EDF: From Anxiety to Creativity

Jill Nussinow is a northern California-based cookbook author, cooking teacher and recipe developer who teaches people about the joys of buying and eating fresh farmer’s market and homegrown produce. She is the author of "The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment" cookbook and the DVD, "Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes." Her companion Web sites are Pressure Cooking Online and The Veggie Queen, which includes a lively blog.

(Jill Nussinow)

I head into this week with unusual trepidation and anxiety. My stock-in-trade is food, and making sure there's plenty of it. How will I manage without shopping?

It’s one of my major activities: I run into “real” people versus my "virtual" buddies. My twice weekly jaunts to the farmer’s market and occasional stops to the natural food store fulfill my “face time”. Will I survive?

I discover that there’s more to this challenge than I thought, and most of it is psychological. The what-ifs take hold but my mood changes as I head to the fridge. Cleaning out the vegetable drawer to put in the new crop of farmer’s market vegetables (yes, I did shop in anticipation), produced enough detritus (OK, veggie scraps) to add to my stock bag. I cooked my weekly half-gallon of my 5-minute pressure-cooked stock.

The more usable vegetable odds-and-ends produced an uninspired but perfectly edible lentil vegetable soup with onions, leeks, green garlic stalks and scapes, garlic, carrots, potato, sugar snap peas and sunburst squash. I added herb seasoning the first day and then Mexican spice the second go round. One of my best tips: make it simple to start.
When I asked about the soup, my husband gave me a flat-line grunt and then added, “It’s OK.” No "wow" there. I am discovering, though, that the creative challenge fuels me. Fears, what fears?

As the week progresses, my chef, foodie and recipe development chops kick in. I rummage in the freezer and discover that it’s possible to have far too many resealable bags of frozen berries with far too little in them to be usable, until they're combined with last year’s cherries and peaches to make a fabulous crisp.

I learn that my advice to students to label frozen items with the date and name of dish works. With labels, you can distinguish the applesauce from the curried sweet potato soup and know when a bag was shoved to the back of the freezer. Did I roast those peppers last year or the year before? Note to self: Do as I say…

This challenge is my husband’s dream come true: he’ll finally know what lurks in the freezer. Hubby considers a full freezer excessive. One night while I was teaching childcare providers about fresh food, my husband rooted around and ended up eating green beans, peas, a twice-stuffed baked potato and pizza rolls for dinner.

Arriving later that night, I gussied up one of my pantry fall backs: Thai Kitchen rice noodle soup in a package. It cooks in less than 5 minutes and when I added tromboncino squash, onion, tofu, lots of cilantro and hot sauce, it was delicious.

The toughest part of the week was figuring out how to make salad greens last. My husband likes the same green salad nightly while I willingly turn to other vegetables (they don’t call me The Veggie Queen™ for nothing) such as cucumbers, summer squash, bok choy (from my neighbor’s beautiful raised beds) or my homegrown sprouts. (Thanks Katie for the sprout suggestion.) I ate fewer greens so my husband got his fill.

I’ve heard that a well-stocked freezer uses less energy and performs better, and that sounds great to me. My freezer is my insurance policy or security blanket. When my husband says, “Do you think that we can keep doing this for awhile?” I look at him and smile, and think, “Not on your life.”

Lessons learned:
* A well stocked pantry can do wonders (but I already knew that).
* Being vegetarian may be an advantage since I eat many dried legumes.
* Soups and grains easily accommodate miscellaneous items, and reuse forces creativity.
* With my neighbor’s garden as back up, I may actually be able to do EDF for weeks on end with my new awareness.
* Taking inventory is important, as assessment is the first step to making changes. I am ready to let go of shopping so often.

My most successful meal was freezer tidbits combined with fresh vegetables fondly called Match Crab with Spicy Green Vegetables (see recipe below).

My husband really liked this and said that the Match crab (a soy-based vegan product) is good enough that meat eaters would like it. If you don’t happen to have Match crab on hand, you can use tofu or pieces of cooked chicken or shrimp. I made this in the pressure cooker but it's easily cooked in a sauté pan. It will take longer to cook and likely need more broth.

2 teaspoons sunflower or Canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1-2 stalks green garlic, chopped or 2 cloves garlic, minced
4- 6 ounces Match vegan crab, tofu or chicken
¼ cup vegetable broth
1-2 cups frozen thin green beans
½ cup frozen peas
1 small zucchini or other summer squash, chopped
2-3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro

Add oil to the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a minute. Add the garlic and Match crab, and sauté for another minute. Add the broth, green beans, peas and squash. Lock on the pressure cooker lid and cook for 1 minute at high pressure. Quickly release the pressure.

Stir in the teriyaki and hot sauce. Garnish with cilantro. Serve over brown or other colored rice.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 26, 2009; 1:00 PM ET Eating Down the Fridge
Previous: EDF Realization: Size Doesn’t Matter | Next: Meatless Monday: Moo Shu, Hold the Oink


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Great guest blogs this week. We fell slightly short--for unrelated reasons, Mrs. Blade was at the same shopping center as one of our favorite supermarkets on Friday afternoon. It seemed silly to postpone shopping for one day, just to drive somewhere and do it again on Saturday.

We enjoyed this week's challenge enough to do it again this coming week as a Monday-Friday EDF. My plan is to take out a few things that have been sitting around and clear out a little space.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 28, 2009 8:55 PM

Hi Ms. O'Donnell,
I recently became a follower of your blog, after joining as an intern Meatless Monday, and have been intrigued by your blog because I am also working to develop the blog of the nonprofit organization that I founded a few years back, Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Foundation. Myself and a group of dedicated students at New York University are designing projects, organizing forums, and working with schools, to promote health and environmental awareness. The blog is our latest effort to develop an online community: http://www.healfoundation.net/heal-yourself--blog.html
Would love your thoughts!
Best, Ashwini

Posted by: ashmohan27 | June 29, 2009 12:03 AM

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