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help me! tons of stuff in my cupboards

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Hi all,

My cupboards are bursting with random dry goods. How many can I use up in one meal? Any ideas?

Grains/pasta:
Tons of brown rice, including gorgeous mahogany and black rices
Trader joe's wild rice medley
Arborio rice
Bulgur
red and green dried lentils
Couscous
Pearled barley
Quinoa
Polenta
Rice noodles (mai-fun)
Orzo
Lots of random pastas, including way too many no-boil lasagne noodles

Dried fruits:
Dried dates (whole and sugared pieces)
Dried figs
Unsweetened mangoes
Cranberries
Figs
Golden raisins
Crystallized ginger

Canned stuff:
Tuna
Tomatoes
Canellini beans
Pinto beans
Garbanzo beans

Freezer:
Walnuts
Almonds
Peanuts
Pine nuts
Sunflower seeds
Edamame
Frozen spinach

I also have eggs, carrots, two sad-looking zucchini, garlic, four white onions, lemons, two oranges, various vinegars, olive oil, etc.

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  1. First thought: Lasagna with spinach pesto as one of the layers. It would include the tomatoes, pine nuts, frozen spinach, zucchini, onions, garlic, ricotta if you have it, etc. You could serve it with orange-glazed carrots and have dried fruit compote for dessert, especially if you have port or madeira to stew the fruit in.

    Second thought: Cannelini bean salad nicoise. That would use the cannelini beans, tuna, eggs, a nut of your choice if you desire (I'd do the walnuts, toasted and sprinkled on top), some lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, etc.

    Third thought: a multi-grain breakfast cereal. Use up some of that quinoa, bulgur, barley, and couscous with dried fruit and milk for breakfast.

    Fourth thought: did you know that rice can be cooked and then frozen? I know that really only transfers your grain abundance from the pantry to the freezer, but I'm definitely more likely to use something on a weeknight if it takes, say, 30 seconds to warm in the microwave rather than an hour to cook on the stove. It's totally respectable, too -- Masaharu Morimoto talked about freezing rice in a F&W from a couple years ago.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LauraGrace

      Love the tuna/cannellini idea. Thank you for that. Also love the multi-grain breakfast cereal idea..I wonder if I can make that ahead and eat in the AM? I'll never have time to make it in the morning.

      I'm going to cook and freeze some of the rice, too. Fantastic idea--I mean, I buy the frozen brown rice at TJs, so I am sure I can do it myself.

      1. re: IndyGirl

        Somewhere online is a recipe (well, lots of 'em, I'm sure) for multi-grain breakfast cereal you do overnight in the crockpot. But you can definitely make it ahead, portion it out, and refrigerate or even freeze the portions, then nuke 'em or reheat them on the stovetop. I would just recommend leaving out dairy until you're ready to serve.

        And frozen brown rice is a massive time-saver for me, and an excuse-blaster too. When I'm thirty seconds away from brown rice, it's pretty stinking hard to justify ordering pizza, you know? ;)

    2. A tagine would use some couscous, dried figs and/or raisins, pinenuts.

      Personally, I never use no-boil noodles so I would toss them.

      Are any in unopened packages? Give them to a food bank.

      I have always wanted to try a sweet risotto - that could use the arborio and some of the dried fruits and nuts.

      You have lots of soups in there!

      1. This will take some time to deplete your cupboard, but with a plan, it won't be too bad. When I make a meal plan for the week, I start with a list like yours and create meals that use up the ingredients, crossing them off one by one. Here are a few ideas that pop into my mind for some of your ingredients:

        For nuts, seeds, and dried fruit - add to salads.
        I also like to make a tuna salad with cannelini beans, a little chopped onion, mustard, mayo, and a little red wine vinegar.

        You can also make a tagine and use up some of your dried fruit (usually I use dried apricots, but the figs or dates would be interesting to try), and serve it along side quinoa with some pine nuts and saffron in it.

        A nut pesto to use up some of the nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts).

        -Amy
        http://ourhomeworks.wordpress.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: ourhomeworks

          Great ideas, Amy. Thank you! I am going to make that tuna salad soon, maybe for dinner tomorrow night.

