Using What’s Available to Create a Masterpiece
Ever get to the end of the week and feel like there are limited ingredients, just odds and ends, left in the fridge? You might feel like: “there’s nothing to cook”… The reality?: “It’s an opportunity for creativity”. 1/4 cup of cooked chickpeas or a bit of hummus, a small wedge of cheese, 1/3 of a can of tomato paste, and a bit of ground meat can make an incredible meal.
The “Use What I Have” Limited Ingredient Challenge
This technique means that you don’t have to throw away those bits of ingredients that are left in your fridge. In fact, save them throughout the week for this purpose. Then, take on the “Use What I’ve Got” Challenge.
This challenge happens most often when we are about to travel or when I need to go to the grocery store. I like to leave with a cleaned out fridge. I also like to add new ingredients to the fridge AFTER I’ve cleaned out what I have. It’s the budget-friendly, end-of-the week game that happens often in our house.
So, make it a game. Take on the Challenge. Limited ingredients can create unexpected masterpieces. Delicious, quick, and budget-friendly meals come from an almost empty fridge. A few fresh ingredients, and even a couple of leftovers and voila..dinner!
Leftovers have a bit of a bad reputation. The reality? Leftovers can be an incredibly tasty component to any meal. Why? Longer cooking or resting times allow the flavors of a dish to develop further. In fact, many restaurants use leftover sauces, soups, and ingredients to prepare their best meals. Rather than being afraid to use leftovers, try to use them to create new, quick-and-easy weeknight recipes.
One of the best ways to incorporate leftovers into your meal is to use a common mixed-food recipe. The basic components of a mixed-food recipe are usually vegetables, protein, and a slow carb – but it doesn’t really matter what you use for each component. Whether you’re preparing a stir fry, stew, or stuffed vegetable – most leftover ingredients will fit in just fine.
Stuffed Peppers (or other Vegetables) Recipe Formula
The recipe below is not exactly your standard “recipe”. Rather, it’s a formula to use to build your own meal. I used ground turkey, goat cheese, chickpeas, and a variety of vegetable and stuffed them into peppers. Alternatively, you could get creative and use your own protein, cheese, slow carbohydrate, and vegetables.
Don’t like peppers? Try stuffing zucchini or wrapping the filling in a big leafy green like chard or collards (remove the stalk and blanch the whole leaf first), or simply baking it on a bed of spinach. This is an opportunity to use whatever you have. Here are a few more stuffed vegetable filling ideas to try…
- Mexican: ground beef + farmers cheese or queso + black beans (top with tomatoes, fresh salsa, guacamole, etc.)
- Italian: ground lamb or turkey (or, use leftover Lamb and Tofu Meatballs) + feta cheese + chickpeas + Italian herbs
- South African: shredded or ground beef + mozzarella + sweet potatoes (alternative slow carb for phase 2)
- Indian: Firm tofu + paneer + chickpeas (or leftover Chana Masala) + Indian spices
- Peruvian: Shrimp (or fish of choice) + corn + feta cheese + lime juice + olive oil
My stuffed peppers are just one example of what you can make with the bits and scraps that are in your fridge. I could’ve also prepared a meat-based stir fry, taco stuffing, or a stew.
CHALLENGE: Take a look in your fridge and see what you can come up with to make a meal. Comment your creation below, or post a picture in our Facebook Group. We always love to see what you’ve been cooking.
BONUS: Chef Kenzie is hosting a “Leftovers Interactive” class on June 29th. In this class, YOU get to ask your questions, bring your leftovers, and brainstorm ideas to use them in your next meals. Work with Chef Kenzie to brainstorm how to use your leftovers in delicious ways to make balanced, quick-and-easy, and budget-friendly meals. Register HERE!