Greetings Conscientious Food Consumers!
With Thanksgiving not far off, we figured we’d get ahead of the game and talk leftovers in this installment of Kitchen Confessions. The topic’s not as sexy as last week’s carrots, but it’s one of those everyday challenges that we all face.
Those miscellaneous meal remnants, half-full containers, and portions of what-have-you, DO tend to get out of hand, don’t they?
Somehow they migrate to the most inconvenient recesses of your fridge. They get hijacked by microbes or neglected during busy times, like a tough week of homeschooling. They get abandoned in favor of preferred foods or convenience meals. Some might occasionally skip Leftovers Night on their weekly meal plan.
Let’s admit it — leftovers do get left behind sometimes!
KAREN CONFESSES right off the bat here: about half of the wasted food in my household once occupied the designated “Eat First” area of my fridge and cupboard. So what’s my issue? Keeping up with leftovers means keeping them accessible and safely stored, as well as keeping track of what’s in there!
It also takes a deliberate and creative effort to transform random food elements into a meal. I’m happy to report that it can be a pretty satisfying process! Maybe even a bit of an adventure…
KAREN ALSO CONFESSES: Two of the seven leftover items in the first photo (apple, sliced overripe pear, half a lime, a third of a packet of precooked rice, half a large roasted chile, a bit less than half a red onion, half-jar curry paste) got spoiled, wasted and composted. Fortunately, the rest found their way into oatmeal, stir fry and a pot of chili!
$$ WASTED: approximately $30 last month
LESSON LEARNED: I’m now a fan of BigOven.com and its inspirational three-ingredient search engine. It’s been both a delight and an Adventure to rummage for what I have on hand, plug it into the recipe search feature and see what comes up!
Big Oven is also available as an app for Android and iPhone/iPad (and is one of our featured downloadable “Apps!“). Big Oven’s massive recipe database contains more than 50,000 entries contributed by its members, including gluten-free, vegan/vegetarian, keto and low-carb dietary options.
In combination with NFLB’s downloadable Meal Planner, I’ve stepped up my diligence and am loving my leftovers more!
NO CORNBREAD LEFT OVERS LEFT BEHIND: These muffins were made from that “expired” cornbread mix featured in our “Check it before you chuck it” Kitchen Confessions a few weeks ago. The adventure began with a couple of chopped poblano chile peppers thrown in to jazz up the batter, which produced a baker’s dozen muffins. Half of them tasted good enough for outright scarfing and sharing with a friend! The “leftover” muffins were crumbled, seasoned and simmered with leeks and garlic for stuffing butternut squash, garnished with leftover feta cheese. No corn bread muffins left behind…
LEFTOVER COFFEE BUZZ: Turns out yesterday’s coffee brightens up lots of things besides brain cells — from milkshakes and smoothies to salad dressing, chili, brownies, bacon and BBQ sauce.
Coffee and bacon are staples of the typical American breakfast, but cooking the bacon in coffee is certainly a new idea to me!
NOTE: For my daily cuppa, I try to avoid “over-preparation” and waste of this global commodity by brewing small batches. Many days there’s nothing left in the pot, but it’s great to have ways to put it to good use on the days when there ‘s a half or full cup left over.
I also keep in mind the environmental costs and carbon footprint associated with my coffee enjoyment, as described in this Coffee Fact Sheet from the Oregon Department of Environment Quality.
A few other discoveries from my adventures in “Leftover Land”:
- “LAST TWO BAGELS” BREAD PUDDING
- LEFT OVER FETA, OLIVE & KALE FRITTATA (lots of variations on this one!)
- GREEN SMOOTHIE, featuring RIPE AVOCADO and/or other past-their-prime fruits and veggies
- SAUTEED WILTED LETTUCE & GREENS — Great use of those partial-packages of mixed greens that might otherwise get dumped at the first sign of sliminess
- YOGURT SUNDAE with LEFTOVER JAM and coconut flakes
- FROZEN BERRY-BANANA “LYCOPENE SMOOTHIE” with — you guessed it — tomatoes left over from the last season. After all, tomato is a fruit!
Ugh! I’ve been doing the right things the wrong way. With teenager sleepovers, I never know how much batter we’ll need, and I always figure I’ll use it up in the next day or two. The leftover batters were properly placed onto our “Eat First!” shelf, and I even date-labeled them. A Smart Strategy, right?
However, other still-edible Eat First items ended up in front of them and, well, they aged out. Creatively using up sour milk is one thing, but with raw eggs involved, there’s no way my pancakes or French toast would have been safe to use.
Those wasted beets were a bummer – they also got left behind other leftovers. There were four cooked beets to a package, but I only needed one that night. Subsequently, I forgot the rest of them, despite my date label.
- Be even more conscious about using up items on my Eat First! shelf.
- Limit how much we put there so things don’t get buried (kind of the whole point of that area!).
- Be more mindful about creating leftovers in the first place – make juuusst enough batter so there’s nothing to store.
$$ Wasted: About $2, for two organic eggs and those portions of gluten free pancake mix and almond milk. However, this lesson also presented a disposal issue, because we’re supposed to keep liquids out of the compost. Almost forgot my wasted beets — so ACTUALLY $4 in total.
Learning to waste less food is both a journey and an adventure!