Re-inventing Holiday Leftovers


Photo courtesy of Carlos Porto at

A few days ago on Thanksgiving I spent time with my boyfriend’s family for the day. It was a wonderful afternoon with good company and lots of food. Though we were only four there was so much food that between my family’s Thanksgiving and theirs we’ll have leftovers for two or three weeks.

Since my family hates to waste food, this time of  the year has always proved to be creative with transforming thanksgiving leftovers into two or three different meals. We then have to freeze the rest of it.

Today I’ll share with you some of the ways you and your family can waste less this year through re-inventing holiday leftovers! This will also prove to be a great teaching moment for young kids about the importance of wasting less and helping their parents in the kitchen.

1.) Hot Turkey Sandwich: Homemade gravy, turkey, peas, and carrots mixed together and ladled over an open faced sandwich. This quick meal was one of my favorites growing up because it was similar to a chicken pot pie. Which brings me to my next idea.

2.) Chicken Pot Pie: If your feeling creative you can make a chicken or turkey pot pie and throw in leftover veggies. Add in some potatoes and your all set.

3.) Homemade Stock: Not wanting to waste even the bones of a Thanksgiving turkey or chicken I made my own stock this year with carrots and celery. Freeze the rest and you’ll have stock for meals months after the holidays are over.

4.) Turkey Cranberry Wrap: Before I went to collage I never thought of this possibility, but it’s a delicious one. Take a tortilla wrap and place slices of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and spinach leaves in it. Roll it up with some mayo or mustard and your finished.

5.) Meat Stew: Make stew with leftover veggies, potatoes, and meat either turkey, chicken, or lamb.

6.) Potato Latkes: And here’s another idea. Take those mashed potatoes and turn them into Potato pancakes with homemade applesauce.

These are just six of the ways you and your family can get to transform holiday leftovers. There are many other ways that would work and incorporate cultural foods as well.

Get cooking this holiday season! And if your stumped as to how to get your kids involved visit some of my past blog articles such as Kids Kitchen: Tasks for Every Age


Initiatives to Stop Food Waste

In the last post we talked about what food waste is. Today we will talk about some of the government’s initiatives intended to stop food waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partnered with the USDA in 2013 to launch the Food Waste Challenge to cut food waste in half by 2030. As part of this initiative the EPA created a Food Recovery Hierarchy  in order to reduce food waste from the most preferred method to the least preferred method. Below is a picture of that model that came from the EPA website.


From the info-graphic above we can see that the most preferred method of food reduction is reducing the amount of waste period. This includes being aware of how much we put on our plates, what we buy in the grocery store etc.

The least preferred method is discarding food waste in a landfill which can increase greenhouse gases in the environment.

As the consumers we can help reduce waste at any part of the food hierarchy.

Re-fed Solutions to Food Waste

In addition to the government initiatives, there are also the initiatives put forth by non-profits. Re-fed is one such non-profit that is sponsored by community, business, and government organizations committed to reducing food waste by 2030.

They have created a model similar to the Food Hierarchy known as the Road map to Reduce US Food Waste. This map can be downloaded from their website if you sign-up for their newsletter. The map is part of an economic based study and can be summarized in three parts.

1.) Prevention– Much like the EPA’s model prevention simply means diverting food from landfills. Making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. Examples include, educating yourself, your children, and your families, buying only the essentials of what you really need, creating shopping lists, and not taking more than you will eat.

2.) Recovery– Re-distributing edible/extra food to those who need it. An example of recovery is gleaning, which is collecting excess foods from farms, gardens, markets, etc. for those who really need it. The Society of St. Andrew is one such non-profit that gleans food for distribution.

3.) Recycling – Reusing what you can or giving something old a new purpose. Examples included turning leftovers into more meals or composting. Although, composting is low on the Hierarchy it’s still better than a landfill.

To read more about Re-fed and the EPA follow the links or read more at WM Media Room.

Tune in the next few weeks and we’ll talk about 2 ways you can re-invent your holiday leftovers and get you back in the kitchen with your kids this season.

Food Waste, What is it?

With the holidays fast approaching family and friends will be gathering together to catch up, enjoy each others company, and, of course, eat.

This is no surprise since eating together is common across cultures. However, this is also the time when an excess of food is prepared, consumed, and thrown out. The problem of food waste arises in times like the the holidays.

So, what is food waste and how does it affect your family?

