Tag Archives: freezer

My Weekend Pantry Challenge

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My husband went out of town this weekend. So, I decided to give myself a challenge:

Cook only from my pantry, fridge and freezer.

This meant no eating out nor buying of any groceries. The only exception to the rule:

I could buy any fresh produce.

I still wanted to limit buying produce as much as possible because I needed to use up what was already in my fridge and from my last two CSA boxes. However, a trip to the farmer’s market on Thursday afternoon overstocked me even more. It’s just too easy to get carried away when I’m there!

The purpose of the challenge was to use up items that seem to be wasting space in the fridge, freezer or pantry. In particular, I wanted to use up the ones that I don’t use very often because either:

  1. My husband is allergic to them.
  2. He’s just doesn’t like them.

My CSA box the week before came with several jalapenos:

jalapenos and serrano pepper

I hadn’t had a chance to use them, so they were starting to shrivel. This photo was actually taken over a week before using them, so you still get the fresh look. However, the serrano pepper was from the week prior to that and had not only shriveled, but turned from green to the bright red color you see above.

I made sure to get out my trusty Homesick Texan Cookbook to put these little babies to good use.

Note: Slightly shriveled jalapenos pack nearly as much heat as fresh ones! {Or so it seems to me.} I’m so glad that I didn’t toss them!

On Thursday night, I started with:

Tex-Mex Squash Casserole

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

The chopping of all of the squash, onions and jalapenos was the most time consuming. Even with the Knife Skills Class that I took at The Kitchen Window that completely changed my life {not kidding!}, it got a little old after a while. The cookbook recipe calls for everything to be diced. However, I just noticed that the online recipe I linked you to suggests just slicing the squash. I think that may have saved some time with no effect on the outcome.

After everything was cooked up and put in the casserole dish, I covered it in cheese:

Cheesy goodness!

When I pulled it out of the oven, I started to divide the dish into six servings, when I realized that you might want a photo of the finished product:

Golden brown cheesy goodness!

While I now notice that the online recipe calls for a can of Ro-tel tomatoes, Lisa’s cookbook recipe calls for “canned tomatoes, preferably fire roasted”. Oh, yeah, baby! We keep stashes of these on hand:

If you have never had these canned fire-roasted garlic tomatoes, you are missing out. When I open the can, I put my nose in. I can smell garlic. I get hungry.

Yes, when I open a can of tomatoes, my mouth waters.

They are that good. So naturally, those went in.

Flavor: Wow. This dish has the perfect amount of heat. I don’t know how she does it, but all of Lisa’s recipes that I’ve tried in her cookbook seem to hit that ideal spice level. Don’t get me wrong, I could go spicier. But I’m not necessarily sure that I want to do that now. There is something about finding that exact level of heat that gives a dish flavor, but not so much that you can’t taste the other ingredients. It’s magical when you you discover it.

Other notes: Despite the fact that this dish is composed of vegetables; it still was filling enough to be a main entrée. The tortilla chips didn’t give it a crust or a crunch; however, they served as a binding for the bottom, and that lovely corn flavor came through. The abundance of cheese adds a bit of protein. However, to add even more, I may cut back on the squash a little in the future and add a can of black beans instead.

I also made:

Mexican Corn

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Despite the link to the recipe above, Lisa’s book recipe illustrates how to do this with or without corn on the cob. I used corn on the cob, but cut it off the cob first.

Flavor: There really wasn’t much flavor here, despite the overabundance of butter and mayo. It just made it high in calories and fat. Even the cilantro and lime didn’t give it that zest that that I’m used to. I think I’ll just keep my regular old buttered corn on the cob for now. Wait! I just realized, I forgot the cayenne. DOH!

