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Help me with meal planning please!

I live with my father; we're both vegetarian. We're leaving for India in early April, and I've started thinking about winding down the house. I should have thought of it earlier! We have a lot of food, and I'm worried we won't finish before we go. The house will be empty for a month, and after that, though my dad is coming back, he doesn't cook an awful lot, so I don't want to assume he'll finish things (I'm not back until June). Right now, we have 1 lb of baby carrots, 2 lbs of strawberries, 12 oz of blueberries, 1 lb of spinach, nectarines, plums, MANY Serrano chillies, MANY small red potatoes, and a LOT of curry leaves. I have a hugely stressful job, so I generally only cook on weekends, usually (South) Indian food with some other stuff, like chili and pasta and stir fries, thrown in. Help me use up all my food please!

asked by Vandana 4 months ago

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14 answers 627 views
Megan
added 3 months ago

You could make smoothies with the fruits and spinach. You could portion it out in small Tupperware or baggies on the weekend, then just dump in the blender with some almond milk or yogurt or whatever you like and some ice cubes for simple breakfasts. I'd probably cut the carrots into sticks and take them to work for snacks. Add the potatoes to other dishes you usually make- like curries or soups? Could you pickle the serranos or make a hot sauce that would last a while in the fridge? Just a few ideas!

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Vandana
added 3 months ago

Pickling the serranos is brilliant! I'm thinking of this one: http://hebbarskitchen.com.... According to the notes on her website, I can add carrots to the pickle, which is great! Thanks!

MMH
MMH
added 3 months ago

We keep our curry leaves in a freezer bag in the freezer.

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Vandana
added 3 months ago

I didn't know you could freeze curry leaves. What should I do? Just toss them all into a freezer bag? Lay them out flat between layers of parchment paper in a container? They're washed and dried and in a Ball jar in the fridge right now.

Prathima
added 3 months ago

My mom sautees the curry leaves in a little oil for about a minute or so, then freezes them in a ziploc. This helps maintain the flavor better than just freezing them without any prep, and keeps away freezer burn.

cv
cv
added 3 months ago

It's unclear where you live, but if you are in North America, you have a boatload of produce that is completely out of season, stuff you must have purchased at a premium: specifically the berries, stone fruits and chili peppers.

That said, none of the quantities listed are extravagently enormous. A pound of spinach is nothing.

That said, I suggest you consider the standard processes for excess produce: jams, jellies, preserves for those fruits. That's how those processes developed: too much stuff. Whether it is worth dealing with for these rather unnoteworthy quantities is up to you.

Cooked carrots and cooked potatoes will last in the freezer several months. Heck the berries can be frozen as well (fresh) and used in cooked dishes in the future.

This is a good time to reflect on your produce buying habits and consider changes in the future in the way you purchase fresh veggies and fruit because the total value of what you list isn't all that noteworthy and you are buying things are are completely out of season (at least for North America).

Best of luck.

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Vandana
added 3 months ago

I didn't know you could freeze cooked carrots and potatoes; thanks for that!

As to the other advice about how to shop and live: you're obviously right that buying things in season is ideal. My father works in trucking and freight. Grocery stores are constantly turning away entire crates of the produce he delivers because they're not pretty enough. So everyone, from the drivers to the dockworkers to the office folk, gets their pick of what's left. I care deeply about food issues: food miles (in-season stuff is likely to have fewer miles), GMOs (there's nothing wrong with them!), fair trade practices, organics, monocultures, slash-and-burn agriculture, etc. But I'm not going to allow food to go to waste just because it's not in season. This food from my father's job is my way of helping limit food waste. Thank you for your help.

I also can't imagine cooking Indian food without chillies. Sometimes, with the conflicting prioirites in my life, some things win out that maybe wouldn't win out in other people's lives. And I'm sure it's the same for everyone else.

Alyssa
added 3 months ago

I would freeze the berries and the chilies if you can't finish them in time. You can use the berries in smoothies or desserts, and the chilies can be chopped frozen and thrown into soups or stir-fries, or blended into salsas. You could also slice and freeze the nectarines and plums (first on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then transferred to plastic bags), and use in the same ways as the berries. As for the spinach, you could probably saute/wilt it with garlic and olive oil and eat a pound within a meal or two.

