From The Cupboard

Every few months I challenge myself to only cook and eat what I already have on hand. Sometimes the challenge will be for a week, or two weeks, even a month. I love these challenges because it’s a great way to save money, be inventive, and use up stuff that’s been in my cupboards or freezer for quite a while.

I’ll usually allow myself to buy a few staples like eggs or onions if needed, but the goal is to be creative with the food on hand.

I think it’s about time for another “no shopping” challenge.

Let me see…What do I have to work with? I have lots of dried lentils, brown rice, and quinoa. I have canned peaches, various gluten free flours, hot dogs, eggs, copious amounts of homemade sauerkraut. Time to get creative!

Speaking of sauerkraut – that’s an awesome way to use up veggies that are past their prime. I recently made my mom a small batch of sauerkraut from a couple of partial heads of cabbage, a handful of sugar snap peas that weren’t very snappy, a few partial bags of carrots, a red onion, and a few cloves of garlic. I have a feeling it’s going to be delicious!

So how do you make delicious nutritious meals with limited ingredients? Seasoning is key. It’s amazing what salt and a few herbs or spices can do to transform seemingly boring ingredients.

When I do these little challenges, I tend to eat a lot of Asian or Mexican-style dishes. Beans and rice are nutritious and a cheap source of protein – and a bonus of dating the guy who owns Black Market Hot Sauce is that I always have hot sauce on hand!

Another type of meal I lean towards is breakfast food. Pancakes, muffins, french-toast-in-a-bowl… all things that I can scrounge up with the random flours in my cupboard.

Google Search is my friend when I’m trying to use up stuff. Who knew there were so many different ways to use lentils?! If I can come up with a falafel recipe that uses brown lentils – I’ll be in heaven!

Usually one of the first things I run out of during one of these challenges is fresh vegetables. I’ll normally “splurge” and buy some kale or spinach – something green that packs a powerful nutritional punch. If you don’t want to spend extra money but still wanted the health benefits and variety that fresh veggies provide – you can grow your own sprouts! I’m not talking about growing vegetables from the ground up (although that is also an option), I’m talking about soaking and sprouting grains over a few days to get that added healthy green goodness. Lentils and quinoa both work, as do countless other grains and seeds.

Cooking from the cupboard/freezer can be challenging, and at times frustrating – but I think it’s worth it! It’s a chance to save some money and reduce kitchen waste. It’s a great way to learn how to cook new dishes and discover new food combinations that you haven’t thought of before. And it will naturally pull you out of any cooking rut you may have been stuck in!

So what do you think? Is this something you would ever do? Want to get creative and join me in a “no shopping” challenge?

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Challenge Yourself In 2016

2015 was a year of many changes and bumps in the road. I am very thankful for my family this new year. A family that has grown closer and closer as we lean on each other through trouble and heartache as well as joy and laughter. It will be interesting to see what 2016 brings our way. As my mom says, “It’s going to be a good year!”

This year I want to challenge myself in a different way. It’s time to set some goals and have some fun. I might be getting overly ambitious here but, along with some personal goals, I am joining the Reddit 52 Week Cooking Challenge, creating my own reading challenge, and starting to cook my way around the world! (Monday is Afghanistan.)

Today I completed Week 1 of the 52 Week Cooking Challenge by making Lentil Sweet Potato Soup for lunch. I also put together my own reading challenge book list. My personal rules for this challenge are simple. 1) I have to already own or borrow each book I read. 2) I can’t use one book to complete multiple categories. 3) I can’t cheat and make SciFi/fantasy books fit every category. I’d love for you to join me this year as I work on reading a book from each category! Feel free to follow my rules or come up with your own.

Salt For Flavor 2016 Reading Challenge

Read a book that was published the year you were born

Read a book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with

Read a book that has been translated from another language into English

Read a book about a culture you are unfamiliar with

Read a book you should have read in high school

Read a book recommended by a family member

Read a book that intimidates you

Read a book set in your home state

Read a book of short stories

Read a book recommended by your significant other or best friend

Read a book from a best sellers list

Read a book that is at least 100 years older than you

Read a book published this year

Read a memoir

Read a food science book

Read a play

Read a book that you started but never finished

Read a book recommended by someone you just met

Read a book that you already love

Read a trilogy

Read an autobiography

Read a book about ancient history

Read a book from the Harvard Classics

Read a book that has been turned into a movie

*I’ve posted this list separately and will be updating it regularly with the books that I read.

I’m excited to expand my literary and culinary horizons with these challenges. I’m also hoping to post as many of the recipes as I can (pictures may not be included), so check back in!

There are many more great reading challenges available online. Here are three I especially like:

Tim Challies 2016 Reading Challenge

Read more women and writers of color

BBC Book List Challenge

 

What are you doing this year to challenge yourself?