So here's one experiment that went pretty gorram well, dare I say:
I'm lifting the spoon so it's visible, but that's a soup I made on the fly for dinner. I needed to use up some tomato paste and chicken stock (protip: use a whisp in a bowl to mix this base broth together so the paste is all un-paste-like before you start adding other ingredients, otherwise you'll make a hugeass mess, not that I have experience with this, ahem), and had loved the turkey sausage I'd had for lunch earlier today enough that I thought I'd try and throw some stuff in the saucepan and see what happened. My only complaint was it was a bit too pepper-ee. That's usually my only problem, I frequently add too much gorram pepper. It's hard to tell how much I've added, though, because we have a fancy pepper grinder, and it makes the pepper come out in a combination of dusty powder and CHUNKS of pepper corn.
But for me, cooking on the fly is a question of keeping a stock of certain things on-hand and changing up what I add in a given moment. So in this case, I added some worsheschtestershireblahblah* sauce and mustard to give it a little bit of kick- that and the excess pepper made it quite kicky indeed.
But my usual things I have to cook with are:
-Frozen veggies: I'm sorry, kids, but this is cheaper and easier than having fresh stuff around. Especially when you never know when you'll either get invited to be social or feel too damn lazy to chop a bunch of shit up to eat- this way, you don't run the risk of it going bad. I try to change up the types, but I usually go for California or Italian Style, plus peas and lima beans. And broccoli on its own. Love broccoli in foods- it soaks up sauces like NOM. Just run them under some water in a strainer for a few minutes before cooking, and PRESTO, we can pretend to be healthy!
-Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: I buy them in packs and, before putting them in the freezer, wrap them individually in plastic wrap. I usually cut off excess fat before freezing, too, since I buy cheap store brands that tend to waste a lot of cents per ounce on fat- blegh, slimy, nasty, ew. Chicken can go in anything- which, alas, just isn't true about beef. I mean, how many pasta dishes (other than Hamburger Helper) (which, God... help... me, I love) have beef in them? Not many. And nothing I've ever thought to make, anyway. When you go to Italian restaurants, you have the option of adding chicken or shrimp (+$2.99), but have you ever seen beef? No, I didn't think so.
-Beef tenderloin: But yes, I have been keeping beef "for the grill" on-hand lately. That pretty much always ends up being used when I'm in a stir fry kinda mood. Because, as I said above, beef isn't as easy to do random stuff with. I've usually planned for at least a random stir fry night (although I do on rare occasion make fajitas, but that, too, takes pre-planning because it means getting bell peppers and beans). Or, at least, not for me. So these I also cut and freeze into proportions that seem logical for cooking for one.
-Canned tomatoes of various kinds: Again, sorry, it's easier to have cans than fresh. They last forever. Sauce, stewed, and paste are what I usually have.
-White wine: For sauces and marinades. Then, you can either pull a My Drunk Kitchen while you cook, or share the bottle when you're done in the kitchen with someone awesome, like your fantastic better-half-of-a-roommate. Wine is nice because the alcohol cooks down (if you do it right), it helps thin stuff that was thicker out (like if you, say, use mustard in a marinade) (I always add a ladlefull of cooking sherry at Hu Hot to help the sauce be more saucy and get on all the ingredients as the dudes cook my food), which sure, water can do, but it also adds a slight pangy-like flavor (you can tell I'm totes a fancy food critic, amirite?). I don't like red wines as much, but I imagine that would probably work fine, too. But anyway, cooking with wine isn't all that nuts, people do it all the time, and Hell, "wine sauce" is a real thing, so I'm just making my own sadass attempts at replicating it.
-Rice and pasta: Duh. Now not all of my rice foods end up being stir fry, but I've never tried anything other than tomato-based sauces for pastas. Maybe someday I'll grow a pair and do something crazy. But not yet. When it comes to pasta, I try to rotate around and get different ones, and I stick to the kind that are stabbable, not the kind you'd need to twist around the fork- so bowtie or penne, not angel hair or spaghetti. This has more to do with how prone I am to spilling than any particular taste.
-Minced garlic: Again, LAZY. Also, it's cheaper. I "err on the side of garlic," as I like to say, so when I use garlic in a dish, I use garlic in a dish. We're talking, like, at least a tablespoon. Imagine all the garlic I'd be peeling and crushing and mincing. That'd take up so much friggin' time!
-Garlic salt: Helps add the garlic flavor, while taking care of the salt factor, so having garlic POWDER is unnecessary, usually. And I prefer the kind with green, leafy bits in the bottle.
-Lemon pepper: I love this stuff. It adds a different kind of zing than regular pepper.
-Red Robin salt: It's better than regular seasoned salt (which yes, I do have). And yes, you can buy it if you ask the server when you go to Red Robin. Do it, and then come back and tell me whether you loved it or regretted it- and if it's the latter, I guarantee you I'll feel sorry for you. There's a sort of running joke/expectation in my household that every time I visit the family in Vegas, I'll bring a bottle with me- I usually do. I put one in the spice cabinet here with my roommie and she was uber excited and gets why I love the stuff. It's nummy, and again, different.
My other big problem is I was trained to cook for six with the intent of having leftovers from elementary school, so I consistently struggle with cooking an amount that won't feed a small army. Like, seriously, when I first moved into this apartment, I didn't know how to cook anything less than a whole fucking box of pasta. I'm getting a lot better, though, and have even been able to do enough to feed myself and not have leftovers. 'Twas a proud, proud moment.
I think I'm okay. I dunno, honestly, I love food so much, I may very well be bloody terrible at cooking, but I just don't realize it. I like cooking for others and don't get to do it very often, though, so I try to come up with excuses- for example, my roommie had an icky take-home exam a few weekends ago, so I offered to cook her stir fry. We had teriyaki** bowls with a friend that night, and it was lovely. I hope whatever future boyfriend I have is okay with sharing the cooking responsibilities, and by that I mean letting me do a lot or most of the cooking. I've always thought the idea of cooking for someone and giving them a massage sounds very appealing. Le sigh...
Anyhoo, I want something sweet. I think I'll go grab an orange.
I can make an entirely different entry about baking, so I will, some other time.
*Of course, I mean Worcestershire sauce. I can never say this correctly, so I just make shit up every time, saying it way wrong on purpose so I don't look like I'm actually trying. I thought I'd be more true to life here. You're welcome.
**Why the frak is it telling me that's misspelled? The FUCK, Chrome, srsly?