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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] H[/dropcap]ave you ever found yourself staring into your fridge thinking ‘there’s nothing to eat here’? Even if the shelves aren’t bare?
Well my friend, you may be suffering from ‘refrigerator blindness’. But the good news is you’re not alone! Over the years I’ve noticed episodes of ‘refrigerator blindness’ in my friends, my flatmates, a certain Irishman, and even in myself, from time to time.
There is one person who seemed to be immune, my beautiful mother. Years of living on a farm bringing up 5 children, with the closest supermarket over 40 minutes away must have been a powerful ‘antidote’ to the dreaded refrigerator blindness.
So when I feel a case coming on, I stop and think about how my Mum would approach the situation. Usually I find something to eat, keeping the ‘refrigerator blindess’ germs at bay for another meal.
Today I thought I’d share with you the 4 easy steps you to can take to cure this pesky disease. It will save you extra trips to the grocery store or from ‘dialling a pizza’. And it means you’ll be eating what you have rather than letting it go to waste. Talk about win! win! win!
4 steps to cure refrigerator ‘blindness’
STEP 1. Get all the likely suspects out in the open.
It’s difficult to see what you’re working with when everything is packed into the fridge. It will only take a minute or so but spreading things out on your kitchen bench top or table will make all the difference.
STEP 2. Group items which might go together.
I look for things that seem like they’d be nice together. I also group items which need eating up the most.
STEP 3. Quickly scan your pantry / freezer for reinforcements.
A can of tomatoes, some canned chickpeas, par-cooked rice, stock cubes, coconut milk. And in the freezer look for things that won’t take ages to defrost like frozen peas, stock frozen in small containers or sliced bread.
STEP 4. Choose from one of the time-tested refrigerator meal formats below and get cooking!
i. Soup / stew
Best for cooler weather. This is my first port of call for a leftover lunch or dinner. Because the leftovers have been hanging around the fridge for a few days, your soup will often end up with surprising depth of flavour.
ii. Tapas plate
You know how you can make a whole meal out of little bits and pieces in a tapas bar. There’s no reason you can’t do the same at home! This is great for leftover bits and pieces that don’t look like they’d be improved by simmering in a pot together.
iii. ‘Composed’ salad
Similar to the tapas plate but serve everything on a bed of dressed salad leaves.
iv. Sandwich or wrap
First you need to make sure you’ve got bread or wraps. Remember you can use lettuce leaves or collard greens for a healthy low-carb wrap alternative. This is especially good with leftover ham or turkey from Christmas or Thanksgiving.
v. Good things on toast
If you have bread and the weather is cooler, heating up leftovers and serving on hot buttered toast is a winner. For bonus points grate some cheese over the top and put everything under the grill until bubbling and golden.
The recipe below might seem a little ‘weird’ but basically it’s a template to help you make a soup that’s going to taste great. Make sure you check out the suggestions below for ideas of the types of ingredients to use.
Use this ‘template’ if you’re feeling a bit nervous, but more experienced cooks can just go ahead and add things to the pot as they like…
enough for 1:
1 1/2 cups liquid
about 250g (1/2lb) solid ingredients, chopped into bite sized chunks
small handful highlight ingredient, optional
1. Add liquid to the pot and bring to a simmer.
2. Add your chosen solid ingredients. Cover and simmer until everything is hot and cooked through.
3. If you feel like a smoother or thicker soup, whizz with a stick blender until partially or fully pureed. Taste and season.
4. Serve in deep bowls topped with your highlight ingredient, if using.
liquid – water, stock, stock or bullion cubes or powder made up with water, leftover wine (not recommended on its own, mix with water to dilute), tomato paste mixed with water, unsweetened coconut milk, curry powder (combined with water or coconut milk), vegetable juice, miso paste mixed with water, canned tomatoes (chop before using).
solid ingredients – pretty much anything goes here. Just use your judgement, if you think it will work when you try and imagine the ingredients together it probably will. Leftovers are great such as leftover risotto, salad bits, or cooked lentils, raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, cooked meats, cured meats. And don’t forget to check the pantry and freezer for things like canned legumes, noodles, frozen peas, breadcrumbs etc.
highlight ingredient – natural yoghurt, sour cream, pesto, a good drizzle of olive oil, butter, toasted nuts (especially pine nuts), finely sliced prosciutto, fresh herbs, soft cheese such as ricotta, goats cheese, blue cheese, grated hard cheese such as parmesan or cheddar. Mayo or aioli are also great soup toppings (think the french classic bouilabaise).
