Tag Archives | leftovers

The Best Snack Mix Ever!

{The Greening Of Westford} Best Snack Mix EVER

I made more of this snack mix recently and was asked for the recipe on Facebook.  I tweaked a recipe I found on allrecipes and when I went to find the original recipe, it was gone!  My old link sent me to a mac and cheese recipe, which looked great, but not what I was looking for.   Time for a recipe post!  

I started making this when my kids were small.  They LOVE it.  So do their friends.  It is requested a lot.
The actual mix of ingredients isn’t important.  Use what you like or what you have.  Chocolate candies could be added later or even dried fruit.  I wouldn’t add the fruit until AFTER this has cooked.  I have used stale pretzels, plain cheerios and other items that didn’t go over very well.  Once they are in the mix with the seasonings, they are usually eaten.
The Best Snack Mix Ever!
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  1. 2 cups oyster crackers
  2. 2 cups Crispix cereal or shredded wheat (I use the store brand)
  3. 2 cups pretzels
  4. 1 cup nuts of your choice (omit for a nut-free snack)
  5. 3 TBSP butter, melted
  6. 1 TBSP veg. oil
  7. 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 tsp seasoned salt (I use Penzey’s seasoned sea salt)
  9. ½ tsp garlic powder
  10. ½ tsp onion powder
  1. In a large bowl, combine cereals and nuts. In a small bowl, combine butter, oil, and spices. Pour over the cereal mixture and toss to coat evenly.
  2. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet and spread evenly in a single layer. Bake at 250 for 45 mins, stirring every 15 minutes.
The Greening of Westford http://thegreeningofwestford.com/
This snack mix rarely lasts more than a day or two in our house.  In fact, I had to make this again just to get a picture!

What are you favorite snacks to make?



From Food Waste to Fried Rice

From Food Waste to Friend Rice {The Greening Of Westford}

This year’s goal is to reduce my food waste.  It amazes me how much food goes bad in my house.  And I think I’m pretty good at planning and eating up leftovers!

The biggest issues I have now are:

  1. Condiments
  2. Using my freezer
  3. Eating things out of my freezer

For some reason, I have loads of condiments both in the pantry and the refrigerator.   Some I use on a regular basis – like soy sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar.  Not a problem.   But then there are others like white balsamic vinegar, deli style spicy mustard and an array of Asian items.  Things I bought for one particular dish and probably never used again.

I have been making an effort to freeze items I won’t use BEFORE they go bad.  I made corn chowder and a lentil pasta sauce recently.  Both really yummy, but too much to eat.  Before they went the way of the science experiment, I froze them.  Of course, I also tossed a few things that didn’t make it to the freezer in time.  You win some you lose some!  To help me with this one, I find I need to have loads of freezer containers around. I use glass mostly, either mason jars or jars from pickles, apple sauce or spaghetti sauce.  Marking them is key too – I have found that a dry erase marker works wonderfully on a metal lid!

This leads to issue #3 – eating food from the freezer before freezer burn sets in.  My freezer is stocked! Time to start eating.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to plan my meal sizes better.  We are ending up with too many leftovers.  I try to get creative with the leftovers.  I’m not big on reheating the same meal – and neither is my family.  I try to think of the leftovers as ingredients for something else like pizza toppings or add-ins to pasta.

My latest creation is fried rice!  I made some the other night with leftover brown rice, eggs, leftover veggies and the most usual array of Asian condiments.  I had little bits of oyster sauce, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.    So I mixed them with a little rice vinegar and fresh ginger.  It was pretty tasty!  And I eliminated 2 of my random condiments.  Now I will say right up front – the picture at the top is NOT mine.  Honestly, it tasted WAY better than it looked!

There are great resources on the web and pinterest.  Some of the most helpful to me are:
All Recipes – you can enter the ingredients you want to use up and they will suggest recipes
Love Food Hate Waste – great information on the food waste problem and how to combat it
Still Tasty – for each category of food, there is detailed information on how long it is good for and the best way to store it.

It is amazing what you can come up with with a little effort.  Now I just need to work this into my weekly routine.

