Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pantry Purging and Kitchen Creativity

I have discovered that raising the pillow level relieves the pressure on the sore shoulder, so this morning's mission was to buy a new pillow (my old one had squashed into flatness). It's actually feeling a lot better, so I think that avoiding heavy lifting is helping. I never thought that the Miss Piggy diet -- never eat anything you can't lift -- would do me much good, but I got a twinge from lifting a bag of M&Ms with the wrong hand, so maybe there's something to it.

Speaking of diet, I've been inspired by my mom to do a pantry and freezer purge. Apparently, I either lived through the Great Depression in a former life or am subconsciously an end-of-the-world survivalist. Or possibly I'm part squirrel. Whatever the cause, I seem to have a stockpiling habit. I've got a lot of meat in the freezer, all vacuum sealed, plus lots of berries and peaches. Then my pantry is full of non-perishables. The current project is to try to use up everything I have stored before I re-stock. I'm only letting myself buy dairy, fresh produce and staples like sugar. Otherwise, I have to get creative and create meals based on what's in the freezer or pantry.

In doing my pantry inventory, I've discovered that I seem to have a thing for linguini, or else I keep thinking I'm out of it because I have several packages of it. I also must think that pinto beans will one day be vital to my survival. Dried beans are one of the cheapest forms of protein. I guess I had a panic moment last year when I didn't have a lot of income and was trying to cut my food bill. But the problem with dried beans is that you have to plan ahead. They have to be soaked overnight, and then they take a couple of hours to cook. They don't work well for situations where you're standing in the kitchen at dinner time, trying to think of what to eat.

The fun thing about this project is that it's forcing me out of my dietary ruts. In order to use just what I have on hand, I'm having to find or create new recipes, and I've discovered some things I really like. Externally imposed limitations are sometimes wonderful for forcing creativity because they keep you from doing things you've always done or from going with your first instinct.

Now I just need to find or come up with a recipe that uses chicken stock, linguini and pinto beans.

Tonight's pantry-cleaning recipe: US Senate Bean Soup, from Joy of Cooking. It will finish off a packet of navy beans, plus use up onion, parsley, a potato and celery from the refrigerator, as well as some ham from the freezer.

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