Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fridge Benefits

It's pretty horrifying how much food goes to waste in the average American home. I've read statistics that state up to 50% of the food we buy ends up in the trash. I shudder when I have to go through the fridge and toss wilted or mushy produce, leftovers that have sat too long, and other unidentifiable (and stinky) objects.

Many of our best intentions are derailed each day. You want to cook great meals, eat more vegetables or cut down on fast food, but then life gets in the way.

Short of hiring a personal chef (I couldn't resist!), here's a terrific tip for you to try next time you're tempted to scrap making dinner in favor of a trip to the drive-thru: Open your fridge and use what you've got. (I don't have statistics on how much people spend each year on take-out food, but I'm sure the number is equally as horrifying as the waste statistics.)

Back to my fridge: I had purchased a beautiful looking bunch of locally grown kale at the farmer's market earlier in the week. If I didn't use it soon, it would be trash. The fridge also held an open jar of pasta sauce, a Parmesan cheese rind, half a carton of chicken broth and a small bowl of chick peas, all still viable. In the pantry, I noticed a half-full box of lasagna noodles that looked perfect for the meal. In the time it took to cook the pasta, we had a truly delicious (and very cheap) meal.

Like with many of my recipes, use this as a guideline or inspiration next time you're wondering what to make for dinner.

Pasta with Kale and Chick Peas
Serves 2

6 lasagna noodles, broken (or any pasta shape)
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bunch fresh kale, leaves pulled off of stems and rinsed well
chicken broth
leftover chick peas (1/2 cup?)
crushed red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese
marinara sauce
optional delicious additions: walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, a dollop of pesto or ricotta cheese, grilled steak or shrimp...

1. Boil a pot of water. Add salt and pasta. Cook as directed and drain in a colander.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir it around until you can smell it. Then add the kale, tearing it up as you go. Stir it all around. When the kale is bright green (1 minute or so), pour in some broth. Cover the pan and let the kale cook for about 5 - 8 minutes.

3. When the kale is tender enough for you, throw in the chick peas and the cooked pasta. Stir it all around and taste it. You might want to add crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil or a pat of butter. Make it taste good!

4. Spoon the pasta and kale into bowls. Top with a couple of spoonfuls of marinara sauce and some shaved or grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy.

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