Refrigerator Refugee Savers
When even the least discriminating eater in your house turns their nose up at the past-their-prime foods knocking around the fridge, try one of these bright ideas.
Wilted or Drying Herbs: A Savory Spread for Just About Anything
, writer and producer
Rebecca Lando loves to eat seasonal, organic and local food but is determined not to waste any of it—even a $5 bunch of herbs. In The Working Class Foodies Cookbook
, she explains that herb butter is a great way to give that bundle of not-so-fresh thyme, oregano, basil (or any other herb, really) one last chance. You can mix it into a stick of butter and heap the result on thick slices of baguette and broil it for a twist on garlic bread; toss it with hot pasta and Parmesan for a quick dinner, or with just-cooked fish or shellfish; slip a pat of it into a baked potato or on grilled or roasted vegetables or steak; or just spread it on toast.
Get the recipe: Herb Butter
Random Bits of Cheese: A Dish That's Way Better Than a Sad-Looking Snack Platter
We've been there, too: you've got a small chunk of Gouda, a 2-inch piece of Swiss and a wedge of something you think is cheddar, and you're thinking, "Maybe I could arrange them around some grapes on a pretty tray...maybe?" Lando has a better (and tastier) idea: shred the cheeses and stir them into a mixture of roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, cream and egg, and pour into a puff pastry crust. Lando says this unfussy tart is totally flexible: you can stir in leftover brisket or pork and experiment with different herbs.
Get the recipe: Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart
A Little-Bit-Elderly Fruit: The Fresh or Frozen Breakfast or Dessert
Mealy plums and bruised peaches don't have to go straight to the compost pile; you can often salvage these fruits by cooking them. It won't take long for a peach that's already pretty squishy to become sweet and tender after a few minutes in the oven or in a small saucepan on the stove with some water (peel it first). Then, Lando says, you have lots of options. Here are two of her favorites: blend it with plain yogurt or coconut milk and eat it straight, or pour it into popsicle molds and freeze.
Two- (Or Even Three-) Day-Old Rice: An Old-Fashioned Casserole We'd Almost Forgotten
Most of us are rarely inspired to do much with leftover rice aside from frying it up with vegetables and whatever meat we have on hand
. However, stuffing the rice into cabbage with carrot, zucchini, currants and other goodies is another brilliant use. Lando says this classic comfort food turns out especially well with leftover rice, since its lower moisture content keeps the filling from becoming mushy or sloppy.
Get the recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Bananas: Two Sweet Reasons to Forego Banana Bread
For most of us, banged-up bananas are too mushy to eat out of hand. Toss them in a blender with plain, Greek-style yogurt, honey and cinnamon for a smoothie, though, and their sweetness shines through (and their semi-solid state is no problem). Peanut butter, chocolate syrup or berries also go well with bananas. Or, Lando says, fold the mashed fruit into vanilla pudding and garnish with vanilla wafer cookies for a quickie version of banana pudding.
Next: 10 more smart ways to use up leftovers