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5 vegetarian ways to use up food


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If you've been doing our challenges, you're probably more aware now of trying to use up all your food to reduce waste, and you're maybe looking to learn more vegetarian dishes to vary your weekday meals. But sometimes you're left with just a small amount of lots of different things, which makes it harder to figure out what to do with them all.

So here are five recipes I've found that can help you use up a lot of different things all at once. They were invented for exactly that reason, so putting your leftovers in will have you following a long tradition. They're really flexible with substitutes when you haven't got exactly what's asked for, and it doesn't matter if the vegetables are looking a bit tired as they'll get cooked up anyway.

  1. Roasted vegetable pizza - some ideas are: slightly squishy tomatoes can be crushed and added to the sauce; thinly-sliced leftover roasted or grilled vegetables; the last few sun-dried tomatoes in a jar, or any caramelised onion from a BBQ; just about any small bit of cheese can be grated on top, mix the different types up; the last bit of rocket or spinach from a salad (put this on after the pizza is cooked).
  2. Fried rice or pilaf - shred or thinly slice whatever vegetables you've got around and add them to the rice. If you're making fried rice, leftover rice is actually better than fresh, as it's drier. Carrot, green beans, capsicum, celery, peas, corn, spring onions, cabbage, squash: anything goes. If you've got one egg left in the carton, you could whisk it up and put that in too.
  3. Vegetable soup with chickpeas - any vegetables you've got can be added here, as long as you put the long-cooking ones (e.g. carrot, pumpkin) in first and the delicate ones (eg yellow squash) in towards the end. Any beans will do, depending on what you have in the cupboard: lentils, chickpeas, cannelini, and so on.
  4. Pasta bakes - this one uses tortellini, pumpkin and spinach, but there's nothing stopping you from using any pasta shape. I often end up with a bunch of half-full pasta packets, so I make a giant pasta bake with them all, and freeze it in portions that I can take to work for lunch.
  5. Bread and butter pudding - I haven't forgotten dessert! This is a great way to use up bread and fruit that might be getting to the end of it's freshness. I've heard you can put little splashes of leftover spirits or liqueurs in as well, but I never have leftover alcohol so I haven't tried this myself!

If you don't want to keep these vegetarian, any leftover roast or sausages or deli meats can be thinly sliced and added too. Well, maybe not to the pudding, unless you're more adventurous than I am.

What are your favourite ways to get rid of a bunch of different foods at once?