More pantry-salvaged recipes: What to do with those lentils, stale Easter bunnies and other mysterious items in your kitchen

Looking to give ourselves a challenge regarding all the strange non-perishables hiding on your shelves and in your pantries, we asked you, “What mysterious ingredients do you have hiding in your kitchen?” Thanks to everyone who submitted responses on Facebook and Instagram! Here are some great savory and sweet recipes to try in an effort to use some of those less-familiar ingredients you may have acquired—a useful skill to have whether under a shelter in place order not. Have something a little strange or unfamiliar that you’d like to turn into something satisfying and delicious? Epicurious has a pretty extensive “Cook With What You’ve Got” recipe finder. As part of See Chicago Dance's ongoing Dance Health Month—a series of workshops and resources focused on holistic health in the dance industry while quarantining—we're delighted to bring you our second installment of quarantine recipes.


What's in your kitchen?

Lentils, canned red peppers, parsley


Try this Lentil Dip with Roasted Red Peppers or these Green Lentil Meatballs with this Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce as ways to use these ingredients, or make some red lentil soup:


Red Lentil Soup


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 48 oz. (~ 7 C.) vegetable or chicken broth (more or less as needed)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) red peppers
  • 2 C. dried red lentils, picked over, washed, and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
  • ¼ C. fresh parsley or cilantro (or both), chopped



1.     In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

2.     Add coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg and red pepper flakes, and cook for another minute.

3.     Add red peppers. Whisk in vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Stir in lentils, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender. Note: Red lentils require a cooking time of 10-40 minutes, depending on the variety.

4.     Stir in lemon juice, parsley and cilantro; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

5.     Serve with more red pepper flakes, grated lemon zest or sumac if desired.


What's in your kitchen?

Red quinoa, pimentos, pickled okra


First, you’re going to need to make yourself some Southern Pimento Cheese! Then, give this recipe for quinoa hushpuppies a try.


Quinoa Hushpuppies


  • 2 C. cooked quinoa
  • 2/3 C. pimento cheese
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2-½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 green onions, thinly sliced for garnish


Aioli dipping sauce:

  • ½ C. mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper



1.     For the cakes: Place all ingredients, except for the oil, into a mixing bowl and stir together until well combined. Season with salt and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

2.     Pour oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium heat.

3.     Form tightly packed balls or patties with the quinoa mixture and place in the heated sauté pan. (this will have to be done in batches).

4.     Cook quinoa cakes for about 5 minutes on each side, or until all sides are browned and crispy. Repeat with the remaining patties until all of the cakes have been cooked. Set aside on a paper towel with a sprinkle of salt.

5.     For the aioli: Place all ingredients into a food processor, season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Pour into a small bowl and serve alongside the warm quinoa cakes.


Serve with Fried Pickled Okra.


What's in your kitchen?

Pineapple chunks, tuna in oil, leftover chocolate Easter bunny


Alright – let’s tackle this one in parts, shall we?

First, this version of a very Midwestern tuna cake recipe would pair perfectly with the tropical beverage of your choosing:


Tuna Cakes with Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa


  • 1 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
  • 1 can tuna packed in oil or water
  • 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ Tbsp pineapple juice
  • ¼ C. whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp diced red bell pepper



  • ½ C. diced pineapple
  • ¼ C. diced mango
  • 1 Tbsp diced red onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of salt



1.     In a large bowl, combine tuna, yogurt, egg yolk, pineapple juice, bread crumbs and bell pepper. Stir to combine. Form into small cakes and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2.     In a small bowl, combine pineapple, cucumber, red onion, pepper, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Stir well and refrigerate until ready to use.

3.     Heat oil over medium heat. Working in batches, as necessary, cook each cake 2-3 minutes per side. Top with pineapple salsa before serving.


If you’re feeling more parched than famished, maybe a tiki drink is in order. As much as I’ve been missing my favorite tiki spots, some of my favorite establishments are still offering some version of curbside pickup, including Lost Lake and Estereo. I’m also incredibly lucky to be quarantining with a talented and very enthusiastic bartender. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t still participate in happy hour! Here’s one of his pineapple-forward recipes:


Piña Colada


  • 2 oz. light or dark rum of your preference (or both, honestly)
  • 2 oz. pineapple chunks, strained
  • 1 oz. coconut cream (make your own by combining equal parts coconut milk and sugar, or Coco Lopez is a popular brand)
  • Optional ¾ oz. of lime juice if you’d like it to be less sweet
  • 1 C. of ice

Throw it all in a blender and let it rip!


If you’d prefer an alcohol-free option, try this:


Coconut Banana Lime Smoothie


  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 oz. coconut cream
  • 2 oz. pineapple chunks (go ahead and throw some of the liquid in for this one)

Blend until smooth and enjoy!


As for that leftover bunny…

I call these “Trash Cookies.” They are a crowd favorite at holidays, and are the perfect opportunity to use whatever pantry items you have lying around when you want to make cookies, but are missing some ingredients! Look familiar? It’s the original Nestle Tolle House Chocolate Chip Recipe, but thriftier.


Emily's "Trash Cookies"


  • 2-¼ C. all-purpose flour (Low on flour? I have simply blitzed some oats or nuts in a blender, in a pinch)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened (No butter? Use coconut oil)
  • ¾ C. granulated sugar
  • ¾ C. packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (No eggs? Use a ripe banana, or make a flax egg)
  • 2 C. of chocolate chips, chopped up chocolate bars (that chocolate bunny), peppermint candies, shredded coconut, nuts, trail mix… use whatever you’ve got! I have added some weird items to these cookies, with fantastic results.


1.     Preheat oven to 375° F.

2.     Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in all your remaining add-ins. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to form small dough balls and drop onto ungreased baking sheets. Pro tip: leaving them in a taller shape will keep them from spreading too much and becoming too-flat cookies.

3.     Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown along the edges. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


As part of next week's focus on nutritional health, we've partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago to present "Keep Calm and Dance On (Even During Quarantine)" Tuesday, May 26, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This free workshop is presented by Daria Zajac, a dietetic intern at UIC, and professor Kirsten Straughan MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. They will provide nutrition tips for managing changes in training schedules and strategies for easing anxiety around mental and physical health during uncertain times. Visit the event page below to register for this free event and receive the Zoom meeting ID and password.

See Chicago Dance is still writing! Our editorial team continues to preview digital events and highlight the creative ways the dance industry is pivoting without the possibility of live performances. Don't forget to enter your events and classes in the SCD calendar, and let us know what you're up to.


Read more from our Dance Health Month series:

From Jordan Kunkel:

From Emily Loar: