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5 super-delicious dinners from super-boring ingredients

By Carolyn Malcoun, March 8, 2010 - 12:20pm

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My husband had been doing more of the grocery shopping lately. While he loves fresh fruits and vegetables, let’s just say that occasionally he buys some produce that is past its prime. I’d rather he not spend money on produce that’s headed straight for the compost bin. (Find delicious dinner recipes for $3 or less in our Budget Recipe Collection.) There are a few fruits and vegetables we like to always have on hand for super-delicious dinners—broccoli, carrots, dark leafy greens, mangos and salad greens—so I typed up a few quick tips he can keep in his wallet for when he goes to the grocery store. Here they are, plus delicious recipes to use them in.

What staple fruits and vegetables would you like shopping and storage tips for?

Look for: Sturdy, dark-green spears with tight buds and a high floret-to-stem ratio; there should be no yellowing.

Store: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 3 days.

Make: Broccoli & Goat Cheese Soufflé—This elegant broccoli and goat cheese soufflé will wow your family and friends. Soufflés are surprisingly easy to make—the only trick is getting them on the table before they deflate.

Look for: Brightly colored, firm carrots without any gray or shriveled spots on the skin. The greens should preferably still be attached.

Store: Trim greens and refrigerate carrots in a plastic bag for up to 3 weeks.

Make: Chili-Roasted Carrots—Roasted with chili powder and cumin then tossed with cilantro and lime juice, these carrots are bursting with zesty flavor. Serve them with simple roast chicken or pork.

Dark Leafy Greens
Look for: Crisp, brightly colored greens; avoid those that are wilted or blemished. Bunches of smaller-sized leaves are often sweeter.

Store: Store unwashed; wrap stem ends in damp paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to 10 days.

Prep: Wash well and coarsely chop. Though all of the stems are edible, we prefer to use only chard and beet stems, discarding the tough stems of collards, kale and mustard greens. If you do choose to use the stems, keep them separate when prepping and cook them for 3 to 5 minutes longer than the leaves. One pound of greens cooks down to 1-2 cups.

Make: Vegetarian Tortilla Soup—This is a vegetarian version of the classic soup, usually made with chicken. Earthy dark pasilla chile flavors the soul-satisfying broth.

Look for: Fruit without dark spots or blemishes. Ripe when very fragrant and yields to gentle pressure.

Store: Store ripe mangoes in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To peel and dice a mango:
1. Slice both ends off the mango, revealing the long, slender seed inside.
2. Set the fruit upright on a work surface and remove the skin with a sharp knife.
3. With the seed perpendicular to you, slice the fruit from both sides of the seed, yielding two large pieces.
4. Turn the seed parallel to you and slice the two smaller pieces of fruit from each side. Cut the fruit into the desired shape.

Make: Thai Chicken & Mango Stir-Fry—Both ripe and underripe mango work well in this chicken and vegetable stir-fry (which also has broccoli in it!). If the mangoes you have are less ripe, use 2 teaspoons brown sugar. If they’re ripe and sweet, just use 1 teaspoon or omit the brown sugar altogether.

Salad Greens
Look for: Salad greens should look fresh, crisp and green. Avoid greens that are brown, yellow, wilted, blemished, bruised or slimy. If stems are still attached they should be undamaged.

Store: Moisture encourages decay, so don’t wash greens until ready to use. If greens are damp when you buy them, dry on kitchen towels, wrap in dry towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag. Most greens keep in the refrigerator crisper for 3 to 5 days.

Make: Salmon & Roasted Vegetable Salad—Toss roasted vegetables and salmon with a flavor-packed vinaigrette to serve on top of greens for a hearty dinner salad. For a twist, add a poached or fried egg on top. Serve with: Toasted whole-grain baguette and a glass of Riesling.

What fruits and vegetables do you buy every week? What are your go-to recipes to use them? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Food Blog, Budget meals, Dinner, Eating green, What's in season

Carolyn Malcoun
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, young daughter and dog.

Carolyn asks: What fruits and vegetables do you buy every week? What are your go-to recipes to use them?

Tell us what you think:

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