Tips for weeding out, cooking through that kitchen pantry

  • Canned goods, including beans and tomatoes, are just the thing when you're cleaning out the pantry and crave a hearty soup.

    Canned goods, including beans and tomatoes, are just the thing when you're cleaning out the pantry and crave a hearty soup. Courtesy of M. Eileen Brown

Updated 4/15/2020 10:16 AM

I've always had a love/hate relationship with my pantry. It's a virtual Rorschach test of my food psyche, a physical manifestation of my expired hopes and culinary dreams.

What the heck was I going to do with canned artichokes?


What possessed me to buy seven cans of coconut milk?

Oh, yeah, there's that Moroccan Harissa -- expiration date 2018.

Like you, I imagine, I am becoming more acquainted with the shelves crammed with staples, new and old. (And by old, I am not kidding. I had a can of Bush beans from when George Bush was president!)

To try to get a handle on cooking from my larder, I asked Monique Costello for a few tips. Monique is a culinary nutrition expert, health coach and gourmet chef. You can find her at She also has a great Facebook page called Happy Eats Healthy that offers great cooking videos.

Here are a few of her pantry/leftover veggie tips:

• Start with broth. If you don't have any on hand, no worries. Take leftover vegetable ends and simmer in water. Season it with salt and a pat of butter or some olive oil.

• If you really want to up your game, roast whatever vegetables you have on hand and then put them in the blender for a nice potage.

• What kinds of grains, beans or pasta do you have? Incorporate those in your soup.

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• Speaking of beans, cannellini beans are great for adding thickness to your soup. Toss a can of the beans, water and salt in the blender for a nice thick base.

• Don't throw away old bread or tortillas. Turn them into croutons by baking them.

• Salt is your friend, but think about cumin and chili powder, she said. A small pinch of cinnamon can be a great addition to some soups.

• If you have lemon juice, a squeeze right before serving is a great addition.

Monique also has a great blog post on her website on taking vegetables that are about to go bad and turning them into concentrates that you can freeze and use. Here's the link:

Using Monique's advice, I went into my pantry and found some unexpired cans of beans, tomatoes and even a can of green chiles. I had a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, and an onion and some baby carrots in the fridge. I also had a box of veggie broth.


And so I made a spicy bean soup -- a version of something I have made in the past. This time I just went without a recipe and tossed in what I had. Give this -- or your version of this -- a whirl. Take this time to be creative in the kitchen -- and appreciate that pantry of yours.

• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at

Eileen's Pantry Soup

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced carrots

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups broth

1 (16-ounce) package of frozen corn

1 can (15-ounce) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15-ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15-ounce) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

2 cans (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles

Heat oil in bottom of Dutch oven or soup pot. Add onion, carrot and garlic and sauté. Stir in broth and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for two hours.

Serves 8

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