How do you deal with food waste?

Top Photo Used under Creative Commons License.  Credit Jerry Wong via Flickr.


Never Waste Another Drop Of Wine

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Waste?  Really?”  In which case you probably skipped this post altogether!  However, there are occasions when you have leftover wine – now what?

There are those times when I enjoy more than one glass of wine!  But more often than not, I just want one glass but I don’t want to open the whole bottle.  I know I won’t drink or use the rest in cooking before it goes bad.   So, I skip the glass of wine.

I have always heard of people freezing wine in ice cube trays to use later.  Great idea but it never happens.  Plus I’m not even sure we own an ice cube tray!  All of the new refrigerators seem to come with ice makers!  So no wine in the freezer for me until…..

One day I thought, let me just try freezing the wine in a glass jar, as it freezes I’ll take it out and scrape at it to keep it from getting solid.  Just like the chefs on Food Network do when making a granita.  Well, I forgot to take it out and scrape at it.  Wonderful discovery – THE WINE DOESN’T FREEZE SOLID!   

When I have leftover wine, I simply pour it into a glass jar and toss it in the freezer.  

It’s like a snow cone.  Just waiting for you to scoop out and use in whatever recipe you’d like. Stir the wine a bit before you scoop it out as the alcohol may have separated a bit. 

Now I always have a glass jar of red and one of white wine waiting for me in the freezer.  I love the flavor they give to dishes!  I’m not sure how long this will keep, but I had these jars in the freezer for a few months and the flavor was still fantastic. 

By the way, I didn’t use any sort of special glass jar.  This red wine is in an old peanut butter jar.  I’m currently out of white wine, but I use a jelly jar for that.  Just make sure you don’t fill them all the way – leave plenty of head room (about an inch or so).

Have You Ever Tried Freezing Wine?

[Top Photo Uses under Creative Commons license by Mary Witzig/Flickr]

This post was shared at Simple Lives ThursdayFrugally SustainableYour Green ResourceFrugal FridaysSeasonal Celebration Sundays,  Farmer’s Daughter , The Pistachio Project,  Tiny Tip TuesdayMonday Mania and Home is Where The Heart Is.


Don’t Toss Those Citrus Peels!

citrus infused vinegar for cleaning {thegreeningofwestford.com}
 A while ago I investigated ways to use citrus peels – beyond composting them.    In doing so I came across infused vinegar.  I was intrigued.   I have since made infused vinegar several times with oranges, lemons and grapefruit.  I am addicted!   
Why would I want infused vinegar?  Do I cook with it?  Maybe you could, but I use mine for my homemade cleaners.  The vinegar extracts the essential oils from the citrus peels,  mellowing the smell of the vinegar and  adding a boost of cleaning power to the vinegar.
I love that I can get extra use out of something before it gets composted.  If you are just getting started making your own cleaners, this is a great, cheap way to start without investing in essential oils.
I substitute one of these infused vinegars for the vinegar in any of the homemade cleaner recipes, then skip the essential oils. 
What You Need
ingredients to infuse vinegar
Citrus peels – orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or a combination
Glass jar with lid – reuse an old spaghetti sauce jar
White distilled vinegar
The Method
Save your citrus peels – I save mine in the freezer until I have enough to fill the glass jar.
inexpensive green cleaners
Fill the jar with your peels, really stuff them in there, the more the better. (Can you tell my orange peels are frozen?)
vinegar cleaners {thegreeningofwestford.com}
  Fill the jar with distilled vinegar.  Make sure all the peels are covered by the vinegar, otherwise mold could start growing.  Get the kids to help!
citrus infused vinegar cleaner
 Let the jar sit for 1 – 2 weeks, gently shaking every once in a while.  Give it a wiff every once in a while. When you can smell more fruit than vinegar, it’s done.
 Strain the vinegar and keep in another jar to use.
Have you ever infused vinegar?

