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Value Guru and the Refrigerator Challenge

When I opened the fridge Sunday morning to a whole lotta "nothing to eat," I felt like that mostly-blank white interior was challenging me, blowing a cool dare right in my face. "Go ahead, try to make a meal from what you see here." I knew I had to go grocery shopping that afternoon, but I didn't want to waste anything that might be lingering. I also wanted to get my dinner plan squared away early. I'd be out all afternoon and knew I wouldn't want to cook much. I began digging. First, the family pack of chicken thighs I meant to put in the slow cooker yesterday morning. Here's a small container of leftover potsticker dipping sauce that will make a marinade. I won't mind quickly grilling the chicken this evening if that's all I have to do. Just stretch the sauce with a little soy sauce and a splash of vinegar and oil. Next, a head of cabbage reminded me that I promised my "famous" cole slaw would be on the menu soon. Good, there's a single remaining carrot and bell pepper deep in the drawer. This is also where I can use the beautiful organic daikon radish that I couldn't resist at the farmer's market yesterday. Support your local organic farmers! A forgotten bunch of scallions obviously survived pretty well in one of those green produce-saver bags and got me to the cutting board. White parts go in the slaw, green parts will come in handy later, I'm sure. Just pop in a container. As I put them into the fridge, I pulled out another container with half a red onion for the slaw, along with the mayo. Not to be deterred by the almost-empty mayo jar-or waste the last clinging smears, I poured some apple cider vinegar right in with it, ground in a lot of black pepper and added a generous double pinch of organic sugar. Shake it up and back in the fridge. I'll add more mayo after I go shopping and dress the slaw while the chicken is grilling. Now, what about these shiitake mushrooms? If I had a plan for them, I've forgotten and they are on their last little crinkly legs. Fortunately, one does not eat the legs of shiitakes, just the caps. Despite all the advice to not clean mushrooms in water, I did it anyway. I have a big metal bowl that I use for cleaning veggies. I throw everything in there with cold water, scrub with my fingers, rinse and swish and pull them out as I work through the cutting and chopping. It really takes a lot of the drag out of having to prep fresh veggies. Makes me buy healthy fresh stuff more often. And, in this case, with shiitakes you can squeeze the water out before you slice them. Then I made a simple cold noodle salad with them-and the chopped scallion tops. You can find a similar recipe here, though I used organic soba noodles (for more protein) and didn't bother with the other veggies called for in the recipe. This will make awesome homemade noodle bowls to pack for lunch tomorrow. Shiitake mushrooms are an investment, but worth it for a satisfying meat-free meal. Glad I didn't let those go to waste. Last but not least, a few red potatoes were beginning to sprout in their typical "look at me, look at me" fashion. Ha! Nothing is spared my puzzle-solving frenzy. I threw them in the veggie-cleaning bowl with fresh cold water and cleaned them as I pared off those brazen sprouts and most of the skin. Cut them in half, tossed in olive oil and black pepper, covered and stashed in the fridge. Later I'll microwave them about 10 minutes then put them on the grill with the chicken. I wait to salt them until after cooking so the salt won't suck out the moisture in the fridge all day. So, that's dinner I don't have to buy or cook tonight and tomorrow's lunch ready already. Take that refrigerator! Does anyone else get such pleasure from conquering the "food waste" challenge? What do you do when your refrigerator taunts you?