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Who among us has never opened the pantry and felt a bit overwhelmed by the chaos? There are currently at least five opened bags of various types of beans and lentils on my pantry shelves. In addition, there is one (very large) sweet potato which lingers unused from the Thanksgiving feast. Looking higher up, I find a package of nutritional yeast which had until now been lost (which prompted me to purchase a second package). Did I mention the half used box of bulgur left from a new vegan recipe I recently tried? And now to the fridge... not quite sure why there are two random Brussels sprouts hanging out in the produce drawer. And why did someone open a new container of Greek yogurt when the other container is still one third full?
Having extra foods like these lying around is actually a good problem to have. With a little creativity, a delicious meal from your kitchen is just waiting to be discovered!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Create a casserole. Simply mix together bits of leftover chicken and cooked vegetables, along with plain Greek yogurt. Top with sliced fresh tomatoes, shredded cheese and 4 or 5 crushed whole grain crackers. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes (or until heated through and cheese is melty).
Use up some of those dried beans. Begin by soaking beans overnight. Pour off water. Cover with fresh water and bring to boil. Lower heat and add in some chopped veggies rescued from the fridge before they get too old to use: onions, celery, carrots, kale (really any kind of greens). Drizzle in some olive oil and season as desired. Simmer beans until soft and fully cooked (stirring occasionally and adding additional water as needed).
Roast the veggies that have been hiding in the back of the vegetable drawer. While limp celery or tomatoes that are a bit too soft are NOT ideal for a salad, these aging veggies are perfect when tossed with olive oil and roasted in the oven. In my case, I could also cut up the sweet potato mentioned earlier, along with the 2 Brussels sprouts!
Using up foods instead of tossing them out is a great way to save money. Consider testing your Iron Chef skills by “spring cleaning” every month!
Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN
Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program