GUEST POST BY ‘CHEF JACKIE’ FREEMAN
I wish I could say I grew up on a bucolic farm in the country, learning the value of food by planting and harvesting it myself. The truth is, I was raised in suburbia by busy, frugal parents and learned to cook from watching my mother. I’m not saying I learned to cook well (sorry, Mom), but I did learn how to cook efficiently and with what was on hand. That skill, combined with a more formal culinary education, helped me land a job as a spokesperson for King County Washington’s exciting new campaign about how to love the leftovers, called, Food: Too Good To Waste.
New Dishes From Old Menus
My mom was a working parent who valued time and money over culinary inspiration. With three young children and their corresponding soccer games, piano lessons and emergency room visits, she saw food as a matter of nutrition, not taste. Leftovers in our house weren’t so much an afterthought as a necessity. (We had to love leftovers!)
My mom would cook huge meals, hoping there would be something left to feed us the next day. When that failed (we were ravenous children – I’m surprised we didn’t consume the family pets), leftover night became a hodge-podge of whatever was remaining in the fridge.
My mom would often get “creative” and piece together new dishes from old menus. Some were successful and became part of our family repertoire: stroganoff from last night’s brisket, chicken stir-fry with any and all remaining vegetables. Others were not so great: applesauce-matzo-meal-meatloaf. This dish left a permanent and horrifying culinary memory on my family’s palette.
My Own Culinary Path Towards Loving Leftovers
After working in restaurants while in college, I decided to attend culinary school. An important part of my culinary education involved moving to the country several years ago.
There I learned about growing and harvesting my own food first-hand as a farmer and cheese maker. This is where the lessons from my mother’s kitchen really came into focus. I finally understood all of the work and resources that went into producing what we eat. Birthing, raising, feeding and milking animals was just the beginning of what it took to make a wheel of cheese.
Over the years, I’ve had amazing (and unusual!) opportunities in the food world. I’ve worked as a caterer, private chef, recipe editor, food stylist and instructor.
Helping King County Love their Leftovers as a Spokesperson for Food: Too Good To Waste Campaign
Today, I put all of my farming, culinary and leftover know-how together as a spokesperson through PCC Natural Markets, a Seattle-based natural food retail co-operative, and King County’s Food: Too Good to Waste campaign. My job which I love, is to help residents love their leftovers.
My commitment to a sustainable food system and my uncanny ability to open a fridge and name seven meals that can be made with what’s inside (ok, thanks Mom!), has allowed me to help families everywhere waste less. Here’s a video of me helping a Seattle family plan their meals so they don’t waste a morsel:
Making Meatloaf from Leftovers: A Recipe
Despite the frequent culinary misadventures that came from my mother’s kitchen, she had the right idea.
Leftover food should be loved, not wasted. Like Frankenstein, one can breathe new and exciting life into odds and ends, with a touch of inspiration and guidance.
Meatloaf is a great vehicle for leftovers – it’s the perfect way to mix and match a variety of ingredients into a cohesive dish. Random vegetables for flavor; miscellaneous cooked grains as fillers; stale bread, crackers, or yes, matzo meal, for binders. Top with a bit of leftover tomato-based sauce, and there you have it! And, of course, meatloaf is a great leftover in itself (think sandwiches the next day).
Here’s a link to a recipe I love for Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes. It’s one of my favorites. Not just because it is meatloaf but also because it comes in a great cupcake package. Remember to use recipes as inspiration, not requirements!
And how about you? Need any help loving your leftovers? Let me know!
For more on the King County “Food: Too Good To Waste” Campaign, Link HERE.