During this generous food eating season, you may be faced with leftover party platters, baked goods, and lots of other indulgent options that ended up in your grocery cart on those last minute stops at the store.
If you splurged on a vegetable tray and are now are faced with more raw veggies than even a rabbit could tackle, there’s lots of ways to use them up. Raw vegetables are usually safe to eat until they begin to physically look worn out, squishy or slimy. Baby carrots, celery, and cut up broccoli will last at least 1 week, but may be perfectly edible raw up to 2 weeks. Balancing out over the top meals with a salad or using the raw veggies as a snack is obviously the easiest use for these easy pre-cut options.
Learning to make a decent stir fry is always a handy skill to have to use up any type of leftover vegetables or meats. Most of the work of a stir fry comes before the cooking. If you’re good with a knife and cutting board, stir fry may be only a few minutes away. With only a few additional flavoring components such as soy sauce, ginger, and garlic you can create a home cooked meal in less than 20 minutes. Check out this easy video for full instructions:
Many families are turning to precooked frozen rice that has no added sodium to pair with a stir fry. The healthiest frozen rice options contain only rice and take three minutes in the microwave. Consider opting for brown rice, quinoa or skip the rice all together if you’re limiting carbohydrates.
Opting to freeze extra vegetables is also a money saver. Blanching is the term used when you heat water to boiling and then add vegetables for 1 to 2 minutes before draining and rinsing with cold water. This helps decrease enzyme activity that can discolor or cause the vegetables to have a bad flavor after freezing. Most frozen vegetables are best used in cooking. Save time by chopping the vegetables prior to freezing. Then you can just grab out a recipe size portion for a soup, chili, or casserole. Many vegetables can last up to 1 year in a deep freeze if prepared properly. Don’t forget to label the bag with the date and item so you’re not left with unused, anonymous frozen packages lurking in the back of your freezer.
Even celery can be frozen, but it must be blanched and chopped first as it loses a lot of it’s structure and water content by freezing. A better option for celery is dehydrating it after blanching. If you own a dehydrator you can easily dehydrate the makings for a soup base by blanching celery stalks for 1 minute, draining, rinsing with cold water, and then chopping into small pieces before adding to the trays of a dehydrator.
Leftover celery or fruit can be made into an excellent low sodium chicken or tuna salad. If you're trying to watch your weight choose a lower fat mayonnaise which can significantly reduce the calorie of your sandwich filling. If you’re limiting carbohydrates consider having the meat salad on top of lettuce instead of bread.
Balance out the nutrition of leftover ham by pairing it with low sodium vegetables like in this recipe for Ham Caprese Panini by Produce for Kids
And how about all those holiday chocolates and candy? If your stomach has pretty much declared its on junk food overload at this point, consider wrapping up the extra treats and keeping them for a non-chocolate eating month, like…. ok there’s never a time when we’re not indulging in something sweet. Begin by putting all the treats in the cupboard to implement the “Out of Sight= Out of Mind.” Chocolate when wrapped well can maintain it’s freshness for at least a year or longer when refrigerated or frozen.
Cookies also can hold their own in the freezer when wrapped well in plastic wrap and placed in a container. Most baked cookies will last up to 4 weeks. You can always dole them out one at a time and warm in the microwave rather than being tempted by simply picking at them because they’re available on the counter. If healthy eating or less food waste is on your agenda for 2016 there’s no time to get started like the present.