Use What You Have: Kitchen Edition

Use what you have! We aren't running to the store every time we need something so much these days, and I think that's a hidden gift. It's forcing us to get a little creative, a little resourceful, and to actually use what we have.

My favorite kind of meal is when everyone scours their fridge and brings what they have to make a hodgepodge potluck of sorts. It's magical. My second favorite kind of meal is when my husband and I do an adaptation of that, less the other humans (so all the time now). It usually starts with some lament of "what should we do for dinner...we don't have anything to eat" and ends with us sitting with some concoction in front of us that's surprising and delicious and uses up those random things in our fridge that need to be eaten. I swear it's the most fun.

I'm not a chef or a food savant. I'm not even particularly good at cooking. I just like to get creative and learn from others. And I've picked up a few tricks along the way.

Try opening your fridge and pantry and taking stock of what ingredients you have. If you're sparse for ideas, do a Google search for "recipes with ____" and list a few of the ingredients you have on hand. My favorite place to go is Minimalist Baker, but I rarely have everything on hand so the next important ingredient in this adventure is improvisation. Truthfully, sometimes it won't work that well--I've eaten my fair share of duds where the flavors just did not mix. I've also eaten such incredible surprises that we've added it to our meal rotation.

Use your nose. Smell what you're cooking, then smell some spices, do they mix well? Toss it in! Your smeller is connected to your taster which means for the most part, if it smells good together, it probably tastes good together.

Learn what your favorite bases are. Bases are simple and versatile foundations to dishes that can have nearly anything added to them to whip up a meal. My staples: eggs, quinoa/rice, sweet potatoes, greens, chickpeas, tortillas. These ingredients show up often in my meals so I almost always have them on hand.

With a base in place, the rest can come together. I try to use this formula loosely when creating a dish: base, greens, spice, protein, topping. It works pretty well and gives enough structure to play around with extras like adding lemon juice, additional veggies, spices, sauces, etc.

The more you experiment, the better you'll get at it. You'll learn which ingredients go well together and add to your Use What You Have repertoire. Like a Mother-lovin' boss.

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