This post is part of Vintage MauveFrugally SustainableSeasonal Celebration SundayYour Green ResourceSimple Lives ThursdayWorks For Me Wednesday,  Frugal Fridays, Simply Natural SaturdaysHome is Where the Heart IsTiny Tip Tuesday, Green Sisterhood Weekend Reading List, Green LivingThursdayFabulously Frugal Thursday, From The Farm, Wildcrafting Wednesday

This post was featured at Tiny Tip Tuesday!!!


Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food

Ways to deal with food waste and save money {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}
Dragon Fly Farms produce at the Westford Winter Farmers Market

I took a slight detour this week – I purged my refrigerator, freezer, pantry and other stashes of food.  Sort of like this food challenge post. The amount of food that goes wasted in this country astounds me!  

In 2009, the EPA estimated that food scraps accounted for 14.1% of our national waste.  It is the second largest category (paper is #1 – don’t get me started on that!)  This does NOT include yard trimmings, which accounts for another 13.7%. Not only could some of this food be eaten, but it is costing towns and cities millions (maybe billions) to dispose of.  Money that should be spent elsewhere.  Trash disposal fees are big in municipalities.  Many of them are turning to Pay-As-You-Throw situations where homeowners pay for each bag of trash they dispose of – most tend to be charging around $2 per bag.

I volunteer with our town’s Recycling Commission.  We are focused this year on getting more people to compost to reduce the trash and thus the trash budget.  One member did a quick calculation on the annual savings: Almost $74, 000 saved if ALL 14.1% was composted (or eaten)  instead of thrown in the trash. If only 10% of our residents composted their food waste, the town could save over almost $7,400. Think of it this way, if 14.1% of trash is potentially compostable, then that is a potential savings of 14.1%  of the trash budget.

I recently saw a special on Food Network called “The Big Waste“.  It dealt with the waste that occurs commercially.  I was sick!  If you get a chance, watch it.  I can’t believe the amount of food that is tossed from grocery stores and suppliers.  There has to be a better way!  Can’t some of this get donated to food pantries?  Or sold to customers at reduced prices – like the quick sale items?

Back to what I did this week to reduce my food waste. I am usually pretty good about meal planning, but I also tend to track prices and stock up when I see a sale.  So, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a lot of stuff in house.  When I look through all the food we had, I realized I had plenty to make meals this week without going shopping.  I really like to do this once in a while.  I can use up things before they spoil and remember what I have so I don’t buy more.  It also gets me to be more creative and find uses for odds and ends.  I have developed or found many favorite recipes this way. I must confess – I did go to the store once.  But I only got a few things – fresh fruit, milk and deli meat for lunches.

We ate pretty well.

Turkey Burgers – I used ground turkey in the freezer, served with homemade fries and green beans (left over from another dinner)

Homemade Pizza – This is definitely a staple on our menu.  It is a great way to use up leftover meat and/or veggies, condiments, you name it!  I always keep Whole Foods organic wheat pizza dough and mozzarella in the freezer.  This week, I used one of the leftover turkey burgers and sun-dried tomatoes that were sitting in the frig.

Pasta Primavera  – Another staple.   This is one of those recipes that was created out of a need to use up leftovers.   It tastes great and is a great way to use up veggies, meat, and beans.    To make it, I saute veggies and garlic,  make a simple sauce (flour, butter, and chicken stock) add Parmesan cheese, any meat or beans you want, and whatever other herbs or spices your’d like,  then toss with pasta.  If the sauce is too thick, I add some of the pasta water.  I have also used milk, half and half, evaporated milk – whatever dairy I happened to have left over – to make it more of a cream sauce.

Shredded BBQ Chicken –   I came across some chicken thighs in the freezer – not a big fan and I had bought these by mistake.  I also had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce!  I put 2 boneless chicken breasts and the thighs into the crock pot with BBQ sauce and about 4 cloves of minced garlic and let it cook away.  I didn’t have any rolls, so I served them on tortillas.

Snack Dinner – This is my version of eating leftovers for dinner.  My kids love it.  They think they are getting away with eating “junk” for dinner.  I pull out whatever we have – leftovers, hummus, bread, wheat crackers, cheese, applesauce, veggies (I always have carrot sticks in the fridg), fruit, yogurt, whatever I can find.  Everyone fills their own plate with an assortment.

