Overwhelmed by Leftovers

by Anne Maxfield on December 2, 2019


This is probably the worst time of year to decide that I’ve fallen out of love with them.

I used to think leftovers were great—what’s not to like? Good food with little or no cooking and no food waste.

And it was fun to think of new ways to repurpose food.

But now I’m overwhelmed. It just seems that they just keep coming and never get finished or if they do, something else comes to take their place.

And it’s not like I feel like I’ve been cooking up a storm—no need there’s leftovers from____.

My frustration might come from not having a big freezer anymore. It was great for (burying) leftovers, you could just freeze them and pull them out when you didn’t feel like cooking. Now, limited to a tiny freezer, there’s no place for much except the essentials.

It comes from a new Thursday night “off the menu” place where we can request Greek favorites. The food is good—home cooking which comes in huge portions that are easily enough for a couple of meals.

Some of it comes from just not eating as much as we used to, which is probably a good thing.

Besides the meals, there are bits and pieces of dinners prepared–marscapone from the spinach ravioli, crema from some Mexican dish–you get the picture.

But it’s frustrating. I’m so hard-wired to take food home, that except for French fries, any leftovers come home. Most of them get repackaged and put front and center in the fridge so they will get seen and eaten.

Then they’re like a giant roadblock. Gotta eat them before you can move on to the next thing on the want to cook list.

Right now there’s leftover duck from Thanksgiving, some roast chicken, a few lamb chops and potatoes from our anniversary dinner, and pasta from last night—at least 5 potential dinners for 2 disinterested diners.

So, what to do? Can’t leave food or toss it, there’s too much food waste anyway and despite my efforts we end up tossing more than I’d like.  Got any great ideas? And how do I become a leftover lover again?





Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

by Anne Maxfield on October 1, 2018

accidental-locavore-stuffed-pumpkinsThere are certain recipes you just don’t mess with.

Pumpkin stuffed with everything good is not one of them.

It actually begs to be messed with.

And is a great way to use up some of those bits of leftovers in the fridge.

It’s from Dorrie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (where you can find the original recipe) and this is my recent riff on it for 2 people:

accidental-locavore-pumpkin-stuffingPumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

  • 2 small pumpkins
  • A handful of croutons
  • 2 cooked Italian sausage, sliced
  • 3 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ cup thinly sliced leeks (green tops fine)
  • ¼ pound any cheese cut into ¼” cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment and set aside

Carefully cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (like you were carving a Halloween pumpkin), clean off the bottom edge and set aside.

accidental-locavore-pumpkin-for-stuffingClean out the seeds and guts of the pumpkin. If you want to roast the pumpkin seeds just put all the stuff in a bowl for later. Salt and pepper the insides of the pumpkins.

Toss everything except the heavy cream and nutmeg in a bowl and toss.

Pack the mix into the pumpkins. They should be well filled because some of the stuffing will condense when it’s cooked.

Mix the cream and nutmeg together and pour into the pumpkins. You don’t want the stuffing to be drowned in cream, but you want it be moist.

Put the caps back on and bake for 90 minutes.

Remove the caps and back for an additional 20-30 minutes. The pumpkins should be tender and easily pierced by the tip of a knife.

Serve and enjoy!

accidental-locavore-finished-pumpkinMy verdict: This is a great way to use up leftovers and it tastes great! You can use a single (larger) pumpkin and either serve it in wedges or just bring the whole thing to the table and let everyone scoop out a serving (much more impressive). It takes time to cook and a little prep time to clean the pumpkin, but that can be done ahead of time.

Let me know if you try it and what you put into it.


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Food Waste: What Can You Do?

by Anne Maxfield on October 31, 2016

Accidental Locavore Food Waste

You know that food waste is a huge problem in this country.

A look in your refrigerator will reveal a little of everything and a lot of nothing.

You don’t want to throw out the leftovers.

Americans throw out 50% of our produce.

Some of it’s just not pretty.

Some of it’s spoiled—we just never get to it.

The Accidental Locavore’s friend Janet Irizarry is one of many people in the Hudson Valley who is working to change food waste, one onion at a time.

Accidental Locavore Food Waste OnionsYou’ve heard all the talk about writing things down and making them happen, but maybe the first step is just to be conscious of it.

That’s what Janet has done for me.

This week, I made Dorrie Greespan’s “Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good” from Around my French Table.

I did not (really) make it according to her recipe.

My pumpkins were stuffed with everything I found in the fridge.

Accidental Locavore Food Waste Leftovers for StuffingSome croutons, a couple of Italian sausage links, some unknown cheese chunk, leek tops, the last three slices of bacon, three broccoli florets, the remnants of thyme from my garden and the rest of the heavy cream.

They were great (and you’re dealing with a couple of non-pumpkin/winter squash fans)!

Last night, rather than just heating up some left over rigatoni, I chopped up a piece of leftover pork chop, threw it all in a gratin pan, topped with some mozzarella and the last of the Parmesan and baked it. Also great!

Next up? What to do with a half a duck from Sunday night.

Thai duck curry?

A fancy shepherd’s pie (substituting the duck confit for some of my leftover duck)?

Duck fried rice (still have some of those leek tops)?

Accidental Locavore Food Waste Thai Fried RiceCross-cultural quesadillas with some of the plum hoisin sauce (which was wonderful with the duck)?

Maybe the solution to food waste starts very small.

In your head.

With awareness.


And just plain messing around in the kitchen.

Three of the meals I made, came from bits of three others.

Bits that probably would have gone in the garbage.

But because that seed had been planted, I started messing around to see what I could create.

And it was all good.

What will you make?


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Thai Fried Rice

by Anne Maxfield on July 23, 2015

Accidental Locavore Thai Fried Rice (2)The beauty of fried rice is that it’s great for all those small bits of leftovers you have cluttering the fridge. The Accidental Locavore had a bunch of stuff that needed to be put to good use and it was lunchtime…. Make sure everything is prepped and ready to go, this comes together really quickly! Generously serves 1:

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup meat (thinly sliced pork, chicken, shrimp, etc)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or run through a press
  • 1 extra large or jumbo egg, well beaten
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice, preferably Thai jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 good squirt Sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 scallions, chopped


  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • Thai basil
  • Mint, chopped
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Soy sauce

Accidental Locavore Making Thai Fried RiceGather all your ingredients near the stove. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If you need to cook any of the meat, add that now and stir-fry until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 30 seconds. Pour in the beaten egg and cook until scrambled. Add the rice, pressing it against the pan and then stir-frying it for about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, Sriracha and scallions and toss until well-mixed, about 30 seconds. Taste and add more fish sauce or Sriracha as needed. Serve with your choice of garnishes and enjoy!

My verdict: Since my favorite Thai fried rice is about 3000 miles away (in Rancho Mirage, CA), this is a fine substitute! This is really just to get you started–feel free to add whatever is taking up room in your fridge. The day I made it for lunch, we had half a wonderful Thai sausage from Jacuterie, roast pork and a rotisserie chicken, so they all went in along with some broccoli, and a mushroom or two. Any vegetables can be tossed in, just be sure to add them early if they need to be cooked. I love cilantro, mint and Thai basil on top, a squirt of lime and maybe a dash of soy sauce. And don’t let the wok scare you; if it’s well seasoned it’s super easy to clean! What would go in your fried rice?


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