Hey everyone! The theme of this series is “use it up.” I never want to waste food if I can help it, so these recipes were inspired by ingredients I had in my freezer, refrigerator or panty that I needed to use up. I keep a running list on my phone so that when I’m meal planning, the shopping list, things to use up and recipe links are all in one place. It helps me stay organized and keep us moving through our food items. Enjoy!
Colorful veggies with soba noodles:
Matt is always saying he wants more noodles dishes, so as a “travel day” lunch, I decided to make this soba noodle recipe. It really is a very colorful dish, which I love! 😍 The bright purple, red, orange and green spruce up these noodles and the sauce pulled it all together. You can’t go wrong with the classic combination of garlic, ginger, soy, rice vinegar, sesame oil and green onion. The added texture from the sesame seeds also makes this wonderful, even a few days later. The only adjustment I made was halving the number of green onions the recipe called for, but otherwise I think the flavors and proportions were bang on.
Autumn pearl couscous salad:
Another one of Matt’s favorites is pearl couscous. Given the change in the seasons, I thought it would be great to make this autumn-inspired couscous recipe. I loved the flavors this recipe brought together, but I otherwise strayed from the original instructions. One of my big pet peeves is a recipe that tells you to add something that is already cooked or baked without actually including the instructions on how to cook or bake those ingredients in the instructions. Don’t make me look this stuff up elsewhere. It’s better to assume your audience doesn’t already know how to do these things.
The dressing called for orange juice, which we have in our refrigerator all of the time, and yet my timing was off, because we were out! Gah! However, even without the orange juice, the sauce was still great, just FYI. That being said, the proportion is way more than you need for this salad.
Instead of massaging 1 cup of kale and cutting up raw red onion, I sautéed a bunch of kale with two shallots sliced into rounds with olive oil, salt and pepper. For this recipe, I used half of the cooked kale and shallot, or about 1 1/2 cups. Instead of butternut, I used a small carnival squash, which I tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, and used about half of it in this recipe, or about 1 1/2 cups. Carnival squash is like an acorn, but a little smaller and lighter in color and density. Finally, instead of 1 cup of cooked couscous, I used 1 cup of dried couscous, which I toasted and then cooked with 1 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt for 7 minutes, which yielded about 2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked couscous.
Finally, I combined these ingredients with the amount of cranberries and pecans called for in the recipe and only about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dressing it called for. The flavors were outstanding and with the modifications I made, I think this recipe is a winner. 🍁😋
I have been collecting a few overripe bananas and sticking them in the freezer, and it finally came time to make a classic banana bread. I found this banana bread recipe by a baker from whom I utilized a thin mint cookie recipe during the holidays.
The 1:1 ratio of flour and bananas make the bread moist without being too sticky, and since Matt likes pecans, I opted to add those into the mix as well. The bread turned out tender and not too sweet, and got the a-okay from Matt and I. It’s great to have banana bread on hand for things like hiking, an after dinner snack, an indulgent breakfast or to simply eat it with coffee. You name an excuse to eat it, and banana bread will fit the bill. 🍌🍞
Bratwurst with red cabbage and spaetzle:
We had half a red cabbage to use up and a package of bratwursts in the freezer, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a German-style meal and add one of my favorites: spaetzle. I have never made it before, but of course I never shy away from something new. 😊
Bratwurst are fairly self-explanatory. In this case, I pan-fried them until I reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, getting them brown on all sides over medium heat and then keeping the heat on low to ensure they were fully cooked without burning them.
For the red cabbage, I borrowed half of this red cabbage recipe from Eatingwell. Because the half cabbage I had yielded only 4 cups, I halved the sauce recipe to 1/8 cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and since I had it on hand, I used 1/2 teaspoon of fresh sage instead of dried. Because I wasn’t cooking a pork chop, I used olive oil to cook the red cabbage in, adding salt and pepper. Then I added the sauce plus 1 pear. Overall, the flavors melded together really well. I loved the earthy notes from the sage, the brightness from the pear and vinegar, and the subtle sweetness from the brown sugar. Yum!
Finally, I have never made spaetzle before, but wanted to give it a try. In searching for a recipe, I figured I couldn’t go wrong Tyler Florence’s spaetzle recipe from Food Network, and the video at the beginning really helped me get the dough texture right. It’s a lot looser consistency of dough than I expected. FYI, I used half and half instead of milk, and to maintain the right dough consistency, I added a little more half and half right before pressing the dough through the spoon so the dough remained smooth.
Because I don’t have the right kind of colander, I found a spoon with holes in it to use for pressing the dough through into the boiling water; however, if you have a metal colander, I highly recommend using that instead so you can press all the noodles through more quickly. Even so, I strained the noodles, got them into a frying pan over medium heat with a little butter and a chopped green onion…I had no chives on hand as suggested in the recipe. The texture turned out just right! They were still tender, and the hint of nutmeg gave them that special flavor that I associate with spaetzle. It was so delicious and I was so stoked to get it right on the first try. 🤩
Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and Moroccan roasted carrots:
I picked up some preserved lemon before we left Portland, and decided it was time to use it before it went to waste. Preserved lemon is essentially lemons and salt, fermented over time, which has a more mellow lemon taste complemented by other unique flavors created in the fermentation process. I found this Moroccan chicken recipe that incorporated preserved lemon, but wanted to accompany it with a veggie side dish, so this Moroccan spiced roasted carrots recipe helped round out the meal.
I didn’t need to cook as much chicken as the recipe called for, so I halved the recipe, which fit perfectly in our dutch oven. I didn’t make any modifications to the recipe aside from cooking it for another 15 minutes to get the chicken more tender. For the carrots, I also cooked them for 15 minutes more. Overall, these two dishes worked together really well! However, if I were to serve the carrots on their own, I would omit the orange zest, because I thought that pushed the sweetness over the top. However, when combined with the chicken, the sweetness was balanced out by the savory, salty notes from the preserved lemon and olives in the chicken dish. We loved this combo and will definitely make it again!
Hopefully, these recipes have helped inspired you to use up some odds and ends in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Happy cooking and baking! 😊