Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eating Out the Cupboards

From the bean of Green Bean.

Despite giving up recreational shopping, I'm still been prey to the occasional impulse buy. Of course, all those impulses tend to be of a consumable bent. You know the type. The luminous green cauliflower at the farmers market that languishes in the crisper drawer, losing its luster with each passing day. The packaged organic sun dried tomato risotto which you figured would be good in a pinch - but that pinch never came. The oxidized fair trade, organic chocolate bar that even the ants wouldn't touch. A local dairy's raw butter - starting to smell just a tad off. The list goes on and on.

I'm often quite successful at ignoring most of my kitchen's guests but this week the fates conspired against me. Or against food waste.

We had returned from a week away last Sunday and I'd missed my weekly farmers' market. I was overcome by a mad desire to spring clean. I contemplated how my habits have changed since signing up for Crunchy's Food Waste Reduction Challenge and realized they hadn't. And, like most of us these days, I am struck by the urge to squirrel away as much cash as possible.

Fortunately, one action was the cure to all my woes. Eating out the cupboards . . . and the fridge and the pantry too.

I kicked the week off with this ultimate brownie recipe which ate up the old butter, the oxidized chocolate bar and my embarrassing riches of eggs from a farm near my parents' home. Quite a sacrifice I must tell you, as I wipe the crumbs from my keyboard.

I then moved through the pumpkins shriveling on the front porch. After hacking and seeding those puppies, I cooked and pureed the squash and added it to the vegetable scraps lurking just inside the freezer door, and the hardened baguette that I forgot to cut up and bag last week. Combined, all three made one of the best pumpkin soups I've ever eaten. My oldest swore it tasted like pumpkin pie. I tend to agree. Check out the recipe below.

Two almost blackened apples and some of the pumpkin puree morphed into Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins that just as quickly disappeared.

We've also delighted in a pizza after raiding the freezer - pasta sauce I made and froze last summer, last falls' farmers' market corn and peppers, and some random Trader Joe's pizza dough from who knows when. Once thawed, we emptied out the sauce on pasta then turned back to the freezer. Huddled in the back were two frozen pie crusts from two years ago. Still edible, I filled them with Abbie's butternut squash recipe - substituting the puree from my front porch pumpkins.

We did finally suck down the packaged risotto (and after a year and a half of holding on to it, I won't be making that impulse buy again - no matter how much my husband enjoyed it) and I figured out the easiest way to cook year old steel cut oats - in my crockpot.

We've cleared so much space, saved so much money, and gained only a few pounds that I suspect we'll be eating out the cupboards more often. Now if only I can figure out what to do with the cauliflower peeking out of the crisper . . . Hmm.


Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Croutons
* From Better Homes & Gardens, Feb. 2009

2 medium carrots, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
30 oz of pumpkin puree
32 oz of chicken stock (I cooked my frozen veggie scraps for 1 hr, drained and used the broth)
1/2 cup half and half or light cream (I used a can of evaporated skim milk from the pantry)
3 Tbsp. maple syrup (I used a dash more)
1 tsp. pumpkin spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger)
1 recipe for spiced croutons, see below
Salt and pepper to taste

1) In large saucepan, cook carrots in hot butter over medium heat for 2 minutes; add onion, celery and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or so until tender.

2) Stir pumpkin, broth, cream, syrup and spices in. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

3) To serve, top soup with croutons.

Serves 8.

Spiced croutons: In a bowl, toss 3 cups 1 inch bread cubes with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. In a large skillet, cook bread cubes in 2 Tbsp butter for 8 minutes or until toasted, turning occasionally.


mrsdirtyboots said...

Brilliant isn't it - managing to eat your cupboards clean. And its amazing what you can come up with if you really force yourself!

The reduce food waste challenge is definitely a good motivator!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

How can you have a chocolate bar sitting around going bad? That would never happen at my house. :)

Green Resolutions said...

Quite inspiring!

Can you share how to make pasta sauce? I'm going to plant a lot of tomato plants this year :)

Green Bean said...

MrsDirtyBoots: It is a real motivator. Otherwise, I'm sure all those items would languish for much longer and might eventually get tossed out.

Erin: I neglected to mention that it was a DARK chocolate bar and dark chocolate is supposed to be more healthful than milk ergo I am not a fan of dark chocolate. ;-) That and it was at the very back of a very high shelf.

Green Rez: Anna at Green Talk did a post about pasta sauce recipes here. I am lazy however and use a recipe where you don't have to peel the tomatoes. Basically, I put halve 20 tomatoes (do not skin or seed them), chop one onion, dice 4 large carrots, and cook them down with 3 TBSP of sugar, 3 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Cook it down for at least 20 minutes - I usually do it for 40-60 and then run it through the food processor.

Anonymous said...

Keep the recipes coming!

Re: the cauliflower, have you tried roasting with a little olive oil, balsamic and salt? IMO it's insanely delicious.

Dawn Brozek

greeen sheeep said...

We are without a paycheck this week. So eating out of the cupboards is at the top of my list. That and the decision to give up meat for lent should make for some interesting meals.

kelly said...

great post!

Donna said...

Very impressive use of leftovers! Even with your explanation, though, I'm still baffled by the chocolate. I don't care how dark it is, it would never last that long in our house! My husband seeks out all my chocolate hiding places in the backs of the cupboards. :)

Carmen said...

You have me inspired... BTW, Cauliflower is great in vegetarian chili!

EcoLabel Fundraising said...

I'm pregnant, so that muffin is looking better than ever. I may have to take a break to whip some of those up!

EcoLabel Fundraising said...

I'm pregnant, so that muffin is looking better than ever. I may have to take a break to whip some of those up!

JessTrev said...

I'm with EcoLabel FR - had to pop back on and say that I'm defrosting pumpkin puree cause I gotta make some muffins now!

Truffula Mama said...

Did you say pumpkin? And butternut squash?! I'm in!

RE: cauliflower... perhaps not the most healthful recipe in the world [focus on the cauliflower, not on the other ingredients :-) ], but a batch of this Curried Cauliflower doesn't last long in our household.

Green Bean said...

Dawn: I just may try that with the cauliflower. Thanks for the comment.

Sheeep: I bet your week with out a paycheck and no meat for lent will be pretty darn tasty. It feels good to force some change, doesn't it?

Donna: I really cannot explain it. I have to admit not understanding it myself.

Carmen: Perfect. Another idea for the cauliflower - especially as the kids begged me to buy another one when I went the farmers market this morning for apples and lettuce. I was strong, though, and said not until we eat the one lurking in the fridge.

EcoLabel: Hope you enjoyed them. I still haven't gotten a bite out of any of them. My husband ate three in one sitting!

Jess: :)

Truffula: Now that looks like a recipe the kids would TOTALLY go for! Thank you for sharing.

Robin Shreeves said...

This was a useful and inspiring post. I linked to it in my blog today. Thanks.

kale for sale said...

What is it about cauliflower? I have some loitering in my crisper too. But next week I'll miss my weekly market and suspect it will be appreciated. It seems to last forever. And I'll remember your post here to be creative. I could do cauliflower soup again. It was terrific. If only I could find a speck of chocolate hidden on a pantry shelf though!

FOO said...

I'll be making the pumpkin soup this week. You can check out my blog to see what we'll be eating for the rest of the week - and I included links to all the recipes.


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