Life to Leftovers

In a recent post, I put out a call for suggestions on what to do with some leftover cheese spread. Your ideas came pouring back, much to my benefit.

On the heels of that fruitful exercise, I thought it’d be fun to start a recurring feature that lets readers help other readers give new life to their leftovers. Hence, ”Life to Leftovers.” You send in your pleas for help (with a photo, if possible) and I’ll post them. Send your ideas to wasted food at gmail dot com.

We’ll start off easy. Leigh (aka Calimama) from Compact By Design wrote in with this question:

I have a can of white cake icing in my fridge.  We don’t do a lot of super sweet desserts and I don’t bake. We tend not to keep cake and such around. 

photo by Zack Sheppard via creative commonsThe icing itself is pretty much a container of sugar.  Delicious in that “I love sugar” kid mentality but not something I need to be taking spoonfuls of.  So, I would make a box mix, but then it would sit here.  And I’d feel guilty if I didn’t eat it.  And I’d feel guilty if my husband did.  And my toddler would be more squirrely than he already is.

Of course, I could make a cake and take it somewhere.  Although most of my friends wouldn’t be terribly thrilled with that delivery, for all the same reasons.  I was just curious what ideas someone would come up with for such an odd item just taking up space in the fridge. Hate to throw it out but what to do?

OK, so we’re looking for a non-cake use for icing. And for those of you with minds more savory than sweet, Leigh has another query:

I also have some freezer-burned chicken. I have 3 chicken strips with pretty bad burn (2 days in uncovered) and 2 huge boneless breasts with mild burn.  I know, I did it again. I am so ashamed I can hardly admit it.  I should spend all my kitchen time sleeping and then these things
won’t happen.

Freezer-burned chicken, anyone?


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  1. Posted May 18, 2009 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Would homemade, frosted donuts be too sweet for your tastes?? If so, I’ll take them. (I wish you had chocolate frosting, though)

  2. Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    1. The icing has negative nutritional value. Is the benefit to the environment by consuming it–if there is any–worth the cost to the body? Not to mention the energy used to make whatever the icing will be used with. If Leigh can’t find a neighbor who uses frosting regularly, I suggest throwing it out and sublimating the guilt into a lesson for next time.
    2. The chicken will have dried out some, but will be fine in any recipe that calls for a moist sauce.

  3. dee dee
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Make chicken soup or chicken hash with the freezer-burned chicken.

    Tonight we are making “clean out the freezer soup” with the remaining bags of frozen veggies from last year’s garden. Some kale, swiss chard, edamame, and whatever else we find tucked away in the back of the freezer, along with some chicken stock, an onion and some old wilted celery stalks will make a delicious meal.

  4. Karen
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    If anyone in the house likes sweetened coffee or tea, I bet the icing would stir in well just like plain sugar would. Only drawback to that is it would use the frosting up awfully slowly… Does frosting freeze? Maybe it could be divided up in small freezer bags or ice cube trays for future single servings.

  5. Posted May 18, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the frosting, it’s going to be a dill move to suggest throwing any food item away on the Wasted Food Blog, so I would suggest that if you wish to cut your losses, then donate it to a soup kitchen or food pantry instead. Or, barring that, send it to the pigs. As for the chicken, I’d suggest any recipe that renders the texture of the chicken into a non-issue. Soup would be my suggestion. Or, I suppose you could just braise the chicken and then frost it, but that might be the dumpster diver in me. Speaking of dumpster diving (not that anyone but me was), it is currently Hippie Christmas (or Hippie Hanuka {or, “The Day All Of Those People From Town Come To Campus In Their Pick-up Trucks” for the non-believers}) and I suggest you get to your local college or university before the dumpsters are all depleted of their yearly stock of wonders. A tip from an experienced dumpster diver: be sure to wear boots, and when you jump into the dumpster–and you will be jumping in if you know what’s good for you–move as much of the trash to one side of the dumpster first, then proceed to methodically tear open every bag and dump it onto the cleared side. When you see some good stuff fall out, go for it. Oh, and don’t forget that good batteries are waiting for you inside most any electronic device.
    Peace and Love,

  6. Posted May 18, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Is the icing opened or unopened? It will last forever in the fridge if either, but if it’s unopened, donate it. If it’s open, just leave it in the fridge and wait for a birthday to use it up. Since it’s vanilla you can put some in a baggie, add some food coloring and have different colored icing to letter a cake. Don’t use a box mix and make a more savory cookie, think rosemary and salt, and use a bit of the icing to bind them together for a fancy Oreo-type cookie.

    Maybe add some ginger powder and really mix it to blend so it cuts out the syrupy chemicalness of the frosting and has bite…

  7. Posted May 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Some great ideas, thanks! I really like the idea of a savory-er (not a real word, I know, but you get my drift) type cookie with a little frosting sandwich.

    And the soup is a no-brainer for the chicken. Can’t imagine why I didn’t think of it myself. Must be that sleep thing.

    Dan, I was thinking about making a mole sauce, so maybe if I incorporate a teaspoon of the frosting it would be akin to icing the chicken. Just for you.

    Jonathan, if you lived in L.A. I would make you the frosted donuts just for putting this post up! (And the 3rd trimester of this pregnancy has me wanting chocolate ALL THE TIME. Now I want chocolate donuts. Thanks for that too.) :P

  8. katecontinued
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Tina for the win! I really like the idea of writing words on things if you have kids – or to be playful. This way it could be a kind of ritual or tradition to have a tiny taste of sweet (so kids or the kid in us all) doesn’t feel we are so deprived. Savory cookie Oreos is just this side of genius.

