Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's For Dinner? (Part Two)

"What's for dinner?"

Although I routinely admonish the kids for broaching the question (see What's For Dinner? Part One), it's one that must be answered every day.  And since our household isn't a democracy (more like a dictatorship, I guess), the answer is not Chick-Fil-A.

I can approach it a couple of ways.  One is by flipping through magazines or cookbooks, or turning to Channel 55 -- the beloved Food Network.  In that event, though, I'll end up at the grocery store, spending more than I should.

I could skip the reading and watching and just go straight to the store, but without a plan, I'll likely spend even more recklessly.  Witness exhibits A and B in my pantry:  a) pickled ginger and b) smoked clams.  Honest, they seemed like pantry essentials at the time.

Or, I could just clean out the fridge.

If so, I'll have to think beyond this past Sunday's chicken, because the kids turn up their pert little noses at leftovers.  What I need are some forgotten ingredients -- something that will spark a meal and reduce the chilled chaos in my fridge.

There's an embarrassing amount of stuff in there that I can't bear to toss, but today is Use It Or Lose It Day.  Besides, those ingredients are taking up valuable space I'll need for that post-Lenten wine.  (Twenty-five days to go!)

Inexplicably, I have two jars of hoisin sauce.  One I bought for moo shu pork a few months back, but the second?  Maybe it could be put to use as a glaze for grilled salmon.  I've got sour cream and grated horseradish.  Maybe a light sauce for affordable London Broil?  I've got several handfuls of baby spinach.  Maybe a pasta primaverde?  (I'll tell the kids the spinach is parsley, of course.  Everyone knows that spinach is "disgusting.")

On the bottom shelf, I've also got two different types of barbeque sauce, which, really, is far from excessive, considering I'm a North Carolinian from South Carolina (pork, not beef, thank you).  I've also got four types of hot sauce -- bizarre, considering that I don't have the palate or stomach for heat.

Outside, clouds are moving in and the temperature's dropping.  Soup it is.

I can alter my basic quick vegetable soup by adding a few of these overlooked ingredients.  Add some rolls, and we'll have a meal -- and a much cleaner fridge.  

Clean Out The Fridge Soup

2 cans (14 ounce) chicken broth
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (or 1 teaspoon soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (if you've got it)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
shake or two of hot sauce

One handful of uncooked, fine egg noodles (optional)
1-2 cups broccoli flowerettes, cut into small, bite-size pieces
1/2 cup sliced baby carrots
1-2 cups raw spinach, sliced into fine ribbons
One handful of mushrooms, sliced thinly (optional)
1/2 - 1 cup cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

Combine and heat broth ingredients to boiling.  Reduce heat to medium high and stir in egg noodles, if using.  Cook five minutes.  Stir in broccoli and carrots.  Cook one more minute.  Stir in chicken, mushrooms and spinach and cook until heated through (about one more minute).  Vegetables should now be just barely cooked and still slightly crisp.  Adjust seasonings and serve immediately. 

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