21 January 2014

What am I supposed to do with that?

Ever end up with a little bit of something in your fridge that seems destined to become a pretty blue-and-green science experiment?  Maybe it's part of a can of tomato paste or a little bit of coconut milk. Or perhaps you think it will make you a better person to snack on cottage cheese until you realize you're not quite that lactose tolerant anymore (true story). Here are some items that always end up abandoned in my fridge with some simple ideas for using every last drop.

Tomato paste: I truly detest the useless size of these little cans; you never need this much at a time. But I hate them a lot less now that I realize I can do other things besides make spaghetti sauce or chili with it.

It's great for adding richness and thickening up any Italian-flavored soup, but I particularly like it in this quick and simple Miso-Tomato Soup from an earlier post.

You can also freeze it into ice cubes, place cubes in a large zip-top freezer weight bag, and use later.

Cottage cheese: Really, what is with the size of these containers?  I am not Catholic or a Mormon.

Quiches: Replace the milk in your egg mixture with cottage cheese for a fluffy and incredibly moist filling.  I generally use 1 heaping tablespoon per two eggs.

Replacement for ricotta in lasagna: if you're from the Midwest or near West, this is standard procedure. Ricotta is too sweet and feels like a lump of sand in your mouth, anyway. Gross.

Make a casserole: Don't forget, this is cheese!  When it's cooked, it gets reasonably melty while retaining some firmness and structure to the individual curds.  It's great mixed into a casserole dish with other leftovers, like this fantastic one from 101 Cookbooks.

Coconut Milk:  I often end up with a little extra after making a 4-serving batch of Thai curry. Here's what I do:

Add to soups for a Thai twist (along with some lime juice and chopped cilantro, perhaps).  Or make a batch of Brazilian Vatapa Soup

Replace the milk in no-cook overnight oatmeal.  Throw in some shredded coconut while you're at it, too.

Make this amazing smoothie: Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie.

And like the tomato paste, you can also freeze it into ice cubes, place cubes in a large zip-top freezer weight bag, and use later.

Tomato juice, Bloody Mary mix, or V8: I occasionally buy this for brunch with friends, but I can never get through all of it before it goes bad.  Bloody Marys are great fun in theory, but they're so heavy, and I'm trying not to replace meals entirely with vodka based drinks (anymore).

Use as a base for soup.  1/3 V-8 or BM mix to 2/3 vegetable or chicken stock makes a great base for both Mexican tortilla soup and any host of Italian pasta e fagioli kinds of recipes.  If you've got plain tomato juice, just throw in some chopped garlic and  Italian seasoning or pesto.  But be forewarned: most of these products are pretty high in sodium, so use low-sodium broth whenever possible.

Thicken with tomato paste (see above) for a tomato sauce.  Just experiment until the thickness seems right to you and season as you normally would.  And don't forget a generous splash of red wine at the end.

Did I mention you can freeze these types of things? Then you could use them later in the next round of Bloody Marys!

Packets of soy sauce, ketchup, etc. leftover from last week's takeout:  No.  Throw that shit away.  You are not a hoarder.