It happens about this time every year.
I finally escape the tyrannical clutch of leftover turkey (soup! sandwiches! stews! enchiladas! Okay, I’m now so done with you, bird) only to realize that I still have a disconcerting lack of fridge space available.
I’ve realized that the next month or so is going to be a big baking and cooking one, and so I’m going to need every inch of possible refrigerator space.
If not, how am I ever going to find room for these lovelies?
I just looked at my crowded fridge this morning, and I realized that my lack of room is mostly due to dribs and drabs of a lot of different kinds of foods that are in themselves perfectly fine (but not enough in their own right to merit immediate attention).
Using them up means that not only am I being frugal, I’m committing to some future good eats — and space aplenty.
It’s time to tackle these stragglers head on, and while I’m at it, I thought I’d share my strategies with you.
MY FIVE BIGGEST SPACE HOGS– and how I’m moving them on.
1. Cheese. Lots of it.
Here’s what my slide out drawer contains: Feta. One chunk Parmesan. One chunk Pecorino. Smoked Mozzarella. Grated Sharp Cheddar. Grated Mexican Blend. Brie. Truffled triple creme. Manchego.
Wait, I’m just getting warmed up here.
There’s a small piece of sheep’s milk cheese. A huge chunk of medium cheddar. A couple cheese sticks. Boursin. Grated Parmesan. Cream cheese.
See what I’m saying? It’s a problem, truly.
Okay, time to get busy.
I’m taking the most perishable/non-freezable ones and eating those first.
Feta, I’m looking at you…
and I’m thinking about making this.
(Wouldn’t a lentil salad be a great lunch all week?)
Next, I’m taking all my great melters (cheddars, Bries and mozzarellas), grating them and making a blend that I will use for homemade mac and cheese.
I get invited to lots of potlucks at this time of year and this cheese blend added to a garlicky bechamel and orrecchiete (and warmed through until bubbly) is universally well-received and devoured.
(This dish is also a great drop off if you need to make someone a meal.)
If I have more grated cheese than I can use in the next month, I’ll throw it in the freezer for when I do.
And do you too have leftover cream cheese and/or Rondele (that 3 pack on sale at Costco was just too tempting to pass up, right)?
Whip the two together with a little half and half (and some of those herbs and minced garlic too if you have them) and give this custom schmear to all your harried pals. Your pals will LOVE YOU — and even more so if you bring the bagels, too.
2. Bits of charcuterie. Slices of ham. A half package of bacon. A few random sausages. Salumi.
Do you have this problem, too?
Even beyond sandwiches, there are options here.
Think Pizza Night (bonus points because you can also use your little pieces of cheeses).
Another option with sausage, prosciutto or bacon is Pasta Carbonara (or something similar).
Or how about a frittata?
I don’t know any adult I can’t woo with a warm, eggy slice.
Just whisk together a dozen eggs, a bit of green onion and whatever odd roasted vegetables you have on hand (like this butternut squash here) and/or sausages and a handful of cheeses together. Salt and pepper and bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 35 minutes or until set.
Instant brunch/lunch fixings– and equally delicious on day two.
3. Odd bunches of herbs, peeled garlic, and lemons.
When my herb garden is only offering up rosemary and sage, I tend to buy herbs often; parsley, basil, tarragon, cilantro, mint.
Many times these then get pushed to the back of the fridge after their first usage, and I find myself with lots of less-than-perky herbs.
This is when I throw them in some warm olive oil and then let them sit in the fridge for a week or so before straining them out.
The end result is a fragrant oil on hand that’s perfect for drizzling over meats, veggies — you name it.
This trick also works for well for too much peeled garlic or the excess citrus. With the latter, I infuse the oil with the peel (again discarding after a week) and then juice the fruit to have on hand for a quick marinade or cocktails.
4. Random odd vegetables — taking up far too much space.
Two giant carrots. Half a head of celery. Three baby leeks. One half red onion. Seven limp asparagus spears and one giant eggplant.
Sound like a familiar problem?
Dice them all and throw in your freezer for the next time you make soup.
Better yet, saute them up right now and add to beans or dal and you’re more than halfway to making lunches for the week.
Wouldn’t you rather have this in your fridge than woe-begotten and lonely stragglers?
I know I would– and about twenty people within a few blocks who’d be doubly grateful for the soup delivery.
5. So many leftover jars of jam or jelly.
My crew doesn’t eat jam that often, so I always seem to have several open jars of them in the fridge. Just this morning I saw that that these jars took up nearly half of a whole shelf! Egad.
Time to get creative.
I like to whisk the last of that jam (and a glug of wine) into a roasting pan of meat. I love beef with cherry and pork with jams like raspberry, peach or blackberry and chicken with apricot, tangerine, or fig.
You can’t believe how good your pan juices will be (balance with Sriracha if necessary).
There are plenty of other ideas for all those odds and ends of jam.
Use them as a filling for shortbread sandwich cookies. Add a couple tablespoons of jam to your favorite breakfast muffin recipe. And how about a little apricot or fig jam on toasted baguette with triple creme cheese and ribbons of prosciutto (bonus– three stragglers used at once)?
Need more inspiration?
Add a bit of jam to a cocktail shaker with a splash of juice, a swig of booze (rum, vodka or tequilla) and ice.
Shake and serve.
And think about it this way; the sooner you finish up all those jars, the quicker you’ll have new containers to put all your holidays treats in.
Happy Fridge Decluttering, all!