Saturday, April 21, 2012

Scraping the Bottom of The Pantry

Maybe you were in college or perhaps it was when you lived in your first apartment. Or maybe it was yesterday. We all have that moment when we realize, 'Holy cricket! There's nothing in the pantry and payday is about six years from now.'

Well, that's how it feels, anyway.

Most of the time I can pride myself on eating pretty healthy. I'll buy the five pound bag of apples for $2.99  over the $3.49 bag of Doritos on most days. But I'm not exactly some nut butter lovin', organic honey farming, tree hugger either. So I try to feed the family right, but there is some ,uh, stuff just shoved to the back of the cabinet and when you have to eat, then you just have to eat what you've got.
Thanks to a bag of cookies that got mishandled by the little one, I was forced to remove everything from the shelf and clean up the cookie dust. And like all cleaning projects, one thing will always lead to another. And during all this cabinet cleaning, I kept wondering 'What am I going to do with this stuff?' Of course, that got me to thinking that a lot of you do the same thing; there's weird little odds and ends we just don't know how to use up. Here's some of the stuff I found and how  I tried to use it wisely. I bet you've got some of the same stuff in your pantry, too.

RAMEN: You have some. You know you do. Don't just boil that stuff then toss it in a bowl. Never ever do that. Try this instead: Add  sliced onion and some of last night's meat into the final stage of cooking. Use any kind of leftover meat you have: chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, etc. Add in some leftover greenery (peas, broccoli) and you're good to go.  You can also use it as a side dish,

SPAM: You bought some for 'just in case' but it's now shoved in the back of the cabinet, hiding under the ramen noodles. Thinly slice and cook in the frying pan. Add some scrambled eggs and a banana and you are full. My youngest son thinks it's called Breakfast Ham. Or add it to your ramen. How about some Spam Fried Rice? A little bit will go a long way. Just pull it out of the cabinet and start from there. Use a little bit with some eggs, cheese and last night' left over broccoli and you've got an omelet.

SALSA: You got an extra jar from Party Night.  Add one cup to your chili for an extra flavor boost. Use as a topping for your baked potato or for your scrambled eggs/omelet. You can also mirowave some in a bowl with a little bit of cheese for a chip and veggie dip.

FLOUR TORTILLAS:  Very lightly coat with butter and then sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, or something savory like garlic and paprika. Cut into thin strips and bake until crispy.

CEREAL: Just crumble that stuff up and put on pudding, ice cream and yogurt.

RICE: If there isn't enough for a family meal (or leftovers in the fridge) make a single serving of rice pudding. Better, still, is to reheat with a dash of milk. Add honey and you've got a very filling and yummy breaksfast.

LEFT OVER CHIPS:  This makes a great topping for homemade soups, stews, casseroles, and chili. Also, it's pretty good crumpled up on homemade sub sandwiches. It's got a little snap and crunch that makes it fun for the little ones.

BAKING GOODS: Little bits of baking goods like coconut, nuts, chocolate/butterscotch/peanut butter chips can be used in oatmeal and yogurt. You can also use these things as the base for your own homemade trail mix. Pudding and cake mixes make excellent cookies.

My frugal, logical self will not allow me to throw this stuff out; I bought if for one reason or another, so I'm going to use it. I won't say it's gourmet but I will tell you that necessity is the mother of invention and some pretty good meals can come from getting clever with the left overs.

Dare I say it?  Bon apetit!

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