Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Clean Sweep Week -- Spiced Roasted Chickpeas -- and other surprises

Ah, the New Year. Ah, the fridge and pantry, cluttered with leftovers, food gifts we don’t quite know how to use, and impulse buys that leave us scratching our heads, wondering what on earth we’d planned to do with them. It’s Clean Sweep week on the blog, as we share our attempts to use up some of those odd bits and ingredients. We hope we inspire you to make good use of a few of the curious finds in your cabinets.  

I’m fairly sure that I suggested this theme to my blog sisters after spotting a jar of palm hearts on the pantry shelf—a jar Mr. Right picked up on our last trip to Trader Joes in Spokane, I don’t know how long ago. Last week, I cleaned out the kitchen cabinet that collects small things—and filled an entire tray with flavored salts and mustards, spice blends, rosewater, partial bags of dried peppers—even a bottle of blackberry syrup that predates our kitchen remodel five years ago!

We all have those things in our cabinets, fridges, and freezers. But how many of us have a jar of palm hearts or a bottle of Wasabi-Ginger finishing sauce? I thought that instead of playing with those, it might be more useful to offer suggestions for some of the more common kitchen miscellany.


We love bread, but intentionally don’t eat a lot of it. Even when we do, there’s sometimes an end of a baguette or a extra roll. I toss them into a bag in the freezer, and when I’ve got a decent collection, I make seasoned croutons for soups and salads. The more odd varieties—a stub of rye, a slice of kalamata olive, even an English muffin—the better.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Slice and cube the bread. Toss with olive oil—be generous. Add salt and spices—I like to use a classic Italian herb blend. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for thirty minutes, turning once or twice during baking.

Serve on salads or soups. Croutons will keep up to a week in an airtight bag or container. (Mine never last that long!)


If you love cheese—and who doesn’t?—bits sometimes accumulate. Hard cheeses like Parmesan and Asiago can be frozen and used in mac and cheese or fondue. Freeze Parmesan rinds until you have enough to flavor a broth for a winter vegetable stew—I hope to share our recipe in a few weeks. If a hard cheese molds, cut off the green parts—the cheese underneath will still be safe and tasty. If a soft cheese, like cream cheese, molds, though, toss it. A semi-soft cheese, like feta, can turn pinkish; the flavor will be off, so best to toss it.

Small pieces can be grated and broiled on bread for 2-3 minutes. Asiago toasts are particularly yummy.


Any foodie—and you all qualify—gets fun gifts from friends and relatives who spot something interesting and share. Flavored salts and mustards are especially popular, in small jars perfect for testing—but not usually enough for a large recipe. Try your flavored mustards in vinaigrettes, cheese toasts, and grilled cheese, or thinned with olive oil or honey as a dip for pretzels.

For these Asiago toasts, we spread cranberry mustard on leftover bread. I used the rest of the mustard in a vinaigrette.


Even before I started writing the Spice Shop Mysteries, tins and jars of spice blends seemed to multiply in our cupboards. One reason I love this recipe for Spiced Roasted Chickpeas is that it’s flexible—you can use nearly any spice mix. We split a batch in thirds and tried it with Ras al Hanout, Sundried Tomato and Horseradish Seasoning, and Old Bay. All were a success, but we liked the Old Bay the best.

Other great options would be za’atar, Chinese five spice, or smoked paprika. The chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, make a great snack or salad topping—a great substitute for nuts.


3 cups low sodium or home-cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (2-14 ounce cans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon spice blend

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Pat the chickpeas dry with a paper towel, then spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat, then sprinkle with the salt. Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden brown and crisp on the outside, 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Taste, and sprinkle with more salt as needed, then season, stirring the chickpeas to coat evenly.

Serve warm. Cooled chickpeas are less crisp, but equally tasty.

Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Now what do I do with that jar of palm hearts? 

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Love food love to read!!! Thank you for both!!!

    1. That's our blog in a nutshell, Sara! Thanks for joining us!

  2. I have never heard of cranberry mustard. Sounds like something I would like! Palm hearts? I'm clueless!

    1. Our little jar was part of a Hickory Farms gift pack, and it was quite yummy!

  3. Spicy, crunchy chickpeas sound quite tasty.
    We were at a s. Florida restaurant recently where hearts of palm salad (fresh, not canned) were a specialty. Try them with one of your vinaigrettes.

    1. Libby, anything that tastes of Florida sounds good to me right now!

  4. Hi Leslie. How did you learn so much about spices?? I should probably know this, but I don't, I apologizw

    1. Thanks for asking, Jody! Trial and error, and research! I've got a couple of books on the history of the spice trade, and a guide to spices, with recipes, called The Spice and Herb Bible. I've also got quite a few cookbooks, incl the World Spice at Home cookbook and the World Spice starter kit, both gifts from the owner of World Spice in Seattle. And I read blogs and recipes and cookbooks, and test out a lot of flavor combinations -- my brain is filled with juicy tidbits!

  5. I'm a "waste not" kind of cook, too, and I think your suggestion to Clean Sweep our kitchens after the holidays is stellar. My mom introduced me to chickpeas at an early age. She liked to toss them into salads. I have never roasted them, but it looks like a delicious and nutritious snack. I'll have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing your good ideas, Leslie, and have a great week...

    ~ Cleo

    1. Yummy in salads, aren't they? They're a center piece in chopped salads, and I've got one of those coming up. Love you, Cleo!

  6. I'm glad we are not the only ones who find things that have "aged" a bit in our cupboards...

  7. Thanks for all the great advice on those surprises we find in our cupboards, Leslie. A useful AND entertaining post!