Nothing in the fridge and it’s dinner time?
Take a look in the back of your pantry, see what you have been ignoring back there, and use your imagination. As a nation we are prone to instant gratification. If your fridge is empty, just head to the closest store and voila! If you don’t feel like cooking, picking up a meal is just one of many options. I’m here to shed light on the fact that when you think you don’t have any food to eat, with a little effort invested – you probably do!
As working from home increasingly becomes the norm, more of us are inevitably preparing all of our meals at home too. Cooking for yourself is a basic life skill that everyone must learn to survive. We simply build on that to be able to produce, tasty, nutritious, and satisfying meals.
A degree of creativity in the kitchen could vastly improve your home life, budget, and most of all – time spent with those you are sharing a table with.
Back to the pantry
Don’t be afraid to reconsider expiration dates, if it still looks, tastes, and smells okay, it’s probably alright. Use your best judgement of course.
We are talking dry goods here – when I look on my shelves I see things like dry pasta, dry beans, rice, a variety of common and obscure spices, crackers, breadcrumbs, a slew of canned goods, and baking ingredients like flour, sugar, and yeast. When you stand in front of your pantry there are likely multiple meals staring back at you from those shelves, so what to do next?
Pasta is an easy one. There is probably something in one or two of those cans that can be the base for your sauce. Think beyond tomato here – squash, pumpkin, cream of mushroom, or even chili all make a great start for a pasta dish. Add some dried herbs and you’re off. If cans don’t offer a solution, try just using an oil instead, extra virgin olive oil would be my pick.
Making bread is not difficult if you follow a few basic rules. All you need is flour, yeast, salt, and water. No yeast? Try making a flatbread or grab some baking soda and a make a fresh loaf of soda bread.
Either one of these recipes could be prepared in the oven or on a grill.
What to do with those dried beans… Well, first they need to be soaked for 6 – 8 hours, so get them going and think about what else you are going to put in tomorrow’s stew. A stock cube, onion, and garlic (if you have it), some seasonings from your collection, and if you’re lucky there might even be a bone or two in the back of your freezer. Throw it all together and let it simmer until the house smells divine and the beans are cooked to your liking.
Things like rice, lentils, and barley make a quick and easy side but can also be the main feature as a baked dish. Along with the right amount of liquid, add some herbs and spices to a baking dish. Maybe you have a can of spam back there somewhere that you can cube up and toss in (I always do). For a Mediterranean touch, a jar of olives, capers, or canned fish like sardines or anchovies make a great addition to a baked grain dish.
Got some canned vegetables and beans in there? Think veggie burgers. Drain some corn, a variety of beans, maybe some peas, throw it all in a food processor or mixing bowl and add some breadcrumbs. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, try crackers. Add dry ingredients until the mixture is firm enough to form patties and throw them in a hot pan or in the oven. These could be fantastic cooked on a grilling plank. The plank will season the patties while helping to keep them intact
while they cook.
These are just a few ideas and thankfully we have the internet. Building recipes can be as easy as simply plugging in your available ingredients and boom, there’s your plan of attack.
Don’t be intimidated by what you have been ignoring in your pantry all this time. Open up that door, take a good look, and put your creative mind to work.
Matt worked his first kitchen job in the country of Malta at the age of 15. He has worked as a restaurant Chef in Arizona, Maine, Spain, the UK, Oregon, and finally North Idaho. Now the Executive Chef at Wildwood Grilling, he thoroughly enjoys his day job.