After paying for a wedding and two weeks of honeymooning at the Cape, my wallet’s a bit skinny. It’s one of those times I can’t fulfill my cooking fantasies by running out to the market and getting each and every ingredient in the new recipe I’m dying to try (Grilled Pomegranate Chicken over Warm Israeli Cous Cous Salad with Currants and Pecans!!). Sometimes I’ve just got to plumb the depths of my creativity and gasp! use up what’s in my cupboards. And you know what? I end up combining things I wouldn’t ordinarily, like grapefruit juice and mustard in a tangy spicy vinaigrette, or a bit of leftover sopressata and shelled endamame simmered in a savory minestrone.

I have a friend who’s not a professional chef but she’s been inspired by my “eating down the cupboard” approach because though her wallet is plenty plump, it compliments her practical nature. We have somewhat of a competition going to see who can come up with the most delicious dish with the oddest or fewest ingredients. My latest ensemble was a dessert made from a frozen broken pie crust layered on top of some sliced apples tossed with some local Vermont blueberry jam (that I found too intense to enjoy on toast). The result was a perfectly sweet and delightfully purple apple cobbler.

She topped my weird dessert with a creamy pasta and cheddar soup she made from melting leftover homemade macaroni and cheese into a paprika and garlic enhanced be ©chamel. A sprinkling of chopped parsley set-off the reddish gold shine of the soup and the grilled sourdough she paired it with was perfect.

The photo above is a kidney bean chili I made with leftover sauteed garlic mustard greens and a tomato salad tossed with balsamic-oregano vinaigrette. I simmered it all for several hours and served it over some wedges of polenta.

I won’t lie. I love making recipes with exotic, hand-picked ingredients. But if my budget disagrees, I can get a real kick out of seeing how happy I can make my mouth by using up what I have at hand.