Waste Not

When I used to do a lot of freelance, my favorite part about these graphic design jobs were the restrictions that the client’s needs naturally imposed upon the creative side of it.  Any good designer will tell you that the first job is function, form is always second.  That seems counterintuitive coming from a person who used to paint professionally.  Art - and the making of it — has always been at the center of my life.  But the older I get, the more I understand about how I create my own best work.  I need a boundary… whether that comes in the form of a strict budget, or a finite amount of wall space, or in today’s case, a smattering of odd leftovers that must get re-purposed.

Creativity can find its way into every nook and cranny of all of our lives if we let it and I personally find the most gratifying results from these opportunities.  Today I am working on clearing out the fridge so that I can make space for new cooking projects that I want to take on.  As much as I want to get those other things started, I have to make sure that the existing bits and pieces find a use.  

We just recently got our first composter so I am delighted that the truly expired corners of the kitchen are getting a new life in our garden now.  As for everything else…. I have the following items to work with today:

1. Cooked Christmas Lima Beans

2. Odd bits of challah and wheat bread

3. Lemon slices

4. Kale Walnut pesto

5. 1/2 bag of mixed dark greens

6. A few tablespoons of coconut cream

7. 8 overripe bananas   

8. Chicken stock

9. 1/2 bag of shredded mozzarella

When I am in a creative rut (which is often!), I turn to my books for inspiration.  I like to play my own personal game of Cookbook Roulette, if you will.  Today, I pulled out an old standby that I haven’t looked at in some time.  It turned out to be just the right thing because Heidi’s recipe for Wild Rice Casserole was the lightbulb I needed to start putting the aforementioned leftovers to work.

As I write this, I am using some chicken stock to cook a cup of brown rice on the stove.  Once that is cooked, I’ll mix it with the lima beans, a little pesto, some shredded mozzarella, and squeeze of lemon.  I’ll sauté the remaining greens in a bunch of garlic and put them aside while I butter a casserole dish.  Then I’ll put a layer of the beans and rice mixture on the bottom, some greens in the middle, and some more rice and beans on top.  I’ll top the whole thing with bread crumbs that I am going to make from the remaining bits of bread and more cheese.  Et voila… dinner is served after I bake it for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I’ll let you know how it tastes when we try it…

As for the bananas and coconut cream, I am going to use 4 bananas plus the cream to make my favorite Banana Bread.  The coconut cream should be a delightful stand-in for some of the butter that’s called for in the original recipe.  The last 4 bananas will head to the freezer to join their frozen fruit friends.  My kids love smoothies and overripe bananas are naturally even sweeter than the yellow guys and also the perfect thickener for any smoothie we invent.

It takes a little more thought and discipline to create the habit, but the outcome is so rewarding when you can use what you have to make even more.  Not only does this save money but it saves a little more landfill space too.    

Chai Concentrate


It’s hard to believe, given my open doors and bright blue skies right now, that we are about to get hit with four days of rain.  But I am going to try to accept the weather man’s premonitions and plan for a soggy weekend.  

I’m starting with Chai.  My son has fallen hard for it’s mulled, cozy ways and I’d love nothing more than to brew him a cup alongside a biscotti or two when we wake up Saturday morning.  I make this concentrate without the black tea so that my children can drink their fill without going completely bananas from caffeine overload.  For the adults, I just steep the tea bags with the milk when I am warming up cups over the stove.  

This concentrate with last for a week or two… if you don’t drink it all by then.

ALSO, this concentrate produces an amazing side benefit. It really is worth the trouble for the beautiful aroma that comes from steeping the fragrant spices.  You’ll have a kitchen you’ll be want to stay in all day after a morning of chai-making.  

Masala Chai Concentrate


  • 1 tablespoon of whole cardamom 
  • 10 cinnamon sticks or 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves (approx. 15)
  • 2-3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (add more if you like it really spicy)
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced down the center
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar or honey (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 5 cups of water
  • Additional tools: Small saucepan, Strainer, Resealable glass jar

To add later: Milk and black tea of your choice

INSTRUCTIONS (Adapted from: Homemade Masala Chai Concentrate)

  1. Add everything but the tea bags to the sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. After 15 minutes, shut off the heat and add the tea bags to the pot. Allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. (Omit this step if you want a decaffeinated version).
  3. Strain the liquid into the glass container and allow to cool completely before covering and refrigerating. 
  4. To make hot chai, combine equal amounts concentrate and any type of milk in a small saucepan and heat on medium until simmering. Transfer to a mug and enjoy. For iced, combine equal parts concentrate and preferred milk over ice.