I still have quite a bit of food left, so I will continue this week using up what we have and really planning my menu so I buy very little.

How do you deal with food waste?


Change The World Wednesday – Clean Out The Pantry

Last week, Reduce Footprints’ weekly challenge was this: 

This week, use what is in your cupboards, pantry, freezers, etc. before buying new food items.  

I am usually very good about making a menu for the week and shopping from that menu.   It really helps reduce food waste and we eat so much better.  I started this about 7 years ago when I had 3 children under the age of 3 and started dreading 4pm when I would need to start thinking about dinner.  We ended up eating horribly and I was stressed every day at the worst time of day!  So I started making up a menu for the week.  I’m not saying I spent hours on this.  In the beginning I spent maybe ½ hour.  When I had time and energy I would look for a new recipe to try.  It’s to the point now, where I could probably throw together a menu in about 10 mins, check for what ingredients we need and I’m out the door.  It makes the week go so much smoother too.  I can look ahead and plan an easy slow cooker meal for busy days or plan to use leftovers in another recipe.
This challenge could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  In the summer, my meal planning goes out the window.  So over the past few weeks, I have been shopping randomly without a plan.  We have lots of food, but nothing really to eat.  Know what I mean!
I went through the frig, freezer, pantry and other storage places and figured out what I could make from it all. 

What we ate this week

Roasted Chicken, potatoes, frozen peas – Night one was pretty easy.  I had a frozen chicken from my meat CSA that we hadn’t used yet.
Homemade BBQ chicken pizza with some of the leftover chicken.  I always have frozen pizza dough and mozzarella.  You can actually freeze shredded cheese with great results if you plan on using it in some sort of melted application – lasagna, mac ‘n cheese, pizza…  When I make this pizza, I use BBQ sauce instead of marinara and usually add caramelized onions.
Quinoa, black beans, corn and tomato salad – Used up some extra black beans I had from another recipe earlier in the week, leftover corn on the cob and one lonely tomato from the garden.   This was awesome!  I remember a friend of mine making something similar years ago.  I used this recipe loosely but improvised in some places.  I will definitely make this again!  Lime juice was the key.
My Fake Lasagna Bake – Think the ingredients of lasagna but all mixed together  instead of layered neatly.  Didn’t have ricotta, so I mixed together penne, the rest of a jar of spaghetti sauce, defrosted and drained spinach, pink beans I found in the freezer, 2 cans of diced tomatoes (about to expire), and mozzarella left from the pizza.  I also added sauteed onions and garlic for flavor.  My parents happened to stop by and I served it to them.  My Mom asked for the recipe!
Overnight French Toast – Loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from the freezer(honestly have no idea how long it was in there!) , last of the eggs, and some cream leftover from another dish.  Basically you layer the bread in a 9 x 13 buttered pan, mix the eggs and cream together and pour over the bread.  There needs to be enough egg and milk to cover the bread.  Let it sit overnight then baked for about 30 – 40 mins in a 350 degree oven.  The kids loved it and the bread tasted great soaked with the cream, eggs and covered in maple syrup.
Iced Tea – Apparently I have lots of tea!
Homemade “Chex” Snack mix – Used up some stale pretzels and cereal in this one.  Everything crisps up nicely.  I have been making this for a while.  Here is my basic recipe.  You can easily substitute with whatever you have on hand.  It’s a great way to use up stale cereal or other snacks.  Or things your kids didn’t like.
Quesadillas – No tortillas so I made them with some help from my friend Sally.  So good!  I also pulled out some salsa and a few veggies – lunch! 

