Making use of forgotten produce

Here’s the scenario: You go to the store full of resolve to eat healthier. In the produce section, you load your basket with fresh vegetables grabbing something in every color and a few extra green things for good measure. Back home all those pops of color transform the refrigerator into your personal farmers market. Words like crisp, abundant and vibrant pop into your head. It is so pretty you snap a picture to post on Facebook. Once the grocery bags have been stashed, you leave the kitchen feeling pretty good about yourself.

Three to five days later you open the refrigerator and the realization that you actually need to consume the well-intentioned vegetables begins to sink in. Now what?

When my zeal for produce overwhelms our rate of consumption I go back to basics. If the weather is chilly, languishing vegetables make excellent soup. During the warmer months, I turn them into a stir-fry.

Stir-frying is a simple way to use up almost any odds and ends of produce you have on hand. Once you have everything washed and chopped toss everything in a hot pan until heated through but still firm. The key is preparing everything before the first item hits the pan. Cook the vegetables in small batches working from the veggies with the longest cooking time to the shortest. Foods like carrots, broccoli and celery should be cooked first while bell peppers, green onions or anything leafy will need only a minute or two, so they go in second. Sprouts or the tops of green onions risk becoming unrecognizable mush, don’t sprinkle them in until the final minute.

Keep a dish near the stove to collect the vegetables that have finished cooking. Once all the vegetables are finished toss everything back into the pan. Drizzle the stir-fry with a little sauce and toss things around for 30 seconds to a minute before serving. Simple-dimple!

Speaking of sauce, seasoning your stir-fry can be as simple as a splash of soy sauce, rice vinegar or even a squeeze of lime juice. If you feel the need to ratchet things up a notch, mix a few ingredients together.

Here are some ingredients that work well in a stir-fry sauce:

Soy sauce (low sodium)

Rice vinegar

Lime juice

Lemon juice

Fish sauce

Hot sauce

Chili flakes

Sesame oil

Minced garlic

Grated ginger

A pinch of brown sugar

A few drops of honey

Ground black pepper

Don’t go crazy and mix together everything on the list. I generally whisk up a combo of:

1/4 cup soy

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon ginger

2 to 3 garlic cloves

A few drops of hot sauce.

As long as you keep the sauce simple, stir-frying will give you a fantastic side dish that is light on calories, big on flavor and packed with hunger-satisfying fiber.

Serve your stir-fry with a whole grain (like brown rice) and some form of lean protein (like Sesame-crusted Tofu). In no time you’ll have transformed your wilting good intentions into a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Chime in! What other ways do you make use of the forgotten items in your crisper drawer?

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