Kitchen Pantry Clean Out Time!

This first month of 2018 is really moving, at least for me it is! With these frigid temperatures over the past few weeks (with a two-day, spring-like warm up mixed in there), I have been doing more organizing and purging since I’m more willing to do activities inside the house this time of year as opposed to outside. With the holidays closed out for the year, this clean-out phase really started with putting away all of our holiday decorations and going through other bins of décor, changing out my closet for the winter, etc. With a house full of family and friends over the last month or so, I have been cooking a fair bit, which means adding to, not taking away from, my kitchen pantry.

My kitchen pantry is a bit of a sticking point for my husband and me. For context, we have a very, very small galley kitchen, so we are lucky to even have somewhat of a standing pantry to store nonperishable goods and some of our kitchen appliances we use on a regular basis. I do a fair bit of the weekly meal prep and grocery store runs, so I have a good sense of what we have and maybe don’t have in our pantry. Despite this, my husband has suggested that we regularly keep an inventory of the pantry items and try to use what we have before buying other items, such as rice, pasta, canned goods, etc.

Now that it is a new year, it is a good excuse to take another look at our pantry to see how I can better use what we already have before buying new items. My husband has suggested that we try and use what we have in the pantry this month for all our recipes, so here goes!

First, we have the start to a pantry inventory (post-it notes on the inside pantry doors), but I also just added this inventory to my shared Trello list with my husband, so we can see it when we are shopping at the grocery store! We also use the shared lists from Trello to keep general shopping lists between the two of us so we can access the lists on our phones! I am the worst about remembering what we have at home if I don’t check before  I leave for a shopping trip, so this online, shareable list will, hopefully, help this!

After the inventory, as I gather recipes for my weekly meal prepping, I am trying to make more substitutions for ingredients we already have in our pantry, such as a different kind of rice or pasta, instead of what the recipe calls for. This is also a fun experiment to try different sides or extra ingredients in your recipes! Last week Lemma shared a recipe we are both fond of right now – Vegetable Soup – that can basically be used as a starting foundation to add additional fresh veggies you may have in your fridge that need to be cooked or canned veggies from the previous season (as Lemma did with her tomatoes!)

Now that this inventory and purge has started, I am going to try to not add anything to the pantry this month, use what we have, and check back at the end of the month to see how we did! I will report back!

The recipe I am sharing this week is a new one, but a very good one! My husband loves Bolognese, so I found a vegetarian version I was dying to try for him! Here are the checks for our new and improved recipe system:

  • Posting more recipes that are plant based (check!) – This recipe calls for tempeh (I actually used seitan this week, because I had some in my fridge to use), instead of ground meat in typical Bolognese recipes.
  • We want to be better about utilizing locally-sourced ingredients in our recipes and utilizing local food markets, Co-Ops and farmers markets (check!)  – Because I work at my local farmers market on Sundays, I already had this recipe in mind to get fresh produce for last Sunday! The mushrooms, onion and carrots for the recipe came from Bending Bridge Farm, out of Fort Loudon, Pennsylvania. I also added canned tomato sauce (recipe we posted earlier on the blog), that I made in the summer from San Marzano tomatoes from Spiral Path Farm (their organic produce is awesome) as I re-heated the Bolognese for dinner the next evening, since it was pretty thick the next day (but oh so yummy!)
  • We plan on preparing dishes that serve at least four people (check!) My husband and I have so far had two meals with this recipe, with sauce to spare! We had the Bolognese with bucatini – Barilla brand is my favorite because I prefer al dente pasta and it gives times for this cooking preference right on the box, but feel free to substitute any whole grain, gluten free or veggie version! Because the sauce is pretty thick in nature, I would also suggest any pasta with nooks and crannies to grab the sauce, such as orecchiette, but honestly the sauce is so yummy, any vehicle will do! Also, this sauce is very flavorful and really does get better with a few days in the fridge as heated leftovers!

Recipe Notes:

  1. I did not have dried porcini mushrooms, so I just used fresh, with extra water/broth instead of the “mushroom liquid” mentioned in the recipe.
  2. I do not own a spice mill or a mortal and pestle for grinding spices, so I used a hand chopper – not the best, but worked just fine this time. I WOULD recommend toasting the spices as the recipes calls for, because this really did bring out the flavors!
  3. We don’t normally have dairy milk in our fridge, so I actually used unsweetened almond milk (1/2 cup instead of a cup), and ½ more broth.
  4. For the cheese rind, I actually had some cheese cloth on hand, so I used that to help me find it to take out of the sauce, but you can cut a large rind piece to help find it at the end of simmering.
  5. If you don’t have a food processor, no worries! I actually did not pulse during Step 3, and just chopped everything, and it worked just fine! Same note for Step 5.

Vegetarian Bolognese (Adapted from Cooking Light)

Active Time = 40 Minutes

Total Time = 2 Hours

Yield = Serves 12 (serving size: about 2/3 cup pasta and 2/3 cup Bolognese)


  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  •  3 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (2-in.) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 2 cup )
  • 1 1/2 pounds uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti (or your pasta preference)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter Fresh basil leaves (optional)


  • Toast fennel seeds, red pepper, and bay leaves in a skillet over medium for 2 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant. Cool 10 minutes. Transfer to a spice mill (or mortar and pestle); finely grind. Set aside.
  • Place porcini mushrooms and 1 1/2 cups warm water in a bowl; let stand 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup soaking liquid. Finely chop mushrooms; set aside.
  • Pulse shiitake mushrooms, onion, carrots, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 times. * I just used a hand chopper this time around.
  • Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add tempeh; cook 5 minutes or until golden. Add shiitake mixture, salt, and pepper; cook 10 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, ground spices, and chopped porcinis; cook 5 minutes or until mixed well.


  • Pulse tomatoes in a food processor until finely chopped, 8 to 10 times.
  • Stir chopped tomatoes, milk, wine, cheese rind, oregano, basil, sugar, and reserved 1/2 cup porcini soaking liquid into tempeh mixture in Dutch oven.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.


  • Remove cheese rind; stir in grated cheese.


  • Cook spaghetti per package directions. Toss with butter to coat; serve with Bolognese; garnish with fresh basil, if desired.


Nutritional Information 

Calories 353 Fat 10g Satfat 3g Unsat 6g Protein 16g Carbohydrates 53g Fiber 7g Sugars 6g Added sugars 0g Sodium 475mg Calcium 14% DV Potassium 14% DV

Post by Sarah




2 thoughts on “Kitchen Pantry Clean Out Time!

  1. I appreciated the comments about pantry clean out and need to do so. Love the soup recipe and I love seeing pictures – it helps me. I will try to use more fresh ingredients as well as ones I have that need to be used!!


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