There’s always that time of the week when I have food in my house, but I’m not sure any of it can be combined to make a meal. I meant to start doing meal-planning last month, but then I ran out of time and grabbed whatever looked good and am left with questionable-looking fennel bulbs and three day old baked veggies. Sound familiar? Searching online for recipes for eggplant is all very well, but sometimes the ingredients aren’t so coherent. Necessity is the mother of invention, and my kitchen and I have had some very strange experiences together. Some of my crazy concoctions turn out better than the kinds of things I would have come up with on my own. If you’re the kind of person that actually plans ahead, these suggestions might not be useful to you, but surviving cafeterias and young adulthood has taught me to value off the cuff food combos.
1. Throw Everything in a Scramble
As long as there’s tofu in the house that hasn’t turned pink or started smelling funny, this will work. Almost anything can go in a scramble, although I’ve personally had a lot of fun with adding hummus and celery. Certain veggies continue to taste good when cooked, even after they’ve lost their crispness and aren’t so fun raw. Things like celery, bell peppers, and broccoli are great choices. If you’re not prone to having leftover hummus, other sauces and spices will change the character of the dish. Try throwing in salad dressing, which will lend cheesy, sweet and sour, spicy flavors. Or, feel free to go in any other direction you want.
2. Shepherd’s Pie
This pie was probably secretly invented for finding a way to combine the dregs of the fridge. If there’s a graham cracker or pizza crust lying around, or the materials to assemble a homemade pastry or graham crust, you’re good to go. Just cook your miscellaneous raw vegetables and leftover baked or steamed vegetables into a marinara sauce, or with molasses and cayenne and poor into the crust. Anything will taste good in here. Try black beans, peppers, squash, and avocado. Try adding these vegetables for a meaty texture, and sprinkle some nutritional yeast or tahini sauce on top, or try one of these 50 Outrageously Cheesy Non-Dairy Recipes.
3. Old to New
Sometimes the problem with leftovers isn’t that they’re not good. They just aren’t fresh and new and shiny anymore. Or sometimes the reason there’s leftovers is because the recipe was pretty bland to begin with. Adding new spices and a side dish can be all it takes to make leftover meals more appetizing. Add non-dairy milks to make it creamy, sprinkle in nutritional yeast, douse in a good dressing or hot sauce, and yesterday’s dinner can be as unrecognizable, yet exciting as Cinderella!
4. Never Underestimate Curries and Stir-Fries
Somehow my friends are always surprised when I whirlwind into their kitchens and chop all the vegetables into a pot, add old rice, random spices (honestly, relieve boredom by dashing things in without measuring and see where it takes you, so long as you don’t over-salt). Then I produce an end result that tastes like it was intentional. As long as everything is cooked properly and given enough spice to be interesting, just about anything can pair well together.
5. Squash in Grains
Mixing soft potatoes or squashes into grains gives an amazing, creamy texture, and works with simple spicing, a little salt and pepper. Add a hint of nutmeg, or try some cumin and chili too. This can even work with breakfast cereal grains, for a sweeter spicing arrangement, and possibly try some nuts and raisins too. Also try out this Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf.
6. Add Leftovers to Rice or Pasta
There’s very little that can’t be thrown in with whole foods or pasta, and hopefully you aren’t bringing home anything you don’t like. Finely chopped vegetables, hummus, leftover baked veggies and the like can also go into a pretty interesting pasta salad, or try adding broccoli or bell peppers to marinara sauce.
7. A Good Soup Can Do Wonders
There are a lot of soup and dahl recipes you can make from the ingredients in your pantry and fridge. Try tossing barley, kale, beans and beets into a broth or even plain water, which turns out to be a pretty great soup base. Zucchini and mushrooms pair just as good together as PB&J. I usually blend any soups that don’t contain pasta, grains, or some beans, like lentil soup and minestrone. Toast some of the spices in oil or water before adding vegetables and soup base. After blending, cook in a bay leaf for an unexpected surprise. Just make sure not to actually eat the leaf. Here’s how to make it creamy.
8. Recipes Can be Modified
If the problem has more to do with a specific thing you want to make, but don’t quite have the right array of ingredients for, remember that there are many different kinds of egg replacers, and nut butters and non-dairy milks are often interchangeable. A wide array of fruits or vegetables can also be used as well. Almost anything can be substituted, and while it won’t be exactly the same, it might actually be better.
For more ideas, check out 4 Tips to Minimize Food Waste, how to reuse roasted veggies, and How to Throw Together a Quick Lunch with Dinner’s Leftovers.
Image Source: Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf