Ugh. You’ve opened the fridge yet again, and nothing has changed. Just the same old familiar vegetables, including that pile of zucchini the CSA keeps sending you, and that broccoli you’re so tired of eating, you could scream. It can seem like a pain sometimes to come up with creative, tasty, healthy recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables, especially when the same cast of characters seems to keep parading across the stage over and over again.
Here are some ways to change up your dinner table without breaking the bank, going to culinary school or causing a food riot.
Tired of steamed zucchini? Over zucchini bread? Done with zucchini stir fry? Did you know you can use zucchini and other long summer squash like pasta? Yes, really. It helps to have a mandoline, but a steady hand with a sharp knife works just as well. Cut the zucchini into thin strips and dress it with your favorite pasta sauce; you can quickly steam the “pasta” and heat your sauce, or serve it entirely chilled, which can be refreshing in the summer months. It might seem kind of weird, but zucchini pasta is actually pretty darn tasty.
If cutting zucchini into strips isn’t your bag, consider a zucchini crudo, a cold salad made with thin rounds of zucchini. Slice up your zucchini and toss it with any dressing you like; a simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper can be fantastic. Serve it as a side or main course. If you’re using it as a main course, you might want to consider adding crumbled fresh cheese or another garnish to make it more hearty.
Rice is a useful staple to keep around the kitchen, because it keeps for a long time and it’s a great complement to a variety of dishes. But, let’s face it, there are only so many things you can do with it.
…or are there?
Have you considered adding leftover brown rice to bread, pancake, or muffin doughs and batters? It will add fiber and body, and can make the dish much heartier in addition to healthier. How about using it to make pie crust? No, seriously. Mix leftover rice (brown is best) and egg for a hearty whole-grain crust that works well with quiches and other savories. Make sure to prebake it for 10 minutes before adding the filling to prevent leaks.
Sandwiches. Salads. That’s all you can do with a hefty head of lettuce, right? Nope! Lettuce actually has a lot of fun uses in the kitchen, if you’re willing to think outside the box a little bit.
Large-leaf lettuces like Romaine and butterleaf can be used for making wraps and rolls, eliminating the need for bread altogether, which can be a concern when you’re cooking for gluten-free diners or people trying to eat a low-carb diet. You can also use lettuce in summer soups, like a refreshing fennel, lettuce and avocado soup; briefly cook your fennel to make it translucent, add your lettuce and cook until it wilts, and then blend with avocado and stock to make a cool soup that will go down smooth on a hot summer day.
You can also try a lettuce buttermilk soup (yes, really). Start by cooking shallots in butter and blending with buttermilk, and then braise some shredded lettuce in a second pan (it’ll take you around two minutes). Blend together for a rich, creamy soup that can be consumed warm or cold with dressings like croutons or, for the meat-inclined, bacon bits.
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