How to Creatively Use Everything That is About to Go Bad

Well, that’s a long title, isn’t it! This past Sunday was Cinco de Mayo, which showed up fast and furious! I usually plan out my menu for the week, Sunday-Saturday, but had not planned for today. As I’ve been experimenting with ways to be minimal in all aspects of cooking – few ingredients, few dishes, less cleanup – I thought, “I bet I have enough ingredients to make some sort of skillet.” So, for Cinco de Mayo we had my “made up on the fly Mexican Skillet,” or Cinco de Made Up.” It takes practice to whip up something out of your head, but once you’re there, it feels good! Here is the process for which I came up with this Sunday’s dinner:

1) Go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry and assess what you have. Monday is trash day for us, so I knew I needed to go through the fridge and either freeze, use, or throw away. I think this should be a weekly practice for everyone. It saves you from having to do a huge deep clean of the fridge.

2) Pick a theme. It happened to be Cinco de Mayo at this junction, but if I didn’t have the right ingredients to make it work, I would have just done pasta because I always have pasta readily available in the pantry. I had leftover taco meat from a few nights ago, but not a lot of it. I also had about a 1/2 pound of chicken breasts that needed to either be cooked or frozen, so I opted to cook it since I didn’t have much taco meat. I had some spinach that was about to turn if I didn’t use it soon, some shredded queso cheese, a can of beans in the pantry, rice, tomatoes, and a variety of spices.

3) Go for it! Think about other recipes that have worked well for you and then use your skills to create something delicious! A skillet or one-pot meal is ideal for this situation. You just throw a bunch of ingredients together in one skillet or one pot and you’re done! So, cook your meat first, then throw everything else in as you feel appropriate. Keep checking for taste and add spices as well.

That’s it. Then set the table for dinner, serve it all in a bowl or plate and then watch your family say, “Wow, what is this? This is really good!”

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