Alicia Ross
Universal Uclick

To be more economical with my vegetable purchases, I am buying more loose produce, but I still seem to have many leftovers.

Vegetable bits and pieces seem to multiply in my refrigerator bin. Just recently I had thirds of red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers, two separate halves of yellow onions, one green onion, a handful of broccoli florets, some baby spinach leaves, four button mushrooms, a few leaves of kale, a stalk of celery and two sad-looking carrots.

Long gone are the days of needing several whole bell peppers for one recipe, or spreading peanut butter on extra stalks of celery and serving it with raisins for the neighborhood kids. And the days have passed when I would throw any extra veggies into a huge cauldron and simmer them into a soup that would feed my family and a few others for several days. All of those ideas were excellent then, but not so much for now.

So when I found this vast assortment in my vegetable bin ready to spoil, I decided to come up with a new way to use the veggies. I remembered an old family favorite for the summer tomato bounty, tomato pie, and decided to make Sauteed Veggie Pie. Itís ultra-flexible, ultra-fast and ultra-good!

Since then, I have stirred up various versions (adding cooked ham, chicken and even salmon) and never feel like Iím eating the same thing over and over. So far I havenít found a veggie that doesnít go with the pie. The egg and cheese serve only as a binder to all the great vegetables, so any type of cheese will work. The only trick is to have enough vegetables to start because they do cook down as they saute; you want enough vegetables to almost fill the pie crust before you add the egg mixture.

Get creative and economical with this delightful and effortless vegetable pie.

Sauteed Vegetable Pie

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 to 5 cups raw assorted vegetables, chopped (for 2 heaping cups cooked veggies)

1 refrigerated pie crust, such as Pillsbury

4 large eggs

? cup skim milk (see notes)

? cup shredded cheese of choice

Ĺ tsp. herbes de Provence (see notes)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add vegetables; toss until cooked through, wilted and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, place crust in a 9-inch pie plate and shape edges according to package directions. When vegetables are cooked, lift them into the crust, using a slotted spoon to drain any extra juices.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, milk, cheese and herbs.

Whisk well. Pour egg mixture over veggies. Gently shake the crust dish to distribute the egg mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, slice and serve with salt and pepper at the table. Refrigerate tightly covered leftovers for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 6 weeks.

Makes 4 servings (and terrific leftovers!)

Notes: Any type of milk will be fine. Herbes de Provence is a seasoning blend of dried French-style herbs. For this recipe, I used Whole Foods 365 Herbes de Provence, which is a combination of winter savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon and lavender flowers.

Each serving has about 177 calories, 12 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 223 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber and 205 milligrams sodium.

Alicia Ross is the co-author of three cookbooks. Contact her c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, email tellus@kitchenscoop.com, or visit http://kitchenscoop.com.