Today I’m going to share the whole process of creating two new recipes based on what I have on hand. I love this process-oriented way of cooking. It’s creative, drawing me into a deep revelry of absorbed attention. It’s exciting, because I don’t know how it will turn out. And perhaps best of all, it trains me to enjoy learning from my mistakes. I’ll take the results of such a project and make notes on the outcome, which I’ll use to perfect a given dish.

These are the ingredients I first pulled off my kitchen shelves. Much of it came in our winter share from our friends Jan and Rob at Goranson’s Farm:

LENTIL LEEK STEW

dcp_3887.jpg

  • Red lentils
  • Pumpkin
  • Leeks
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • organic vegetable broth
  • cumin
  • cinnamon stick
  • gray sea salt
  • cinnamon

After I pulled everything out and looked at it, I decided on a few changes. I wanted more green, because after all, green food is loaded with good vitamins. I ended up with this, instead:

dcp_3891.jpg

  • Green Lentils
  • Leeks
  • Pumpkin
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • organic vegetable broth

I was ready to chop. I used:

  • 1 Cup Green Lentils
  • 1 Cup chopped pumpkin
  • 1 Cup chopped leeks
  • 2 Cups chopped kale
  • 4-5 (I lost count) peeled potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper (I’d have used more but for my low-spice spouse), chopped
  • 10 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 Cups Vegetable broth (actually 3 3/4 plus 1/4 water)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp course sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick

I forgot the cinnamon. I probably would have added 1 tsp had I remembered.

This is what it looked like with everything chopped in the crock pot before adding the liquid and the spices.

dcp_3895.jpg

So Pretty!

I cooked it in the Crock Pot, on low for about 8 hours. When it was done,

dcp_3909.jpg
it looked like this.

Then I tasted it, and it was good, but not great. It needs something:

Phase Three of Cooking Creatively with Whatever You Have on Hand: Make it better before you serve it. I didn’t have time to make it better just then, so I’m adding this addendum one week later: We were having company, over the weekend so I froze the whole stew. I defrosted it, added

  • 4 and 1/2 cups of vegetable broth,
  • one pound of Maine shrimp,
  • 1 pound of (canned, deshelled) crab meat
  • and 1 tsp cumin.

Delicious! Perfect! A recipe you can enjoy. If you eat meat, a sausage would probably have been nice, too, or some pulled chicken.

PUMPKIN EGG CUSTARD

Since I only used a cup of the chopped pumpkin in the stew I had 6 cups of chopped pumpkin left! What to do. I considered freezing it, but we’re a little short of freezer space. We were heading to the Moms for dinner tonight (my mother moved in with my mother-in-law when her condo burned down in August this year. Our weekly dinners together have become an evening we all look forward to), and since Liz had offered to make the dinner, I figured I’d turn this 6 cups of chopped pumpkin into dessert…

  • 6 Cups fresh, peeled and chopped pumpkin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups of plain soy milk (could use your milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

I put the whole think in a casserole dish, and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

dcp_3896.jpg
This is what it looked like before it went in the oven. It baked for an hour but I neglected to put any binder in it, as you may have noticed, so it came out with a lot of soupy milk. I reached for a quick fix–I added

  • 4 beaten eggs

and put it back in the oven. It came out with a curdly-egg look, but it was delicious.

dcp_3899.jpg
My mother-in-law had some great suggestions: If I had mashed the pumpkin after an hour of cooking, I could have added some of the pumpkin, slowly, to the beaten eggs so that the eggs didn’t curdle, and then added the eggs to the larger dish of mashed pumpkin before putting it back into the oven for 30 more minutes. It would have been better looking.