It’s my favorite game. Stand at the refrigerator with the door wide open, one hand on the door handle, and with a slump of a shoulder say, “There’s nothing to eat,” as one stares at a wall of food in bags, jars and cartons.

This a common vignette in my household, mainly involving the two teenagers. The statement is at once a classic understatement and a blanket simplification of what is really true.

The truth is that they can’t see past the wall of fresh vegetables that might require actually taking out a knife, peeler or cutting board to turn them into something ready to eat. The truth is that there are all kinds of food, but nothing ready-made for them to grab and go. The truth is that whatever they are seeing just isn’t chocolate, and therefore not appealing as a snack.

And the final truth, I sheepishly admit, is that when there are ready-made meals in the fridge, most of the time they are off limits because they are meals prepared by me for other families as part of an on-the-side catering business.

What’s going on here? I think the same thing happens to many of us at the grocery store and that’s how we end up in the middle of the store buying something packaged. We are surrounded by so many choices on the periphery of the grocery store, but in the moment, if we are tired, stressed, grumpy and time-pressed, creativity and ingenuity are not in large supply.

“Chicken” is on the grocery list, but do we know what we’ll do with it when it comes home? Will we also stand at the refrigerator door when it comes time to make dinner and say, “There’s nothing to make dinner with.”

I think what we are really saying in that moment is, “I don’t see anything easy, simple or convenient.”

If on the other hand, we had a menu planned ahead of time, went to the grocery store armed with a list of ingredients for the week’s menu and then came home from work knowing what was to be made with what ingredients already on hand, then maybe cooking would feel easier.

Maybe reaching for the packaged items wouldn’t be necessary so much of the time.

So maybe “chicken” is on your grocery list this week, but perhaps, armed with a curry recipe, you won’t be aimlessly wondering what you’ll do with it.

When it comes time to make dinner this week, perhaps, with a little planning, the walk to the refrigerator door is purposeful because you know what you are doing. And surely curry is one of those spices guaranteed to bring a little life into a meal.

Chicken, Potato and Pea Curry

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups peeled and diced carrots; about 2 carrots

2 cups diced onions; about 1 larger onion

3 cups peeled and diced potatoes; about 2 large potatoes

1 tablespoon curry

2 tablespoons minced jalapeno

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 3 cloves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons flour

3 pounds boneless chicken breasts; about 6 half breasts

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup yogurt

2 cups frozen green peas

Garnish:

Lime wedges

Cilantro leaves

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onions and potatoes and saute for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the curry, jalapeno, ginger, garlic and salt and saute for another 2 minutes or so.

Add the flour and stir well to incorporate.

Add the chicken broth and then the chicken and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low.

When the chicken is fully cooked, about 10 minutes, add the yogurt and peas and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve over quinoa or rice.

Garnish with chutney, limes and cilantro leaves.

Serves 4 to 6

Curried Carrots and Garbanzo Beans

2 tablespoons canola oil

11/2 pounds carrots, cut into long sticks no greater than 1/2 inch in thickness

1 cup sliced onion; about 1/2 a large onion

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 3 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 cups garbanzo beans

1/4 cup minced cilantro

Garnish:

Yogurt

Lime wedges

Cilantro leaves

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onions and salt and saute for 7 minutes or until the onions begin to soften.

Add the curry, garlic and ginger and saute for another 2 minutes.

Add the garbanzo beans and cilantro and stir until heated.

Serve over quinoa or rice and garnish with yogurt, lime wedges and more cilantro leaves.

Serves 4 to 6

Coconut Chutney

1/2 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ginger

2 teaspoons lime juice

1 cup coconut flakes

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

Pulse all ingredients in a small food processor until well combined.

Makes about 1 cup

Peanut Chutney

1/2 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon lime zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 cup unsalted peanuts

1/4 cup cilantro

Pulse all ingredients in a small food processor until well combined. Serve within one hour of mixing.

Makes about 1 cup

Annie Mahle is the chef aboard the Maine windjammer, Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Her latest cookbook is “Sugar and Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.” She can be reached at:[email protected]