I grew up in a “Waste not want not” household. If one of us looked in the refrigerator and said, ‘There’s nothing to eat,” ultimately an adult in the household found plenty. One of my favorite childhood breakfasts came from what was left in the refrigerator.
If there was bacon, a carrot, onion and day-old cooked rice laying around, we had Fried Rice. Someone would fry up the bacon and then put it to the side to drain on an old newspaper or paper towel. Then chop up the carrots and onions, stir fry them until soft. Add in the leftover rice, stir together and sprinkle over the crumbled bacon, add salt and pepper to taste. It was FANTASTIC on every level; texture, flavor and even the color combination was nice.
Without consciously knowing, I brought this to my own adulthood. I once looked into a boyfriend’s fridge for something to eat. He said, “There’s nothing in there,” but I found enough to make a pasta dish with noodles, olive oil and cherry tomatoes. He loved every bite.
A few years ago I lived in co-housing and the housemate’s mother had several different vegetables that were on the verge of “going bad.” I asked if I could put together something and she enthusiastically agreed. I chopped the potatoes, cut the corn off the cob and put a variety of ingredients into a large stock pot with some seasoning. I let the veggies boil for a couple hours, then turned off the stove and put a top on to let the soup sit. My housemate’s mother came upstairs to taste and loved the finished product. She said the soup reminded her of childhood.
As a mother myself, I create a variety of dishes using whatever is in the fridge. My son loves the fried rice with whatever meat I choose. A lot of times I’ll look at the remaining vegetables in our fridge and throw them in a pot to make a soup. If we have leftover baked chicken, I’ll use the bones and meat to make a chicken and veggie stew. There are numerous combinations one can put together to make a flavorful and nutritious meal.
My most recent creation was this last week. I had two bone-in-thigh pieces of chicken, some chorizo, onions and the remains of three different types of peppers. I typically use the chicken and chorizo to make a stew with white lima beans, but this time we didn’t have the beans so I improvised.
I put the chicken in a cast iron dutch oven, drizzled over a little extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, turmeric and ancho chili powder. I put the top on the pot and baked on 400 for about 30 minutes. I then took the chorizo out of the casing and put it around the chicken in the dutch oven. I recovered the pot, turned the heat to 375 and let it cook while I chopped the vegetables.
After about 15 minutes I opened the oven again, then sprinkled the chopped veggies over the chicken and chorizo mixture. I stirred the chorizo and veggies, flipped the chicken and poured in enough water to cover the mixture. I covered the pot and let the food cook for another 30 minutes. I turned off the oven, took out the very heavy dutch oven and let it sit on top of the stove for another 30 minutes. The result, a yummy Chicken Chorizo Stew.
We scooped the stew into our bowls and enjoyed a nice, flavorful dinner. The chorizo and peppers created a thick, brown fragrant broth that truly enhanced the chicken, while the onions and peppers maintained a slight crunch.
The leftovers tasted great the next day over rice. No additional seasoning needed.
Cooking meals with “what’s left,” can be a fun, cost-effective and very nutritious way to make a meal. Think of how many veggies you save from the trash. All that’s necessary is a few different types of foods, even small amounts, and a little creativity to put together some favorite flavors and a great gourmet meal.
With whatever you choose, I pray you enjoy to the fullest. Food is necessary but it can also be fun and flavorful experience