Making something coherent out of scraps

Stir fried chicken and veggies on pan-fried noodlesIt happens to us all at some point or another: looking into the fridge is suddenly akin to a train wreck or horror film — truly gruesome but impossible to ignore.

Science experiments and unidentifiable lumps are hidden in every corner and you have to dig through questionable containers and ziplock baggies before you find what you’re looking for.

It could be in the form of one single red pepper just starting to look a little worse for wear, but still edible, if  cooked.That half an onion which is beginning to dry out but would do well if heated up.Oh look, the green onions are starting wilt on the ends, but those can be chopped off and the rest salvaged.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?

There’s hope yet!

I found myself in this type of situation tonight. I really didn’t want sandwiches for dinner (since that’s what I had for lunch!), so I started rummaging around. Here’s what I managed to find in the fridge, freezer and cupboards:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut up into small stir-fry pieces, in Teriyaki sauce (freezer)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • half a white onion
  • 3 or 4 half-stalks of green onions
  • sesame seeds (black  and  white)
  • thin Asian noodles (quick-boil noodles)
  • soy sauce
  • rice wine vinegar
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • half a bag of frozen cauliflower
  • five strips of turkey bacon
  • half a container of light cream
  • various bits of leftover cheese

I didn’t have enough potatoes to make a full batch of scalloped potatoes (and I had a craving for it!),  so I decided to make a casserole out of the sliced potatoes and half-bag of cauliflower, layering cheese, onions and cooked turkey bacon bits between the veggies. I made sure that the potatoes were well salted, then also dusted the layers with dried oregano, sage and freshly ground black pepper. Next time, I need to use less cream or add flour to it to thicken it up, as this was too runny and had to be served with a slotted spoon, but after an hour in a 350F oven, it was mighty tasty. It just needs some adjusting.

As for the rest of the ingredients (the first part of the list), I stir-fried up the chicken, drained the excess sauce, then added a little bit of water to the wok, then the onions, celery and red pepper. In another pot, I brought water to a boil, then added the noodles. These were boiled for 3 minutes (as per  the package instructions), then drained. In the same pot,  I put a little bit of butter in the bottom and put the noodles back into the pot to quickly fry them up just a little, tossing in a bit of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar (literally a couple of dashes, each). The stir-fry was served on the bed of pan-fried noodles.

The green onions were finely chopped and sprinkled over the top  of  this dish with a light dusting of sesame seeds. All told, it was a pretty yummy dinner, despite the tweaks that are needed with the next potato/cauliflower casserole. I managed to use up the last vestiges of non-spoiled foods in the fridge, and while the two dishes aren’t thematically linked, it was tasty and filling, and we have left overs to last us till grocery day! Sometimes cooking is all about making something coherent out of the scraps left in the bottom drawers of the fridge and the back of the freezer. Hopefully this inspires you to not just toss away the things which aren’t the freshest but that are still okay to eat. It might save you a bit of money and post-pone that emergency grocery run a day or two.

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