1) Survey The Pridelands
Let's see what you have. You'll likely want an item from at least 3 of these categories:
A) Grain or hearty legume - rice, pasta, beans, quinoa, couscous, etc.
B) Meat or protein - any kind you like, or tofu, beans, etc. if you're vegetarian/vegan
C) Veggies - carrots, zucchini, celery, potatoes, etc.
D) Flavoring stuffs - garlic, onion, shallots, etc.
E) Liquid - any broth or stock, or some kind of sauce or marinade
F) Spices - you should ALWAYS have salt, pepper, onion power, and red pepper flakes (these are my fab four). Bonus points for a spice blend - Cajun, Jerk, Greek, etc. (Cavender's Greek is my personal favorite multi-purpose blend)
G) Staples - flour, butter, milk, cooking oils
So let's run down some ideas with examples. Bear in mind, you can substitute in ANY equivalent item; these are not my "best recipes," but they will feed you when you are too tired/broke/unmotivated/busy to go to the store.
You have this.
You wish you had this.
2) Making Food Love Out Of Nothing At All (well, almost nothing)
A) Cast - rice, chicken, frozen edamame, teriyaki marinade/stir fry sauce/soy sauce
Act I - Dice the chicken, dump it in a bag with some marinade/sauce, let it sit. Prepare rice as directed.
Act II - Sautee the chicken until 80% cooked, then add the edamame and cover.
Act III - Combine.
B) Cast - Chicken broth, canned beans, mushrooms, onion, minced garlic.
Act I - Sautee diced onion and garlic, rinse beans.
Act II - add onions and garlic, beans, and stock to a pot. Add as much water as you used stock.
Act III - slice mushrooms and add to the pot. Use whatever seasoning you like to taste, then simmer until you think the flavors are married enough.
C) Cast - Zucchini, lemon, butter, milk, egg noodles, garlic
Act I - Boil noodles, dice zucchini and sautee in olive oil with salt and pepper.
Act II - Sautee garlic in some butter until light brown, add some milk, and cook over medium heat.
Act III - Combine garlic sauce mixture and zucchini, add some lemon juice for brightness, toss with the egg noodles.
D) Cast - Tofu or meat, flour, gravy packet, canned green beans
Act I - Mix flour with salt, pepper, onion powder (or a spice blend), dredge tofu/meat in flour mix.
Act II - Pan fry floured tofu/meat until lightly browned, add gravy packet (mixed per directions), cover and simmer for a while.
Act III - Heat green beans and serve.
E) Cast - Tomato sauce, green bell pepper, sausage
Act I - Slice sausage into 1-inch chunks, slice pepper into strips, sautee.
Act II - Add tomato sauce (1/2 the amount you would need to cover the meat and peppers) and continue to cook over medium heat.
Act III - Add any fresh or dried herb and season to taste.
F) Cast - Chutney, French fried onions, frozen cod, bread crumbs, milk, spinach
Act I - Combine onions and bread crumbs in a food processor and pulse until blended. Thaw fish and soak in milk. Dredge in the crumb mixture.
Act II - Place fish in 300 degree oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. Sautee spinach with garlic.
Act III - Heat chutney. Layer spinach, then fish, then chutney.
G) Cast - Flour, ginger root, parsley
Act I - Pick up your phone
Act II - Order delivery.
To date, no pizza that has come to my door has EVER looked like this.
Sorry kids - some things just never make a meal!
3) What Did We Learn?
The most important point here is creativity. General knowledge of flavors is a plus, but most of us have eaten enough meals that we have a general catalog of meal "templates," if you will. Substitute, experiment, HAVE FUN! Don't be afraid to take risks - there's always pizza! And on your next shopping trip, ensure you pick up rice, pasta, seasonings, frozen or canned veggies, some kind of meat or protein to freeze, an onion, butter, and some stock. These eight items will fill in holes and help you make meals out of seemingly nothing.
We can't all be this little guy!
Tomorrow's post will begin to cover ettiquette situations in the 21st century - how Emily Post meets modern technology and communication!