To prevent leftovers

Although this challenge was a great opportunity to use up some things, I like to plan a little more so that I don’t end up with lots of leftovers.
Make a plan for the week – This one really works for me.  It makes shopping and making dinners so much easier.  I also found I was spending less on food.  Guess why?  I was thinking about how much we actually eat in a week instead of throwing a bunch of stuff into my grocery cart.  Some of which would get thrown away because I had no real plan for when to use them or I bought too much.  I can also think ahead and pick easy dinners (like in the crock pot) for busy days.   If I want to try a new recipe that means I need to buy something I normally don’t use (like fresh herbs) I can look for another recipe to make within the same week to use up that ingredient.
Plan for the leftovers – I don’t like leftovers.  Reheating the same meal to eat again, yuck!  This way I can think about how to use what is left in another recipe.  This is where the pizza and pasta recipes and other tips below come in handy.

What to do with leftovers

Pizza – I make homemade pizza almost once a week to use up leftovers.  Two of my favorites are:  1)  BBQ chicken with some caramelized onions 2) Turkey burgers with feta, Kalamata olives and  sun-dried tomatoes. 

Pasta – I got this recipe from my Italian hairdresser.  I mix eggs with some milk – maybe 4 eggs with about 1 cup of milk.  I have also used evaporated milk, cream and half and half.  Once the pasta is done, I drain it, reserving some cooking liquid, and put it back in the pot.  Over low heat I add the egg and milk mixture and cook it gently stirring constantly.  When it’s almost done I add tons of Parmesan cheese and whatever veggies I have.   It’s sort of like a pasta carbonara without the bacon – unless I have leftover bacon!  Or ham or anything else like it.
Search the Internet –  You can find recipes for almost anything.  I really like
www.allrecipes.com.  It has an ingredient search feature so you can enter the items you have and recipes using those ingredients come up. 

Use Your Freezer – If you don’t use it by the next day, freeze it!  I do this with a lots of meats then use them on pizza or in soups later.  Here are some others to try:
  • Freeze bananas for smoothies or banana bread.
  • Fresh herbs – try drying or freezing them.  Freezing works well for most green herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley).  Basil can also be frozen but requires a little extra effort.  You can make pesto and freeze that.  Or chop the basil and add it to a little water and freeze in ice cube trays.  I have done this with Rosemary and it’s great!  The Rosemary isn’t as powerful as fresh, but not as mild as dried either.
  • Wine – Freeze for use in cookingI have not tried this myself, but I really should.   Tried it!  Love it!   I love cooking with wine, but when I open an entire bottle for that ½ cup, I almost never finish the bottle.
  • Greens – You can’t freeze greens, but you could add to smoothies and freeze those.


I am going to keep this challenge going a little longer.  I need to use up some odd things I have picked up along the way.  I have some curry paste, capers and hoisin sauce, among other things, that I have yet to open!  Anyone have recipes for those?

Update: Nov. 29, 2011 –Fried Rice is a new addition to my “Use up the leftovers” recipe collection.  I sautee whatever veggies I have left with some garlic.  Add to scrambled eggs, rice and soy sauce.



