This post will wind up this year’s Carbon Fast with the theme of reducing food waste and the resources associated with food production. Maintaining our food inventory and mindful grocery shopping is key to ensuring we can feed our family without throwing away any savings along with spoiled food. Part of that process is to “shop” your inventory on a regular basis.
When I posted the above photo to my Instagram and Facebook accounts and asked, “What would you make?” I got all sorts of delicious ideas in response. Many people suggested a casserole and that’s how gnocchi and spinach skillet came about. It’s creamy, hearty and can be cooked entirely on top of the stove. I used my largest skillet and a dutch oven, but with a little juggling the whole meal can be cooked in just the dutch oven.
You see, our freezer is not frost-free and it needs to be defrosted. So it needs to be emptied. We had peas, artichokes, judias (Italian flat beans), spinach, sausages, jamon, gnocchi, smoked salmon and an unmarked package (I’m blaming Rick) believed to be tuna. You’ll see some of the other ingredients used in other recipes later on. [EDIT: Click on the links above to see what else we made from our freezer stash.]
Besides asking your friends on social media, you could try a web search on the ingredients for ideas. Pinterest is another great resource. Just type the major ingredients in the search bar and make a selection. There are also apps like Fridge Check that will help you select appropriate recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand and your mood.
For the gnocchi and spinach skillet we used the sausages, gnocchi and spinach from the freezer and added some canned mushrooms and onions from the pantry. The whole thing is tied together with an easy, cheesy pan sauce for a meal that can be made entirely from items you have on hand or mixed and matched with whatever fresh ingredients are available.
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
- ½ pound sausage links, cut into bite sized pieces (substitute 1 cup any chopped meat)
- 1 pound package gnocchi
- 12 ounce pack frozen spinach
- ½ cup cream cheese (3 oz package is fine)
- ½ cup shredded cheese (optional)
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms (6 oz can is fine)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk (plus more if needed)
- ¼ teaspoon smoky paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil as needed for cooking
- Set a large pot of water on to boil.
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, cook the sausage pieces until nicely browned and cooked through.
- Drain the sausage on paper towels and hold.
- Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to any drippings remaining in the skillet and saute the onions until softened.
- Sprinkle the flour, salt, pepper and paprika over the cooked onions and stir well to mix. Cook until the flour begins to change color.
- Add the milk and cream cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and the gravy is thickened. Return the sausage to the skillet and combine. Mix in the mushrooms.
- Meanwhile cook the gnocchi and the spinach together in the boiling water. Add the spinach first, then the gnocchi after a few minutes. Use the suggested cooking times from the packages to help figure out when is the best time to add the gnocchi so it all finishes at the same time.
- Drain the gnocchi and spinach and add to the sausage and gravy. Stir well to combine and warm through.
- Taste, adjust the seasoning and add more cheese or milk as desired.
To cook in just one large pot, first cook the spinach and gnocchi as directed. Drain and hold in a colander until needed later at the end of the recipe. Then begin cooking the sausage in the dutch oven and follow the directions for making the gravy.
Being able to “shop the pantry” is a great way to help reduce food waste as well as save money during our regular grocery runs. With just the two of us, we were able to stretch our gnocchi and spinach skillet over a couple meals. Before reheating the leftovers, I stirred in a little milk to help loosen the gravy.
On April 1, 2015, Gov. Brown of California ordered the state to reduce it’s water consumption by 25%. California grows a significant proportion of the produce in the United States. (See more here.) Until the situation changes, the availability of our favorite produce may be in jeopardy and the costs will undoubtedly be affected as well.
It’s become clear to me after much research and reading that we can not continue to squander our water, food and energy sources. Unfortunately the political and corporate parts of society don’t seem to be able to provide the necessary leadership (or else dismiss any concerns by deflecting to other topics). It will be up to the everyday householder to set the example as good stewards by putting our money where our values lie. This will hopefully influence others in a positive way. The practices described in that old WWI poster provide a good set of guidelines for reducing food waste and the water and fuel associated with its production. Please consider ways to incorporate them into your regular routine.