Thursday, February 7, 2013

A little of this, some of that ... and we have Spicy Chicken

I was about to put shampoo on my shopping list, when I remembered the partially-used bottles I had in a cabinet. Those bottles were all partially used because they all had some flaw. One made my hair feel like it was coated with wax after about a week of use. Another made my hair feel thin and static-y and dry. There were a couple others.

But the frugal person in me didn't want to throw them away. I figured they'd be good as emergency shampoo if I ran out and had no other choice. Or for some other use. Washing the dog, maybe? Or for guests who happened to like that brand.

But at that moment it annoyed me that I was about to buy another bottle of shampoo. So I did the completely sensible thing. I combined all the shampoos in one bottle. I figured either the mix would be so terrible I'd have to throw it out, or the flaws would balance out.

The result? I ended up with a shampoo that I can use. It may not be the ultimate in salon treatment, but it gets my hair clean and doesn't feel waxy or dry or weird.

While I was patting myself on the back for not wasting that money, I realized that this is something I do with food all the time.

Okay, food doesn't make my hair feel waxy, but there are plenty of times I combine things just to use up odds and ends. Sometimes it's not so much about combining, but it's about finding creative uses for the sauces and condiments I have left over.

Vinegar-and-oil based salad dressings make a great marinade for beef, pork, or chicken. Sweet jams and jellies make a nice glaze for ham or pork roasts. Those same jams work well in home made salad dressings or as the filler for cookies.

Some spice mixes make nice enhancers for salad dressings, meatloaf, coffee, or tea. Those ideas aren't interchangeable, by the way. What works in a salad dressing might be awful in your tea. Or it might be okay. You need to taste what you've got and figure out where it belongs.

Other condiments like mustards and spreads can be used in pasta salads, casseroles, and vegetable dishes. Or worked into appetizers. So many uses beyond whatever's on the label. Heck, I usually ignore what the labels say and get creative right from the start.

This time around I had about 3/4 of a jar of Hot Gringa's Sweet Chili Sauce. I also had some chicken thighs. And I had a new cooking gadget - a vitachef steamer skillet - that I needed to test. This was just a preliminary test, so I'm not quite ready to render any opinions. Stay tuned for that later.

Sweet 'n Spicy Chicken

1 tablespoon olive oil
9 chicken thighs
2/3 jar (about 1 1/4 cups) Hot Gringa's Sweet Chili Sauce

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or electric skillet. Brown the chicken on both sides, then add the chili sauce. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

I served this over saffron rice.

So ... what's your favorite re-purposing of a product?