Cooking discovery nights

We’ve reached the moment during the week that I hate the most.

I hate cooking discoveries... really.
I hate cooking discoveries… really.

It’s the cooking discovery moment.

It happens every week, so I should be better prepared for it… maybe even plan for it or something, but I never do and I just assume that each one will be the last one and we won’t fight like this.

Me and my kitchen that is.

I hate my kitchen during cooking discovery moments too.

Right now, it is 6:13 p.m., on Thursday, June 12. It is the first night I’ve had the chance to cook a real home-cooked meal for my family this week… I don’t know that burrito night on Monday counts, since all I did was sauté up some chicken with a packet of seasonings and slice veggies or open cans of stuff. Okay, so it’s a lame home-cooked dinner, but I’ll still take it.

Anyway… every two weeks, I write up a list of what we will eat for the next fourteen days, noting on the schedule any after school/after work activities that might interfere with a normal cooking and eating pattern. For instance, Monday – I had to run to the grocery store and do shopping since we didn’t get a chance to do it this weekend, and then Tuesday, I had to cover the primary election for the Associated Press, and then Wednesday was Working Woman’s Wednesday, which meant margaritas with my BFF and schmoozing.

So Monday was burritos; Tuesday was Hubbie cooking hot dogs and French fries; Wednesday was salmon and noodles.

this or cooking fish... you chose...
this or cooking fish… you chose…

Like I’m going to hurry home to slave in a kitchen to make fish instead of drinking margaritas, right?

But now it’s Thursday. And it’s supposed to be Pepper Steak night.

My steak is defrosting in the microwave and I’m sautéing up some onions and garlic, and my rice is on the boil, and I’m looking for my green pepper, and…of course, there’s no green pepper.

Which is weird because I know I bought a green pepper. In fact, I know I bought two on Saturday when I was making brats, but I only sliced up one because no one ever eats the green pepper and onion stuff I make to go with my brats except me. I know there should be one left.

It’s not like anyone in this house is going to open up the fridge and say to themselves “Hmmmm, you know what I’d really like right now? Some green pepper… with ranch! That’s a good snack!”

Yes, peanut butter and cheezits is a real thing...
Yes, peanut butter and cheezits is a real thing…

No, these are guys who are more likely to say “What can I snack on that does not require an inordinate amount of work to get out and/or put away?… We’ve got fruit loops, but that would require a bowl, finding a spoon and the act of pouring some milk. Jeez, I might as well cook… there’s tortilla chips and salsa, but that would also require a bowl and getting the tortilla chips off the top of the fridge… there’s peanut butter, crackers in a sealed box, cocoa powder, a half-opened box of Cheezits and a microwavable pizza roll snack box … Okay, peanut butter on Cheezits it is!”

SO…I’m half way through making pepper steak, and I discover we have no green pepper. This is cooking discovery time. I’ve discovered I have no green pepper and will have to discover what to make in its place.

Invariably, this happens at least once every other week. I go to the store as soon as I get off work, grab a few mad dash items and come home to start supper only to find that I am missing the one key ingredient that makes the dish whole.

And because I’m too lazy, or tired, or busy to run back to the store, I have two choices – make something else, or get someone else to do it for me.

Hubbie was exhausted from being in the heat all day so there’s no way I’m making him get up. For a few moments, I actually consider giving my 14-year-old son the keys to my Jeep. Then I remember what it was like when we were practice driving, and realized I was too tired to have my face all over the evening news if he drives through a gas station pump or the new sliding doors of the grocery store.

And just as inevitably, while I’m standing here pondering what the heck to do, someone asks – “What are we having for dinner?” To which, the response is, as always, “I have no idea.”

While I stir the rice and pour myself a glass of wine to calm my nerves, I look through the kitchen cabinet… canned carrots, canned chili, canned pineapple, canned mushrooms, some canned clams, a half-empty package of Arborio rice and four different kinds of cereal, none of them with marshmallows in them.

Not only was dinner going to be difficult, but also the lack of marshmallow cereal meant no dessert. Bummer.

Stir fried beef
Stir fried beef

I decided to improvise and make a stir-fried beef with the mushrooms and pineapple, throwing in some oyster sauce and sesame oil from the refrigerator for good measure.

I had just enough time to pop some frozen egg rolls into the oven and finish the rice while the beef was cooking down its sauce. It was going to be a good dinner after all.

It just doesn’t look right. It looks bland. I think that’s why the Chinese put so many vegetables in their stir-fries, to make them look better. Otherwise, it’s just a pile of drab sitting on a pile of white on your table.

When Hubbie comes in to talk to me and grab a beer, I make one last look for a few more veggies to pop into the dish – just to brighten things up – like a carrot or some thing green.

Hubbie goes outside and grabs summer squash from the garden, but just as quickly he forbids me from putting it in the stir fry saying squash doesn’t GO with stir fry…

It’s discovery night, I’m thinking to myself…. Let’s discover if you’re wrong… But no, he’s right. Squash doesn’t sound like it would go all that well with oyster sauce.

Instead, I turn back to the refrigerator. The carrots have seen better days. The radishes don’t look all that edible, and no one wants limp celery in anything.

Then, as I close the vegetable bins and moved aside the tortillas and cheese,something peaks out at me from the bottom refrigerator shelf and I know I could just scream. I’ve just found exactly what I needed to add.

A green pepper.

Stupid cooking discovery moments…


Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2014

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