Spring Clean Your Pantry

The fresh smells of spring are in the air, but definitely not in my pantry. Last night while I was trying to figure out a pantry dinner rather than make a quick run to the grocery store, I noticed a pungent odor coming from the back corner. Sure enough the culprit was an old spice container that had been left open. The rancid smell reminded me that it was time to spring clean the entire pantry.

Instead of the usual ‘toss out what’s right in front of my face,’ I decided to take action and scrub/organize the whole pantry from top to bottom. This turned into a two-hour adventure but let me assure you, it’s completely worth it when you open that door the next morning and feel spring-cleaned!

Here are some of my tips for spring cleaning your pantry. I’m also including a delicious spring pantry dinner recipe that you can whip up in no time. Happy Eating (and cleaning)!

1. Take out everything!
Top to bottom, side to side, remove all of it. This will allow you examine expiration dates, give a quick taste to some items, and scrub the whole pantry with a vinegar, dish soap and baking soda solution. Make sure to toss items you are unsure of that might have been in your pantry for over a year as it’s probably not healthy for you anyways. I found a can of cream of mushroom soup from 2009…I can only imagine what it would do to my stomach if I heated it up! Um, no thanks.

2. Label bulk items
Instead of buying over-sized amounts of food from wholesale mega-stores, try buying dry goods (like oatmeal, lentils, dried beans, and seeds) in bulk. This way you keep the freshest of ingredients in your pantry and if you place them in a glass jar with a label and expiration date, you’re more likely to use then first while cooking meals.

3. Boxed over canned
With so much information out there about the harm of canned goods (yes BPA free is huge now as well), more and more companies are taking action and selling their products in boxes. Not only is this a lighter way to carry all of those heavy grocery bags, but you’re also making a better carbon footprint on the environment by purchasing recyclable paper goods over tin cans. Kudos to you!

4. Place older items up front
This is a rule in any restaurant kitchen that the staff will always practice. Always move older ingredients to the front of the pantry so you use these items first. It also makes sense so you do not end up spending extra money on items you already had lingering in the back of the pantry.

Spring Pantry Recipe: Vegan Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:
1 cup green split peas
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 leek, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup white wine
4 cups veggie stock
1 Tbsp. No Chicken chicken base
Sea salt and pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 Tbsp. coconut milk
Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions: Soak the split peas in a bowl of water for two hours. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add in the onions, carrots, celery, and leek. Cook on medium for 5 minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in white wine and reduce (pour an extra glass of white wine for the cook). Add in spices and cook for 30 seconds. Add veggie stock, veggie base, potatoes, and drained spilt peas. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until peas are tender and soft. Use an immersion blender or carefully ladel into a blender and puree. Return the soup to the pot and taste for seasonings. Stir in coconut milk and serve in bowls. Top with fresh parsley.

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