Hope I don’t die eating things over 4 years past their expiration dates!

I was raised to be frugal and resourceful.  Both of my parents were raised in the deep South under the influence of wisdom gained during the very real struggles of the depression. (you know it’s bad when a popular campaign promise is “a chicken in every pot!”)

This morning I was going through the pantry of a house that my in-laws are house sitting to find something to cook for lunch.  This is not your average home,  it is a stunning condo on the coast of Southern California with an ocean view.  The luxury carries over to the stock of groceries with quite an exotic array of foods on hand.  Wonderful things like wide varieties of flavored oils, preserves, various organic flours, canned delicacies of all kinds abound.

We’ve been buying our own groceries but they also have permission to use from what’s on hand.  For the past week, nearly every night we’ve been watching cooking challenges on TV so this morning I was feeling creative.  Having lived in an extremely modest camper for the last four months and before that a quite small cottage with what anyone would consider a TINY kitchen, cooking in a beautiful well equipped kitchen is a great treat.

side note: For 16 years I lived in a very large house where I raised our kids and enjoyed a kitchen 25′ long with an 8’x3′ island.  I loved to cook and especially enjoyed making whatever just came to my imagination from what I had on hand.

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This is a marketing piece I prepared when selling that house.  This kitchen hosted many parties and scout events etc.  It was a wonderful happy place!

So anyway, today as I sifted through the choices, I quickly discovered that virtually everything is past the expiration date.  Some items by a little, some by several years!  It’s not like there’s nothing else to choose from but I just can’t resist a bit of experimentation.

Well those who know me know that I’m a bit (actually more than a bit hahah) of a hard head and rely quite heavily on my own intuition.  I know for a fact that most expiration dates don’t mean that the food is no longer edible.

warning!  This is not true for everything.  There are definitely a relatively small group of foods that present serious risk if eaten when they are “too old”.  It’s important to take the time to learn the difference!  Mostly animal products and/or those things with damaged packing present the greatest hazards. Never, ever, eat something from a bulging or leaking can!  Botulism (food poisoning caused by the same bacteria used to make the mostly safe anti- aging treatment Botox ) can kill you!

additional info: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/botox.html

So back to my story… I decided to go for an eating adventure and pulled out the ingredients: dried gourmet mushroom blend (sell by date 12/08), canned coconut milk (expiration date 2/09) and a giant whole onion long forgotten in the bottom drawer of the garage refrigerator.  I’ve cooked me up a soup.  I first chopped up the dried mushrooms in the cuisinart, then soaked them in the coconut milk for about 45 minutes until well softened, sauteed the onions finely chopped in olive oil (fresh), combined these things over low heat adding some water and a bit of butter (that I also found frozen in the freezer) and simmered the whole thing for about half an hour.  A little salt and pepper and voila.  It’s quite tasty.  Wish I had chopped the mushrooms more as they are a bit chewy but I haven’t worked with dried mushrooms that much so I’m not sure that it’s because of the age.

If I don’t die I’ll let you know.  If I end up in the hospital I’ll probably be blogging quite a bit but at the moment, I’m feeling pretty confident that all’s well and I’m just hoping to inspire others to think twice before just tossing out things that may still be perfectly edible.

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I believe there is much to be said for being frugal, resourceful and radically self reliant.

some research I did while my soup cooked:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/299847

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