“Freezer Games”

I’ve been given a challenge, a culinary challenge actually.  And I plan on tackling it with the tenacity and focus of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss in “The Hunger Games.”  

In an effort to curb the grocery bill, my husband (responsibly) asked that I try to shop a little smarter.  You see, leftovers aren’t my only game.  I have a weakness for cookbooks, and each week I try to make a couple of new recipes outside of my normal comfort zone.  But that often means buying up ingredients I don’t usually keep in my kitchen.  And that adds quite a bit to my final tally at the check-out line.  So, I’m going to hunker down and take a good hard look at the collection in my fridge, see what’s buried in the back of my freezer, and examine the odds and ends in my pantry.

There are still plenty of proteins in the house, thanks to a couple of BOGO deals at the grocery store and the remnants of my parents’ freezer (See previous post “Snowbird Special”).  I’ve got several chicken breasts, plus thighs and tenderloins, a couple of pork chops, a can of black beans, and Slovenian sausage.  So that’s a great start.

Other things in the freezer that will come in handy in my “frugal gourmet” campaign: home made pesto, pasta sauce and meatballs that I make ahead and freeze, frozen peas and snap peas, almonds, lots of frozen berries, pasta,  and cauliflower puree (which I sneak into recipes to boost the veggie-value of things like mac n cheese)

A collection of things catch my eye in the fridge…some savory chutney I have leftover from a pork tenderloin recipe I made, whole grain mustard, salsa verde, a pair of sweet white wines that were gifted to me (and I’ll never drink) caperberries, cocktail onions, and whole jar of jalapeno slices.

In the pantry there are plenty of things I should make use of, if not for the sake of my mission, then for the sake of making space in there.

bread crumbs

Before I even begin to tackle a dish, I remove the two bags of hot dog buns from freezer and make a batch of home made bread crumbs.  (See previous post “Quick Flips”)  I know those will come in handy, likely on Super Bowl Sunday…something will surely need to be breaded and fried on that junk food holiday.

Plum vida

Among the seemingly disjointed things I found, was a box of Plum Vida pouches.  They’re organic fruit/veggies blends.  I bought them thinking my girls would suck them down as quickly as they do the apple sauce “squeezies” they go through like water.  They did not.  But I took a look at the label and saw they contained cherries, berries, beets and ginger (Bonus: 3g of fiber, 1/2 c. fruits and veggies, and only 80 calories in each pouch)  Seemed like the perfect sweet/savory base for a sauce that would pair perfectly with the pork that I was defrosting.

shallots

So I started experimenting.  I chopped up some shallots (about a tablespoon), and added them to a saute pan with some hot olive oil.  Once those softened, I poured in about a half a cup of chicken stock, and a heaping tablespoon of apple balsamic vinegar.  (I’ve been wondering where and when I’d use that gift! Apple is another fruity flavor that goes great with pork)

apple balsamic vinegar

I let that reduce for a few minutes then emptied the contents of one 5 oz. Plum Vida pouch.  I left that at medium heat and let that bubble up, thicken, and reduce for a few minutes.  Then I tasted my concoction.  Wow.  I’d eat that!

Plum sauce

Last step was incorporating the pork.  Easy.  I just seasoned the pork chops with salt and pepper and seared them in a hot pan with oil.  Once those were browned on both sides, I added them to the pan with the sauce (an emptied the bits in the pan) and let them hang out together for a while.  Just a few minutes, covered, and they were ready to go.

Now, what to do with the rest of my inventory...Guess you’ll have to stay tuned.  And please, take a second look at what I’ve listed above and tell me what strikes you.  Based on what I have in the house, what direction should I go next? (instead of back to the grocery store!)

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