Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stone Soup. And other ways to make something from nothing

I am standing in the juice aisle at Acme, overwhelmed by the amount of choices before me. I scan over all the brightly colored labels for 100% juice. I am not a food snob, but there are certain ideas I have about the things I put in my body. Call me crazy but you only get one self, you might as well take care of it, even if it's difficult sometimes. I continue to browse, finally landing on store brand berry juice, it's cheaper than anything on sale and at least it is not labeled as anything 'cocktail' aka 'full-of-sugar'. Stopping to grab the last few things on the list, which is in my head I toss milk, granola bars, bagels into the cart. I hold my breath as the items go down the conveyor belt, hoping I managed to stay under my self set budget of $50.
"42.69" and I almost jump for joy. I am giddy with excitement as I push the cart out of the store. Was it easy to say no all the wonderful choices in the cookie aisle, definitely NOT. Did I enjoy walking away from the Kraft Mac and Cheese that was ridiculously ON SALE and super cheap? Ok well that I did enjoy because there is something that completely weirds me out about orange cheese power. I had to be very disciplined, but in the end it is worth it.
Welcome to my life as I continue down the road of "Wracked up too much debt in college and now am SERIOUSLY paying for it as I begin to grow up and plan for my future" FYI it's not a trip I would highly recommend but thankfully it's nearing the end of the journey. I am getting tough, sucking it up, pushing through those last few miles (so to speak) and doing what I know needs to get done. Just another aspect of life in which there are no excuses.

Back at home I unpack groceries all over the counter, begin to cook dinner, and at the same time play one of my favorite cooking games. "What can I make with the things in my kitchen" This game usually occurs when the fridge is looking a little empty, and my cabinet shelves are somewhat bare. And also, I HATE throwing away food. I collect a range of ingredients that could possibly go together and I attempt to make them into a meal. I am the queen of saving things in the freezer to make into other things later on. Tonights players include, beef juices leftover from a roast (wonderfully seasoned and smelling divine), one large can of crushed tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion, a chunk of steak leftover from making chili sometime back in the fall, and a can of corn.
To be honest I wasn't sure exactly what was going through my head when I decided that all these things should go together in one dish. Nor did I even have any CLUE what this dish would be. So I get started and open up the container of beef juices. As soon as I do this I have less confidence in this night being a success than before. It's not that it smells bad (because it smells wonderful!) or looks bad, but I am a total loss for how this is going to become a meal! Oh well here goes nothing, I strain the fat and other bits with my fabulous mini strainer that fits right into my medium sized sauce pan.
I think to myself "this is the kind of thing I see other people posting photos of on their blogs! I must take pictures". So I grab my camera and shoot away. But all I have is a picture with a sauce pan with brown liquid in the bottom. Yum! I open up the crushed tomatoes. Confession I cannot remember what crushed tomatoes actually look like, are they more like sauce? are they whole? Oh look at that, they are saucy and wonderful. But now how much should I put in, and I STILL don't know what this is going to be in the end. As I scoop about 1/2 a can of tomato goodness into the sauce pan which is now over a low flame, I get a whiff of their sour scent.
"Great," I am thinking "Tomatoes are not delicious out of the can, I now have a certified disaster on my hands, and how are they going to mix with this beef stuff??" But that doesn't stop me from pushing through. I take out the steak and dice into little pieces, chop up the onion and stir both into my tomato beef concoction.
Have you ever read the book "Georges Marvelous Medicine" By Roald Dahl? That pretty much sums up what is going on in my kitchen right now except these are all edible things.
I have come to the conclusion that what I'm making can be called 'soup'. I'll even get cocky and decide it can be more specifically called 'Tomato Soup'. In goes a clove of crushed garlic, a dash of salt, and a pinch of pepper. A not so foul, and dare I say it, pleasing aroma begins to rise from the bubbling pot. I dip in a hesitant finger for a taste and am alarmed by the result. This stuff is delicious! All the herbs and spices that the beef roast had been cooked in all those many months again proved to be the perfect flavoring and all I had to do was add a little bit of salt and pepper! Although super yummy the pot still looked a little empty so in went 1/2 a can of corn and two potatoes copped up into tiny cubes. As it simmered it filled the kitchen with the wonderful aroma of success!
And then I did the only thing a twenty something city girl who just completely made up her own soup out of nothing would do. I called my mother to tell her all about it.

xx Sara

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