Waste Not 🥗
We all have pet peeves, right? When something rubs you the wrong way, it can be that this occurrence or person or whatever has stepped on your values. My values may very well be different from yours or even my husband’s, for that matter. One of my values that is ingrained in my DNA is frugality and not wasting. It is also tied somewhat to my value of efficiency. So when Hubs comes home with a $4 box of crackers that we already have in the pantry, it makes me want to flip out even though it’s a silly box of crackers. I’m a work in progress, friends.
So what does this have to do with today’s newsletter? Many years ago, I started a January challenge for myself that I would not grocery shop other than a few fresh fruits and vegetables. The goal was to use up as much food that I already had in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Essentially, I would “shop” my kitchen. It forced me to deal with things that were stuffed away (kind of a metaphor for life, no?), to admit there were some items beyond consumption and learn from those mistakes (you don’t have to spend to save and it’s not a good value if you end up throwing it away), to see that we truly have enough, to get creative in the kitchen and see that recipes are flexible.
Not only is this exercise a great way to waste less, but I get a cheap thrill from using up bags and jars of stuff and freeing up storage containers. Not every meal will be a 10/10 and that is A-OK.
As promised on Instagram, I made a minestrone soup the day I returned from our trip and this is what I did. BUT, I will also give you tips on how to adapt, so you can start to exercise your creative cooking muscle.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced (I used ½ yellow onion and ½ red onion because that’s what was in the fridge)
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 18-ounce jar diced tomatoes including the juice
Small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 15-ounce cans cooked beans, drained but not rinsed (I used chickpeas)
6 cups stock (I used frozen, homemade chicken stock)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 4-inch Parmesan rind
⅓ head green cabbage, chopped
I made this in an InstantPot, but you can also do it on the stove.
InstantPot: Preheat to saute mode and add olive oil, onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute until onions are tender and translucent. Add tomatoes and parsley and saute for 5 minutes. Add beans, stock, salt and pepper to taste (based on saltiness of stock and if your tomatoes have salt), and Parmesan rind. Turn machine off and place lid on and turn vent to sealed. Set to high pressure for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, do a quick release and switch over to saute mode and add cabbage. Cook until cabbage is tender. You can serve as is or blend a little of the soup to thicken it up.
Stovetop: Same sequence as InstantPot, but bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Olive oil: avocado oil or any neutral oil (not coconut oil)
Onion: any type of onion, including shallots
Carrot: omit or use frozen carrots but add frozen vegetables at the very end and cook until heated through
Celery: omit or swap in fennel or some frozen vegetables
Garlic: omit or use a garlic-infused olive oil
Tomatoes: 2-4 Tablespoons tomato paste or omit
Fresh parsley: omit or swap in fresh basil or ⅓ the amount dried parsley or Italian seasoning
Cooked beans: I used chickpeas but you can use any combo of any white bean, kidney bean, pinto bean or even half grains like rice or farro and half beans. You can also do half beans half frozen peas (add frozen peas in at the last step.)
Stock: vegetable or chicken or a combo of the two. If you don’t have enough stock, supplement with water.
Parmesan rind: omit, but I have a bag of these in the freezer and they are a major flavor booster!
Cabbage: any greens whatsoever, including lettuce!
Here’s the deal, you don’t have to use these swaps either. You can add in a diced potato for some of the beans. You can get rid of some of your frozen vegetables. No herbs? Add a bay leaf and remove before serving.
Other ways I am using up what I have:
Frozen vegetables in soups, pureed into tomato sauce, sautéed in fried rice
Supplementing a soup meal with a frozen pizza
Blending small amounts of fruit jam into salad dressings or drizzled in baked oatmeal
Making nut milk with random nut butters (¼ cup nut butter blended with 3 ¾ cups water, strain if necessary)
Make stock with leftover bones and carcasses
Frozen fruit in smoothies, oatmeal bakes, fruit sauces, chopped and stirred into yogurts, homemade popsicles, on toast with nut butter
Bread and leftover hot dog or hamburger buns can be made into bread crumbs, croutons, French toast casserole, bread pudding or stratas. Or just set up a toast bar with toppings.
Stale chips and crackers go into salads or topping for soup or chili, or swapped for bread crumbs in meatloaf or meatballs.
I will often make different types of fish for dinner if I only have one of a few different types and do a fish and rice bowl night. DIY bowl nights are a great way to use up odds and ends.
I also have some BIG news! I am rolling out my cooking bootcamps a few at a time as evergreen courses. You can purchase anytime and watch on your own time, and I will make myself available once a week for live “office hours” for anyone who has purchased my bootcamps and would like to get extra support. I am so happy to make this content available to everyone!
The first courses available are:
In addition, I have my monthly cooking classes - a new class every month with 5 brand new recipes and a 60-90-minute video class. For the price of lunch in LA, you can take my monthly class, and have access to all previous classes and I will make you a better cook in no time. You and your family will be healthier and save money!