Lisa's universal skillet recipe:Around one pound of meat and/or beans - Because I'm trying to cut down our meat consumption, I will usually use half a pound of ground beef, along with a cup or two of beans (black, cannellini, and pinto beans are favorites) Vegetables - If I have onions (which I usually have since they're cheap and store well), I use them in all my skillet creations. Diced tomatoes (or a can of salsa), celery, frozen corn, garlic, sliced cabbage, bell peppers, green chiles, and greens have all had their turn. Denser items like carrots and potatoes may need to be chopped into small pieces and precooked or added at the beginning. Pasta/Grains - While I haven't branched out too much beyond macaroni and brown rice, I see no reason why quinoa, couscous, or other grains wouldn't work. Another original recipe called for Minute Rice, which cooked right in the pan. Dried macaroni also can cook in the pan if enough liquid (water or tomato juice) is present. However, if I am using something that takes longer to cook (like brown rice), I cook the rice separately (creating another dish to wash) and add it in at the end. Extras - Depending on the flavor I'm going for (and what I want to use up), I may add some sliced olives, green chiles, or cheese -- but it's usually cheese. Herbs/Spices - Chili powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper are just to get you started; but the sky's the limit when it comes to spices, as long as they're complementary (which is not to be confused with complimentary: My, paprika, you're looking good today.) A flexipe example Here's how a recent meal went down. I had about half a pound of a ground-beef-and-black-bean mixture left over from another meal. To that, I added some brown rice, chopped up a very ripe tomato, added another can of diced tomatoes and green chilis, some Mexican blend cheese, salt, pepper, chili powder, and a couple of diced bacon strips (because bacon makes everything better). I served this with corn tortillas and it didn't taste at all like leftovers. Sophisticated? No. But it was good, gave us some fiber, protein, and veggies for a quick and easy meal.
Other dishes that make excellent flexipes are soups. Vegetables can easily be swapped in soups, along with the liquid base and different types of proteins.Egg dishes like quiches and frittatas can easily be manipulated, depending on what you have on hand. Use a basic quiche recipe and then create a spinach and artichoke version. Have tomatoes to use up? How about a tomato and basil quiche? Stratas use bread, eggs, milk, cheese and, sometimes, vegetables to make a delicious meal. Meeting flexipe challenges One of the challenges with flexipe cooking is finding flavors that do complement each other. Since I discovered Leanne Brown's Eat Well on $4/day cookbook through one of April's recent articles, I have been (literally) devouring it. Her recipes lend themselves to flexible cooking, and she also gives tips on adapting the recipes. When you're just starting out, you can also look for inspiration in the restaurants and recipes around you. This is a very simple example, but I see mushroom and swiss burgers everywhere. So this morning, when I sauteed some mushrooms and added some scrambled eggs, swiss cheese was thrown in, too. Simple and delicious. And that's the thing. These meals probably won't bring gushes of admiration from your dinner table diners, but if simple and delicious peasant fare (check out the comments on this excellent article) is what you're going for, this will probably be enough. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a refrigerator to raid… My ideas are undoubtedly influenced by my farming/Midwestern background, so I am interested to see how this is received in other areas. Can you create meals from your pantry, fridge, and freezer that don't follow a recipe? What are some of your favorite flexipes?