5 Deliciously Inventive Recipes You Can Make from Your Pantry

Photo: Christopher BakerPhoto: Christopher BakerBy Louisa Kamps

My kitchen's corner cupboard is one of those spaces I hesitate to get into, literally and figuratively. It's become the repository of so many broken culinary dreams: half-used bags of crackers, rice, and nuts languish alongside cute little cans of pâté that I imagined--what, two, three years ago?--serving at a chic party. Packed bunker-tight on the bottom shelf are enough canned tomatoes, corn, and beans to feed a whole town, yet oddly, they never seem to get eaten by my own family of four.

My overcrowded, under-tapped pantry isn't pretty, but it is typical. According to author Jonathan Bloom, who explores our food-squandering ways in his 2010 book American Wasteland, we throw out almost half the food we purchase. "People have this subconscious fear of not having enough, so we buy more food than we can possibly consume," Bloom says. And recessionary times have spurred the natural impulse to stockpile goods when they're on sale. Yet Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, has found that people eventually even toss up to 12 percent of nonperishable foods, the result of buying things they don't actually like (in a misguided attempt to be thrifty or healthy) and purchasing items for specific recipes that get used only rarely. Once items are shoved to the back when new groceries move in, they're less likely to be consumed.

Try these 5 meals you can cook with ingredients from your pantry:

Photo: Christopher BakerDouble Cheese and Ham Quiche

Use whatever crackers or chips you have on hand to create the crust for a hearty (and easy-to-make!) ham and cheese quiche.

Get the recipe: Double Cheese and Ham Quiche

Photo: Christopher BakerPan-Seared Lamb Chops with Middle Eastern Tomato Sauce

Canned tomatoes, roasted red peppers, walnuts and spices create a spicy Eastern Mediterranean sauce that perfectly complements pan-seared lamb chops.

Get the recipe: Pan-Seared Lamb Chops with Middle Eastern Tomato Sauce

Photo: Christopher BakerZucchini and Tuna Pappardelle

Canned tuna doesn't have to mean sandwiches; instead, toss it with ribbons of zucchini, pappardelle, and a lemony cream sauce.

Get the recipe: Zucchini and Tuna Pappardelle

Photo: Christopher BakerVegetable Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream and Smoky Black Beans

Slow-roasted beans make a savory, crunchy topping for these vegetable tacos. And save any you have left over to be served solo as a cocktail snack.

Get the recipe: Vegetable Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream and Smoky Black Beans

Photo: Christopher BakerBaked Coconut and Lime Rice Pudding

Rice is the foundation for coconut pudding squares, which use up any dried fruit or nuts you may have.

Get the recipe: Baked Coconut and Lime Rice Pudding

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