Creativity in the Kitchen

photo: Mediterranean Delight from Mystic Pizza

It has been a very interesting month to say the least. Instead of getting bogged down in the dirty details of the current chain of events out there, I decided to channel my inner zen and look around, specifically at what is in the kitchen. Beyond outright cheering for no makeup and no pants, unless a video conference is scheduled, what other goodness can we celebrate while being at home? Trolling social media feeds to see what friends and favorite celebs are doing, gave me inspiration to try new recipes. I would love to say I made this pizza in the photo from scratch but I’d be lying. I went on a search for things that a) seem tasty, b) don’t require a degree to make, and c) may work if I don’t possess all the ingredients. Luckily, I had recently stocked up on a few staples, joined a veggie mail-order group, and made a mad dash to the nearest Costco with all of the other people in town before lockdown.

I took inventory of the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. It seemed like I had a lot of options in there. I started with lazy options like cheese sandwiches and mustard, or toast with cheese slices and fancy bean dip. Feeling confident after adding that delicious dip to bread, I was on a roll and onto grilled cheese and mediterranean salad. The salad required opening cans of items that sounded mediterranean, like chickpeas and olives, and patting myself on the back for having grape tomatoes and feta in the fridge. I even added spices and pepper with a bit of lemon-infused olive oil that I had in the pantry.

At this point, I felt ready to host a cooking show for all my friends online. But first, I needed a crash course in the use of the Instant Pot I just “had to own” because it sounded like a good idea until I could not figure out the instructions. More importantly, I needed assistance identifying vegetables that I had never seen but were now sitting in my kitchen, freshly delivered. Intimidated by fennel that I confused as strange celery with fur, I consulted a friend who is a pro in the kitchen. I had to forego the saute option in the Pot until I could master making beans and rice, separately, because that was too many steps for me in the first round. It turns out I also have a restaurant-style rice cooker so two pots at the same time is almost the same thing! I grilled veggies in a grill pan on the stovetop with more spices and different olive oil from the pantry.

Fennel (not to be confused with “furry celery”)

This cooking thing was going so well that the refrigerator options grew exponentially. I had several meals that consisted of beans, rice, and veggies. The confidence gained by adding dip to bread on the first day enabled me to make tougher decisions in varying meal options as to not tire so quickly of eating the same things. I added salsa to beans and rice, beans and cheese to veggies, and then I combined all of those ingredients because cheese and salsa is good on almost everything. In between, I continued to eat the mediterranean salad and sandwiches with peanut butter or cheese options. I shared potato chips with the dogs and ate a spoonful of my favorite hazelnut spread when I needed a sweet treat. I eventually graduated to complex options like squash and fennel soup, spring rolls, romaine salad, and two-ingredient pancakes mixed in the blender.

As I watch supplies in the pantry and refrigerator slowly deplete, several things have occurred to me. First, I did not check expiration dates on condiments and pantry items. I noticed this while putting the lid back on the perfectly tasty hazelnut spread that expired seven years ago. Sadly, I threw it out. However, as a general rule, I have not produced a lot of trash from cooking at home. I compost and empty the countertop compost bin into the main one on a weekly basis now. As an added bonus, I have not spent money on food other than the initial investments at the store and mail order. I systematically ate food from all areas of the kitchen but without having a plan to do so. I seemed to graze in the pantry first. Fruits and freezer items were my least favorite options until I ran out of snacks. Second, wholesale-sized purchases present a challenge: three half gallons of milk became coffee creamer and a new favorite, almond milk ice cream in multiple flavors! This was so good I shared the results on social media with friends. I also figured out chia pudding with fruit is so easy and filling!

Chia pudding with almond milk and frozen blueberries in an up-cycled jar

If I continue on the same path for the next several weeks, I will have more than enough food and several options waiting to be explored. More vegetables arrive next week. This means more educational conversations with friends because I’m receiving the mystery box for a while. That said, the company allows me to add items that are in stock. Bring on the fresh berries and mushrooms!

Finally, this eating schedule also requires exercise. So far, 15-30 minute bursts of exercise a few times a day is helping. I must keep this going so my pants fit when I am required to wear them again. However, as soon as I can get another slice of heaven, I’m going to order the whole pizza. I hope you are enjoying this time at home as much as I am!

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