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Vandana
added 3 months ago

I. Cannot. Believe. It didn't occur to me that I could freeze the berries. Duh. Thanks!

Lost_in_NYC
added 3 months ago

Fellow Indian here so I recognize your situation quite well!

For the potatoes and carrots, curry leaves you can probably make a few batches of sabzi that he can then eat with Idlis/dosas or put into a pita pocket or wrap up in a tortilla to eat as an Indian sandwich. I do that for lunch sometimes.

1 lb Spinach - I would imagine you can finish that off before you leave for your trip - eat it in salad or make another sabzi. Or you can make indian spinach rice
- Cook basmati rice in your preferred method
- Puree the raw spinach leaves in a blender with a little bit of water into a bright green paste. It shouldn't be too dense but it shouldn't be too watery either
- Dice up carrots/peppers/corn/any other veggies you like
- In a large pan, temper cumin seeds+curry leaves+cut veggies+turmeric powder for a few mins, they should retain their bite
- Add in the spinach puree and cook it for a few minutes, some water will release which is okay, but try to cook only SOME of it off. You want the puree to retain its green colour.
- Add in the rice to the veggie puree mixture, Add Salt to taste + add in some red chili powder depending on how spicy you'd like it (I usually also like to diced jalapeno peppers). Garnish with cilantro and squeeze fresh lime at time of eating (this makes a huge difference!)
- You'll have a bright, green rice dish with veggies that's colourful and healthy!

Serrano chilies - you can grind into green chutneys and freeze which your dad can then defrost upon return. My mom does this when we have a surplus or she makes for me to keep in my NYC apt.

Curry leaves can be frozen as MMH suggested - I would wrap up in paper towels, then in ziplock bags to return its freshness. Again my mom does this as well.

I'm not good with fruit but others have provided some good recommendations...!

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Vandana
added 3 months ago

Nice - you answered my question up above about how to freeze the curry leaves. Thanks!

I think I'm starting to formulate a plan - maybe I make a huge batch of jeera aloo and then another batch of carrot, potato, and peas sazi, and the potatoes will be done. The rest of the carrots I'm just going to eat raw, I think. For the spinach, palak paneer! I also have half a block of frozen paneer that I keep forgetting about - it's at least three months old now. But I've never had spinach rice. I'll maybe give it a try. Thanks for the idea! :)

dinner at ten
dinner at ten

dinner at ten is a trusted home cook.

added 3 months ago

Like MMH, I store curry leaves in the freezer and also freeze serranos (and other hot chiles) washed but whole. They are fine for everything except where you want the crunch of a raw pepper. These will both be ok in the freezer for many months. Similar to Lost_in_NYC, I also like freezing various sauces for quick dinners.
Otherwise, to me you sound on track! I at least would easily eat that amount of raw fruit with another person in a week and the spinach, carrots, and potatoes could be dealt with in one weekend meal.

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Vandana
added 3 months ago

What I've realised most clearly from asking this question is that everyone on this site cooks a LOT more than I do. When I cook on the weekends, I don't make a tonne of food. The leftovers only really last until Tuesdays, after which we subsist on sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. It's truly challenging for me to use a pound of spinach in a week. And the carrots! I can already tell I'm going to be eating raw carrots for lunch for a good many days. But I have three weeks! I'm going to make it happen. Thanks!

Lost_in_NYC
added 3 months ago

A pound of spinach can easily be eaten as a salad - there are many variations of it on the internet!

If you want an Indian take on it - if you have tamarind chutney on hand, thin it out with water, add some olive oil and adjust the seasonings (salt/cumin/amchur(mango powder)/red chili powder/chaat masala) if it becomes mellow and make it in a vinaigrette. You can also blitz it in a mini blender/food processor to make the dressing if its easier.

For the salad, mix together spinach, red onions, carrots, cucumbers, any color bell peppers and add/subtracts the veggies that you like. Dress the salad with the tamarind vinaigrette to your liking. For a nice crunch: fry or microwave some papadums and break into medium sized pieces to add on top of the salad.

Hope you like this and the spinach rice if you end up trying it!

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