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Value Guru and the Refrigerator Challenge

By Susannah Simone, February 19, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Susannah Simone
When I opened the fridge Sunday morning to a whole lotta "nothing to eat," I felt like that mostly-blank white interior was challenging me, blowing a cool dare right in my face. "Go ahead, try to make a meal from what you see here." I knew I had to go grocery shopping that afternoon, but I didn't want to waste anything that might be lingering. I also wanted to get my dinner plan squared away early. I'd be out all afternoon and knew I wouldn't want to cook much. I began digging. First, the family pack of chicken thighs I meant to put in the slow cooker yesterday morning. Here's a small container of leftover potsticker dipping sauce that will make a marinade. I won't mind quickly grilling the chicken this evening if that's all I have to do. Just stretch the sauce with a little soy sauce and a splash of vinegar and oil. Next, a head of cabbage reminded me that I promised my "famous" cole slaw would be on the menu soon. Good, there's a single remaining carrot and bell pepper deep in the drawer. This is also where I can use the beautiful organic daikon radish that I couldn't resist at the farmer's market yesterday. Support your local organic farmers! A forgotten bunch of scallions obviously survived pretty well in one of those green produce-saver bags and got me to the cutting board. White parts go in the slaw, green parts will come in handy later, I'm sure. Just pop in a container. As I put them into the fridge, I pulled out another container with half a red onion for the slaw, along with the mayo. Not to be deterred by the almost-empty mayo jar-or waste the last clinging smears, I poured some apple cider vinegar right in with it, ground in a lot of black pepper and added a generous double pinch of organic sugar. Shake it up and back in the fridge. I'll add more mayo after I go shopping and dress the slaw while the chicken is grilling. Now, what about these shiitake mushrooms? If I had a plan for them, I've forgotten and they are on their last little crinkly legs. Fortunately, one does not eat the legs of shiitakes, just the caps. Despite all the advice to not clean mushrooms in water, I did it anyway. I have a big metal bowl that I use for cleaning veggies. I throw everything in there with cold water, scrub with my fingers, rinse and swish and pull them out as I work through the cutting and chopping. It really takes a lot of the drag out of having to prep fresh veggies. Makes me buy healthy fresh stuff more often. And, in this case, with shiitakes you can squeeze the water out before you slice them. Then I made a simple cold noodle salad with them-and the chopped scallion tops. You can find a similar recipe here, though I used organic soba noodles (for more protein) and didn't bother with the other veggies called for in the recipe. This will make awesome homemade noodle bowls to pack for lunch tomorrow. Shiitake mushrooms are an investment, but worth it for a satisfying meat-free meal. Glad I didn't let those go to waste. Last but not least, a few red potatoes were beginning to sprout in their typical "look at me, look at me" fashion. Ha! Nothing is spared my puzzle-solving frenzy. I threw them in the veggie-cleaning bowl with fresh cold water and cleaned them as I pared off those brazen sprouts and most of the skin. Cut them in half, tossed in olive oil and black pepper, covered and stashed in the fridge. Later I'll microwave them about 10 minutes then put them on the grill with the chicken. I wait to salt them until after cooking so the salt won't suck out the moisture in the fridge all day. So, that's dinner I don't have to buy or cook tonight and tomorrow's lunch ready already. Take that refrigerator! Does anyone else get such pleasure from conquering the "food waste" challenge? What do you do when your refrigerator taunts you?
Category: Value - Whole Deal

 

