At the end of February, I realized that I had zero room in my pantry and that my freezer was overflowing. So, I decided to do a 30 day challenge of no grocery shopping. I was only going to use what I already had in my house for the month of March. Little did I know that my challenge would line up with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to self-distancing.
As many of us are still continuing to practice social distancing and hopefully limiting our trips to the grocery store, I wanted to share with you the things I made over the past month. Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to look at your pantry and freezer creatively and helps you through the remaining unknown time of social distancing.
I will tell you, I didn’t organize this post by type of food, like one might a cookbook, it’s just posted in the order of things I made. You will see how I used some produce that was almost ready to go bad, and how I used certain condiments I made in later recipes.
I started my month by making homemade savory babka. I used the a recipe from The Kitchn, except I didn’t have sun dried tomatoes, so i just left them out. It actually turned out to be a great vehicle to serve with Uova en Purgatorio, or Eggs in Purgatory. As you can see pictured below, eggs in purgatory is a great breakfast, brunch, or breakfast for dinner (brinner) recipe of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s even easier if you use your favorite jar of quality marinara sauce with crushed red peppers.
The first few days of my challenge also fell when my sister was headed back to college, and as you can read in my banana bread post, is one of her back-to-school traditions. So, I had to use my frozen bananas, flour, and eggs to make her banana bread. That’s love, y’all.
Now frozen salmon doesn’t always look the best, or most presentable if you are going to be baking it in the oven or in a skillet, but it works great to make salmon burgers. There were inspired by Katie Lee on an episode of Food Network’s The Kitchen. I didn’t have all of the ingredients she used in her recipe, mainly I was missing the herbs. The only fresh herbs I had on hand was parsley, so that’s all that I used. I also topped mine with some leftover slaw.
So, I used up all of my store-bought pesto when making the babka, featured above. And I needed some for another recipe i wanted to make this month. I also needed to use up the rest of my fresh parsley before it went bad. So, I made some homemade pesto with the parsley and sunflower seeds. Why sunflower seeds? Well, because I didn’t have pine nuts, plus pine nuts are expensive! You can also use walnuts in place of pine nuts. They work great, too.
Anyway, pesto is so quick and easy to make. Just place your herbs, nuts, parmesan cheese, and a garlic clove in a food processor. Drizzle in enough good olive oil to create a pesto consistency. If you are making a more traditional basil pesto, you will want to pulse up the nuts, garlic and parmesan a bit before adding the basil so that the heat of the processor doesn’t cook the basil and ruin the verdant color basil can have.
Now, about that recipe that I wanted to use basil in: a super simple meatball recipe. Inspiration for this recipe came from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredient’s cookbook where pesto serves as the flavor boost for the meatballs. Just take your desired ground meat (I had some ground turkey in the freezer) and mix it with a couple tablespoons of pesto. Form it into balls and cook in a skillet until they are nearly done. Then add your favorite jar of marinara sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Add some fresh mozzarella, covering the pan to help the cheese melt. Then you can serve it on pasta, as a meatball sub, on a hamburger bun for a meatball sandwich situation, or do what I did and serve it on a toasted slice of the savory babka I made at the beginning of this post! Yum!
The next piece of produce I needed to use up? The green bell peppers. So, I decided to use up some of my leftover fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and some ricotta that needed to be used up and make these keto-friendly, low carb chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.
Having more produce that needed to be used up led to veggie fajitas. To make the fajitas, I sauteed onions, peppers, and mushrooms with some taco or fajita seasoning blends (that I keep in my spice cabinet). I also heated up a drained can of black beans in a skillet with a bit of salt and pepper, and then gave them a good mash with a potato masher. Then, I just wrapped it all up in some sprouted grain tortillas that came in my Imperfect Foods box!
One weekend my mom came into town so my grandma decided to have a little family dinner of tacos and board games. So, I decided to contribute a vegetarian lentil taco soup into the mix. This was such a simple recipe. You just saute an onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Then, add some garlic and some of your trusty cupboard taco seasoning. Then, add a cup of red lentils, a can of tomatoes, a couple cups of chicken stock, and a can of white or pinto beans, and a cup of corn. Just simmer the soup until the lentils are tender. You can garnish with some of your favorite taco toppings. Easy peasy.