    And, the chicken is soup or stock opportunity to be sure.

  9. Christy
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Do you like frosting on graham crackers? I haven’t had it in years, but it’s a yummy way to use up the frosting. And graham crackers can’t be *that* bad for us…

  10. Posted May 19, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Awww shucks. I came across this VERY interesting use of frosting when I was doing some googling last evening:

    An edible color wheel to make with school kids. Personally, I am afraid of kids with such a sugar high but…

  11. Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Guys, I couldn’t be more proud…Everyone from gourmands to dumpster divers pitching in to help a fellow waste-avoider. Bravo!

    Calimama, please do send a photo of whatever you decide to make with your famous frosting. And apologies for raising the topic of chocolate. I didn’t know that you were pregnant! But now that I do, congratulations! (And here’s to hoping that the 3rd trimester doesn’t drag on toooo long).

  12. WilliamB
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    A project to share with your toddler:

    You can mix the icing with elmer’s glue and use it to make “cakes” and “pies.”

    1. Make cake- or pie-shaped things with cardboard. (This would be the hard part for me. Maybe a rectangle cake using an old box??)
    1A. Tell your child that icing glue is not edible.

    2. Optional: separate the icing into different cups and dye it.
    2B. Tell your child that icing glue is not edible.

    3. Add elmer’s till it’s not-very-sticky.
    3A. Tell your child that icing glue is not edible.

    4. With a brush, cover all sides of your “cake” (not the bottom) with icing glue. If you made the colors, here’s the chance to make pretty patterns.
    4A. Console your child when he discovers *why* icing glue is not edible. I suggest a glass of milk.

    5. Decorate more. Any or all of the following:
    5A. Sprinkle with things (cake decor, colored paper shreds (got a shredder? run the comics through), glittery paper, those fun but annoying shiny words that are sold in party stores, etc) that will stick to the wet icing glue. Let dry.
    5B. Let dry, then use glue (or more icing glue) to attach other fun stuff, like cotton balls for whipped cream.

  13. Posted May 20, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I love the idea of the color wheel but a 20 month old hopped up on sugar is more than I can to handle!

    I’m definitely considering the “fake cake”. Although a toddler hopped up on icing glue oesn’t sound so great either. And yes, I could tell him it’s not edible, but it would pretty much fall on deaf ears I’m sure. I hear elmer’s glue is completely harmless in small doses though, so…

    Thanks for all the great ideas, I’ll be sure to let you know what the end results are.

  14. Posted May 20, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that I appreciate Mother Israel’s common sense comment on the icing bit (sort of along the lines of “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” isn’t it?) But more so, William B’s creative art project, that doesn’t involve ingestion of said icing (or at least we hope) sounds cool to me! :)

    Although my hope is that the icing purchase can be avoided in future too, it’s awesome that the question was even asked: “What can I do with this INSTEAD of throwing it out?”

    Someone messaged me today asking how to recycle clothing not suitable for donation, to whom I responded with a link to a video ( showing how Goodwill recycles the stuff they can’t use. I was just so thrilled that someone even asked the question!

  15. WilliamB
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Elmer’s glue is definitely not harmful when ingested. Don’t taste great, either, which is a plus.

  16. Posted May 21, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Good then–we can all make some edible arts and crafts courtesy of Elmer. Makes sense when you think about where glue comes from. Kind of reminds me of that Rolling Stones song: Wiiiiiiiiiild Horses…

  17. Posted May 22, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    My mom has made rags with old clothing for years.

    Also, just as a note for you Jon, it seems that when you post challenges to your readership on this blog, we come through in style and in great numbers. I think you should make it a weekly part of your blog–the weekly food waste challenge.

    Peace and Love,

  18. Posted May 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Dan, I couldn’t agree more. This has been a blast and I’d love to make it a recurring thing. Now it’s up to you folks to write in with problems that need solving! As of now, we’re dry. So come on folks–don’t force me start making up problems! (kidding…)

  19. Posted May 27, 2009 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    Elmer’s glue is definitely not harmful when ingested. Don’t taste great, either, which is a plus.

  20. jo
    Posted June 1, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    melt it a little and dip fruit!

  21. Anita
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Take that frosting and put it between 2 pieces of grahmn crackers, like a sandwich. You can either refrigerate these, ( I do) or not. Delicious. Kids love ‘em.

  22. Posted June 6, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Not very healthy I suppose, but we use leftover frosting and spread on graham crackers. Make a little sandwich with frosting spread between 2 crackers, throw it in the fridge. Can do the same thing with cool whip but throw it in the freezer. Nice little fix for a sweet tooth craving.

  23. Jackie Green
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Jonathan, were you born and brought up in Essex?

  24. Posted November 17, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    No, can’t say that I was, Jackie.

  25. Posted March 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    melted cheese on carbonara!

2 Trackbacks

  1. By friday forum « compact by design on May 22, 2009 at 3:33 am

    [...] The chicken in this photo is no longer waste.  Thanks to the great recommendations by Jonathan Bloom’s readers over at Wasted Food I will be using it for some soup in the near future.  Check out his post about my near wasted food and you will see what else I won’t be throwing away.  If you have something in the fridge or cupboard that you just don’t know what to do with, tell Jonathan.  He’s sharing our sad stories on his blog to help end the wasted food franchise. [...]

  2. By monday – menus and more « compact by design on June 22, 2009 at 3:15 am

    [...] One last food item and I’m out of here.  Some of you may remember my Life to Leftovers conundrum that Jonathan Bloom of Wasted Food helped me out with.  Or I should say his readers helped, much to our mutual delight. [...]

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