Got stacks and stacks of plastic containers in the fridge… some of which you have no idea how long they’ve been there? Yep, I hear you – we really try hard not to contribute to the 40% of food that goes to waste. I eat an awful lot of leftovers for lunch. But, no matter how good a meal, you get tired of the “heat and eat” routine. You just want something different… something else… anything else!
After looking over this list of ideas for leftovers from our sister site Eat.Drink.Better, it strikes me that at least part of the solution lies in looking at those leftovers as ingredients from something new, rather than a whole dish in and of themselves. A quick look at condiments, spices, and other potential add-ons in the refrigerator or pantry may get the gustatory imagination stirring.
Got your own special takes on certain leftovers? Do share…
Reduce food waste in your kitchen by safely reusing your leftovers instead of tossing them out! Food waste is a terribly problem worldwide. As we struggle to feed an exploding world population, wealthy nations that have an abundance throw about 1/3…
I do a lot, including saving veggie trims and vegetable cooking water in a freezer bowl for use in stews and soups. It’s so easy and delivers fantastic flavor. I also built a web page with recipes and tips for using leftovers, including ways to assure they don’t become mystery slime in the back of the fridge. You can find it here: Stretch your organic food budget with leftovers so good, they taste like first time. Thanks for sharing all your tips and links. I’m off to visit as many as I can before I have to quit working for the day.
Thanks for sharing your ideas and your site, Kathryn… as I promised elsewhere, I’ll definitely check it out!
Many traditional Spanish recipes come from using leftovers. Paella is probably the most known example: a traditional recipe for rice that could fix with anything left in the kitchen or the farm: vegetables, fish, chicken, etc… I am not sure, but I suspect that traditional courses from other cuisines would probably include a traditional recipe for this. What about Italian pizza? As we know, traditional economies were undoubtedly circular (they were poor, so everything was a resource)!
I didnt know that (about Spanish recipes) – thanks for throwing that out there, Goiio! It would be interesting to pull together a list of them from various cultures…
I actually intentionally cook two bags of rice every time I need one, since it takes the same time and energy to boil the pot of water. The surplus one goes into a sort of small, heavily spiced hamburger patty called “Bulette” in my area of Germany. (Traditionally, you’d use white breadcrumbs. But pre-cooked rice works just as well and we don’t usually keep around breadcrumbs by the pound, especially since modern toast doesn’t dry out nearly as fast as the traditional breakfast rolls.) Or I’ll re-heat the rice with milk and add cinnamon-sugar and applesauce for a quick warm breakfast / late night meal.
Today I had a pack that had been overcooked and glued together so badly it wouldn’t break apart properly, and the person in my household with the experience making Buletten is sick, but the leftover half-pack of raw minced meat from Monday’s spaghetti á la bolognese was getting dangerous. So I made chilli con carne, and fried the rice with 2 eggs, a can of sweet corn, garlic and the first wild chives from the garden. Didn’t taste bad, and the sweet corn kept the rice from sticking together in a solid mass like oatmeal.
Another favourite in my household is risi e bisi (rice with peas – a Venetian kind of risotto), for which it doesn’t matter if the rice is a little overcooked. You stir everything into a pudding-like sauce anyway, made with broth, fried onions, parmesan and maybe a little white wine. Goes well with spicy fried chicken bits or fish with lemon juice.
Same with potatoes: If I’m already boiling some, I can just as well put in a few more. They store almost a week in the fridge if you cook them with the skin and leave it on until you use them. (The area right underneath the skin has most of the vitamins anyway, so I only ever peel potatoes before cooking if they’re really old and getting green and/or moldy.) Pre-cooked potatoes make preparing fried potatoes with scrambled eggs (“farmer’s breakfast” – though it’s more a dinner dish nowadays) go much faster. Or you can dice a few and add them to various vegetable stews to thicken them, without overcooking the main ingredients. Potato patties (like pancakes, but savory) need pre-cooked potatoes for half the volume, as well. So do some traditional German dumpling recipes.
With bread, if I ruin toast by letting it dry out after heating, it becomes soup croutons. But usually it’s the sourdough rhy-wheat mix bread (the main staple of German diet) that becomes stale and tough and/or moldy in well under a week. Didn’t use to happen this fast years ago – making it mold-resistant is the whole point of sourdough bread – but maybe they’ve changed something in the recipe. Since I only buy groceries every 7-14 days (or rarer, in winter, because I haul it by bicycle from a mile away), that means some of my bread goes in the freezer. The rest, when it starts smelling over-fermented or getting dry, I put it in the toaster to go with soup. Or I make quick fake pizza in the microwave: two slices of bread, with ketchup and cheese in between and on top, and maybe a thin slice of salami between the slices as well. Or as a vegetarian alternative, just cheese, ketchup, green onions and salt. The ketchup is important because otherwise the bread dries out and becomes tooth-breakingly hard. White bread gets soggy or hard, so this really only works with sourdough, at least for me. Nuke for two minutes or so, just until the cheese has mostly melted, not longer. Add some Italian tomato salt mix on top and some raw finger-food vegetables (cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc.) and call it dinner. Maybe not exactly healthy, but honestly, if I’m exhausted or sick enough not to want to bother cooking, it’s great comfort food.
Root vegetable stews, dried legume based stews and pumpkin soup also usually are made in pots big enough to feed my small household at least twice. But they’ll keep for a few days at least, in the fridge – or outside, since they’re winter recipes anyway. Though I’ll admit that sometimes they do start to ferment if they don’t go into the fridge fast enough, and I wouldn’t eat them anymore. On the other hand, the person I live with has a lot less sensitive taste buds than me (if she says the alcohol from a wine-based sauce has been boiled out, I can still clearly taste it), so she just boils it up to sterilise it and eats it anyway. I suspect part of this attitude comes from being a war baby – even if she can’t personally remember the post-war famine, her parents would have, and instilled within her the old “eat everything on your plate; waste nothing” attitude. I sometimes have to keep her from eating bread on which I can smell, if not yet see, the mold, but she can neither. At least these days she believes me enough to toast it, even though that doesn’t help much with the mold toxins.
It’s really important not to waste bread – for practical reasons and moral reasons. I save all stale bread to make bread crumbs. They last forever in the freezer — and work great in meatloaf, and for breading chicken and fish, etc. There are more ideas for reusing stale bread here: http://www.wehatetowaste.com/give-us-this-day-your-stale-y-bread/