Thursday, January 5, 2012


I feel a little silly about this post, because I know many of you are experts at making good use of the food that comes into your home. But this isn't something I've been especially good at. Things changed a bit when we moved to Mucky Boots and started growing our own vegetables: my mindset started to shift from "What's the recipe, go buy the ingredients" to "What's ready in the garden and how can I make use of it." But the fridge was still a place where leftovers found their own way to the back corners and died a slow, smelly death.

I am determined that this year, that's going to change. Part of it is trying to make better use of every food dollar. But the bigger part is out of respect for the food itself and the people who produced it, and out of recognition for how lucky we are to have it when so many in the world don't have enough. No, I'm not about to start packaging up my unwanted kale to send to the starving children in Africa. But I think I can do better with what we have.

Please forgive me if this all sounds like Leftovers 101 - but that's where I am: at the beginning. And the first challenge of the year was what to do with all the remains of our Christmas dinner. There were a lot of them, since Kim and I were on our own this year. Some things were obvious: we did a couple of days of reheated encore dinners, I made a batch of stock with the carcass of the turkey, and then a great turkey and vegetable soup. But there was still an awful lot of turkey, potatoes, gravy, squash and cranberry sauce left when New Year's rolled around.

Let me try to contain my glee as I tell you what I did.

Inspiration #1: Turkey croquettes. I took the last 4 cups of turkey meat, the last 2 cups of mashed potatoes and the last cup or so of gravy and whizzed them in the food processor until I got a pretty smooth mix. I added some green onions and a bit more seasoning, then formed it into croquettes and did a rice flour/beaten egg/smashed cornflake coating. 30 minutes or so in the oven and they were done, and didn't they go nicely with the leftover cranberry sauce! The best part is that I now have about 2 dozen of them in the freezer, for quick and easy dinners in the future.

Inspiration #2: Squash muffins. I have a killer gluten-free pumpkin muffin recipe that I make regularly, in a double batch so half can go in the freezer. So it occurred to me to replace the pumpkin puree with the leftover acorn squash, mashed into oblivion. I was worried about the seasonings: the maple syrup and cinnamon I had flavoured the squash with for Christmas dinner would go nicely in muffins, but I wasn't so sure about the thyme. But I tried it anyway, added a bit of streusel topping to compensate, and they were fabulous. More distinguishable from the pumpkin version than I had anticipated - a bit denser, sweeter, more squashy. Yum.

Like I said, Leftovers 101. But with the exception of about half-a-cup of cranberry sauce still lurking in the fridge, every bit of our Christmas dinner has been used.

Just call me Suzy Homemaker.


Paula said...

Good grief- after so many dinners you still had 4 cups of turkey left? Just how big was this bird?

I love croquettes and what a good idea! I personally have the remains of a very large ham and if Steve doesn't eat all of the rest of it with his eggs tomorrow morning, I think I'll do something like that with the rest of it. Thanks!

Flartus said...

Oh, even with a chef in the house, we still toss way too much food in the trash. Of course, restuarants waste a lot of food, so maybe having a chef in the house isn't such a good thing...

Anyway, I think your croquette idea is brilliant. Wish I had some in my freezer to look forward to!

Lindsey said...

Dude. Toot your own horn! It's awesome to use stuff up and feel like nothing is going to waste. And no one really gives us enough props for that. So we have to congratulate ourselves and then send that into the blogosphere for the rest of us to pat you on the back.
Sometimes I'll just stand in the kitchen and say "thank you Mrs. Nickell, for creating a savory yet nutritious meal out of ingredients already on hand. You rock."
Croguettes sound good. I never thought of that!

Kara said...

Waste less and use what I grow are totally my goals, too. If leftovers or garden things go to the chickens, I feel like they didn't *totally* go to waste, but I'm definitely trying to be better about using what I have... and not running to Trader Joe's for taquitos. (Even though the taquitos are soooo good!)

Crazy Lady with purple fingers said...

The croquettes sound delicious, thanks for posting your recipe, great for using up the left overs and I will have to try the muffin recipe too, always looking for gluten free recipes.

Shim Farm said...

Yummm...those croquettes look mouth-watering! (So do the muffins, by the way!)

Every year, I resolve to let less go to waste, and I'm happy to report I'm winning the war. What helps me is my JIT (Just-In-Time) shopping habit I've developed for groceries. Using my freezer as my first go-to, I'll pick up one or two things to round out our evening meal on my way back from work. This works for me because the grocery store is on my way and I'm in-and-out in under 5 minutes.

And then other days, we revert to what I've called "desperation dinners". LOL...

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