Hello and welcome to the first installment of Leave No Leftovers, a blog post series about how to stop wasting food and do groceries efficiently. Today I’ll be teaching you about how to use up the sad, sad leftover produce in your fridge.
What is this series?
No recipes, intuitive cooking. That’s the goal, to cook something without having to give that dish a name. With just what you have in your fridge on a Thursday night when you run out of meal prep. I want to teach you to make better choices, reduce food waste, save money, and feel happier with yourself.
Recipe sharing is a wonderful thing. However, people get offended by recipes that are not authentic. And I get that, I really do. When I see a post titled, ‘Super Authentic Healthy Best Thai Green Curry’ that uses canned curry paste, my eyes roll so hard I can hear my mom screaming, “They’re going to get stuck like that!!” from China. What I don’t get is why we need to set arbitrary cooking rules under the guise of authenticity.
I love trying to recreate authentic dishes, but I get that not everyone can buy 20 ingredients they’ll never use again for one dish. People can make approximations of dishes and use that dish’s name without it being sacrilege. That is, as long as they don’t go blindly using the word ‘authentic’.
ANYWAY. I just want you to not be confined by recipes and the pressure that comes with making a specific dish. If you don’t want to learn how to do that then go check out the recipe section of my blog. If you do want to make something based on a real recipe, that’s also great. Just don’t feel limited by it.
….Ironically enough I’ll probably link some recipes in this series. But think of these recipes as guidelines, not instructions.
I miss doing groceries in China because you could grab any amount of veggies you want and just pay per weight. A lot of produce in Canada comes pre-packaged, bundled up, wrapped in plastic, etc. and I absolutely hate it. It wastes an unnecessary amount of plastic, and also promotes food waste. What the hell kind of recipe calls for a pound of bok choy?! I always have an ungodly amount of leftover produce after I finish my meal prep. That’s why every one or two weeks, I do a little cleanup of my fridge.
So how does this work? You see that lonely little tomato in the corner of your fridge? The five stalks of coriander that are wilting? The spinach that you kind of want to throw out? Take that all and make a meal! This my friends, is why I love stir-fries.
How to do a fridge cleanup:
1. Pick a protein.
Chicken, pork, beef, tempeh, eggs, tofu, chickpeas, fish, etc. In the picture above, I used chicken thighs (on sale babyyy) and dusted them with cornstarch and fried them. Depending on the protein you might have to take it out before you add the veggies so it doesn’t overcook. For example, if you use tofu or tempeh, you can leave it in while you cook the other veggies. If you are using meat, eggs, fish etc., you should cook them first, take them out, and then add them back when everything else is done cooking.
2. Leftover love!
Spinach, onions, tomatoes, gailan, bok choy, celery, carrots, ANYTHING. If it’s in your fridge then use it. I had leftover okra, coriander, tomatoes, and spinach, all of which I diced/chopped.
3. Choose your sauce base.
My go-to sauce is always soy sauce + maple syrup. You can build onto that with other ingredients, i.e. sub soy sauce for tamari, maple syrup for another sweetener, omit maple syrup, add white pepper, add mirin, fish sauce, maggi sauce, lemon juice, gochujang, etc. You can also go for a completely different route and use dry seasonings like paprika, cumin, sumac, garlic powder, etc.. If you think it tastes bad then keep trying until you find something you like.
4. Stir it up.
It’s important to understand the cooking times of all your veggies. For example, okra needs a longer cooking time than spinach. Pro tip: If you have tough veggies like Chinese broccoli, you can blanch them beforehand to speed up the cooking time. No need to use an extra pot too, just boil water in a kettle on the side and pour it in a bowl with the veggies until they’re soft.
Add all your ingredients in order of cooking time, add the sauce, then cook for another few months until everything is mixed together and tastes amazing! Done, now eat with a clean conscience and a clean fridge! YAY!
Extra little tip here: If the sauce is super watery and doesn’t stick to the ingredients, just mix a little cornstarch with some (cold) water and add it into the stir-fry. Just a little teaspoon of it will give you a nice glossy coating of sauce. Okay you’re welcome have fun cooking byeeee!