Spring into freshness: Clearing out the fridge & freezer

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It’s tempting to write about spring still, but I have to remind myself that it’s now June and we will soon be in the thick of summer. There shouldn’t be any doubt about that in the context of quickly climbing temperatures, but it’s been an odd transition. We haven’t had much of a “spring” this year in the Northeast – we just jumped from the cold of winter to the sunshine of summer.

Summer sun brings many good things with it – in short order, families will be huddled over tabletops and bushel baskets, beginning the tasks of paring and snapping and blanching the first of the garden’s bounty, preparing to put up a new round of produce for the year. My parents, operators of a small dairy farm, will (like many others) butcher a cow or two to have fresh meat for the coming months.

It’s a tale as old as time for those that live off the land and grow their own food: toiling in the heat in order to fill their pantries throughout the rest of the year. However, in a world of finite space, it’s also important to clear out valuable fridge and freezer space to make way for this season’s output. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as they say.

Looking to work through some remaining fresh and canned produce and make something that will beat the heat? Let’s make a salad! This listicle from the team at Delish has some mouthwatering salad recipes to get you started. Some can easily be crafted from some produce staples; some might require a few additional ingredients (but you can easily create your own variations).

A starch, a vegetable a protein and some flavor, and you’ve got a quick and easy meal.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who haven’t been blessed by the June heat yet and you don’t mind a nice, warm entrée. There are plenty of great goulash recipes and the like floating around the interwebs – like this American Goulash recipe, courtesy of allrecipes.com.

You aren’t limited by a recipe. As long as you have some vegetables (frozen, canned, etc.), a carbohydrate and a protein, you can craft an easy dinner for your family – a sort of “protein bowl” or “skillet meal.”

We all have our go-to recipes that perhaps started in a cookbook or a recipe card and morphed into our own creation. I have a favorite that started as a blog recipe for a vegan rice bowl and has morphed into rice and whatever beans and vegetables I’m feeling at the moment. Some salsa, black beans, corn and sour cream? Delicious. It’s filling and can make a large quantity. A win-win for everyone.

If we’re talking about a “hot meal” option, I often will gravitate toward a white sauce (I would forgo the chicken bouillon here, but season to preference) on top of pasta or rice and either chicken or beef. My seasonings of choice vary, but I tend to favor a blend of salt, pepper, garlic salt, onion powder and paprika. I gravitate toward a lot of rice and macaroni and bowtie pasta – and I keep a variety of vegetables on hand. Whatever you have available will work.

Cook all of the items separately and then combine. Perhaps add some toppings like breadcrumbs or cheese. Boom! A quick meal for Mom or Dad after a busy day and space cleared up in the fridge or freezer (and maybe the pantry as well).

Perhaps you are looking at a significant influx of meat and produce this season and don’t think you and your family will work through everything. Donation is always a possibility. You can be a great asset to a local food bank organization. Although non-perishable items are always preferred (hello, canned veggies), some organizations do accept fresh and frozen food items, as storage allows. It’s always important to do your homework first before attempting to donate.

by Andy Haman

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