The random things in your fridge (and what to do with them)

Lately, I’ve been playing the “Avoid the Grocery Store” game with myself. For someone who truly enjoys food, I truly hate going to the store.

By Day 7 or so, this game usually leaves me with a pretty random assortment of items on the shelves of my fridge, none of which, you’d assume, could really create a meal.

Today I’m going to do something I wish someone had done for me years ago: make a grocery list of items that should be in your kitchen at all times. These essentials make that half-wrinkled bag of brussel sprouts and tub of ricotta look slightly less depressing.

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ALWAYS STOCK YOUR CABINET WITH:

  • Some sort of grain (rice, quinoa, couscous, you get it). I suggest buying in bulk as it is almost always cheaper. Quinoa is my favorite because of the protein content/fill-me-up-ability.
  • A lemon and/or lime

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  • Better than Boullion. This “chicken base” can make anything taste good. Instead of buying carton after carton of chicken stock and watching it go bad after only one use, keep this in your fridge. Just add water and it makes delicious, perfectly seasoned stock for any recipe (I never cook quinoa without it).
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Pasta
  • Cheese (ANY kind of cheese will do)
  • Eggs. You can put a fried egg on top of just about anything. It’s actually pretty trendy right now to do this, especially in brunch towns like Austin. Plus, it adds protein to your meal when your meat supply has diminished and offers up the omelette option when you need a catch all for a quick dinner.
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Your basic baking ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, butter)

Below are some recent examples of the delightful items I was able to make my combining my basics with the other random items on the shelves of my fridge

quinoa hash

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Quinoa hash with onions, chopped brussel sprouts and grape tomatoes

I call this “quinoa hash” because “that quinoa/vegetable thing” just doesn’t sound as trendy. And Austin loves the word “hash,” so I’m going with it.

The dish above is made possible by 1) cooking some quinoa in better than bouillon and water 2) sauteeing the remaining vegetables I had in my fridge + onion + garlic powder and 3) combining the quinoa and veggies in a hot pan until they meld together beautifully.

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Keep the pan on medium; let the cooking happen slowly so as not to burn the onions

I then fried up an egg, sliced up the half avocado I had left and called it a meal.

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Nom.

homemade mac n cheese

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Homemade mac n cheese with pesto

This recipe has been in my immediate family forever. I loved when my mom made this stuff. I’ve experimented with different variations over the years (bread crumbs on top, potato chips on top, different kinds of cheeses) but the recipe is pretty foolproof no matter how you approach it. I didn’t have any sort of special topping this time, so I took a scoop of some old pesto I had lying around to make this batch interesting. You can find the recipe here.

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Yes, I put an egg on top.

banana bread cupcakes with cream cheese icing

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Note to humanity: icing is basically 80% butter.

I love a good banana, but I have zero tolerance for a mushy one. I therefore find myself with overripe bananas far too often, which is why baking ingredients are a must to avoid waste.

Just about any banana bread recipe will do the trick, the simpler the better. My new favorite thing to do, however, is to add a dollop of ricotta cheese (mascarpone would also work) to the batter. This makes it fluffier and more interesting once baked. Chocolate chips are also an excellent (and crowd pleasing) addition to banana bread.

As for the icing, a fancy mixer is nice but not necessary to make some truly yummy stuff. Cream cheese icing involves butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and a pinch of salt. That’s it.

Sometimes it takes removing the “random” items from your supply and setting them in front of you to realize all of the good stuff you have. If there’s a weird combination of items in your fridge that have you stumped, I have 5 words for you: Put an egg on it.

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