Friday morning I made:

Green Monster Smoothie

from

Kim at Living, Laughing, & Losing

Kim loves to throw together her own smoothies. I made this one because I love the fact that it’s one of the few in the blogosphere that doesn’t have protein powder! {Seriously, I still don’t understand the stuff. If one is on a health kick, why eat processed protein?}

In any case, I didn’t take a picture because, hey, it was 6:30am on Friday. Do you really think my brain is functioning yet? Nope. I made a half-portion of her concoction and was sure to use this as suggested:

Another reason why I chose to make this smoothie is that she said that her boyfriend claimed it was the best smoothie she’s ever made.

He was right.

Uh, well, I don’t know Kim personally and hadn’t had any of her other smoothies prior to this. But this one made me “Mmm…” out loud. In fact, I loved it so much that I made another after yoga in the evening, but added blueberries as she did in a later post. Just as good, if not better! These may become a staple for a while.

Flavor: I think what makes this smoothie so great is the cinnamon! I would have never thought of adding that to a smoothie and I just may do it all the time. I’m sure the maple almond butter gave it a hit of sweetness, too.

Friday night’s dinner included:

Green Beans with Cilantro Pesto

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Leftover Tex-Mex Squash Casserole with Cilantro Pesto Green Beans

Flavor: Just what you’d expect from a cilantro pesto! The serrano pepper gives is just a little kick. The recipe calls for pecans which I didn’t have on hand, so I threw in some toasted almonds instead. I saved some leftover pesto with which to:

  1. Coat more veggies or pasta.
  2. Top a burrito or even a crepe like Kat did.

Saturday’s eats:

I was cleaning like a mad woman, so mostly fruit and snacks were consumed during the day. One snack included:

Wholly Guacamole, jalapeno and tomato

I have about three more of those Wholly Guacamole packs left and they expire sometime this month. I thought I’d mix one with a bit of the leftover chopped jalapeno, some chopped tomato and garlic powder to make:

Jazzed Up Guacamole

I grabbed a handful of tortilla chips leftover from the bag I bought for the Tex-Mex Squash Casserole. This was a perfect-sized snack that carried me over during my complete overhaul of the office. In fact, I didn’t even think about starting to make dinner until 7:30pm.

I knew that I wanted to use up the Rob-unfriendly chicken that I put in the freezer a while back. Then I remembered this:

Kitchen Stash Supper

from

Iowa Girl Eats

I love this flexible recipe because it gives me a chance to do exactly what I needed to this weekend – use up items in my fridge, freezer and pantry.

Here’s what was in the mix of the version I made:

  • Half of an onion, diced – I never have shallots in the house, but always have onions.
  • Chopped Veggies – I used about three cups instead of two. I had so many options to choose from including red peppers and anaheim peppers from my CSA box, zucchini from the farmer’s market… But I ended up choosing the ones that I didn’t see myself using up later or that made the dish more varied in color:

onion, bok choy, canned fire-roasted garlic tomatoes, yellow squash

    • Bok choy from my CSA box
    • Garlic fire-roasted canned tomatoes – Half of a can was leftover from the Tex-Mex Squash Casserole. I drained the juices, though, so it wouldn’t make my dish runny.
    • Yellow squash from the farmer’s market
  • Chicken – I used the entire 15-oz package instead of the 12 ounces suggested in the recipe. I cooked it in this microsteamer instead of cooking it in olive oil.
  • Elbow Macaroni – I only had about 3.5 ounces left, but knew the extra chicken and veggies would make up for it.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese – I thought about using the last of the Chipotle Laughing Cow wedges I had or leftover Cojita cheese from my Homesick Texan recipes, but decided I wanted a different flavor from all the wonderful Tex-Mex ones I’d been having lately. I do not want to burn out on them!

The cooked chicken, sautéed veggies and sauce all mixed together looked like this:

Kitchen Stash Supper

Flavor: I wish it had more! Despite the fact that I used roasted garlic grapeseed oil to sauté the veggies and added a hefty spoonful of minced garlic, something was missing. Maybe I didn’t salt the dish enough? Maybe I should have used a more flavorful cheese? {Maybe I was just comparing to those wonderful Tex-Mex flavors I’ve been experiencing lately.} I didn’t add any fresh basil or parsley as suggested either. But the chicken was juicy and I loved the different textures of all the vegetables. And the sauce was creamy, too!

