Dinner Diva | Clean, or clean out

Column by Leanne Ely

When you consider that we all have refrigerators and like any useful tool, they need cleaning from time to time. I really don’t think anyone needs to read a column on how to clean a fridge, and I’m going to assume we all understand how to do this (soap and water works every time!).

But what I want to talk about today is the difference between cleaning your fridge vs. cleaning OUT your fridge. And before I do, I must come clean that I had the biggest clean out I’ve had in a long, long time and I hang my head in shame. Cleaning out your fridge is akin to a physical confession that you planned poorly and didn’t have the forethought to wisely consume or freeze your food. 

I don’t want to go there again. I’ll happily clean the fridge, wipe it down, get it all sparkly and shiny again, but clean out? No, don’t want to go there.

Why did this happen? Well, I went to the mountains for a week, brought food home from there and didn’t take the time to freeze the leftover soups and use up the other assorted leftovers. That’s just plain not smart.

In this economy, and for the sake of being a good steward of things we have, we all (me included) need to develop a keen mindset to keep from having to clean out the refrigerator.

Leftovers are gifts in my opinion; another meal that doesn’t need to be fussed over, just reheated and re-enjoyed all over again. Let’s be sure we treat them as such and keep to the plan to either use them up, freeze them or give them away to someone who would be delighted to get a Rubbermaid tub full of soup. Someone (either you now or later or maybe a senior neighbor) will appreciate that already prepared food. Waste is tragic no matter how you slice it.




Here’s a soup to make to enjoy and share:

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 6
– 1/2 pound ground beef, extra lean
– 1 egg, slightly beaten

– 2 tablespoons bread crumbs

– 1 tablespoon Romano cheese

– 1/2 teaspoon basil|

– 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

– 5 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth|

– 2 cups kale, thinly sliced

– 1 cup orzo pasta

– 1/3 cup carrot, finely chopped

In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, meat, egg, cheese, basil and onion powder, shape into 3/4 inch balls.

In a large saucepan, heat broth to boiling, stir in kale, orzo, carrot and meatballs. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook at a slow boil for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.

Per serving: 280 Calories; 8g Fat; 24g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 578mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain (Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: I like bread with soup so either bake some in your breadmaker or buy a nice loaf of crusty bread to go with this. Add a salad if you want, but you’ve got tons of green stuff going on this hearty soup.

VEGETARIANS: Skip the meatballs by omitting first 3 ingredients. Add extra vegetables to vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

KOSHER: Use beef broth instead of chicken.


For more help putting dinner on your table, check out Leanne’s website, www.SavingDinner.com, or her Saving Dinner book series (Ballantine) and her New York Times bestselling book Body Clutter (Fireside). Copyright 2009 Leanne Ely. Used by permission in this publication.

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