Learning kitchen creativity

I’ve always been a planner, and cooking is no exception. I plan my meals, I shop to a list, and I dedicate an afternoon to food prep every week. I also tend to stick to recipes, as I’m intimately aware of how much detail, reasoning, and thought go into each one. Needless to say, I’m pretty unfamiliar with throwing a meal together with whatever I find in my fridge.

However, lately my GI issues have resulted in more uneaten food than usual at the end of every week. Coincidentally, the weekly morning I take inventory of our food stock also happens to be the first day of my husband’s work week. So I decided to solve one problem with the other, turning my weekly fridge clean-out into something (hopefully) delicious for my husband’s work dinners. It has challenged me to get creative, because while I can typically come up with an idea, I’m almost always missing an ingredient or two and need to come up with substitutes.

This week, I realized I could make a variation of my Spicy Coconut Mango Chicken with Coconut Cilantro Rice and Fresh Mango Salsa. I had boneless, skinless chicken breasts as opposed to bone-in split breasts, so I decided to grill them on the outdoor grill as opposed to roasting them. I also didn’t have enough time to marinate them properly, so instead, I used the marinade as a sauce generously poured over the top of the cooked chicken. I was missing bell peppers for the fresh salsa, so I substituted a tomato and a jalapeño. Finally, I was out of fresh cilantro, so I had to use dried.

My husband happily reported back that everything tastes fantastic, and his coworkers still eagerly hover and curiously inquire, “What smells so good?” whenever he reheats his dinner. After over a month of these weekly challenges, I’m almost starting to enjoy it. Almost. Just don’t tell anyone. I have strong Type A reputation to uphold!

What personality of cook are you? One who sticks to lists and recipes, or one who prefers to exercise creative license in the kitchen?

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