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Creative cooking: Cook with what you have

There for a long time I was one of those people that would go to the grocery store three or four times a week.

I’d buy a weeks worth of groceries and then end up going to the store two or three more times for things I’d forgot or things I wanted instead. One week of groceries would turn into two because I’d change my mind and change my menu.

First of all, that is costly. Second, it’s timely.wpid-20130909_183839.jpg

Nowadays I try to limit my grocery shopping by making a list of ingredients I need for X amount of meals. That way I eliminate the, “Awe crap, I don’t have…” Still, with being pregnant and working, there are days when I come home and realize I didn’t set anything out for dinner or I don’t want what I’d originally planned. One thing I’ve started trying to do is be creative with what I have instead of rushing back to the store.

Honestly, with as big of a pantry as I have and two refrigerators I have enough groceries to last us for at least two weeks — if necessary.  There will be small things I’d run out of, but I’ve got 5 or more boxes of macaroni, spaghetti noodles, and a lot more stuff to make a decent meal. The thing is, these meals that I have hidden away in my cabinets would require a little thinking and a little effort.

The other day I had one of those moments when I came in and there was chicken in the fridge that had to be cooked, but I had no clue what to do with it. I could have opted for the classic baked chicken with sides, but I decided to be a little more creative than that. What I ended up with was rice with baked lemon/pepper chicken on top and green beans. It was actually really good.

Instead of baking it like a casserole like I normally do,  I decided to bake the chicken and cook the rice separately. When I bake them as a casserole it never ceases to fail that I will end up with over cooked/undercooked rice or chicken because they don’t cook at the same rate. Cooking separately just made it look and taste a little bit better.

With the rice I added some chicken broth to make it a little creamier and added a little bit of the seasoning from the chicken. Like I said, this was a very tasty and thrown together meal.

In the future though I have a few ideas about what I might want to do. I will probably add peas to the rice to give it some flavor and possibly use a small amount of cream of chicken (home made of course) to the rice to make it a little thicker. If I don’t add it to the rice I will probably put the chicken in the cream of chicken and then add the seasoning. That way the chicken doesn’t have a chance to dry out.

Rice is pretty much a staple in our house so this meal will be a good fallback in the future.

Just to recap: The ingredients I used were pretty simple — chicken, rice, seasoning, and a vegetable. Of course it could be expanded upon like I mentioned above and different seasonings could definitely be used. An idea that just seriously popped into my head is making a kind of red beans and rice…and then adding chicken. Maybe that’s my pregnancy brain talking though.

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