I am afflicted with this dreaded ailment! All I see is chocolate and peanut butter, and woe. Too often this ends up with me eating chocolate and peanut butter! Bring on the fridge raids.
I always fall victim to Refrigerator Blindness–and end up wasting good food!
I like to make a reality style game show out making soup from whatever I can find in the fridge (I’ve even been known to play this game with other people’s fridges). My general rule of thumb is must contain some type of protein (if no leftover meat in the fridge I start looking for canned beans or dry lentils) if your soup is meant to be your entree.
Thanks, Jules! Watched the video this morning, threw together a soup for lunch. It was much better than I anticipated and forced me to dig out a couple of items that may have been relegated to the trash can soon enough.
Love this! Thank you for making clear something I’ve tried to explain to others for years. I do this regularly, and you are absolutely accurate when you point out that combined dishes have unexpectedly deep flavor. Thank you!
It’s funny that people often earmark leftovers of specific things for soup (xmas ham and turkey for example), but rarely think of making soup from other leftovers that they already have.
My mum used to make soup from a very specific set of ingredients and didn’t ever vary this; often these ingredients had to be purchased precisely for the soup. Once we she came to stay with us and declared late at night she wished she could have some soup, I amazed her by saying “lets check the fridge for ingredients” and whipping up a very delicious soup containing leftover baked beans, spicy pepperami (twiggy sticks), an onion and worcestershire sauce.
Loved seeing someone else’s leftover soup in the making and it had me checking the fridge to see what I could create! :)
Here in the US I call it “Garbage Soup”. If I don’t make soup out of it now I shall have to put it in the garbage.
Very inspiring Jules! Love the idea and will make soup like that in winter.
I couldn’t help but notice how you store your veggies, can I suggest an article about how to store the veggies to extend their usability, please?
I have now started to store them in a large plastic container lined with kitchen towel and paper towel on top. I also regularly change the paper if it is wet, found it has greatly extended the lifetime of the veggies and since they are together in a container,I don’t find the surprises I used to find! I also wipe the veggies if they get wet – feel a bit OCD, but they really do last a lot longer!
Ahhh fridge soup. Old friend. I have two versions.
1/ packet of chicken stock for liquid, grated zuccini and a handful of frozen peas for solid, grate some parmesan as a highlight; or
2/ packet of chicken stock for liquid, few handfuls of chopped up veggies and crack in an egg for solid, drizzle of sesame oil and soy/tamari as a highlight.
Hey – this is brilliant. Inspired and inspiring. Thanks! On another matter – I have signed up, but the website keeps nominating me as new and asking me to sign up again – any suggestions for a fix?
Love this post – we are having ‘refrigerator curry’ tonight (I guess qualifies as stew). I like to almost empty the fridge once every 2 weeks and think it is much less wasteful to eat the food I pay money for!
I like the tip on pulling out the ingredients and putting what goes with what together- quite quickly you realise ‘all is not lost’ and a dinner materialises.
Spinach saag with grated ginger, some leftover chickpeas instead of chicken and using parsley stalks as a stock base with coriander, cumin and onion for dinner tonight! We have a choice of rice or lentils to serve with it and can thicken some wholemilk with a dash of vinegar to make a ‘fake’ yoghurt to dollop on top because we ran out after breakfast this morning (flavour it with a little salt and ground cumin before serving).
I often have a fridge clean out using this method and the cupboards too.
Your soup looks very lovely but OMG do you really use those black-pitted spoons to eat with…lol.
All the best and keep those good tips coming.
This is a great article. It’s easy to look in your fridge at the end of the week and feel like there is nothing to eat, which means you’ll probably be tempted to grab take out food. But there are plenty of ways to use up leftover groceries. I find that soups are the easiest meal to make with simple vegetables and some canned legumes.
I love the idea of the tapas plate :)
Ah ha! This is what I do about once a week with my boyfriend. Cleans out the veggie drawer if not the whole fridge.