Last week A Mighty Appetite with Kim O’Donnel, the Washington Post food blog, ran a challenge to only eat from whatever was already in the pantry – Eating Down the Fridge. Instead of running to the store for last minute entrees, the goal was to eat from what was already in the house. I happened upon the post as I always do, by some trail through the food, simplicity, sustainability, We’re-in-the-Dark-Ages-II blogs that I read every morning along with HuffPost and LAObserved. It seemed like a fun idea so I jumped in mid-week.
We have a collection of condiments, my husband and younger daughter are the king and queen of condiments. They never met a jar of honey horseradish stone ground caper-packed mustard that didn’t have their name on it. If there’s a pretzel to dip in it, so much the better.
I, on the other hand, crave flours, grains, vinegars and oils. I never met a ground up piece of bark I didn’t want to try. And how many ways can you preserve milk? Condensed, evaporated, dry, coconut?
Then our oldest daughter has two friends who work at the local tea shop and have gifted us with little bags. On her trip to Edinburgh, she brought back Scottish Breakfast, to go with our English and Irish. The fact that I seem to have collected over a dozen teapots (I’m a coffee hound; how did this happen?) probably has probably been influential in why we can whip out an array of Teas from Across the Continents at our dinner parties.
The gastronomic challenge of not schlepping to the local market seemed like a plan. How much sunk money did I have in the freezer? And how old was the mystery meat hidden in the back corner?
So Friday night I made chili with pinto and kidney beans, threw in a can of green chilis and a pound of medium firm tofu. Tossed in one of the dozen cans of most-have diced tomatoes from Costco and crumbled in at least six spices, some of which were impulse purchases from intriguing ethnic market that caught my eye that I’m trying to use down. Then there was the salad with on-the-way-to-wilt iceberg, Chinese cabbage, spinach with a package of frozen corn and carrots all tossed with a choice of at least 4 salad dressings. For dessert, a fruit salad with cans of pineapples, Mandarin oranges, a mix of apples and a handful of frozen blueberries and strawberries.
Saturday morning the urge and time to bake melded. I know that whole wheat flour doesn’t last as long as white. The expiration date on the container was a distant memory. The quart of buttermilk needed to be mixed into something. I pulled out the Moosewood Cookbook, also something that has sat on the shelf for, well, decades. Ah, a quick bread. I threw in a handful of wheatberries (Note to self: next time cook them a little first for better ease of chewing). Brunch and tea snack. Delish.
Saturday dinner was meatloaf. Ground meat, grated carrots and celery. Bread crumbs made from frozen rye bread heavy with caraway seeds that I toasted and pulverized in my 25 year-old taped-up Cuisinart. And more herbs and spices.
Sunday morning I decided to make granola bars for school lunches. Oatmeal, wheat flour, wheat germ, dried cherries, 2 almost empty jars of eucalyptus and avocado honey, sesame seeds, almonds, eggs, and the requisite ground spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.
Look out. She’s on a roll. Next up? That box of cake flour. Does anyone know the shelf life for cupcake sprinkles?