        2. About those boxes of no-boil lasagne noodles:
          During the COTM for June 2008 which was a Spanish cookbook by Penelope Casas I made a soup called "Chorizo,Tomato, and Pasta Stew." Although home made pasta is called for I used some no-boil noodle which were languishing in my pantry.. The result was a success and I would recommend using your noodle - er - noodles in a similar fashion. The recipe has you break the noodles in half crosswise then cooking them in the soupy ingredients.
          I can't ever seem to get the Permalink to work but if you scroll down to the middle of the page you'll find my report and further down the paraphrased recipe. June 6 2008.....

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5245...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gio

            Love this idea. Thank you. I could imagine a chick pea soup with these noodles in broth. Hadn't occurred to me to use them for this purpose.

          2. I'd suggest prioritizing the grains, so the brown rice doesn't go rancid before you get around to using it. Ditto the frozen nuts, since freezing retards but does not prevent rancidity.

            2 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              How does one know if brown rice is rancid? That's a little scary to me. I just cooked a whole ton of rice and am in the process of freezing it on sheet pans. I hardly ever use rice during the week because it takes so long to cook.

              1. re: IndyGirl

                It will have the standard rancid smell when you open the package or jar.

            2. You can combine your lentils with bulgur, couscous, or quinoa, plus nuts or sunflower seeds and chopped dried fruits in various permutations to make nice, healthful main-dish salads for dinner and lunches. Dress with vinaigrette or olive oil and lemon juice, add minced onion or garlic if you like and any complementary herbs (especially fresh) you have on hand. Feta and goat cheeses are good in these, if you're so inclined. These salads keep well in the fridge for a few days, if you want to make ahead and use for lunches.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Awesome. I am going to do this this weekend for the following week!

              2. 3-bean chili (canellinis, pintos, garbanzos, tomatoes, onions, garlic) with rice

                spinach pesto pasta (spinach, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil) + pasta, maybe add some lemon zest

                lentil soup (lentils, onion, garlic, carrots)

                cranberry or fig & walnut cake (assuming you also have flour, butter and sugar)

                1. Okay, none of that stuff really goes bad, at least the canned stuff, grains and pasta.
                  Why the need to get rid of them? I wouldn't freeze rice, although in its dry state, it doesn't go bad unless it gets infested.

                  If you really think they're getting dated, donate them.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Whosyerkitty

                    It's a space issue more than anything! I don't have much cupboard space in the first place and I just need to use some of this up. I can't even see it all until I start looking for something else, so I forget what I have easily. And as someone else mentioned, nuts don't keep forever, even in the freezer.

                    These are awesome ideas--I especially like the main-dish salad idea. I will definitely do that for next week.

                    1. re: IndyGirl

                      I can understand that. That is why I don't shop at Costco and places like that.

                      1. re: IndyGirl

                        When Kitchens Etc. closed their stores, I bought a bunch of the shallow white wire mesh pans the store used to contain small display items. Wasn't sure what I'd do with them, but subsequently have used them in my cabinets and fridge, neither of which have slide-out shelves. I put smaller jars and packets in them, so I can pull out the whole pan rather than move around a bunch of jars before getting to the one I want. This is also good for the topmost shelves, where I can barely see, much less reach, the contents in the rear.

                    2. Pasta with onion, garlic, zuke, garbanzos or canellini or pine nuts, frozen spinach, and tomatoes.

                      Quinoa, onion, garlic, zuke, carrots, spinach.

                      Brown rice or wild rice, cranberries, pine nuts, spinach.

                      Smoothie: some combo of oranges, mango, cranberries, dates, figs, almonds...not necessarily all.

                      1. It sounds like a very well-stocked pantry to me. I have almost all of this stuff myself and I keep it on hand all the time, and I'm only one person. What exactly is the problem?

                        Maybe what you need is a better way to store it, not a way to use it all up.

                        1. I like making a Wild Rice Salad with chopped dried figs, toasted pecans/cashews (but you could substitute with your walnuts & almonds), green onions, celery, onion and a vinaigrette with red wine vinegar/lemon juice/garlic/Dijon/olive oil.