The Adventures of Kitchen MacGyver (#1)

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As I’ve said before, everyone not only needs to eat but we fucking LOVE to eat. It’s one of our biggest expenses. But the fact is, most of our food bill isn’t from shopping.

There’s no shame in it if you’re one of these people. We’ve all been that person. Work is tiring. You just don’t WANT to cook. Nothing you already have sounds good. You’re so damn hungry that if you don’t eat RIGHT NOW, you’re going to go postal. I get it.

I was a person who ate out chronically, but after reviewing my finances one summer, I decided to dial it back. WAY back. In my efforts, I decided to go through the pantry and use whatever I could. It unlocked a lot of cooking creativity and – here’s the best part – I paid off my car that year!

My roommates admired my resourcefulness in turning just about anything into a meal giving me the title ‘Kitchen MacGyver’, thus the name of this entry.

Intrigued? Of course you are! We got bills, baby, and one less bill means more money in your pocket to do other things with.  Here are some tips on how you too can earn the title of Kitchen MacGyver.

Work With What You Got

I bought a jar of guava paste at one point. I really don’t remember why, but considering that it’s been sitting in my fridge for the better half of last year, it’s time for it to go. Do I have to worry about it going bad? Not for a long time. But getting rid of it frees up a bit of space and self-judgment for every time I open the fridge and ask myself, “Why the hell do I still have this?”

So I looked up a recipe for guava and chicken. For funsies. Turns out it’s a thing. Who knew? I had chicken, I had my guava but I only had HALF of the amount of guava I needed.

Uh oh.

Instead of buying yet another jar and putting myself back in the same predicament, I had a jar of Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic and Onion Jam. Enough to make up for what I was missing. Which brings me to my next point…

Substitute Like For Like

Guava has a deeper fruit flavor and this jam did as well. I needed something sweet and deep so it’s enough of a substitute. Any recipe that has something sweet in it, you can easily add something else sweet in its place. If you’re short on sugar add a little honey or syrup or even a sweet jam depending on what you’re making.

In this recipe, let’s say I didn’t have the lemon juice. I could add another acid in its place. Vinegar works. Maybe some OJ, but then cut back on your other sugars as to not overwhelm your dish.

Also, I used lemon juice from a bottle. Will it affect the flavor? Probably a little, but not enough to be a deal breaker. Did I mention to work with what you got?

Stay Curious, Be Adventurous!

To become a Kitchen MacGyver, the goal is to go to the store as LITTLE as possible. It’s fine if you need to get one or two key ingredients that are crucial to your recipe, but substitute where you can as often as possible.

If you have a lot of food on hand but have no clue where to start, don’t worry! We live in the age of the internet! You can literally plug what you have on hand into a search engine and make something tasty.

Would I have considered combining guava and chicken? Nope. But let me tell you, this dish was amazing paired with a curry rice! You never know what your search results will bring you, but by using this search method, I’ve come across recipes that have made it into my arsenal of favorites.

The point is, you ultimately know what you like. Most of the food you have on hand, you bought because it was something that sounded good in the first place. Why not put it to good use? You get to gloat about the delicious meal you made, eat something tasty and maybe even pay off that thing you’ve been sitting on for a while with all the money you save.

And really, that in and of itself is truly delicious.

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