Notes: You know what I love most about this recipe? It’s another step to learning how to be flexible and creative in my cooking, to improvise. I’m really trying to learn to use recipes as guides and become more instinctive when I cook. If I would have tasted this before plating {Food Network 101, right?}, I would have thought to salt the dish a bit more or add another spice. I can’t wait to try it out next time!

But before I made that Saturday night Kitchen Stash Supper, I put together a Sunday salad that needed 24 hours to marinate:

Corn and Cucumber Salad with Fresh Blueberries

from

A Veggie Venture

The blueberries that I had picked up earlier in the week as a BOGO special are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I found myself munching on them while putting this salad together. Mmm. Antioxidants!

When Sunday came around, I gave in and made this to accompany my salad:

Corn & Cucumber Salad with Blueberries and Hard-boiled Egg and Tomato Sandwich

Yes, that is Benny in the background eyeing my creation, hoping to get a bite!

I first saw the Egg, Tomato and Scallion Sandwich at Gina’s Skinny Recipes (aka Skinnytaste.com). Why didn’t I think of that? I thought. I had those ingredients on hand already. I felt directed to act. But I didn’t…

Until… Racheal at Running with Racheal posted pictures of the ones she made on her blog four different times in four days! Okay, so it was time. {Even if I was now out of scallions.} And I now realize why marketers say that you have to see or hear a message a bunch of times – even if we are interested in a product – before we take any purchasing action.

Verdict?

Let’s start with the Corn & Cucumber Salad with Blueberries.

Flavor:  My first bites… Mmm… good, fresh flavors. However, after a few more, I realized that I couldn’t really taste the blueberries. It could have been a corn and cucumber salad for that matter. And because I thought those blueberries were the absolute best I ever tasted, I decided to take some fresh ones and sprinkle them on top. Nope, the salad flavors still overpowered them.

Notes: I was curious to see how corn and blueberries would pair together, but I’m not sure that I could tell here. You could make this with just corn and cucumbers and still have  refreshing salad! However, the blueberries give a nice color contrast.

As for the Hard-boiled Egg & Tomato Sandwich:

Flavor: What the heck have I been waiting for!? No wonder Racheal had been making these four days in a row! I’m entirely positive that it’s not just because she is pregnant. 😉 When I saw this sandwich on Skinny Taste, I knew that eggs and tomatoes are flavors I loved. I knew that this would be simple to put together. So, I don’t know what took me so long. Thanks, Racheal for unintentionally kicking my butt into action!

~

So, did I make a dent in my pantry, freezer and fridge? All that cooking made me feel like I did… but I still have the following perishables to use up with only one day to cook this work-week and another CSA box to arrive on Wednesday:

  • Tomatoes (3)
  • Red Bell Peppers (2)
  • Cucumbers (3)
  • Bok Choy
  • Hard-boiled Egg (1) – uh, it’s obvious what I’ll be doing with that!
  • Anaheim peppers (2)
  • Cilantro (about 1 cup)
  • Zucchini
  • Wholly Guacamole (two 100 cal packs)
  • Diced jalapeno
  • Cilantro pesto
  • Head of cabbage

I have lunches of leftover Tex-Mex Squash Casserole and Kitchen Stash Supper set to take with me to work all week. Red peppers and cucumbers were cut up as a snack for dipping in hummus. I can make another Hard-boiled Egg & Tomato Sandwich as well as another helping or two of Jazzed up Guac. But the rest? When will I use it all?

Sure, it may sound like all I did was cook and eat this weekend, but it didn’t really take up much time. I also cleaned, dog-sat, did a couple of 4-mile runs, attended three yoga sessions and participated in the Homegrown Experience… But that’s for another post.

Do you have a favorite go-to dish when you need to clear out the fridge, freezer and pantry? If so, please share!

Cheers~
Carrie

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