USDA Food Waste Definition

According to the USDA food waste is defined as the amount of edible food that is thrown away for any reason (The Journal, 2016). Some of these reasons include:

  • Plate waste
  • Food that is past its prime or that is bruised or blemished
  • Mold
  • Inadequate or incorrect storage
  • Cooking Loss
  • Confusion with labels such as sell by, use by, and best by etc.

Why should we care?

Food waste effects many areas of our lives including the environment, the economy, and society (Re-fed, 2014). To see a visual of how each area is effected by food waste see info-graphic below. All statistics were taken from the 2016 Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the 2014 report from the USDA on food insecurity.


Food Waste from Farm to Fork

In addition, food waste occurs on all levels of food production (The Journal, 2016)

  • Farms
  • Harvesting
  • Processing/Transportation
  • Retailers
  • Us (Consumers)

For the purposes of this blog I will be focusing on the consumer food waste because it’s the largest contributor to food waste in this country and it’s something we can all work on this year.

The next blogs will be about the solutions to food waste, teaching food waste to children, ways to reduce food waste this holiday season, re-inventing Thanksgiving leftovers, and composting basics.


Vogliano, Chris, Brown, Katie. “The State of America’s Wasted Food and Opportunities to Make a Difference”.  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 116, No. 7,  2016, pp. 1199-1205
Food Waste in America“. Society of St. Andrew: Gleaning America’s fields-Feeding America’s Hungry,, Accessed 19, Oct. 2016.
Gunder, Danas. “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill”. Natural Defense Research Paper, August 2012, Accessed 29, Oct. 2016.
“USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Food Waste Reduction Goals”. Department of Agriculture, 2015, Assessed 29, Oct. 2016.

For more reading: 

Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data. Re-fed, 2016, Accessed 19, Oct. 2016.
Save the Food.Natural Resources Defense Council and Ad Council, 2016, Accessed 19, Oct. 2016.

Last of Summer Turkey Burgers



Photo courtesy of KEKO64 at

Looking for ideas for dinner? These turkey burgers are sure to please. This past week I was up in New Hampshire with my boyfriend at his aunt’s cabin. We hiked, played video games, and watched movies. We also cooked up a few meals together including this one. I have to say cooking is one of our favorite date ideas. Hopefully cooking with loved ones is fun for you too. If not, that’s okay because these burgers don’t take too long to cook.

It’s a play on the classic salmon burger, which was one of my fav’s growing up. I combined my family’s traditional recipe with a new one I found on Pinterest from The goal, to create a new delicious burger that would please the whole family!

Pepper and Onion Turkey Burgers

Serves:6, Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time 10-15 minutes, total time, 20-25 minutes


1 pound of ground turkey (85% lean)

1/2 c. diced onions

1/2 c. diced peppers (orange, yellow, or red pepper adds color)

1 egg

3 tablespoons of canola oil

1/2 c. of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


1.) On a clean cutting board wash and dice the onions and peppers. Place aside.

2.) In a medium bowl mix the ground turkey with all of the above ingredients. Add the peppers and onions. Make sure the ingredients are uniform throughout the mixture.

3.) In a skillet heat the oil on medium high heat. Form the turkey mixture into patties. The mixture will make 4-6 patties in total.

4.) Cook until there’s no pink in the center. Add your own buns and additional toppings as wanted. Enjoy!


This recipe is great to make as a family. Younger children can help form patties while older ones can help dice the vegetables with an adults supervision.






12 Fun Plants that Kids can Grow


Image courtesy of amenic180 at

Over the past few months we have talked about the importance of gardening and how you can involve your kids in the gardening process. Now lets turn to what plants young kids can grow.

Below are plants, fruits, vegetables, and herbs that grow fast and have fun characteristics that captures young minds.

1.) Sunflowers: Some sunflowers can grow up to 12 feet tall while others are planted in pots and grow only 2 feet.

  Fun Fact: Confectionery sunflowers produce seeds you can harvest and eat.

2.) Mint: Grow like weeds (personal experience) so they are best in individual pots. However, mints are hardy plants that don’t take much to grow.

 Fun Fact: There are 18 different varieties including chocolate mint, asian mint, and peppermint to name a few.

3.) Lavender: Also grows like a weed, but adds a nice fragrance to your garden. Young kids might also find it fun to watch as it attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects while acting as a natural repellent to others.

Fun Fact: Taken as capsules it may improve anxiety symptoms

4.) Cherry Tomatoes: Are fun to eat right off the stems and are hardy plants to grow. They grow in direct sunlight and won’t mind a little extra water.

Fun Fact: Tomatoes are a fruit not a vegetable.

