This story perfectly illustrates how I operate in the kitchen. It starts with leftover egg whites.
The eggs whites were left over from the finger lime cheesecake I made last week. Finger limes are a native Australian bush fruit with a very strong tart citrus-y flavor and hints of earthy muskiness. I was given a bunch of finger limes at the end of summer by VIM2 and his parents, who grow them on their farm. VIM2 has served finger limes in fruit punch and salads, but I thought a mild creamy dessert like cheesecake would go well with their strong flavor. Pretty Boy removed all the fruit from the skins, and I squirreled them away in the freezer until I finally got the chance to make a lemon zest cheesecake topped with finger lime curd last week. The cheese cake was a mix of these two Zoe Bakes recipes; the leftover egg whites coming from the finger lime curd.
We finished the cheesecake quickly (cheesecake is one of Pretty Boy’s favorites), but I was only able to get Pretty Boy to eat half the egg whites for breakfast so we still had some egg whites leftover. We were also at the very end of a grocery cycle, meaning I’d been scrapping meals together from the last of all the ingredients we had in the cabinets until we went shopping again. It also meant we were really low on ingredients, particularly the ingredients I could have used for baking desserts: out of eggs, out of all flours, and out of most cooking oils. I was thinking about making a pavlova, which mercifully doesn’t need flour or oil, but we didn’t have any fruit to put on top of it. Pavlova led me to thinking about meringues, which lead me to thinking about a dessert introduced to us by VIM2’s parents, which they called Jatz pecan pie.
Jatz pecan pie or 4-ingredient pecan meringue pie is a super simple meringue. 3 egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks. 1 cup of sugar is whipped in until glossy. 1 cup of chopped pecans and 22 crushed Jatz crackers are folded in and it’s baked at 180°C for 20-25 minutes. That’s Jatz pecan pie. Sometimes you can get fancy and add vanilla extract. (Jatz crackers are similar to Ritz crackers but with a slightly crispier/crunchier texture as opposed to the biscuit-y/crumbly texture of Ritz. They’re delicious, and we regularly eat a whole box in one sitting.)
Simple, uses egg whites, few ingredients. It sounded like the perfect recipe to make when I was low on ingredients and had egg whites to use up. Except I didn’t have Jatz… or pecans. So this is what I did. I used 5 sheets of crushed graham crackers instead of the Jatz. I used ¾ cup of almond meal instead of chopped pecans. I added vanilla extract because I’m fancy. And because I once made a really interesting dessert called Huguenot torte, I also added our last apple, chopped into tiny cubes. Baked at 180°C for 25 minutes.
The dessert turned out alright. It could have used a little flour like in the Huguenot torte because of the extra moisture that the apple brings, but with the ingredients I had, I couldn’t have done anything else.
This is the meal cycle we’re gotten into: we (mostly I) pick out a few meals/recipes to make. Then, I write a grocery list based on that meal plan and we go shopping. After the planned meals get made, there are always some leftover ingredients and produce. And I start getting creative. I use whatever protein and produce we have on hand and make up a few more meals. A typically dish from this point in the cycle is some kind of vegetable lentil stew with rice or naan. When the vegetables run out, then it’s just dhal and rice or naan. And the cycle repeats.
I’m not sure why I’ve gotten so stuck on stretching the time between grocery store trips as long as possible. Part of it is that I get anxious when there’s too much food in the fridge or pantry. Too much food increases the changes of something going bad or being wasted, and it looks and feels cluttered to me. I am also a really big fan of efficiency. I’ve started calling it the ‘E’ word, as in ‘You [Pretty Boy] know I can’t resist the ‘E’ word!’ If planned right, grocery stopping in one big trip is more efficient in terms of time and money, than many small trips. Mostly though, it’s just one of my ‘things.’ Pretty Boy always offers to run to the store when I get ideas for tasty things to cook but don’t have all the ingredients. And we can walk to the store, buy something, and be home in 10 minutes.
But still, I usually just don’t want to do it and have learned to make do, often to the extreme, sometimes to a fault. This is the pattern we’ve gotten into after over 2 years of feeding ourselves. It works for us, and I still eat the faults!