I always keep a lot of root vegetables on hand. Now, I had planned to use my regular potatoes close to St. Patrick’s day, so I was left with making something with the carrots and sweet potatoes. I decided to make a sweet potato and carrot gratin. To make the gratin, I sliced the vegetables thinly on a mandolin, and then layered them in a baking dish with a mixture of milk, greek yogurt (sounds weird I know, but it helped it be creamy since I was running low on cheese), and some of the random bits of cheese I had left in the refrigerator. I also put a bit of butter between each of the layers of potatoes when i make any kind of scalloped potato or root vegetable dish. Then, bake it up until the sweet potatoes and carrots are fork tender. This actually made a really great breakfast when I put an egg on top! I’m thinking I might make this again for a brunch!
I hate food waste, especially bread food waste. You can always make croutons out of any leftover or stale bread. That’s what I decided to do with some of the savory babka from earlier this month. I just toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake them in an oven at a lower temperature, about 250 degrees, until the croutons are dry and crispy.
St. Patrick’s Day fell during my 30 day challenge. I can’t have a St. Patrick’s Day without making Soda Bread. It’s also super easy to make with only 4 ingredients: buttermilk, flour, salt, and baking soda. It’s really best warm out of the oven, with a little dab of butter on it. My mom actually stole a hunk out of the bottom of the loaf before I could even take a picture of it. And, for the next 15 minutes kept asking me if I had taken a picture yet.
Normally for St. Patrick’s Day I either make bangers and mash, or a corned beef. I didn’t have either of those things on-hand. So, I ended up making a beer braised pork loin with mashed potatoes and parsnips. I was really happy with how it turned out. The pork loin was so succulent, with a bit of bitterness from the beer, and creamy mashed potatoes with little spicy and sweet bits of parsnips mixed in. I think this might have been one of my favorite things I made this month.
My oranges were on the verge of going bad. So, I decided to make homemade orange marmalade. It was surprisingly easy; it just took a couple of hours to get them soft and syrupy. I chopped about 2 cups of oranges up as thin as I could, including the skin and rinds of the oranges. Then, brought them to boil with a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Then I let it simmer and cook on low/medium low for a couple of hours (stirring it occasionally), until it reached 210 degrees on a candy thermometer, it had thickened up, and the rinds of the oranges were soft.
So, back in February, my roommate wanted to make homemade puff pastry to make croissants. She froze half of the puff pastry for later, and (with her permission) I fried it and made CRONUTS! Half with cinnamon sugar and half with powdered sugar (inspired by beignets).
Disclaimer: these are not homemade perogies. I bought them from Aldi’s and pulled them from the freezer for dinner.
I was craving Chinese food during social distancing so I decided to make homemade orange chicken. So, I fried some chicken in a tempura batter. Then, created a sauce from the orange marmalade I made, some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and some hoisin sauce. I served it on a bed of steamed broccoli because I didn’t really feel like making or eating rice. And hey, it’s “healthier” right, especially with fried chicken. I’m calling it balance.
For some reason, the one time when I was visiting my mom, she sent me home with a costco box of devil’s food cake mix. I realized on the back of the box, they had a recipe for cookies using the cake mix! I’m not a big fan of cake, but I do love a cookie. So, cookies from a cake mix… GENIUS. Instead of chocolate chips like the recipe called for, I folded in butterscotch chips and some of the nut and coconut based paleo granola. I’m calling them my Pantry Cookies from now on.
Food Without Photographs
These are just the food I managed to take pictures of this month. Some of the other food includes:
- Chip and salsa day at work let to homemade pico de gallo, sliced cucumbers as chips, and plantain chips.
- My roommate and I both made grilled cheese with the babka at the beginning of this post.
- In the style of eggs in purgatory, I baked some eggs in a curry sauce for breakfast one weekend.
- I had some romanesco broccoli in the refrigerator, roasted it, and then tossed it in a miso and tahini dressing.
- I zhuzhed up one of those 25 cent packages of ramen with soy, hoisin, ginger, and a bit of gojuchang for spice.
- I love popcorn and actually ate a lot of popcorn this month. Sometimes I would just have popcorn for dinner.
- One night I just had mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. It be like that sometimes.
- I also ate a lot of breakfast burritos that were basically just scrambled eggs and a little bit of salsa or other type of sauce. I also made some breakfast tacos using butter lettuce leaves. Partially because I felt like being healthy, but also because I was out of tortillas.
My Roommate’s Contributions
My roommate didn’t participate in the “no grocery shopping” thing, but I did try to limit the use of her groceries. Full disclosure, I did use some of her eggs and cheese.
My roommate also treated me to dinner a couple of times to save me from having to cook. She made these delicious antipasti bake with crescent rolls. She also splurged on some pizza delivery for us one night.