Meals From the Salvage Yard (aka my fridge) – July

10 Aug

I have been pretty impressed with my “salvaging” abilities recently. What I mean by this is my ability to use up all the half eaten or about-to-go-bad things that are in my refrigerator/freezer/pantry. I think we should all shoot for zero waste! So in addition to composting and giving my guinea pigs the tops to the strawberries, green parts of cauliflower, and carrots that don’t look appetizing anymore, I love opening my refrigerator door and just staring until I find “the one”… or ones to plan my meal around.

Here’s a roundup of things I’ve salvaged this month (and then I’ll tell you what I did with them):

– Frozen stuffed shells (just the shells, not stuffed, I froze the extra from a meal I didn’t need them for)

– Frozen leftover cooked ground beef and onions (I cooked up a bunch of ground beef and froze the extra for a future quick weeknight meal)

– Frozen chopped green peppers (I buy a ton of green peppers at a time and chop them up and freeze them – they’re so easy to just toss into meals!)

– Cream cheese – one that had been opened and you know how air gets to it and it starts to not look so appetizing? Yeah. And another that was nearing its expiration date.

– Half eaten bag of raw spinach (I always seem to have a half eaten bag of spinach in the fridge.)

– Red onion that needed eating

– Strawberries leftover from making this awesomeness for 4th of July

– Feta cheese that needed eating

– Goat cheese that needed eating

– 1/2 an avocado

– Leftover barbecue chicken

– Leftover barbecue sauce

– Smokey gouda cheese that needed eating

As you can probably tell, I’m huge into freezing things. If you look in my refrigerator you would probably assume that we order out a lot, but no! Just look in my freezer…s. That’s right, I have two! I asked for one for my birthday because the one we had was just not cutting it, and I loooove it! It’s funny the different reactions I get when I tell people I got a freezer for my birthday – younger than me tell me that I’m old for asking for a freezer. Same age and older go “that’s so awesome!” or “I’m jealous!” Yeah, you should be. Because it’s AWESOME 🙂

Anyway… here are a couple of meals I created out of my salvage yard:

Strawberry Feta Wraps
– chopped strawberries
– handful of feta cheese
– chopped red onion
– about a cup of spinach
– whole wheat tortillas (pantry staple)

Dressing: Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette (yes, I googled Strawberry Feta Salad to find a suitable dressing!) 1/3 cup balsamic, 1/4 cup honey, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, 3 tbs oil

Strawberry Avocado Salads
– chopped strawberries
– handful of goat cheese
– 1/2 avocado, chopped
– chopped red onion
– spinach for salad base
– chopped cashews (from the pantry)

Dressing: Garlic Dijon Red Wine Vinaigrette (again, I googled strawberry avocado salad for a suitable dressing!) 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 tbs red wine vinegar, 1 tbs dijon (I used brown because that’s what I had) mustard, 1 1/2 tbs sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 clove minced garlic

Salvage Yard Meaty Pasta

YUM

– 1 tbs olive oil
– 1/2 cup chopped green peppers
– defrosted precooked ground beef/onion mixture
– jar of pasta sauce
– garlic powder
– Italian seasoning
– defrosted frozen non stuffed, stuffed shells
– cream cheese, softened (I used about 6 oz.)
– shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
– basil

Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the peppers in a bit of olive oil in a skillet, add in the beef and onion mixture to heat it up. Pour pasta sauce in a sauce pan, add the beef mixture. My secret weapon is garlic powder. It gives sauce a zestiness that I love (I also figured out that’s the main ingredient in the “spaghetti sauce” packets at the store)! So I add a couple tablespoons of that, and some italian seasoning as well. Cook for about 10 minutes or until hot enough. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese with a handful of mozzarella (and maybe a bit of parm) and about a teaspoon of basil. Stuff the shells with this mixture, lay each shell in a baking dish. When the sauce is done, pour over the shells. Sprinkle mozz and parm on top to your liking (the more the better for me!). Cook on the middle rack for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden (move it up a rack at the end if you like it crispy like I do!). Let stand for 10-15 minutes.

Barbecue Chicken Pizzas

before going in the oven

– whole wheat tortillas
– olive oil
– dried chopped garlic
– leftover barbecue chicken
– 1/4 cup chopped green peppers
– 1/4 cup chopped red onion
– leftover barbecue sauce
– ranch dressing (I always have homemade ranch dressing in my fridge!)
– small hunks of smokey gouda or white american cheese (I had both on hand)
– shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. I make tortilla pizzas a lot. It doesn’t hurt that they’re my husband’s favorite. No, I’m not kidding. I always start by shaking on some garlic and a tablespoon or so of olive oil onto my tortillas. I spread it around with a spoon until it covers the surface. I think it just gives the “crust” a bit more flavor. Add the chicken, peppers, and onion. Mix barbecue sauce and ranch dressing in a small bowl or cup. I do a 1-3 ratio (1 part barbecue sauce to 3 parts ranch), but that’s because I don’t like spicy things and I love ranch dressing! Take a spoon and drizzle it lightly over the toppings on the pizzas. A little bit goes a long way, taste-wise. Throw the cheese on top to your liking and cook until pizzas are golden and crispy (which usually takes tops 10 minutes).

White Bean Pasta Bake
– 1 box your choice pasta (I used tri color rotini)
– olive oil
– 1/4 cup red onion
– 1/2 to whole chopped green pepper
– 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I always have a jar in my fridge… and get it from… the dollar store!)
– 2 cups raw spinach
– 1 can cannelini or white beans of your choice, rinsed
– shredded parmesan cheese (I always have a bag of parm, mozz, and cheddar in the freezer – you don’t even need to defrost them to use them on something hot!)
– cream cheese
– panko bread crumbs (pantry staple)

Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than recommended (because it’s going in the oven). Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a skillet – add onions and peppers and cook for a minute or two (a minute longer if the peppers were frozen like mine). Add garlic and spinach, toss until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat, toss in beans and pasta; add a handful of parmesan cheese and the cream cheese (I had a tub with some left in it, I probably used about 4-6 oz.). Toss until everything is mixed, pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs and more parmesan cheese on top. Cook for 15 minutes and then 2-3 minutes under the broiler.

===================================

Obviously salads and wraps are pretty easy to make with leftovers. I do pizzas a lot, too! And clearly my new favorite thing to do is add cream cheese to pasta. I stared it down in my refrigerator one night until I decided it wouldn’t taste weird in a pasta dish and it was delish!

Also – I made 8 lbs of pulled pork for the party and in addition to eating it on sandwiches, I put it on pizza and actually made it into a shepherd’s pie! Oh, and froze some. We probably still have 4 lbs of pulled pork in our freezer for when we someday can stomach the thought of eating it again.

Got any ideas for other salvage yard meals? I’d love to hear ’em!

– C

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