I chose these two items from my pantry:
1. a can of unsweetened chestnut puree that I bought a couple years ago (which fortunately had such a long shelf life that it was still not slated to expire for another 1 1/2 years!!??), on a total whim, because the can was pretty. Seriously. Those impulse decisions can get me into trouble.
2. a jar of sweetened Alfonso mango puree, in a mango-shaped bottle, which I picked up on my last trip to India. I have been hoarding this special treat... just waiting for inspiration!
I apologize for all these dark pictures, but really, it IS still winter time, and it's just hard to get a good picture even in the middle of the day.
With my chestnut puree, I did lots of research, and used half the can for a batch of Chestnut & Celery Soup, and the other half for a batch of Apple-Chestnut Muffins. Both were great! The soup was light and savory... creamy and although thick, not at all heavy in the belly or on the palette. The muffins were totally GREAT and almost made me wish I had a whole entire new can of chestnut puree to work with! They were very hippy-healthy looking - but were delightfully moist and tasty on the inside. I'll post the recipes down below.
I put the mango to use with a quick and delicious batch of mango lassi - roughly following the recipe from "World Vegetarian." So good, so quick... mmmmm. Don't mind my collection of giant pomelos.
Sofia used up some of her epic amounts of frozen persimmon by making persimmon Cinnamon Rolls. YES. I love cinnamon rolls and these little babies were super yummmmmmmy.
She also has lots and lots of collards in her garden, so she balanced out her nutrient karma by also bringing a big, big bowl of a raw collard salad which was both tasty and virtuous.
Alana put together a really incredible middle eastern platter - her pantry items were falafel mix and canned fava beans. She made the world's most perfectly adorable mini falafel balls to go with mini pita breads (everything mini tastes extra special, don't you know!?), some CRAZY GOOD tahini sauce, stewed fava beans, some pickled eggplant (well, she didn't technically make that, but she shared it with us!), and some spicy eggplant. Oh, man. It was all so good.
Alana also had lots of canned pumpkin to use up, so she make some pumpkin muffins with cranberries in them which are really tasty. Obviously, we couldn't eat all this food in one sitting, so in addition to pantry swapping, we also swapped leftovers and everyone left with some muffins and cinnamon rolls and collard greens... mmmm. I got rid of a few pantry items, most of which had been gifts but weren't up my alley, and also came home with some Thai sticky glutenous rice and a few giant black caradmom pods. Fun!!
It was a really really fun evening and felt good to finally use up those special impulse buys. It's inspired me to make more earnest attempts at building some future menus around the random odds & ends already in the pantry or the freezer. Goodness knows, there's more where that came from!
Chestnut Soup - a mashup of a couple different online recipes
1/4 c minced celery
1/4 c minced onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
1 medium potato - peeled & cut into 1/4-1/2 inch dice
4 c veggie broth
7 oz unsweetened chestnut puree
1/4 c mimicreme (cream substitute)
2 Tbsp Frangelico liquer
1/8-1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste
Heat oil over medium heat in your soup pan. Add the onion & celery and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the flour, stir well, and then add the potato, broth, & chestnut puree. If the chestnut puree is in a big clump, use the back of a wooden spoon to break it up. Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add in the mimicreme, Frangelico, pepper and salt. Yum. Makes about 4 small servings.
Apple-Chestnut Muffins (adapted from a recipe found here)
1/4 c plain soy yogurt
1/2 c almond milk
1/4 c canola oil
7 oz. unsweetened chestnut puree
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c sugar, minus about 3-4 Tbsp. (in other words, not a full half cup)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
maple sugar crystals, if you have them, or turbinado sugar
Preheat your oven to 375 & prepare a muffin tin with 12 muffin liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, oil, and chestnut puree. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Pour the wet into the dry, add the apple bits and stir just until fully integrated. The batter will be sticky and quite thick. Plop the batter into the muffin tin, equally filling all 12 muffin spots. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with maple sugar crystals. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are golden, and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.