Simply, I've put my mind and energy to really using what is in my (fairly extensive and eclectically-, if not well-stocked,) pantry. You see, I had just completely lost my motivation to cook or do anything in the kitchen; there was no creativity in it any more. I mean, I made up an 8-week rotation of menus, I would go buy the stuff, I would cook the stuff, we would eat the stuff. Good stuff, but really boring for the kitchen help.
Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to create something from "nothing". I guess it comes from growing up with little money and few toys. Once the creative spark is planted as a child, and, as a child, you make very pleasant and useful and pretty things from "nothing," -- found objects, cast-offs, what-have-you -- well, it is kind of a let down to be able to get whatever you want to make whatever you want. It feels spoiled and, frankly, boring.
I've always preferred scrappy quilts to designer quilts, just for this same reason -- the pleasant surprise of never knowing quite what you will find put together in it, but knowing that whatever it is, if a clever person put it together, the end result will be delightfully more than the sum of its parts.
Well, that is a very long way of saying that my cooking has gotten to be like a designer quilt, and my pantry has gotten to be like a hoard of scraps, leftover from my designer (not gourmet, lol) habits. It's a boring way to live, and it can turn out to be wasteful, too.
We aren't going to do that any more. It's time to find a use for the random tins of coconut milk and seaweed flakes, before they go bad. It is definitely time to not be so squeamish about the squash bugs and just get out there and pick the dang squash and then not let it turn into fruitfly food, but actually USE it (btw, I still do have a butternut squash in the pantry that we harvested LAST fall, will try to do something with it tomorrow!)
We celebrated Gater's birthday recently, and instead of going out and buying gourmet goodies, I used what we had. I only had to purchase sandwich meat and cheese, lettuce, and bread for sandwiches. And a bit of generic pop. The rest -- homemade baked beans, potato salad, 3-bean salad, homemade cherry pie, the birthday cake, and the other assorted goodies, were assembled within a couple of days, from pantry and fridge goodies. I used up ALLLL of some veggies that normally get discarded before they are completely gone...celery, for example (embarrassing, but true. I'm sorry.) It's not that I don't know what to do with the stuff, it is just that using it all up doesn't fall as conveniently into the schedule as I would like it to.
Anyway, (and it is very late and I fear I am rambling), we had leftover birthday cake (will do a birthday post soon) last night, and this was the verdict from Wannie:
At Gater's party, the first time we had the cake, I had to pry the empty plate out of Wannie's cold dead hands. Not literally, but that was definitely the message she was giving. Oh my.
The cake was a Pig-Pickin Cake, deliciously fresh-tasting and moist, and made with pantry/freezer ingredients.
Well, as though two birthday cakes and a cherry pie were not enough dessert-y goodness for one week, today I went cleaning out the fridge in preparation for (rather random) grocery shopping tonight. I located 2 elderly packages of cream cheese and a just-out-of-date tub of sour cream -- and I had just processed a whole bunch of opened-but-not-finished packs of graham crackers into crumbs. And I had this leftover apple caramel dip that I had made for the party, plus some leftover pineapple and some leftover cherry filling from the pie...so naturally I had to make this:
Caramel-swirl cheesecakeand a half-dozen plain mini-cheesecakes to top with that leftover cherry filling and pineapple.
Oh, sooooo bad, but honest, I had to do it. Those ingredients had to be used up. It's the right thing to do.