pantry items.

Pantry Items: Is This Food Waste Too?

by Anne Maxfield on November 14, 2016

accidental-locavore-pantry-itemsThe other part of food waste that probably really goes ignored in your kitchen?

Pantry items.

They’re not as perishable as fresh food but they do go bad.

Or just take up space.

The Accidental Locavore noticed this when rummaging around for a can of coconut milk to use for my leftover Thai duck curry and found a jar of Cuban Mojito Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe’s.

True confession: it’s at least 3 years old (maybe more like 5).

True confession II: We packed and moved it when we moved from the city.

True confession III: They stopped making it around 2013, but there’s no expiration date that I can find.

accidental-locavore-pantry-mojito-sauceSo, here’s what I’m going to do.

Take one thing lurking in my pantry and make something with it. Maybe once a week.

Starting with the Mojito Simmer Sauce.

Maybe with the last of the pork we got from Four Legs Farm (which will also free up some freezer space). Browned and then popped into the slow cooker.

I’m sure there is a can of black beans and there’s always rice.
There’s dinner and I didn’t even have to go shopping.

It will be like cleaning out my freezer, or what Lior Lev Sercarz taught us at the spice blending class (also a good way to not waste spices) – just take something out and figure out ways to use it.

It’s a good challenge and makes you think out of your comfort zone.

Then, you can refill the pantry with what works.

You might find that a lot of that stuff in cans or jars, you can make yourself.

accidental-locavore-pantry-porkUpdate: I did use the Mojito Simmer Sauce with some of the pork, but as I reached for the slow-cooker, I spied my sous-vide machine and thought that might be a more interesting idea.

I marinated the pork and sauce in a sealed bag overnight and then cooked it sous-vide for a few hours.

Served it over rice (oddly enough, no black beans lurking in my pantry) and it was good.

Am I longing for more Mojito Sauce? No (and there are recipes online if you are).

But I am going back into my pantry for more inspiration.

What have you got lurking in yours that might see the light of day (or the inside of a pot) now?




Turkey Leftovers? 4-Chile Turkey Chili!

by Anne Maxfield on November 27, 2014

Accidental Locavore Turkey ChiliAfter the first round of sandwiches, the Accidental Locavore is always looking for interesting uses for turkey leftovers. Since there was an early influx of leftovers from making gravy with a bunch of wings, I shredded the meat and used it for a (not-very-authentic) version of chili. This was pretty free-form, so use it as a starting point (and don’t let all the ingredients scare you, I just used what was in the house). Made about 3 big bowls.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, diced
  • 1 serrano chile, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ancho chile
  • 1 chipotle chile
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 cup dark beer (Guinness)
  • 1 small can tomatoes (14 oz)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded turkey
  • 1 small can kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder or 1 tablespoon grated unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (Mexican if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro and grated cheddar for garnish

In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, poblano, serrano chile and garlic and stir to coat with the oil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Remove the cover and sauté until they are well caramelized and reduced by about ½.

While the onions are cooking, briefly toast the ancho and chipotle chiles in a small fry pan over medium heat, about a minute on each side. Remove from heat and rehydrate in a small bowl of boiling water for 20 minutes. Slice into 1/8” strips.

Add the chile powder, cumin and coriander to the onion mix and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the beer and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Cook for about 5 minutes until the alcohol has cooked out.

Add the tomatoes (breaking them up if you use whole tomatoes), turkey, beans, brown sugar, chocolate and oregano. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Bring to a boil, then to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro and grated cheddar and enjoy!

My verdict: Not at all authentic, but tasted great and satisfied my craving for chili! As I said in the introduction, this looks like a lot of ingredients, but it was all stuff I had in the house, so I just tossed it in. I think it was a little sweet with the brown sugar, so I added about a tablespoon of cider vinegar to cut some of the sweetness. The chocolate and beer add a nice depth of flavor, but, again, you can leave them out—although I’d probably add a little chicken broth to replace the beer.





Accidental Locavore Italian Sausage

Unlike so many friends and family, the Accidental Locavore survived the hurricane with power intact. Still, my pre and post-storm strategy to start cooking down the contents of the freezer remained in place Luckily, the local bodegas were still open, providing missing ingredients as well as a destination for the apartment-weary. So what did I decide to make in the face of impending disaster? Monday night, I made Frank’s favorite, pasta puttanesca. The freezer yielded some homemade Italian sausage, the fridge had olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and Parmesan. I used up some penne from the pantry and we had a great dinner while the winds howled outside.

Accidental Locavore Orange CauliflowerNext up? There was a roasted duck from Costco (of, as the French would say, un âge certain) that I was originally just going to heat up and serve with cauliflower, probably roasted. But an earlier search through the fridge, turned up a container of Thai red curry paste. Suddenly the duck looked more interesting as Thai red curry duck over jasmine rice (also in the freezer) and the cauliflower could hang out for another day or two. We ventured out to grab some pineapple and a red pepper (gotta love NYC!) and check out the local damage from Sandy. Lots of debris, tree branches and tons of leaves, but luckily, not much more than that.

Accidental Locavore Red CurryThe duck came together really well, I sautéed it to crisp up the skin (as it turns out an unnecessary step, since it was getting stewed in the curry ) then mixed the red curry paste with coconut milk, ginger, some lime leaves and fish sauce (all from my freezer and/or pantry). I added the duck, the pineapple and red pepper, let it cook together for a few minutes and topped with fresh basil and cilantro. This was a really quick and easy way to put together a dinner in minutes, so there maybe another Costco roast duck in my future…

Tonight, we’re off to our friend Zhu Zhu’s for beef burgundy. He’s been working on this almost longer than the storm and its aftermath, so we’re anticipating another great meal! And until the power comes on for our friends downtown, our shower is open and operating!