Freezer-Cleaning Creativity

by Sarah on September 26, 2011 · 8 comments

Maybe it was my own self-importance at work last night…but let’s just say, sometimes I astound even myself with what I can make from frozen vegetables, a can of tomatoes, and leftovers from the fridge.It all started after returning from The Lion King (in 3D!) on Saturday night. My stomach was rumbling for some dinner. [Clearly the cucumbers, carrots, and curried sunflower seeds I had smuggled in were burnt off by my subtle singing and dancing along to every song in the film.] I told Mr. “I cook my vegetables in 1/4 cup of rendered duck fat” to let me be, and I would scrounge up something to eat. Returning to the kitchen not even 10 minutes later, his jaw dropped in astonishment to see that I had turned a can of tomato sauce and some choice seasonings from the pantry into a rather comforting tomato soup. I’d even scrounged up some bread to go with it. Seems that being trained as a sushi chef might make you really good at chopping onions…but all the knife skills in the world are no match for a bit of creative resourcefulness. [And the knowledge that canned tomato soup is really just watered down tomato sauce...up-charged $1.55.]So when my roommates and I took on the rather overwhelming task of cleaning out the fridge and freezer yesterday morning, I had thoughts of reinvention on my mind, and a whole lot of frozen vegetables taking up space on my shelves.*
*Yes. They each have one shelf and I have multiple. That’s just how it it to live with me.Perhaps it was the fact that my spontaneous tomato soup was so good, or perhaps it was just the fact that big bowls of tomato sauce mixed with frozen vegetables make me happy, but I decided to NOT go to the grocery store and purchase anything when I could tackle that pile o’ veggies instead.I combined a mix of frozen stir fry vegetable remnants (mostly just French-cut green beans), some frozen bell pepper strips, and some of a broccoli/carrot/water chesnut blend into my soup pot. I’d discovered some frozen pulled pork* in the freezer as well, and my mind was on making either some sort of Chinese pork dish or Mexican-inspired pork stew. [Water chesnuts could be Mexican...right?]
*Left over from a Groupon-induced purchase that I couldn’t finish at the timeBut after I stirred in the pork and got everything heating, I perused my spice cabinet and was drawn to the smoked paprika.
From there it was a quick synapse skip over to the mesquite BBQ seasoning.
A bit of tomato paste left in the fridge and one can of the ever-present-in-my-pantry Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes later……plus as much water as I wanted to get to the consistency I desired, and, well, a BBQ stew was born!
Not just any BBQ stew, though…Carolina BBQ Stew.With a dash of balsamic vinegar to give it the sweet tang of North Carolina style pulled whole-hog AND a squirt of mustard* for a little South Carolina style…
*And fine. So this particular mustard might evoke the Midwest. Whatever.…it’s like BBQ in soup form. [With a whole lot of random veggies thrown in for good measure. :) ]

Substitute whatever veggies you have on hand for this…it’s the flavor that’s important. Who’s to say you could have frozen corn or okra in the mix? [In fact, I'm going to say it might even be BETTER if you did.]Cornbread would be divine with this…unless all you have is a multigrain English muffin also culled from the freezer.

Doesn’t really matter to me……bread always gets in the way of BBQ anyway.

“Freezer-Cleaning”
Carolina BBQ Stew
[Makes approximately 8 cups]

2 cups frozen bell pepper strips
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (stir fry, okra, broccoli, beans, carrots, etc.)
9 oz. prepared pulled pork
1 1/2 Tbsp. (or so) mesquite bbq seasoning
2 tsp. (or so ) smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. (or so) onion powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 15-oz. can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) tomato paste
4-5 cups water
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. mustard

1. Put frozen vegetables in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.
2. Once the vegetables start to defrost, stir to break up and heat through.
3. Add pork, continuing to stir.
4. Add seasonings, stirring well to coat pork and veggies.
5. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, vinegar, and mustard to the pot.
6. Bring to a boil, adjusting seasonings as necessary.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tricia @ Saving room for dessert September 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

It's like Brunswick stew! I want to hear more about this "Mr." person you referred to :)

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Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers September 26, 2011 at 11:06 am

I have really been wanting to see the Lion King lately now that they keep advertising that blue ray edition that's in stores.

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Faux Alton Brown September 26, 2011 at 11:38 am

I still claim that it was an 1/8 of a cup!

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Liz @ Southern Charm September 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Love that you used what you had! This looks so good and hearty!

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Maria September 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

If I was your roommate there would be no such thing as leftover pulled pork. And if you were my roommate I'd never have to throw away old vegetables.

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Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean September 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm

i love cleaning out the freezer. you get some of the best meals that way!

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teabagginit September 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm

if you opened my freezer you'd see the inner-workings of a crazy person: tons of individual baggies filled with frozen poached chicken, small tuperware containers of cooked egg whites, small baggies of almonds.
yup, so anal.
ps – nooks & crannies beat out cornbread anyday!

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spinachandskittles.com September 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm

lol, I swear I didn't read this before I wrote today's post, but it is eerily similar and includes you. Queue the creepy music.

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