What I’ve Been Cooking: Eating Down the Freezer

This isn’t the sexiest post I’ve ever written, but sometimes when you’re going to be moving* and you like to keep a well-stocked pantry and chest freezer you think, “Yowza. I don’t want to move all of this, too!”

My freezer is worse (better?) than my pantry. It is stocked. Veggies from our summer CSA, organic beef and chicken (usually, but we’ve used it all up), berries, banana chunks for smoothies (and six whole bananas C threw in there once), frozen veggies from the store, chunks of a whole coconut we’d broken up, cranberries from the Cape, peaches from last summer, homemade stock and pesto, tasty things from Trader Joe’s, a frozen pizza.

That’s rather a lot. Plus I sometimes tend to put leftovers in there, too. Maybe I’m a little bit of a food hoarder, but I like to have stuff on hand.

Our pantry is less full, but it has a fair amount of food in it, mostly pasta, grains, and beans. And canned tomatoes. It’s really quite reasonable, not excessive, but we’re not going to starve, that’s for sure.

On my own, and with the kids gone half the week, and thus my not having to cook a major meat-containing meal every night, I’ve started to making recipes that catch my eye or that I’ve been wanting to try for a while and also generally simplifying what I cook. In addition, I’ve again begun cooking out of interest and pleasure instead of as a dull repetitive chore.

I once again love to cook!

I went through the freezer the other day, partly to see if I had anything affected by that recent listeria recall (I did not) and partly to see what was in there. Year-old birthday cake? Goodbye. Year-old unfrosted cupcakes? Six-month-old pastry dough? Two-year-old pesto cubes (ugh)? Gone, gone, gone.

Here’s what I’ve been cooking lately, using up what I have on hand:

Cacio e Pepe: It’s like adult mac-and-cheese. So simple, so delicious. I don’t make it quite like Mark Bittman does, but it’s lovely. I also made another version with fried sage leaves (oh…..so good) and threw in some fresh spinach leaves just before the pasta was done cooking. Helpful tip: Frying sage leaves in brown butter can make your house smell like pot (come on, I went to a small liberal arts college in the ’90s). If you don’t like the smell of pot (I do not), ventilate well.

Fruit Cobbler: On Tuesday I took all the frozen berries and that one remaining sheet of puff pastry and made a cobbler, also adding chunks of fresh mango and some of last summer’s peaches, which I’d managed to peel and slice last summer (and froze in anticipation of making jam at a later time, which I haven’t yet done…). The puff pastry wasn’t great. Maybe I didn’t vent it enough, but it was soggy and thick. And the fruit was really runny. Tasty, but I should have done something different.

Banana Bread: The same day, I defrosted the six whole frozen bananas and made a 9×13 pan of chocolate chip banana bread…just in time for yesterday’s epic seven-boys/two-moms playdate.

Chocolate Chia Pudding: Yesterday morning, I made chocolate chia pudding. I had no nut milks/rice milk on hand, and while I do have very nice cows’ milk in the fridge, I decided to use a can of coconut milk (with the fat skimmed off to save for another use). It seems a bit too chocolately for the texture, frankly. I think this would be good mixed with a good whole-milk yogurt (Greek or not, whatever’s on hand) to balance the flavor and texture.

Vegetarian Chili: Max wanted chili for dinner last night. After our epic seven-child playdate I needed to make something quick. Thus this delicious skillet chili. This nicely used up most of an onion, some carrots and green peppers from the produce drawer, two cans of beans, and a can of tomatoes. Alas, my chili powder and cumin seem to have moved out with my husband, so I found a half-packet of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning and put a little of that in. Ben complained the chili was too spicy but otherwise liked it. I would have used more of that seasoning but it has a really strong note of cayenne and not much else (that is, to get the other flavors you’d have way too much cayenne going on). I had to add water to the chili to make it soupier for my traditionalist children, who like a soupy chili instead of a bowl of beans. With some shredded cheese on top, it was delicious and everyone ate two bowls (yay!!).

Veggie Tempura Nests: I didn’t really make these. I had some from Trader Joe’s (man, I have a lot of TJ’s stuff in my freezer!) and wanted to use them up and thought they’d be a nice counterpoint to the chili. Ben didn’t like them, and Max thought they were just OK, so I ended up eating them all (don’t judge).

So that’s what we’ve been eating. I also, when I can, maybe every other week, make a trip to a local produce market and stock up. Then I roast big pans of eggplant and peppers and summer squash and zucchini and make big salads, and another night I might grill a pile of veggies as I continue to learn to master the charcoal grill (windy days are tricky).

What I’d like, frankly, is a big juicy steak, cooked rare. Alas, I haven’t yet found one in my freezer, fridge, or pantry. Maybe when I get the chest freezer nearly empty and schedule a pickup for a big pile of stuff to donate, I will celebrate with a steak. Let us hope I’ve fully gotten the hang of the charcoal grill by then.

*I don’t know where yet. But it will be sometime this summer, away from the city. And yes, I’d probably be better off focusing on cleaning the basement and getting stuff ready to donate, but hey, we need to eat, right?

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