Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Playing Cupboards

The husband and I have a little kitchen tradition we call "playing cupboards."  This is when we avoid a trip to the grocery as long as possible, using what we have on hand to make creative dinners and clean up our fridge and pantry.  In this game, you can score extra "cupboards points" by using strange ingredients that have been around a long time (I'm talking to you, dusty can of Trader Joe's bamboo shoots), and we've created some real classics over the years.
Getting creative with food prep + "toddler management".
We're having a total cupboards week this week.  We hosted family at our home last week, and stocked the fridge during their visit.  My mother-in-law and I went on a Supermarket Sweep-style shopping trip to Whole Foods with the little guy, and came away with some really phenomenal picks.  I love when someone else shops your regular grocery with fresh eyes!  She picked a new brand of amazing organic coffee which I love, and all kinds of great finds from WF's epic antipasti bar.  Fun!

When everyone departed on Sunday, we had not quite a proper week's worth of groceries on hand, but also all kinds of great ingredients with which to play some fierce rounds of cupboards.  And since we're headed out of town this weekend starting on Friday, we thought this was the perfect week to try and make it through without a run to the grocery store.  I picked up milk and bananas yesterday, and other than that, it's cupboards city.

Monday night, we were truly exhausted from a late night and long day, so I quickly boiled a pot of capellini, threw in some random broccoli florets to cook with the pasta, and chopped what remained of our antipasti feast: roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes and marinated giant white beans.  I tossed this with the drained pasta and broccoli, a hearty glug of olive oil, and some salt and fresh ground pepper.  We had a gorgeous, fresh, healthy, colorful dish on the table in minutes.  We ate too quickly and exhaustedly for photos, but trust me when I say it was beautiful and very spring-y. Cupboards points for moi!
On Tuesday, I was eyeing a leftover side dish of roasted sweet potatoes and sweet onions, some frozen cooked heirloom kidney beans my mom had brought us, and some tomatoes and scallions that were rounding the bend.  Burrito night!  I chopped all the tomatoes and scallions with three cloves of garlic, and sauteed them until they were melting.  Then I stirred in the sweet potato mix and beans, turned the heat to low, and added Mexican seasonings (cumin, cayenne, oregano).  The whole mix cooked down into a savory-sweet burrito filling, using languishing tortillas and the end of a block of cheddar and jar of salsa for toppings (bonus!).
Tonight?  I'm looking at a block of tofu, the end of the broccoli and some peanut butter and thinking I can make something delicious happen.  I love the way playing cupboards calls upon your ingenuity, and saves you a bit of time and cash in the process.  Win-win-win!  I'm sure everyone does some version of this with what is on hand in their kitchen... 
What is your favorite cupboards creation?
Could my creativity be bouncing back? Stay tuned...


  1. I have been playing a similar form of "how long can i avoid the grocery store?" Last night it turned into a pretty epic fried rice stir fry with leftover white rice (from delivery chinese over the weekend), tofu, and some frozen mixed veggies. Score!

  2. My new fave peanut sauce recipe:

    From my cupboard to yours!

  3. LOVE this... we usually just try to clear things out from sheer laziness/lack of desire to spend any more time in the grocery store than it takes to buy say... milk and bananas? We're getting ready to head out on spring break vaca with the girls on the 17th, dinner out already planned for the 16th... so wondering if husband Herb and I might competed in an epic 10-day first round of "cupboards"?? I think it is ON! Thanks for the inspiration SMJ! xoxo

  4. Nick & I need to play a round of cupboards in the near future, our grocery bills have been atrocious lately! Hope you enjoy your weekend away! :-)

  5. SMJ! Just wanted you to know that last night I tried to recreate your tofu, broccoli, & noodles with peanut sauce that you made for me and Andrea when I visited! Success! I name dropped you a few times haha! Hey to the fam for me! ~Katie Miller