5.) Lettuce: Can be grown as heads or leaves. They grow quicker as individual leaves and are a great way to introduce salad to children.

Fun Fact: 1 cup of Romaine lettuce contains 4094 IU of vitamin A or 53% of your daily intake.

6.) Radishes

Fun Fact: Night of the Radishes is a Mexican feast where artists carve pictures of the nativity into radishes.

7.) Snow Peas: Be careful around young children when you grow peas. The seeds can be poisonous. It’s important to wash your hands after planting. These peas can grow close to the ground and don’t require a trellis.

Fun Fact: Both the pods and the peas inside are edible

8.) Strawberries

Fun Fact: Strawberries have 200 seeds

9.) Potatoes

Fun Fact: Potato plants are pollinated by bumblebees

10.) Pumpkins

Fun Fact: Pumpkin can be roasted, baked, steamed or boiled 

11.) Wildflowers

Fun Fact: Perennial wildflowers will continue to grow year after year, while annual wildflowers will come up only once. 

12.) Cucumbers: Are picky plant so be careful about harvesting them.

Fun Facts: Cucumbers though mostly water does contain small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium 

Happy Gardening!

Sources: <> <> <> <> 

July’s Seasonal Produce: Yellow Squash

ZucchiniImage cortesy of khumthong at

As you know eating in season is great for the environment and for ourselves plus it is a convenient why to talk about nutrition with our families and children. The months of July and August offer an abundance of fruits and vegetables at the height of the summer. Here is a brief list of a few of those foods:

  • Corn
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Melon

The above list may contain foods that you cook for your family and that kids like. Peaches, strawberries, corn, apples, and carrots to name a few tend to please both kids and adults. Today though I’d like to introduce you to one that you may or may not have cooked for your kids before: summer squash.


Summer squash is a good source of vitamins C and A (in the form of beta-carotene), fiber, and a great source of manganese and potassium.

Vitamins C and A are antioxidants in the body which means they help to prevent damage to the DNA which can lead to mutations. In addition, vitamin A helps to support healthy eyesight especially night vision, decreases risk of cataracts and may slow down macular degeneration.  Vitamin C helps keep skin looking healthy and bones strong.

Its greatest source of nutrients comes from manganese and potassium. These nutrients  support the metabolism and muscle contraction. Plus, manganese is known to aid in maintaining bone density with the help of vitamin C and potassium (which some research says may help with bone strengthening).

Below is a recipe that I adapted from a Mediterranean grilled summer squash recipe. I decided to swap out goat cheese for part skim cheddar cheese and baked it instead of grilling it.


Serves 3-4  

Prep time: 5 mins. Cook time: 20 mins. Total time: 25 mins.


2 yellow squash, tops cut.

1/2 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or the juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/3 of a cup part skim, shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 grape tomatoes, diced

1/2 green onion, chopped

1/2 c. of defrosted corn

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon oregano

pinch of pepper


1.) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2.) Rinse the vegetables in a colander and place aside.

3.) In a large pot of salted water boil yellow squash on high for 10 minutes or until tender.

4.) On a cutting board prepare the vegetables by dicing and chopping the tomatoes and green onion. Mix in a medium bowl.

5.) Defrost the frozen yellow corn in the microwave for 1 minute on high. Drain water and combine corn with tomato and green onion mixture.

6.) Add spices and lemon juice to the veggie mixture.

7.) Remove squash from the pot using a fork. Place on cutting board and cut lengthwise with a vegetable knife. Using a spoon dig the seeds out of the squash. Place on a baking sheet.

8.) Place on a baking sheet and spoon salad mixture on top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle cheese liberally on top. Bake for 5 minutes until cheese is melted and squash fully cooked. Serve with rice or red potatoes.

Alternatives: Instead of baking the squash try broiling it at 550 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or grill it for 3-5 minutes before stuffing the squash.


When shopping for the ingredients I was surprised to find out that the price was right. Working per diem means that I don’t always have much money to spend so I was pleased to discover that it fit within my budget; most of the  ingredients  I already had in my pantry.

Second, squash, green onions, and tomatoes can be grown in a backyard garden. If you grow these vegetables this recipe would be perfect for you and your family.

Thirdly, the recipe contains easy to use cooking methods so that with a little supervision the whole family can get cooking!

For more information on eating in season and the importance of sustainability please refer back to previous blog posts of mine.