The Lazy Way To Compost

It’s been a BUSY summer and I just realized I haven’t posted in almost a month!  Here is a repost of one of my Greene Westford columns from Westford Patch.
Earth Machine Composter use at the Westford Road Race this past spring
When I was a child, my grandparents always had a wire stand with a small bag attached to it on their counter. Kitchen scraps would go in and then be taken to the large garden out back. I really never thought about it much until years later. They were composting!  To my grandparents it made total sense. Why throw out useful material when it was so good for their garden.
According to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, “[f]ood scraps account for more than 800,000 tons of the waste generated each year in Massachusetts.” Some of this is good food that goes bad.  This waste can be reduced by watching how much you buy.  You can save money in the process. 
Some of this cannot be eaten – melon rinds, vegetable ends, coffee grinds and the like. These items can be composted into rich food for your garden. If you aren’t a gardener, you still might care to reduce this waste. Why?  Westford pays for each ton of trash that is hauled away. Compostable items are heavy! So the more you throw into your trash barrel, the more it costs the town. 
The whole process can seem confusing and daunting.  It really isn’t. Composting is easier than you think. Composting will happen regardless of your efforts, or lack thereof. Organic materials rot! 
There is no single correct way to compost. A very quick way to get started is to purchase an Earth Machine Composter from the Westford Recycling Commission for $45. This same composter retails for well over $100.  If you don’t live in Westford, check with your town.  Quite a few of them offer these, especially if they are paying for any of your trash disposal.
Start throwing your compostable items in and Voila! Compost! Or at the very least a lot less trash. You could turn the compost, but it’s really not necessary. You could make sure you have the right ratio of “brown” to “green” materials, but again, not absolutely necessary.  Roughly equal parts of brown and green materials will give you the optimal ratio. You should keep the pile moist but not soggy. Add some water when you think of it.
I don’t really pay attention to my compost bin. Sad to say I did not inherit my family’s green thumb, so I am not terribly concerned with getting usable compost at the end. To me, if I am reducing my trash I am happy.  After 3 years, my Earth Machine is pretty much always half full no matter how much I put into it.
With any big change, figuring out a system that will work for you is key.  Most likely you will need someplace to gather your scraps in the kitchen, then transfer them to your yard composter. I generally use a porcelain crock that sits on my counter. When it fills (which for me is pretty quickly) I take it out back to dump it. Sometimes in the winter months I have a secondary stage. I keep a 5 gallon pail out my back door. The counter-top composter gets dumped into the 5 gallon pail, then the 5 gallon pails goes to the yard composter less frequently
Here are some items that CAN go into your composter:
  • Fruit and Vegetable scraps – melon rinds, banana peels, apple cores, carrot tops…
  • Dryer lint
  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds (include the paper filter)
  • Egg shells
  • Leaves
  • Straw
  • Hay
  • Shredded newspaper or cardboard
  • Paper napkins or paper towels (depending on what is on them)
  • Human hair
  • Tea bags and grounds
  • Old flower arrangements
  • Dog or cat fur
Do NOT include:
  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Dairy
  • Fats or oils
These will attract animals and will smell.
Do You Compost? 


Yummy Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

What to do with those leftovers?! I have to admit that I am not the best with leftovers. They sit in my refrigerator until I finally don’t feel guilty throwing them out. I really don’t like just heating up the same meal.

But I also tend to cook more than we need. I am Armenian. Food is central! Think Italian families. The table is full of food. To not have at least double what you think you will need is a sin! So I finally learned to reuse my leftovers as ingredients for a new recipe.

I love making pizzas with leftovers. I’ve made BBQ chicken pizza, Greek pizza with left over turkey burgers and feta, and white pizzas. You put anything on a pizza and it tastes fresh again! One tip – I hardly ever use spaghetti sauce on these pizzas and always use just plain mozzarella cheese. I either brush the crust with olive oil or use some other sauce like pesto, BBQ sauce or, on the Greek pizza, I like olive tapenade. You could make a pizza with your Thanksgiving leftovers. It might be interesting.

Here are a few others.

1) Use the turkey in your favorite enchilada or burrito recipe.

2) Turkey pot pie – you can use the turkey and some veggies.

3) Potato Pancakes with the mashed potatoes.

4) Soups – think beyond turkey soup. With leftover sweet potatoes or squash, you can make a really delicious and simple soup. My mother-in-law makes the most delicious roasted squash soup. You roast the squash in the oven, saute onions, add the mashed up squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper, let it simmer, then puree the soup. You can also add a little ginger if you like. She adds cream or half and half. I use evaporated milk. Even without the roasted flavor, this soup is really great. If you want to freeze it, don’t add the milk.

5) Sandwiches – again think beyond the turkey sandwich. Try a Croque Monsieur. Typically they are made with ham, but try turkey and a different spread.

6) Sweet Potato Bread – with lots of sweet potatoes or squash try this quick bread. My kids LOVE it.

7) Cranberry Pork Roast – if you have lots of cranberry sauce left, try this recipe. It is amazing!

Now, the first R in the 3 R’s is REDUCE. But like I said above, this isn’t really an option for my family especially on Thanksgiving. If you plan for your leftovers, then there is no waste. Plus, you might even be saving energy. To cook a larger turkey or more sweet potatoes doesn’t take more energy. Heat up your oven once and eat twice! Have any recipes to share?

Bon Appetite!


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