WND – Cleaning Up the Fridge

December 18, 2008


My roommate and I have a deal.  She doesn’t ask me to buy boxed macaroni & cheese, and I pretend not to notice that she’s snuck PAM cooking spray into the pantry while I’m out of town.  She watches Disney movies when I go away, and I watch ridiculously cheesy romantic comedies when she’s away.  It works well for us.

This was the last Dinner before I go to my parents for Christmas.  It was therefore the last chance I had to use up the various things in my fridge that I know my roommate won’t eat while I’m gone, and that will have gone bad by the time I get back.  There’s some unfathomable number of mushrooms in the fridge.  I clearly bought them to make something, but I can’t remember for the life of me what it was.  Possibly it was the same dinner for which I bought an enormous quantity of green beans.  Then there’s the 4+ lb of butternut squash that I bought a month or so ago with the intention of making soup.  I never got around to roasting the squash, and while it’s not going to go bad in the 10 days I’ll be gone I’m of a mind to clean up the kitchen before I leave.

Dinners this week involve a lot of using up of ingredients.  Baked Ziti with sautéed mushrooms on Tuesday night used up mushrooms, leftover shredded cheese and most of the extra ricotta.  Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms (tonight’s dinner) will use up leftover spinach and yet more of the mushrooms.  Dinner on Wednesday was designed around making use of both the butternut squash and the green beans.  I think by the time I go we’ll be down to milk, eggs, cheese and condiments, which will leave my roommate free to fill the fridge with anything of which I might not approve while I’m gone.  This makes it sound like left to her own devices she eats terrible food, which isn’t true.  We just tend to use different sets of base ingredients when we cook.

When I come back from Christmas vacation I’ll be faced with a whole other dilemma.  The devastating and untimely demise of In Season means that I have to decide what I’m going to do about groceries in the new year.  I’ve been spoiled by In Season and the weekly drop off of fresh organic milk in glass bottles, homemade pasta, and exceptional fresh greens.  I’m not sure I can go back to supermarket milk and eggs.  I know I can’t go back to what the supermarket euphemistically calls salad.  It’s not so much that I can’t get organic groceries elsewhere.  Between Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wilson Farms I think I can replace pretty much everything that was being delivered to the house – although, not the milk in the charming glass bottles.  The problem is that it’s going to take Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Wilson Farms to replace what I used to be able to order online and have delivered.

Previously I would have said that I wasn’t wedded to the organic market.  I’m still not wedded to it for the sake of being organic – although it does give me a nice righteous glow – but I am a little wedded to it now for the sake of the flavor.

I always reserved skepticism for the people who proselytized that organic food really tasted that much better than what you can get at the Stop-n-Shop.  Except now, I’ve become one of them.  Free range, organic beef, tastes richer and beefier than supermarket beef, and the bacon was a revelation.  I only drink about one glass of milk a year, but I’m going to assume from the alarming rate that my roommate was going through the organic milk that it too was richer and more flavorful than the plasticized version you get at the grocery store.  The vegetables were . . . well okay I’ve always known that vegetables that came from a local farm were better than vegetables that were picked before they were ripe and then trucked half way across the county.  But, In Season offered me local greenhouse tomatoes and hydroponic baby greens in the middle of a New England winter and that’s going to be hard to live without.

I loathe the parking lots at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, and while I don’t hate the parking lot at Wilson Farms, it is a good 15 minutes out of my way.  The question is, how much of my time is it worth to get the kind of ingredients that I want?  The answer is: I don’t know yet.  I have the best of intentions, and I’m perfectly willing to spend a little extra money.  What I’m not sure about is how much extra time I’m willing to spend.  Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite thing to do on a Sunday, and having to go to more than one store isn’t likely to endear the process to me any more.  This is what I liked so much about In Season, it was easy and the only thing it required of me was that I remember to put the empty milk bottles outside the front door on Monday night.  Sigh.  I’m still kind of hoping that they’ll find more funding (although where they’ll get that from in this economy is anyone’s guess) and reopen and I won’t have to solve all these issues.

Moroccan-style Roast Chicken
Roasted Butternut Squash &  Red Grapes
Green Beans
Swiss Chard

Moroccan-style Roast Chicken

Recipe previously given:  Paean to Summer Vegetables


Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Grapes
A friend has recommended this recipe to me about once a year for the past three years.  I’ve always been a little dubious, the roasted grapes just sounded odd to me.  But, I had butternut squash to use up and all the gratin recipes I came across called for egregious amounts of heavy cream (so egregious it gave even me pause), and this was both simple and got stellar reviews.  And, really I should have listened to my friend years ago, because this was amazing.


2 ¼ lb butternut squash, cut into ½” cubes
8 oz seedless red grapes
1 onion, cut into 1” wedges
1 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage leaves*
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425.  Combine the squash, grapes, onion  and sage in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil and melted butter.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until tender and beginning to brown (about 30-45 minutes).  Garnish with toasted pine nuts.

* Or, if you can’t find sage anywhere, about 1 ½ tsp of dried thyme.


A couple of notes about chopping up squash.
1 – This will require some muscle.  Butternut squash is dense.
2- I recommend cutting it in half (separate the neck from the bulb/seed end) before you peel it.  Squash is slippery once it’s peeled, and slippery + dense + sharp knife is not a winning combination.

3- The easiest way to peel it is with a vegetable peeler.
4- It will leave a fine film all over your hands that is next to impossible to wash off.  I washed my hands about three times, and then did two sinks worth of dishes and I still had remnants of squash on my hands.  That being said, I rub as much off as I can (kind of like rubbing glue off your hands), and then I wash my hands with soap and a sprinkling of sugar (for some abrasive texture).  That will get rid of most, although probably not all, of it.

Dark Leafy Greens

Recipe previously given:  Taking the Easy Way Out

The picture is really so that I can show off the exceedingly excellent sauté pan that my parents gave me for my birthday.



  1. I told you so 🙂

    The parking lot at the Medford Whole Foods isn’t too bad and isn’t that far from y’all. No butcher counter there, though, just prepackaged meat.

  2. So, I used to know this girl…I used to live with her, in fact. And she used to mock a certain member of her family who would go to several different stores to do her weekly grocery shopping. Hmm, I wonder what that girl is doing these days? I don’t seem to hear from her too much of her anymore.

  3. I know! Where’d she go? My life was so much easier when I wasn’t this picky.

  4. I forgot to comment: I love the frog lemon press (top picture).

  5. […] Recipe previously given:    Cleaning Up the Fridge […]

  6. […] Recipe previously given:  Cleaning up the Fridge […]

  7. […] it’s also tasty with grapes and sage, particularly if you don’t burn […]

  8. […] Recipe previously given: Cleaning Up the Fridge […]

  9. […] Recipe previously given: Cleaning Up the Fridge […]

  10. […] Recipe previously given:  Cleaning up the Fridge […]

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