Before Good Food Goes Bad

I was inspired by an article I read in the Hartford Courant about how to use up common kitchen foods before they expire. As an addendum to their list of handy dandy suggestions, I thought I’d share my own ideas for putting food to work before it goes to waste.

The thing about leftovers is that the possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination. Some of my best sandwiches and salads have definitely been a result of hashing together odds and ends. I’d love to hear about your favorite tricks and recipes for using up leftover foods and forgotten pantry items, so please share!

1. Pumpkin: Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts is easy and serves well as a base for interesting sandwiches. Try it with Smoked Turkey and Ginger Marmalade with some watercress, this dish is akin taste-wise to the Orange Bread with Turkey and Apple-Ginger Butter recipe.

2. Leftover veggies can be placed in a Ziplock bag and frozen for later use as a vegetarian stock: save the celery hearts so often discarded, as well as any stray stalks; cleaned carrot ends, leeks, fresh herbs, mushroom stems, etc. You get the idea.

3. Green Olives: My mom used to make a great sandwich by slicing green olives and folding them into softened cream cheese with a dollop of mayonnaise mixed in. Spread on whole wheat or pumpernickel bread for a sandwich or spread open-faced for a great snack. You can do the same with capers or imported black olives.

4. Leftover rice: I often cobble together a main course “dinner salad” using leftover brown (or white) rice and adding whatever veggies are on hand plus leftover chicken chunks, currants or raisins, chopped nuts, about 1 teaspoon of honey and a basic Balsamic vinaigrette. Very delicious and very satisfying!

5. Leftover Capers: Why not a Salad Nicoise: Tuna, Capers, some black olives if you have them, salad greens, and hard-boiled egg. Toss with a creamy vinaigrette and call it dinner.

6. Egg Whites: Besides freezing well for later use, 3 egg whites make a decent-sized omelet, which again, with some cheese, maybe avocado and tomatoes makes a great, quick meal paired with a green salad.

7. Don’t forget leftover Deli meat that doesn’t make a sandwich but “bulks” up any frittata or salad. The idea is that you really can create a fast, economical meal without wasting anything in your fridge or pantry.

8. “Homemade” soups can be created quickly by using leftover chicken/beef stock, adding leftover rice, cooked Barley, Quinoa, etc. and cooked veggies and meats along with that hard-to-use tomato paste.

9. Don’t waste cheese rinds. Freeze the rinds of Parmesan or Romano and toss into a homemade soup stock for Minestrone or Pasta Fagioli for extra flavor.

Also, when you just don’t have time to run to the grocery store and need to use a food substitute for missing items like sour cream, baking powder and self-rising flour, check out this article from the Washington Post.

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