New season, new challenge

I fancy myself something of a cook. I didn’t start out this way. Many moons ago, a lot of Hamburger Helper hit the table.
But I like to eat good food, and without a budget that could suffer eating out a lot, that meant I had to learn to MAKE good food. Or at least, as my husband requested, stop hurting the food.
To a large extent, I’ve succeeded. I try new recipes often. Heck, I even bring brand new recipes to gatherings unafraid.
The misses often get retries. Egg rolls were a failure, but I won’t attempt to make the skins myself next time. I also had a request for chicken Cordon Bleu recently, and I’ve recovered enough from the initial attempt that used virtually every pan in the kitchen to say sure, what the heck.
Now, though, it is summer. We reveled in a false start, suffered through a chilly relapse, and now truly believe summer is here. The window screens are sitting out in my living room as I type, waiting to be sprayed off and installed.
Summer is a challenge because it means grilling. Lots of grilling. I think the first week it was warm enough, my husband grilled four times.
Thing is, the rest of the year we get sick of slab of meat plus a side or two. The grill threatens to send us right back there.
I’m not sure yet what to do. In the meantime, we have smoked pork chops waiting, and I want red bell peppers grilled whether they really go with or not. I miss that sweetness.
What is the grill equivalent of an amazing casserole? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Preposterous pantry project

A selection of homeless ingredients.
A selection of homeless ingredients.
A selection of homeless ingredients.

Time to clean out the pantry. By which I mean the pantry, baking shelf and refrigerator.

Some of these items are easy. Leftover beef and chicken taco fillings? They’ll be tacos. Leftover spaghetti sauce? Toss it with the remainder of the bag of kluski noodles.

The tomatoes? Yurgh. Still avoiding dealing with the mound of tomatoes. Don’t feel like peeling and canning today, not to mention all the cherry tomatoes.

Part of the challenge is the dry goods. I have navy beans, northern beans, pinto beans, and small amounts of barley and lentils. It seems like I should be able to snag some cheap meat from the market and throw something in the slow cooker with some veggies.

Then there are a gazillion dessert ingredients. Sure there are the instant mixes: raspberry JELL-O, coconut cream pudding, pistachio pudding. But with just a little creativity I could do something more, like parfait layer with a tapioca mixture … or is that not enough contrast? Do raspberry and coconut go together? Maybe not.

And there are the sweet odds and ends: graham cracker crumbs, pineapple, dates, crystallized ginger, coconut and a handful of white chips.

Time to flex some ingenuity, with a healthy dose of willingness to fail and a little help from bigoven.com’s “use up leftovers” function.