Inventive Uses For Leftovers

Today’s post is the first in a series that Fiesta Farms will run, in keeping with our newest ad in Edible Toronto’s winter issue, concerning household food waste. Check out this video, from acclaimed director Andrew Nisker for some more tips on how to reduce food waste in your home.

That is not a very exciting title, is it? Inventive Uses for Leftovers. Bleah. In fact it might be right up there with the now infamous most boring headline ever, “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”
But with the Ontario based Value Chains Management Centre recently reporting that twenty-seven billion dollars (yes, Billion with a B) of food is wasted in Canada every year, and that over fifty percent of this waste is household leftovers tossed into the garbage, we think it’s high time consumers addressed this unconscionable and wasteful habit. Whatever happened to your grandmother’s adage, “Waste not, want not”?

In truth, most of us are guilty of this from time to time. We will save our leftovers in the fridge, they will be put in a mystery container along with the best of intentions, they will get moved back to the back of the fridge and forgotten, then dumped after serving their sentence and developing the appropriate amount of mold. Fine to toss it when it is moldy.

leftovers just waiting to be reinvented

Of course an ounce of prevention will eliminate a pound of leftovers, it sounds simple, just don’t buy or cook so much. But sometimes, darn it, there are leftover mashed potatoes, veggies, meat…and if they aren’t eaten up the next day the likelihood of them getting 86’d increases with every passing meal. And since we seem to instinctively have an aversion to eating the same thing two days in a row, we have to come up with new, or tried and true ways to doll-up that dog’s breakfast. (And by the way, if you do have a dog your problem is basically solved).

Do you like soup?

Probably the best, and most classic way to serve last night’s dinner in a new form is to make a soup. Really, you can make a soup out of just about anything, and most high-falutin chefs and home cooks will agree that often the most delicious soups are made with re-visited ingredients. All you need is a good stock  and a little imagination.

As proof, I am going to make soup out of some leftover cauliflower, roasted acorn squash and sweet potato right now with remnants of the last three suppers chez moi. You could make this extra simple soup out of just one of these fantastic veggies, but I’m going the whole hog. By the way, the chicken stock was made from chicken bones left over from a roast chicken dinner. Why throw out the bones when you can make a great stock out of the leftovers?

create a flavour base with mirepoix

If you don’t have stock at the ready, or want to make your soup vegan or vegetarian, you can make a quick base by sautéing a chopped onion, a clove of garlic, celery and carrot until soft then adding water and bay leaf, a little salt and pepper.

Chances are you have a sorry looking onion that will never win a prize at the fair and a half gnawed carrot in the fridge that is in danger of being tossed. Use them! Don’t throw out the veg (that would be sort of defeating the purpose of this article); blitz it and add it to the soup.

Making this Winter Vegetable Soup is easy. The cauliflower and sweet potato were already mashed, so just puree the squash in your blender, skin and all with a little stock, or just blitz it right in the pot with an immersion blender.

Once pureed, add the rest of your stock and bring the soup up to temperature. Think of the veggies that you have used. Maybe they were buttered and seasoned from the night before, so you don’t need to add this. If they need it, add it. Think of what spices go well with winter veggies: a little allspice or nutmeg is classic with cauliflower, squash and carrot like ginger….maybe a little curry?

winter vegetable soup

So here’s a picture of the soup that I just made, seasoned and spiced with a touch of ginger and finished with a swirl of yogurt; it is delicious; smooth and creamy, (although no cream was used), good enough for company and a super healthy meal in itself, especially with a couple slices of bread.

Don’t be afraid to try new things with old things, cooking, and eating should be pleasurable and healthy. Now remember, the point of this series is to use up your leftovers, so just make enough for tonight’s supper. You don’t want leftover leftovers.
And if you’re at your wit’s end about what to do with those other little devils hiding in your fridge, check this CBC news story, and check back here in a few days for some more worthwhile Canadian initiatives. Or ask your grandmother. She’ll know what to do.

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