3 Ways To Mix Up Your Stay-At-Home Meals

by Ashley Martinez, MFN, RD, LD, NASM-CPT

Last Updated: April 29, 2020

Ever looked in the fridge or cupboard, saw tons of food, but couldn’t seem to find exactly what sounds good? It’s safe to say, most of us have been there and made the quick choice of ordering delivery instead. No matter what you’re craving as you peer into the refrigerator, anything is possible with a creative eye and a few quick kitchen tricks. It’s better for your wallet and the environment to use already-purchased foods so they don’t go to waste. Here are a few creative ideas to get started, and to inspire you to think differently about your pantry by using the ingredients you have on hand in a more meaningful way.
  1. Start your day with baking.
    Fresh baked goods cannot be beat, especially first thing in the morning. The house smells amazing, and it’s something productive to do as soon as the birds begin to chirp. It’s important to remember that baking with just a few ingredients can be extremely fast and easy. The waiting process is the hard part! Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and while you’re waiting, just ask yourself-, “what sounds tasty? Cookies? Bars? Protein Balls? Casserole? The world is your oyster!

    Baked Oatmeal
    • 2 cups of oatmeal (can also do oatmeal flour or almond flour, just reduce to 1.5 cups)
    • 1.5 tsp cinnamon (we’ve all got this spice hanging around from the holidays, let’s use it!)
    • 1 banana, ripe and mashed (just about any fruit can substitute here)
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (can use any fruit here, even frozen fruit if its been thawed out and mashed/pureed)
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 cup of milk (any kind, plant-based can work too)
    • 1 cup peanut butter (natural is best, could also do almond or sunflower butter)
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 large egg (can sub a “flax egg,” which is 1 Tbsp flax meal to 2.5 Tbsp of water, whisked together and left for a few minutes to thicken)

    • Mix oatmeal, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Next, in a separate bowl, beat the egg, and then add mashed banana/fruit, applesauce, milk, peanut butter, honey, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add to dry ingredients.
    • Ensure everything is mixed together well. Grease an 8x8 pan (or any size pan). Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. If you use a different size pan, you will need to adjust your cooking time.
    • Once golden brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
    • Serve with a dollop of yogurt, fresh or canned fruit on top.

  2. Pasta-bilities
    There’s a million and one ways to make pasta, which is why this title is so fitting. Don’t have pasta sauce? No problem. Here are some key ways to think outside the pasta box:
    • Got frozen veggies? Perfect! Use them to mix in with your pasta. First, roast your veggies, then puree into a roasted vegetable sauce using a food processor. Add some oregano, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt/pepper to the mix. Gradually add extra virgin olive oil to the puree working towards a sauce-like consistency. Taste as it's mixed to get the flavor in the right spot.
    • No sauce? Here’s how to use what we have on hand: Using equal parts of flour and melted butter (usually about 2 Tbsp. of each), mix in a saucepan until a roux is formed. Once it is a “paste like” texture, add canned tomato sauce (or even milk for an alfredo sauce!) and mix in with the roux. The roux keeps the sauce thick. Add some spices, herbs, cheese, or even a splash of red wine vinegar to get your sauce to a familiar palette. Don’t have flour or butter? No problem. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and mix in with pasta, enough to coat the noodles. Add some cheese, cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt to top it off. Simple, easy, yet delicious.
    • Pasta Salad: Don’t forget pasta can be enjoyed cold, too. Mix with jarred olives, sun-dried tomatoes, diced avocado and any other frozen or canned vegetables hanging around. The juice from the olives and sun-dried tomatoes gives the pasta a nice, flavorful dressing.

  3. “Zero Hunger Zero Waste” Omelettes.
    Need to use up that produce? Omelettes, frittatas, and quiches are perfect solutions that contribute to a hearty and nutritious meal. Eggs are considered a complete protein providing satiety (the feeling of being full), once consumed. Did you know that eggs are still good to use a month past their sell by date? They keep exceptionally well in the fridge and are a very inexpensive protein source. Here is a simple recipe that will get you on your way: Classic Frittata
    • 1 cup chopped vegetables (your choice)
    • 1 Tbsp avocado butter
    • 2 eggs + 2 egg white

    • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
    • Grab a non-stick pan and heat to medium. Add avocado butter once heated.
    • Add your chopped vegetables and sauté until cooked throughout. Allow them to cook a bit longer if you want crispy vegetables.
    • Make sure to beat your eggs with a touch of salt and pepper then add to the pan. Let the egg mixture cook, lifting the eggs up every few seconds to help them cook easily. Use a spatula for this. Once they have set, slide the pan into the oven to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. You can top your frittata with cheese if you would like.

There are so many ways to get creative in the kitchen! You’ll be surprised to see what you can come up with, even if you don’t have a specific ingredient handy. These recipes should serve as inspiration for you to cook the way you want with the food you have on hand. Cook well and be well!

Ashley Martinez, MFN, RD, LD, NASM-CPT

Ashley Martinez, MFN, RD, LD, NASM-CPT

Eating is all about the experience, and Ashley believes no food should be off limits. As a non-diet, culinary-focused dietitian, Ashley helps others practice the art of intuitive eating, leading to a successful, guilt-free relationship with food. As a personal trainer, incorporating fitness into her routine is also an important part of Ashley’s balanced approach to wellness. She’s got you covered with expert info on everything from blueberries to burpees.