Using what you’ve got

One thing I didn’t mention in this post about the many benefits of our eat-at-home month: I became much more adept at using what we have in our fridge.

Typically I am the type of cook that looks at a recipe, looks in the pantry, makes a list of what we need, buys it and then cooks. But when I was doing that for 30 days it was a little more difficult to always be ready. Not to mention, it’s kind of exhausting to do all that prep work before one even turns on the stove. In order to make our goal of eating at home for a month, I had to get creative. For the most part, my experiments in the kitchen worked out.

This past Saturday night I had another opportunity to experiment. I was frying sausage for spaghetti sauce, the water was boiling for noodles and it was time to get a jar of Newman’s Tomato & Basil sauce from the laundry room (aka pantry in our house). As soon as I opened the door to the laundry room I knew I was in trouble: we were out of that sauce. Not a jar in sight.

Rather than scrap the meal, I paused and realized I probably had something in the cupboard I could use to make sauce. Indeed I did: diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce. I’ve never made spaghetti sauce using several variations of canned tomatoes, much less from scratch, but I put the contents of the three cans into my blender, turned it on (with a towel on top of the blender’s lid, just in case) and voila! We had a sauce. Feeling a little bit like Emeril, BAM! I added some water, some Worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil and sauteed onions.

On Sunday I read a chapter in Laura Munson’s thoughtful, full-of-heart memoir, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. In this chapter she describes a labor of love in which she and her kids use 11 pounds of organic tomatoes to create spaghetti sauce for the fall and winter ahead. Her cooking is like therapy, and maybe mine was a little like that, too — in that I went into unknown territory without being sure of the results. I met that challenge with confidence but also with a bit of gentleness if it didn’t work out. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I thought when I started opening the cans of tomatoes. That’s new behavior for this mama.

In the end, my spaghetti sauce received two thumbs up from my husband and me. I sat at our round, oak dining table, surrounded by my sons and husband and relished our meal with a heart full of pride that I had created my own sauce.

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3 Responses to Using what you’ve got

  1. Tia Bach says:

    Love this. My mom will come to visit and make a meal from my pantry. I always end up asking her if she really found all of the ingredients in MY pantry. I need to be better about cooking on the fly. So glad it worked out so nicely.

  2. juliesteed says:

    This IS great. I am not an “on the fly” chef. At all. But my husband is, so I’ve seen the results of letting go of the recipe and believing in your own intuition. Maybe I should give this a go . . .

  3. When were were out of pasta sauce I used a mixture of ketchup and barbecue sauce. Luckily my husband always eats anything I prepare. We won’t be repeating it, but it was palatable.

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