The Weekly Waste Word: Web help?

photo by njhdiver (via Flickr) Ever find yourself with a decent amount of ingredients left after cooking but unsure what to do with them? Reader Andrew C. wrote in with just that problem and asked:
I was wondering if you knew if there were any recipe websites out there that can give you a list of recipes based on the ingredients you might have in your fridge left over?

Unfortunately, I don’t know of a site that detailed. There are plenty, however, that provide recipes based on one ingredient. is one of the best for searching by ingredient.

While that search isn’t as useful as Andrew’s ‘Here’s what I have in my fridge, what can I make?’ dream, he did mention he could make such a site if one didn’t exist. Three words, Andrew: Just Do It!
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  1. stephanie
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    That would be a great idea for a site! I have developed a kind of system for my extra / unused food:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever touched on this idea in your blog, but I like freezing food for soup stock. I have a large yoghurt container that I keep in the freezer, and I chop up and add things like: parsley, mushrooms, apples, potatoes, celery, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, onions, etc. There are plenty of foods that work well in stocks, though not all do. Veggies of the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc) tend to turn a stock bitter.

    You can also use some of the less edible parts of fruits and vegetables in a stock. When carving a squash, for example, I keep the rind (if it’s organic) and seeds for soup stocks. (They make EXCELLENT stock). Same goes for onion peels, garlic skins, apple or pear cores and seeds, lettuce cores, cheese rinds, parsley and spinach stems, corn cobs, etc.

    I’m vegetarian so I only use veggies, though of course bones and inedible meat parts can be used as well. I find the best soups come from home-made stocks. Since the stock materials are collected over the course of a week or so, it’s very easy to throw a soup together with them. I take them out of the freezer, cover them in water in a large 9L pot, throw in some peppercorns and a bay leaf, bring them to a boil, and simmer for an hour.

    I use stocks for other things as well… they add flavour and juice to stir fries, for example, without adding extra oil. Sometimes I freeze the stocks in ice cube trays… there are lots of possibilities! And there’s much less wasted food, if you can get into the habit of cooking this way. You have to be aware of what’s going on in your fridge, so you can catch things just before they go bad, and you have to get used to saving scraps while you’re cooking. Neither of which is that hard to do.

  2. Jonathan
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow! You’re way ahead of me, Stephanie. You’ve inspired me to make my first stock with the remains of a rotisserie chicken. It’s about time, too. Gotta put my money where my mouth (or blog) is.

  3. Shannon
    Posted December 10, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Permalink has an advanced search that allows you to select a number of MAIN ingredients and returns the results to you. I’ve used this on a few occasions when I was stuck for ideas and had a few things in the fridge I thought would probably go together.

  4. Posted December 10, 2007 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I love epicurious too. My sister is a whiz at having a clean & efficient refrigerator. She ends up either using all of an ingredient- changing the measurements to match what she bought, depending on if an ingredient is unique and not that reusable. I tend to make a lasagna that is almost everything in the refrigerator- amazing how melted cheese & pasta can incorporate lots of different foods. I had a friend over the other day and he was amazed that this was my “leftover” lasagna- like it required more effort, not just random foods in the refrigerator.

    Also, what Stephanie said above, about making a good vegetarian stock, and freezing it! I used to make meat loaf that also included random leftover vegetables- its’ a French terrine, basically a rolled up, baked meat loaf. Frittatas can also be filled with almost any random vegetable (that will make it taste good, of c ourse)- egg, spinach and some parmesan cooked on low in a pan.

    Funny, stocking up on non-perishables like pasta, and (somewhat perishable) parmesan, and it helps you use up the other ingredients that are leftover from less versatile meals.

  5. Rosa
    Posted December 11, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m a big fan of croquettes, too. Meaty ones made out of canned salmon plus chopped up bits of whatever leftover veggies we have (and egg, and rolled in breadcrumbs if we have them) fried in a little oil; or veggies and mashed potatos or cooked lentils, prepared the same way.

    And of course leftover mashed potatos or leftover grits make excellent patties all by themselves or with a little bit of fruit or veggies.

  6. Posted December 12, 2007 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Like Stephanie, I like to make stocks from veggie scraps. If you have a big cooking day in front of you, try setting up a crockpot at the beginning with water in it. Keep adding scraps all day. By the end of the day, you can strain it for a nice stock.

    Jonathan, back in my meat-eating days, I always made stock from the leftover turkey carcass during the holidays. In fact, I had everyone in the family save their carcasses for me to pick up. I could usually pick another 2 cups of meat off before tossing it into water with veggie scraps, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and a splash of vinegar (to pull out more calcium). Now that I’m vegan, those carcasses are just going to waste because no-one else in the family wanted to take a little extra time to do this. :(

  7. Erin
    Posted December 24, 2007 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I use this site all the time.

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