Engaging Kids in the Garden

Over the past few months I have shared with you the health benefits of gardening, how gardening can be sustainable, and 7 reasons why kids should garden. Today’s blog is going to address tips for engaging kids (and their families) in the garden.

After some research on this topic I grouped the tips I found into common themes and added one more from my own experience growing up.

1.) Get your kids involved in the gardening process


Whether growing, harvesting, or cooking engage your children or those you look after in the WHOLE process. You can start slowly by incorporating one of two into daily activities before putting them all together.

a.) Planning: This part of the process of gardening includes thinking about what you are going to grow in the garden, the geographic area in which plants are most likely to thrive, how the garden is going to look, and where you are going to begin.

Tips: Take children and teens to a local plant nursery and have them choose which plants, decorative rocks, vegetables, fruits, or herbs they would like to have in the garden. If you already have a garden of your own offer to help your teen or child make a plot for themselves.

If they wish to grow vegetables, fruits, or herbs make sure you give younger kids a list of plants to choose from that you know grows where you live. For example, growing an orange tree in Massachusetts probably will not do as well as growing strawberries. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a good place to begin when thinking about what plant types grow where.

b.) Planting: Once the type of plant is decided upon the next step is too plant and take care of them.

Tips: Children can help out by watering plants, planting seeds in the ground, or small shrubs. Watching plants grow is a tedious process, but well worth the effort when you finally see green shoots poking from the ground.

c.) Harvesting: For me the best part of any growing season is when you get to eat what you plant yourself. Who doesn’t love eating berries straight from the bush? Plus, It’s hard to describe the pride you feel when what you planted and tended for so long produces.

Tip: Get kids involved at this step of the process by having them pick the berries, tomatoes, or whatever it is you are growing from the garden. Teach younger kids by example how to harvest potatoes, squashes, cucumbers, or berries properly so as not to damage the plant.

d.) Cooking: Once your garden starts producing what better way to enjoy the yields of the earth by preparing what you cook?

Tips: Get kids involved by having them rinse the produce, choose the recipe, and help in the kitchen. Refer back to later blog posts of mine for some tips on age appropriate tasks in the kitchen and All Hands on Deck. Best of all, eat a meal together!


2.) Set aside a day for Family Gardening Day

Growing up my parents gave my brother and I small, age appropriate tasks to complete around the house every weekend. These tasks ranged from raking, planting, watering, weeding, painting, and trimming from fall to spring. When we were older we began to mow the lawn.

Although, these tasks can be boring the tasks you give to your kids don’t have to be. Gardening should be fun. So make it of interesting. Get creative. For example, out of all the jobs I did growing up my favorite was visiting the plant nursery at Home Depot’s.

Setting aside a day in the week to spend as a family can teach responsibility, hard work, and dedication to a project while promoting community.

3.) Assign age appropriate tasks

Give kids the right tasks will determine their interest and engagement level. If it is something beyond them younger children will grow bored as older ones might become bored from repetitive, routine tasks.

Examples of age appropriate tasks are having 5 or 6 year olds pick out the color or type of plant to grow, plant, or water seeds. Older children around 9 or 10 years old can begin weeding, arranging plants, understanding climate conditions for various plants, or planting larger shrubs. Teenagers can do all the previous tasks as well as things like mow the lawn or preparing family meals. For further more detailed examples try this link.

4.) Make it Fun!

Lastly, make it exciting! If the work in the garden is portrayed as a chore it won’t engage kids. Below are a few examples of how to make gardening fun for the whole family.

a.) Turning work into a game: Whose leaf pile is the largest? Let’s see who can collect the most weeds in an hour?

b.) Turn seasonal activities into an opportunity to learn about food: Carve pumpkins and use the squash for soup, salads, or their seeds.  Planting sunflowers to harvest and cook the seeds. Picking apples to make apple cider, make baked apples, or apple pie.

c.) Provide a reason for garden activities that kids would relate to or that provides favorable outcomes: What are their favorite meals? Explain that some of the produce can be grown themselves and show them. An example of this tip is let’s go out and plant flowers for mother’s day instead of lets plant these flowers.

d.) Do art projects in the garden. Have kids place their hand prints on the path of the garden or use old tiles to create mosaic masterpieces into the garden walkways. Collect pine cones to decorate for winter ornaments or collect leaves for art projects. Another fun garden activity is choosing ornaments or statues for the garden.

Here’s to hoping these ideas will stimulate ideas of your own for you and yours. Happy gardening! At the end of the month another blog will offer a recipe for summer seasonal eating and next month I will address the top 10 plants/herbs that kids can plant.