13 Comments

Comments

Iris Howard says ...
Brava! But my experience has been a little different. I plan and buy the food, then find that, at the last moment, get invited out to eat or have to work through dinner. The upshot is that I have lettuce greens, onions and a whole chicken waiting to be eaten but I don't eat twice. I cook then freeze the chicken. The onions just are there. The lettuce is wilting. I don't eat lettuce for breakfast either. Meanwhile, the milk is sour, and the yogurt is all water on top. Any suggestions?
02/19/2009 11:05:14 AM CST
Erika Kerekes says ...
Your "empty" refrigerator sure has a lot more in it than my "empty" refrigerator does!
02/19/2009 5:09:29 PM CST
robin says ...
ok i think the contents of her fridge sound pretty good. i wouldn't have thought of that as nothing. tons of veggies and chicken? that's what i call dinner just about every night!
02/19/2009 5:42:32 PM CST
Insomnic says ...
An interesting run down... but it hardly seems like you were starting from an empty fridge. Chicken, potatoes, and other veggies does not sound like "nothing to eat".
02/19/2009 5:47:17 PM CST
Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. says ...
Everytime I make somehting out of leftovers, and not throwing them away, I feel so proud of myself.
02/19/2009 10:41:23 PM CST
Melissa Danielle says ...
Veggies that can live another day become soup or a smoothie. I don't know what I'd do without my Vita-Mix.
02/20/2009 11:09:00 PM CST
Amy says ...
Instead of making chicken on a weeknight, could you buy a whole chicken and roast it on a Saturday or Sunday? Them, you can use the leftovers for sandwiches, salad toppings, soup or a casserole. You could even freeze chicken slices for later use in soups or casseroles. Another easy weekend dish is stew. Make a big batch, freeze it into one-meal sized containers, then if you're in a rush on a weeknight, you can use one. That eliminates the need to keep fresh chicken on hand during the week. If you get into the habit of cooking this way, you'll soon have a variety of home-made dishes in the freezer. Less fresh food will go bad, and you'll still have good food on hand that is easy and fast.
02/21/2009 8:58:48 PM CST
Rhian says ...
Iris H. - if your lettuce has started to wilt, make a wilted lettuce salad. Easy to do: Chop lettuce - mix in a bowl with some sliced onion (I like white for its pungent mild heat but any type will work) season with salt & pepper. In a separate pan, render some bacon. Keeping the fat, whisk in some vinegar, sugar & some citrus while still warm - orange juice or even some water w/ a splash of lemon works good. Drizzle the dressing over your lettuce, garnish with your bacon bits & maybe some egg or aged cheese and bam, you're done. The spoiled milk & yogurt? Assuming it is pasteurized, make some cheese. Some call it farmers cheese, others call it paneer but in the end its just a very mild flavored quick cheese that you can make in your own kitchen in about an hour. It uses are many - try it in a saag paneer recipe, or as a pan fried cheese (a meat substitute) or as an element to lasagna or stuffed shells or manitcotti ... its uses are only limited by your mind. I could go into detail but I'll just link a well constructed instructional (w/ pics) webpage Here ------> http://www.durian.org/wl_paneer . Also with the yogurt, reintroduce the liquid back into the yogurt by mixing w/ a fork or spoon until you get a smooth, creamy consistency and you'll be fine (works great with sour cream as well) ... assuming it's not years old from the deepest dark corner of your recently rediscovered bottom shelf of your fridge - laugh :) Good luck.
02/22/2009 10:10:07 PM CST
Taylor says ...
Ah! The refigerator challenge, my sport of choice! I love LOVE making things out of the leftovers of my fridge. Last week after Valentine's Day, I had a bunch of antipasto appetizers left from my antipasto platter on Valentine's Day. -I used the fresh basil for pesto -The cherry tomatoes cooked up in garlic and olive oil over angel hair -The salami for sandwiches for lunch the coming week -The proscuitto was crisped and added like bacon to a panzanella salad using the rest of the bread and a few frozen shrimp I had left in the freezer -The artichoke hearts and the rest of the proscuitto was put on a pizza along with a few spare canned tomatoes I had from a batch of sauce! I love inventing meals from leftovers :) Glad to see someone else does, too! http://scrimpBoston.blogspot.com
02/24/2009 2:24:57 PM CST
Taylor says ...
Ah! The refigerator challenge, my sport of choice! I love LOVE making things out of the leftovers of my fridge. Last week after Valentine's Day, I had a bunch of antipasto appetizers left from my antipasto platter on Valentine's Day. -I used the fresh basil for pesto -The cherry tomatoes cooked up in garlic and olive oil over angel hair -The salami for sandwiches for lunch the coming week -The proscuitto was crisped and added like bacon to a panzanella salad using the rest of the bread and a few frozen shrimp I had left in the freezer
02/24/2009 6:06:16 PM CST
Chez US says ...
I LOVE when it comes down to being extremely creative with what is on hand. We did just that last week and had some GREAT meals. The one that stands out the most is a Thai inspired chicken dish. http://www.chezus.com/2009/02/17/thai-inspired-chicken/
02/25/2009 5:21:41 PM CST
Linda says ...
I wish I could do what you all do! I am so finicky and picky about things that I throw out a lot of stuff...and I am ashamed to say so. Thanks for the tips.
02/28/2009 1:11:52 AM CST
Yvonne says ...
I love to make soup with the stuff in the back dark recessess of the fridge. Once you give a quick sautee to the veggies, it doesn't matter if the were wilted, even the lettuce. Add a box of broth and you have a meal.
03/09/2009 12:45:01 PM CDT