This is not about dietary restrictions or being unable to eat gluten.
If trendiness is what it takes to make us think about food waste reduction, this is one instance where being trendy is not only awesome, but very important.
Major awareness campaigns are underway to reduce waste and increase the likelihood of food being available for everyone on this planet we share. Love Food, Hate Waste is a terrific website from which you can glean all kinds of waste-reducing ideas – even for those of us, a surprisingly large group, who don’t believe or realize we waste food too. For example, although composting food scraps reduces garbage, it doesn’t necessarily reduce food waste. The website has cool ideas, many that consumers have shared from their own homes. A few nifty examples:
Preserve the Herb – chop bits of fresh leftover herbs and freeze in ice cube trays for later adding to soups or other savoury dishes. Same for that bit of leftover freshly-squeezed lemon or orange juice that can be thawed quickly and will come in handy in your next homemade lemon loaf or cranberry orange muffins.
Potato Peel Crisps – make a fibre-rich snack from the skins of the potatoes you may have otherwise tossed
Best Before Date Wisdom – learn that “Best Before Date” is the final date on which the manufacturer guarantees the product will taste as fresh as the day it left their facility. It’s not the definitive date on which the food suddenly blows up, expires or will make you sick. But, be informed and safe about it.
Recipe tools – use to calculate precisely how much food to make based on the number of adults and kids eating the meal to avoid unwanted leftovers (assuming you actually don’t want them)
Followers of mine will know I am a devoted food waste reducer and wholeheartedly embrace leftovers for the creative opportunity they offer. Even seeing the local wild blackberry bushes go unpicked in the summer months disheartens me because they’re loaded with nature-made, amazing nutritional value that could easily be picked and frozen. (Thanks for that valuable lesson Mom and Dad.) A number of my food waste-reduction ideas were shared in an interview I did for Yahoo a while back.
In our home, we’re all about creative use of leftovers. Sometimes we even come up with a meal made from the remnants that’s more delicious than the original version. I recommend getting leftover food into the fridge promptly after the meal – within 1-2 hours at the most. If you won’t use the leftovers within 2-3 days of the original meal, pop them into the freezer.
To provide some culinary inspiration, here are 6 examples of meals and a snack we’ve had that although amazingly delicious and healthy, we’ll likely never be able to have in the exact same way again because they were the product of a unique mix of leftovers being available at that moment. Yes, we might come close, but they won’t be exactly the same.
- Lentil Vegetable Pasta Sauce: I’ve spoken of this before. It’s our Tuesday (hockey practice night) pasta meal that takes on a new form every week. The sauce underway in the red pot in the photo was a recent one where I combined cooked lentils and lean ground beef in tomato sauce as the base. Using the food processor – not all “processed” food is bad – I minced onions, garlic, a couple less-than-crisp carrots and zucchini from the fridge and random leftover cooked vegetables. Turned out deliciously.
- BBQ’d Pork and Veggies on Flatbread: I spread a little BBQ sauce on warm flatbread, added a small amount of leftover homemade Korean BBQ pork and grated vegetables. Drizzled it with a quickly thrown together Asian-style salad dressing of rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, lime juice and a pinch of sugar. A bit of green onion and cilantro topped it off. It tasted amazing!
- Leftover Grilled Fish (or Chicken) Tacos: ‘Leftover’ and ‘fish’ in the same recipe is not (yet) exactly the way to win the award for Recipe Developer of the Year. Before writing this one off as disgusting, if that fish or chicken is used the very next day in tacos together with a quick coleslaw from that cabbage in the back of the fridge needing a little love, it can be tweaked to be awesome. Add grated carrot, green onion, minced peppers, jalapenos or any fresh veggies you have on hand. Drizzle with a sauce made by whisking a little mayo, plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice and garlic.
- Layered Rotini and Tomato Sauce with a Kale Garnish: Looks pretty gourmet in the center bottom of the photo collage, but it’s actually the leftover pasta and sauce transferred directly from the fridge to the plate by turning it upside-down and emptying. Although many versions with differing shapes of pasta or sauces will show up on our plates in the future, the exact combo as pictured likely won’t.
- Tofu (or Chicken) Fried Rice: You’ve heard me proclaim rice as the best possible leftover food before. Fried rice fans will know that leftover rice + bits of leftover cooked tofu or chicken + leftover veggies + an egg + frozen peas + soy sauce = one very tasty meal. We don’t make it that often but no two instances of fried rice here are ever the same. Some call this dish Dirty Rice.
- Seafood Surprise Chowder: Little bits of celery, roasted veggies and small amounts of fish or shellfish are frozen and then my hubby makes a mighty yummy chowder. Never the same twice. (Recipe)
Snack – After School Fruit Salad: Because I’m able to be a “Stay-Home-From-Workplace-Mom” (def’n: a Mom or Dad who can participate in their career mainly in the hours when the kids are at school or sleeping), I’m usually around when our son gets home from school and can get this ‘recipe’ made before the fruit passes the point of no return. If half an apple, a few grapes, strawberries or couple bites of banana return home in the lunchbox, I quickly chop them and toss with some frozen berries, a fresh kiwi or canned no-sugar-added peaches, pears or pineapple to make a fruit salad. It always gets eaten. The exact composition of the fruit salad is never the same.
This list of leftover-inspired meals and snacks could be much longer. I predict that a chain of trendy restaurants or even cooking school programs centered on food waste reduction or leftovers become popular. Maybe it’ll be my restaurant? Cookbooks on the subject already exist as do excellent campaigns to embrace so-called ugly vegetables.
I’ll remember these 6 leftover meals and 1 snack not only for their delicious taste but the small victories they represented in reducing food waste. Creative home chefs, I applaud you for celebrating leftovers and the time-savings they represent. Use them before they spoil. Let your amazing meals be a quiet example to the kids of how to respect and be grateful for access to good food. My parents did just that and I’m grateful. Share your creations to inspire others and let’s keep doing our part to love food while hating waste. Trendy or not.