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 Tbsp. butter
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced30 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 belowSalt 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.
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.