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3 ways to get creative in the kitchen

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3 ways to get creative in the kitchen

This guest blog post is by Ashley Martinez, MFN, RD, LD, NASM-CPT, a member of Kroger Health’s dietitian team.

Ever looked in the fridge or cupboard, saw tons of food but couldn’t seem to find exactly what you were craving? Most of us have been there and made the quick choice of ordering delivery instead.


But let’s think about this for a moment. What exactly do you want to eat? Is it something hot? Hearty? Spicy? What if I told you that just about anything is possible with a creative eye and a few quick kitchen tricks? By all means, use the ingredients you purchased so they don’t go to waste! Here are a few creative ideas to get started. I hope these will inspire you to think differently about your pantry by using the ingredients you have on hand in a more meaningful way.

1. Start your day with baking

Fresh baked goods can’t be beat, especially first thing in the morning. The house smells amazing and it’s something productive to do as soon as the birds begin to chirp. Baking with just a few ingredients can be fast and easy. The waiting is the hard part! Heat the oven to 350 degrees to get a head start, then ask “What sounds tasty? Cookies? Bars? Balls? Casserole style? How about this healthy baked oatmeal?

Baked Oatmeal

Serves 8, ½ cup per serving


  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups of oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 cup lower-sodium peanut butter
  • 1 banana, ripe and mashed
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Lightly spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until well-combined.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the oatmeal mixture, stirring until combined. Transfer to the baking pan.
  5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. (Keep an eye on it if you use a different size pan. You’ll need to adjust the cooking time.
  6. Remove from the oven. Let stand to cool for 15 minutes.

Pro Tip: Serve topped with a dollop of fat-free yogurt or a small amount of fresh or canned fruit.

Nutrition Analysis (per serving)

Calories 351
Total Fat 18.0 g
Saturated Fat 3.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.0 g
Cholesterol 24 mg
Sodium 224 mg
Carbohydrates 39 g
Fiber 5 g
Sugars 20 g
Added Sugar 15 g
Protein 13 g

Dietary Exchanges

1 starch, ½ fruit, 1 other carbohydrate, 1 lean meat, 3 fat

2. Pasta-bilities

There are a million and one ways to make pasta. No pasta sauce? No problem. Here are some ways to think outside the pasta box:

  • Got frozen veggies? Perfect! Mix them in with your pasta. Roast then puree in a food processor into a roasted vegetable sauce. Add some oregano, garlic powder and a pinch of salt/pepper to the mix. Gradually add extra virgin olive oil to the puree, working toward a sauce-like consistency. Taste while mixing to get the flavor in the right spot!

  • No sauce? Mix equal parts flour and melted butter in a saucepan to form a roux. Once it’s a paste-like consistency, add canned tomato sauce or even milk for an alfredo sauce and mix in with the roux. The roux keeps the sauce thick, and adding some spices, herbs, cheese or even a splash of red wine vinegar will get your sauce to a familiar taste. Don’t have flour or butter? No problem. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and mix in enough to coat the noodles. Add some cheese, cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt to top it off. Simple, easy and delicious!

  • Pasta salad. Don’t forget you can enjoy pasta cold too! Mix with jarred olives, sun-dried tomatoes, diced avocado and any other frozen or canned vegetables hanging around. The juice from the olives and sun-dried tomatoes give the pasta a nice, flavorful dressing.

3. Zero-hunger, zero-waste omelets

Need to use up some produce? Omelets, frittatas and quiches are good solutions that contribute to a hearty and nutritious meal. Eggs are a complete protein — providing satiety, or the feeling of being full, once consumed. Did you know that eggs are generally OK to use up to a month past their sell-by date? They keep exceptionally well in the fridge and are a very inexpensive protein source.

There are so many ways to get creative in the kitchen! You’ll be surprised to see what you can come up with when you don’t have a specific ingredient handy. I hope these recipes will serve as inspiration to cook the way you want with the food you have on hand. Cook well and be well!

Looking for personalized nutrition help? Learn more about the resources offered by Kroger Health.

Ashley-Martinez.jpgAshley Martinez, MFN, RD, LD, NASM-CPT, is a Kroger Health dietitian. Ashley believes eating is all about the experience and no food should be off limits. As a non-diet, culinary-focused dietitian, she helps others practice the art of intuitive eating — leading to a successful, guilt-free relationship with food. As a personal trainer, incorporating fitness into her routine is also an important part of Ashley’s balanced approach to wellness. She’s got you covered with expert info on everything from blueberries to burpees.


Kroger® is a national sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Good™ initiative.