What's in the Fridge?
In a perfect world, I would plan three nutritious meals a day, week after week. My world isn’t perfect, but I still need to make those three meals. As 12:00 is coming when I know my teacher-husband and scholar-daughter will be walking in the door, one question can get me out of the I-don’t-know-what-to-cook” panic.
That question is, “What’s in the fridge?”
Today was one of those days. I was tapping the counter, thinking, and then I saw it. A huge beefsteak tomato, the kind we can only get in winter, with a soft spot on the side. That tomato needed to be used ASAP.
I wanted something different than our usual fresh salsa. Bruschetta takes tomatoes. But would my family enjoy toast with diced tomatoes on top? Doubtful, plus fresh basil and feta cheese are integral ingredients.
Chili? No, I was tired of chili.
Tomato soup? Tomato soup needs to be paired with toasted cheese sandwiches, and I had neither bread nor melty cheese.
Tomato and cucumber salad? Yes! I had just bought cucumber and red onion. I mixed the salad up right away so the vegetables could marinate in the olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
It was Thursday, the day I often try to do extra food prep. I had been wanting to make bread. Why not make French bread instead and serve that for lunch as well? I mixed the dough so it could rise. Now I could serve the French bread with garlic butter (and spaghetti and meatballs? Nah.) or sliced with seasoned olive oil for dipping. (Yes!)
Now for something to go with the salad and bread. I decided on ground pork, to which I’d add sausage seasoning. I settled on sausage and potato soup. I’d just made broth, so there was plenty of that in the fridge, and I’d just bought potatoes.
All that evolved from one overripe tomato and an odd collection from the fridge.
Asking “What’s in the fridge?” is not only good for meal-decision fatigue, it also keeps food from going to waste.
A glance at the top shelf might reveal half a carton of heavy cream. Alfredo? A creamy soup? A pie with homemade whipped cream?
Half a pack of cream cheese could be used for creamy taquitos or smeared onto bagels to be served with smoothies.
Three slices of bacon would be grounds for fighting in a family, but chopped up in an egg casserole or quiche, they’d be perfect.
Combinations of things in your fridge could spark ideas.
Seeing a zucchini and carrot side by side may remind you of a sheet-pan dinner. Chop up some potatoes, onion, and boneless chicken or rope sausage, drizzle them with Italian dressing or olive oil and seasonings, pop them into the oven at 400*, and supper is ready in about 20 minutes.
Black beans, a bag of cheddar cheese, and sour cream? Add ground beef for taco salad or taco soup. Want to use chicken instead? White chicken chili.
Deli ham, lettuce, and cheese? Chef salads or maybe sandwiches.
Of course in a perfect world with already-planned meals, we’d have bought all the ingredients our meals called for. But as you peer into the fridge, allow your limitations and lack of ingredients to make you creative rather than hamper you. If you want to make sandwiches with that deli ham and cheese, but don’t have buns or bread? Try making your own buns. You may discover that the extra work of making them is worth it for the delicious fresh taste. Or try tortillas instead of bread. Or go low carb and wrap your sandwich in lettuce leaves.
Don’t have pizza sauce? Add water and seasoning to tomato paste. Don’t have sour cream? Try making a white sauce. Don’t have cream of mushroom soup? I haven’t bought a can of it for over four years. Try the fore-mentioned white sauce.
What’s in the fridge? Start digging—there’s dinner waiting to be discovered.