Cooking the Mother of Invention – A weekend of Cooking Conundrums

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. This weekend it was much more the case that COOKING was the mother of invention. Every cooking venture I went on this weekend required lots of improvisation. From finding pantry substitutes, to stew pot modifications, to whole pantry meals.

Friday Night – Fancy Food Craving

It started Friday night. I was tired of the food we had in the house and really just wanted to go out to eat. However there were several problems with that.

  1. We are really trying to cut back on our food budget, which means eating out is, well, OUT.
  2. Lil’ Miss M was sick. So going out to eat was really out of the question
  3. The weather was such that leaving the house would be a VERY bad idea. Freezing rain and icy roads meant I’d have to suck it up and stay in to eat.

Dang it. Now what? What did I really want? Why did I want to go out? Well, I didn’t want leftovers again, and I wanted some fancy food darn it. So what could I make that would fulfill my “fancy” craving that didn’t require going out to the store.

So I rummaged thru the freezer to see what I could find. SHRIMP! Perfect, I knew we had a lemon left over that hadn’t been used, and we ALWAYS have butter, olive oil, pasta, garlic and wine. That’s all I needed to make Shrimp Scampi. And all the members of the Steam family LOVE shrimp scampi.

So I started cooking. Only to find out we were out of garlic, white white, and olive oil. Dolp! (head slap) It’s too late. I was committed!

I rummaged in the pantry to see what I could find that would work in a pinch. I found some WildTree Roasted Garlic infused grape seed oil. Perfect!!! Kill two missing ingredients at one time.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good substitute for the missing wine. But I forged ahead.

And the results were very well received. Alas there is no picture, because I was worried if I didn’t start eating I wouldn’t get any with as fast as the kids were eating up all the shrimp!

Saturday – Dinner from the pantry

Saturday is usually my cooking day. With so much stuff going on and our crazy schedules I try to cook 3-4 main meals on Saturday and then we eat those for dinner and lunch through out the week. I know it sounds kind of odd and a lot of work. But I find it can be a lot easier. I am only prepping food one day, I am only cleaning pots and pans one day. And while one meal is in the oven or simmering on the stove I can work on the next meal.

The problem was I was exhausted from staying up all night with poor Lil’ M and she just really wanted cuddle time with Mommy. I know I don’t have many of those days left, and I wasn’t going to give that up for a day of cooking.

So by the time dinner came around we had nothing to eat. The one thing M and I had been able to accomplish was get the grocery shopping done for the week, however all the meals I planned to cook were going to take more time than my very empty stomach was going to tolerate!

So back to the drawing board pantry. I had a rotisserie chicken. Which meant I had a protein ready to go. But what could I put on it?

I remember a Mediterranean chicken crock pot meal we had made last summer that had wonderful flavor.  It had Greek olives, tomatoes, seasonings and artichokes. And while we didn’t have Greek olives, I did have capers which would give a similar briny flavor.

It was served up with a brown rice and wild rice blend cooked in some chicken stock. Mr. Steam and I gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up.  (And you can see from the recipe below that I remedied the fact that there was no garlic or wine in the pantry when M and I went to the store!)

Multipurpose Mediterranean Sauce

This sauce is great on both chicken and mild fish. It can be made from pantry staple ingredients.


  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts quartered
  • 1 c white wine
  • 1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 t dried parsley
  • 1 t basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 2-3 T of capers
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Sautee the onions in the olive oil until translucent.
  2. Add the mined garlic and cook for 1 more minute or until you can smell the garlic.
  3. Add the artichoke hearts and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Be sure to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. That is pure flavor goodness. Cook until the wine is reduced by 1/2.
  5. Add the tomatoes and seasoning. Cook for another 5 min.
  6. Add the capers, turn off the heat and serve over chicken or baked fish.

Sunday – Recipe and Stock pot modifications

Since I didn’t get any of my cooking done for the week on Saturday, that meant I REALLY needed to get caught up on Sunday.

Hubs had been asking me to make him some Pasole. And I had found a new recipe by Homesick Texan that I wanted to try out. It called for kale to be added. I am constantly trying to find ways to get more greens into our diet so this sounded perfect.

The recipe called for making stock from scratch. But we had some stock make from our Thanksgiving turkey that would be perfect. And there entered my 1st challenge.

When we make stock we typically make soup right then and there, but we also usually freeze some of the stock. We usually freeze it in gallon zip top bags. This works great when I am using my bigger stock pots to make soup, but those were all being used for other purposes. And the frozen stock was too long to fit into the soup pot. At first I left it hanging out of the pot, but as it melted I was loosing yummy stock outside the pan. So I stood there glaring at the frozen soup and the pot trying to determine a solution.

Then it hit me! I stuck a lid in the pot on end and leaned the fozen stock on the lid. It was enough weight to keep the lid in place, and as the stock melted it ran back into the pot! PERFECT!

20140112-114955.jpgWell almost. I almost jumped out of my skin later when the stock melted enough that it fell in the pan. Without the frozen stock holding it in place the lid fell out of the pot and on to the floor with quite a loud clatter.

The second problem is it is pretty difficult to get tomatillos where we are. So instead of making a tonatillo salsa, I mad a hatch green chili sauce. Yea, yea, I know. You can’t get hatch green chilies here either. But we filled a VERY LARGE cooler on our last trip to CO! HA!

The soup was so pretty with the kale and it was delicious! However, there was one problem. The tub of chilies that I used for the soup were SPICY. And the label wasn’t kidding, they were VERY SPICY. Mr. Steam likes spice, but his stomach isn’t a fan. I needed to tone down the spice some to get it to a more moderate level.

20140112-113556.jpgSo I decided to add some cream. That was perfect. It toned down the spice some and it had the added benefit of giving the soup some balance which allowed each of the flavors to shine. If it hadn’t used the tub of mild chilies I wouldn’t have added the cream.



About NotYourNormalSteam

I love to make things, food, paper, fabric, the medium doesn’t really matter. I am also an obsessive planner. The day after Christmas I am already working out plans for the next year.
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