 bundles of udon from the pantry, and the end of a jar of five-spice powder.  I thinly sliced the pork, added some standard stir-fry ingredients, and dug in.  I especially liked cooking the shrimp with the residual heat from the noodles - tasty and easy!
Broiled chicken with tomato sauce & polenta:  I always have a glut of chicken breasts in my freezer - they are quick to cook, low on WW points and are always on sale at Wegmans (fact about me:  if meat is on sale, I'll probably buy it).  I had some Bob's Red Mill coarse ground cornmeal in the closet, a can of whole peeled tomatoes, half a can of tomato paste in the refrigerator, a leftover onion from who knows when (but still in good eating shape), a bag of baby spinach bought last Saturday along with some chicken breasts.  Didn't even need to think about this one - whipped up a quick sauce, made polenta (which needed to be a little thicker) and broiled up some chicken.  Had leftovers for lunch today, it was delicious.
Honey ginger chicken with rice noodles:  I don't know when I picked them up, but I had a box of thin rice noodles all the way in back of my pantry.  I defrosted yet another chicken breast, made a sauce using some honey, tamari and fish sauce (!), threw in peppers, onions, and some shiitakes I'd forgotten I'd bought last week.  Everything got tossed together, sprinkled with lime juice, and we were ready to go in like 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, this one came out a little blander than I'd like, but with the addition of some tasty and amazing sambal oelek, it ended up tasting alright.  We'll see how it comes out tomorrow when we have the leftovers for lunch.
I'm pleased with how this is going - it's forcing me to be a bit more creative and less constrained to recipes, which was one of my cooking resolutions for the year.  I'm not always 100% successful (like tonight) but it's refreshing to stretch that part of my cooking skill.


Rob Timko said...

Oh man this post hit home today. That's EXACTLY what I did last night!

I had:

a bunch of cans of curry paste (69cents at the store, so might as well buy 10 of them..)
Bamboo Shoots in a can
water chestnuts in a can
coconut milk in a can
jalapenos in a can
basmati rice

So, I added a pepper, onion and chicken....and made penang curry chicken! AND it came out GREAT.

The best part? I have more than enough room to load up the pantry with 'stuff' again!