Do You Believe in Magic? I do

by Katy on December 4, 2009 · 13 comments

I’m a very concrete thinker. I always have been and I doubt I’ll ever change. But lately, I’ve started believing in magic. Not the Harry Potter “Wingardium Leviosa” style magic, but the “Wow, this is delicious! How could this possibly have been made from leftovers?” variety of magic.

I had been over at my friend Sasha’s house, (collecting a hand-me-down armchair with ottoman) when she offered me one of her husband’s muffins.

“Mmm . . . these are good, are they raspberry?”

“No, they’re cranberry.”

Cranberry, huh? I have a huge bowl of leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce in my fridge. So entrancingly beautiful, yet kind of challenging to fit into everyday eating.

Inspired, I drove home and baked up a double batch of scones, into which I scooped a big ol’ dollop of cranberry sauce. The resulting scones were beyond delicious. Warm and buttery, with that tart cranberry sweetness. I had thought that by making a double batch, I would be ensured have enough for school lunches. But sneaky boys (and snacky adults) quickly inhaled every. Last. Crumb.

This mindset of consciously tucking leftovers into new dishes is not all that difficult, I just have to keep a vague mental tally of my refrigerator contents. For example, tonight’s dinner was burritos made with leftover brown rice, a can of black beans, salsa, a sprinkle of bulk purchased taco seasoning and some pre-shredded “Mexican style” cheese that I bought last week and had thrown into the freezer. (It was at its sell-by date and cost $2.25 minus $2.25 in sticker-coupons — I bought all 14 seven-ounce bags for the freezer!) This dinner was super tasty, and all the extra ingredients hid the fact that the brown rice was starting to get a little dry.

Creating new meals out of leftovers is nothing new and certainly not rocket science, but it does take some effort and forethought. Aย recent study showing that a whopping 40% of all food produced in the United States is wasted is a good reminder to not let my vigilance slip in the Waste No Food Challenge. And if I have to bake up multiple batches of cranberry scones, well then I guess that’s just my patriotic duty.


Are you working hard to decrease your role in food waste? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica Wolk-Stanley December 4, 2009 at 12:41 am

I just met a new neighbor who works at a very well-known Market here in Seattle and she told me that at a bakery there the bran muffins are fortified with all the stale doughnuts that didn’t sell. Our hostess had worked at a bakery years ago and told us that when they made brownies, they threw all the left-over chocolate cake in the batter. If I did this myself, I would congratulate myself on my clever incorporation of leftovers, but hearing about this at a retail bakery, I was grossed out. I am glad I do pretty much all my own baking.


Carla December 4, 2009 at 7:51 am

Yes, I am trying to do better about first of all not buying too much, and second of all, using what I do buy. I think I still need to consider the right order of things. For a classic example, I should roast the whole chicken and then gradually use it up in different ways (sandwiches, salad, etc.) until I simmer the carcass for soup. I think that sometimes I prepare the original meal so that it cannot successfully be turned into other things รขโ‚ฌโ€ which is OK if you eat all of it but if there are leftovers, well, you just have to eat the same thing twice and it’s probably not going to taste as good the second go-round.

My other issue is that I refuse to beat myself up over a few tablespoons of beans that neither my husband nor I want to eat. One of my other big goals right now is to vastly change the soil in our flower/veggie beds from lousy to good. A smidgen of beans can help do that for me in admirable fashion when I trench compost it.


Alicia December 4, 2009 at 8:29 am

My husband hates leftovers and is very passive-agressive about avoiding them, so I eat them for lunch whenever we have them. I have been trying to cook less food in order to have less left over.

I like the idea of recasting them into entirely new meals — I might be able to sneak them past him this way. (He also hates breakfast-for-dinner, so he’s obviously missing the cheap food chip.)


Elizabeth December 4, 2009 at 10:02 am

Katy, I would love to have your scone recipe! There is a can of cranberry sauce floating around somewhere from Thanksgiving, so I would love to use some of it up! I love scones (especially for breakfast). Do you feel like sharing? ๐Ÿ™‚


Bellen December 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Was your cranberry sauce jellied or whole? I make my own whole cranberry sauce, using some calamondums from our tree.
When I needed something else for a pork chop dinner I chopped and sauteed a medium onion and then stirred in about 1/2 cup whole cranberry sauce and 1/4 tsp ground cloves – it was delicious & different.


Melody December 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Funny, I just yesterday made cranberry pecan bread to use up the whole cranberries that were part of the Thanksgiving table decorations. But I still have some cranberry sauce sitting around, so if you feel like sharing your scone recipe, I’m all ears.


Christy December 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Yes Katy, please share your recipe!


Lisa December 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm

I waste very little food. Most of our meals are homemade and cooked in big batches. Whatever doesn’t get consumed gets frozen for another meal. If it isn’t wiped out the second time around, the leftovers end up either in the compost pile or being eaten by my dogs and cats. All bread scraps are frozen and used for bread crumbs or dressing. Even fish bones are saved and added to garden soil. They help grow great tomatoes.


Louise December 4, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Tonight we had Chef’s Salad made with lettuce, leftover steak (I didn’t finish my serving a couple days ago), hard boiled eggs (eggs getting a little past their prime are best for boiling), plus a sprinkling of leftover cheese and ends of cut veggies. Very tasty! Didn’t taste at all like leftovers, because it wasn’t just re-heated meat. Somehow, slicing the meat thin and serving it chilled on the greens made it seem just like a fancy restaurant salad.


Pat December 5, 2009 at 7:03 am

I too read about the 40% waste and was appalled. My sister works in the kitchen at our local hospital and she told us that all the leftover food at the hospital gets sent to the incinerator instead of the local homeless shelter where people could actually eat it! This is a real pity. I have become more conscience of our leftovers for quite a while now and making a real effort to not waste so much. I have a shelf spot where ALL leftovers go and I check it first for possible lunch/ dinner fare. This past week I made a really wonderful casserole with bits from the frig and a half bag of hash browns I discovered in the freezer. I encourage everyone to take a second look at what they already have and be creative!


Pat December 5, 2009 at 8:53 am

I was raised to believe that ” In a good kitchen, NOTHING goes to waste.” Even the juice from canned vegetables gets saved to start the soup kettle. It adds an extra level of flavor and nutrients.
When we made a lot of apple pies from our orchard, the peelings were cooked for the pectin in them to make jelly.
I cant believe the amount of waste in this country. Hopefully blogs like this will help .


Denise December 10, 2009 at 2:43 pm

That 40% is probably counting all the wasted produce and meat not to mention bakery items that are thrown away every day at your local grocery store. We Americans are very spoiled. Why do we need full shelves at the grocery store? Does everyone realize that these things are thrown away not given away to the homeless, charities, etc? All of the produce could be used to feed farm animals and if they are too bad to compost. In case you were wondering how I know this my husband works at a grocery store and they throw away all outdated merchandise including produce, bakery and meat not to mention any canned or boxed items. Big waste – also did you know that the big box stores also throw away any items that are not sold including clothes, shoes, decorative items? They have big dumpsters in the back that are filled and usually locked as well. All of that stuff could go to homeless shelters, goodwill, salvation army, etc. and actually benefit someone. This stuff should not be going to a garbage dump.

I will now get down off my soapbox ๐Ÿ™‚


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