Taking a Pantry Inventory and Using Up Stray Ingredients: The Reckoning

Three weeks ago, in the spirit of starting the new year with a clean pantry, I hauled out all the food items I hadn’t touched in a while and were cluttering up my shelves. It was quite a list.

I said I would check in at the end of the month and evaluate my progress. As evidenced by the photo, I made a pretty decent dent.

My favorite part about this site continues to be the interaction, feedback and advice I get from readers. I got lots of great, very detailed ideas of what to do with my stray ingredients. For example, this is only part of the note I received from Christina:

Use the Matzo for breading instead of the <cringe> cookies (you can whiz it up in the food processor or bash with a rolling pin to make a smaller footprint, put in a jar or plastic bag if you must, in the frig or freezer to keep from going rancid)

Freeze the nuts too keep from going rancid and use for cooking throughout the year (peanuts and coconut for Thai, pine nuts for pesto, etc.)

Figs for a salad soon, along with one of the nuts (madadamia?) and maybe sliced orange and onions on butter-leaf lettuce?  Or something similar.

So, how did I use up a truly random list of ingredients?

I made cookies – in the spirit of Rice Krispie Treats – with the marshmallows and old Christmas cookies.

I used macadamia nuts, white chocolate chips and the flaked coconut in a cookie a friend dubbed “an island cookie.”

I saw an enticing recipe for oatmeal clafoutis (make-ahead breakfast bars) and I used up my remaining quick oats, pecans and hazelnuts.

My wife brings mixed nuts to work, so she’s getting the remaining peanuts, sunflower seeds and almonds. We had dried figs in our morning oatmeal for a few days. I used up the dried mushrooms in a couple great rice and pasta dishes. I just ate the remaining nine or so caramel candies one afternoon. I didn’t feel very good afterward, but at least they were gone! I tried grinding up the matzos to use as breading, but the crisped edges of the matzos made the breading too bitter. I half-heartedly ate a couple stale matzos for lunch one day, then tossed the rest in the trash.

What do I have left? I’m keeping the matzo meal and will use that as breading the next time I pan-fry chicken. There’s a great braised pork dish I make that uses star anise, so my giant container is being put to good use. Of course, I have at least 100 star anise pods, which means I can make the braised pork dish at least 20 times. Readers noted that things like the evaporated milk, baking chocolate, peppermint extract, sugar and mustard seeds keep indefinitely. I’m going to be pickling vegetables this summer, so the mustard seed will come in handy. I don’t want to think about how many pounds of pickles I would have to make to actually consume my supply. That leaves the smoked salmon, which I really should open up and serve for dinner. Sometime soon …

I heard from a few readers who were inspired to do their own pantry inventory. I hope your purging was as successful as mine.

  • Babbsie2

    The smoked salmon makes a great cracker dip flaked with a bit of cream cheese, minced red onion, and cracked pepper. Love your ideas!

  • drgns4vr

    Actually, evaporated milk does NOT keep indefinitely.  It turns brown and sludges in the bottom of the can.  Icky.

  • jatica

    Really good ideas. Now for the biggy…how do you organize a spice pantry/cupboard? I have at least a gazillion spices and the best I can come up with (apart from alphabetizing) is to separate them into either cooking or baking spices….but even then there are cross-overs…cinnamon,nutmeg ginger etc. I need some ideas.

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