I’ve said it before: I hate to let food go to waste. So that means that sometimes, meals are planned around what needs to be used up in the fridge. At times, it also means that I have to use ingredients that may be past their prime. I try my best to shop according to our needs, but sometimes, I buy more than I need, or plans change, and I just don’t use up an ingredient that I planned to. I’m not one to throw out food just because it doesn’t look it’s best. Limp veggies, mouldy food, or something that may smell a little “off,” can often be used, after a little work. Monday’s supper was one that included 2 such ingredients: broccoli slaw mix that was starting to go slimy, and 1/2 cup cooked quinoa that had a slightly undesirable smell to it.
So what dish did I create to incorporate these ingredients? This culinary triumph doesn’t exactly have a name. My inspiration was a sloppy joe stir fry recipe in my latest Hungry Girl cookbook with turkey and broccoli slaw mix. I defrosted 1/2 pound ground turkey I had in the freezer and got to work!
I sautéed the thawed ground turkey with the salvageable broccoli slaw (there was a little corner of it that was pretty nasty…), a clove of chopped garlic, one chopped onion and some chopped red pepper in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, I tossed a couple of cups of peeled, cubed, butternut squash with some Epicure salsa seasoning, garlic salt and cumin and roasted at 425 for about 45 minutes.
After the veggies and turkey had sautéed for a few minutes, I added my sauce ingredients – part of a can of diced tomatoes, salt, and the ingredients pictured at right: a few squirts each of ketchup and BBQ sauce (both light), a few drops of liquid smoke, Epicure nacho cheese, pueblo bean and salsa seasonings, cumin and brown sugar twin (oh, and also a tablespoon of tomato paste).
I reduced the heat and let everything simmer for about 10 minutes. Then I tasted, adjusted seasonings (added a bit more of some of the above ingredients) and stirred in the quinoa, and let it simmer some more.
At the last minute, I stirred in the roasted squash chunks and about 1/4 cup frozen corn. The roasted squash chunks are purely optional, they just add a different texture/flavour component and bump up the veggies. I let everything get heated through and dinner was served!
This Sweet ‘n Smoky Turkey Skillet (what, can you think of a better name?) may not win any awards, but it was actually pretty tasty. And I was glad to use up some stuff in the fridge without throwing it out. Once the slightly slimy slaw and queer-smelling quinoa were cooked up, you’d have no idea they were past their prime (honest, I swear)! I’ve found that with slightly old ingredients, particularly produce, it’s best to cook them up with other stuff. That masks any defects that would stand out if you ate it fresh. Another “old-food camouflage” trick I did this week was by making an Asian slaw in my lunch with coleslaw mix that was ever-so-slightly brown. It didn’t look usable, but when mixed with dark balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, you couldn’t tell the difference. Now, I’m not saying you should cook this way when you’re having company, but for you and your family, it’s a great way to use up ingredients.
Monday’s dessert also used up something in the fridge – mango curd from my Easter cake (this was not at all past its prime, so I used it straight up). I thawed some frozen raspberries, stirred in one sugar-free vanilla pudding cup and swirled in a couple tablespoons of the curd on top….YUMMY! It was a great, spring-y fresh dessert. And although the mango curd is a little decadent, in small amounts, it can totally fit in to my normal, healthy diet.
What about you? Do you throw out ingredients the second they even have a hint of going bad? Or will you go to any length to use up the food in your fridge? Any good tricks for covering up food that’s past its prime?