*Note: I had this blog written, except for the title. I was trying to think of some clever title, but I think this one pretty much sums it up. I hate not being able to shop for the exact ingredient I need. With a passion. But I only have two more weeks to
suffer go with the 30 day pantry challenge. I am counting each and every second. OK, I’m counting the days.
I had planned a totally different post for today. Actually, I planned the post for yesterday. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and I am far from a perfect cook. Oh, yes – I did beat out the reigning apple pie making champ at a county fair when I was only sixteen. But that was only after a couple week’s worth of practice. My father insisted that I make a pie every other day during that time, so he could critique it. I think he just wanted pie.
I need to remember this story when I am adapting a recipe to put my own personal mark on it. Especially when I am making quite a few changes that can affect the structure of the finished product. Like the recipe I was hoping to blog about yesterday. The post that is written, and just waiting to be read. The post that now longs to be, nay – requires to be edited.
We are now just past the half-way point of the 30 Day Pantry Challenge. I find I am missing fresh vegetables the most. I just have a few left, and even the carrots are starting to look sad. I have both frozen and canned veggies left, but they don’t compare to the crunch of fresh veggies! (Note to self: plant a year-round garden and have The Hubbers make a cold frame to grow my beloved Persian cucumbers out of season.) The cravings to eat out are lessening, but I have seen the occasional commercial that made me crave pizza or Chinese take-out.
I am getting better about planning the time to cook, although not necessarily planning what to cook. We have eaten a lot of leftovers. A LOT. Some days I cringe from leftover fatigue, especially when I cannot rework the leftovers as a new dish. Other days, I count my blessings that there is something that just needs to be heated. Those are the busy days. I still have my share of days where I stare into the pantry, trying to figure out what to make. Pasta? Nah, I’m not in the mood. Mujaddarah? Out of onions, remember? I find that I am missing a key ingredient for many of the recipes I think about making. The substitutes I have on hand just don’t quite cut it. Linguini with clam sauce topped with grated cheddar just doesn’t have the same allure as it would with Parmesan or Romano cheese. And I am not sure that I want to discover whether it’s possible to caramelize dehydrated onion bits to top one of my favorite Middle Eastern lentil and rice (or bulgur) dishes.
So what’s a girl to do? Oh, I have improvised, if the improvisation sounds do-able. Usually it works out. For example, I chopped a Fuji apple (cored, but not peeled), sautéed it in a bit of butter with a teaspoon of brown sugar, some cinnamon, cardamom, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. I put the entire mixture on top of some steel cut oatmeal with a few chopped walnuts. It turned out to be quite tasty. Being the perfectionist I am, however, I usually find something lacking. Often that something is minor, but focusing on the flaw makes it seem bigger than it is.
Yesterday’s breakfast was lacking, due to a failed recipe. Since I was worried that The Hubbers would come home as a starvin’ Marvin from work, I wanted to make something healthy, yet hearty for lunch. I was thinking about a version of beef stroganoff or chicken paprikash. I settled on the latter, using lean ground turkey. Typically, I will sauté green bell pepper with onion when I make chicken paprikash. The peppers add a bit of extra flavor and an extra pop of color. I had neither. But I was able to throw together a variation on the dish that worked. The Hubbers thought it was “dee-lish.” I thought it could use more color.
It was simple enough to throw together. I browned a package of lean, ground turkey in olive oil, then added a diced carrot (it was huge, so I only used one), along with two stalks of celery, diced. I threw in a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, about a tablespoon or so of paprika, then let the whole thing simmer, covered, until it was almost time for The Hubbers to get home. To finish the dish, I stirred a tablespoon of whole wheat flour into a half cup of sour cream. I tempered this mixture with some of the hot sauce from the pan, then stirred the sour cream mixture into the pan with the ground turkey mixture. Paprikash is typically served over spaetzle or egg noodles. I served it over brown rice.
Now only if all culinary experiments were that successful…