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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

From Grandma's Wisdom to Creative Kitchen Adventures

Embracing the Art of Upcycling Food: From Grandma's Wisdom to Creative Kitchen Adventures 

In a world where the concept of upcycling food is gaining traction, it's interesting to ponder the various interpretations these words can carry.  While some businesses thrive on selling "ugly" fruit and vegetables, I've come to view this trend from a unique perspective, influenced by the indelible mark left by my grandmother, a product of the Depression era.


My summers were spent in the company of this remarkable woman, and her wisdom has shaped my outlook on the world.  With a garden and a penchant for canning, she embodied resourcefulness.  The mantra, "waste not, want not" was deeply ingrained, and even if it meant spending $20 to save $2, she held fast to her principles.  Her legacy lives on - an unwavering commitment to utilizing everything before it met its end. 

This ethos was etched into my being.  Although I've occasionally strayed, I've recognized the value in preventing waste, both for our environment and our wallets.  The generations before us were adept at finding new purposes for items.  An upcoming post will delve into this philosophy in depth soon.    

While I had been fervently sharing recipes, I took a slight detour, focusing more on crafts and decorating - subjects that piqued your interest.  Today, however, I'd like to shift the spotlight to a pressing concern: food waste

Much like Grandma, my approach to meal planning involves a quick survey of the fridge's contents - what's nearing its expiration date?  This simple technique guides my nightly culinary endeavors.  You won't find me meticulously plotting a month's menu in one sitting.  Unlike those impressive food planners (my aunt was one of them), I'm incapable of predicting what I'll crave three Tuesdays from now.  

While meticulous planning may not be my forte, the story of a recent evening serves as a testament to the beauty of adapting.  A carton of milk, poised on the brink of expiry, inspired an impromptu creation: homemade chocolate pudding.  Straying from the convenience of boxed pudding (we never have it in the house), I embarked on a culinary experiment that yielded delicious results.   

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

The intrigue of this experiment didn't escape my husband.  Curious about my motivation, I revealed that I wanted to utilize the milk before it was too late.  His delight in the dessert mirrored my own, affirming that even a simple act of resourcefulness could lead to culinary triumph.  

This week's culinary escapade led to a Corn Chowder - a recipe birthed on the fly.  While my husband's response was lukewarm at best, I decided to put my upcycling skills to the test.  Transforming leftovers into a pleasant delight, I incorporated thinly sliced red potatoes, a tablespoon of corn starch, and a generous handful of shredded cheese to the recipe below.    

The metamorphosis was nothing short of remarkable - my husband's "it's okay" transformed into enthusiastic appreciation.  The notion of creatively reinventing dishes quickly became a go-to strategy.  Replicating a dish with a subtle twist often leads to rave reviews on the second attempt, earning it the label of "Winner, winner, chicken dinner!"

The beauty lies in the flexibility - a dish need not be scrapped if it doesn't initially hit the mark.  By introducing elements your family adores, you can orchestrate a culinary delight that resonates with their tastes.  A dash of creativity can take a dish from the ordinary into something extraordinary.  

This particular corn chowder recipe was born out of spontaneity, a testament to the magic that unfolds when one explores the depths of the pantry and refrigerator.   

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder Recipe:

  1. 2 shredded cooked chicken breasts
  2. 1 small can cream of chicken soup
  3. 1 can sweet corn
  4. 2 T real bacon bits
  5. Broth from cooked chicken
  6. 1 t smoked paprika
  7. 1 t garlic powder
  8. 1 t onion powder

  •  I placed the chicken breasts into our small crockpot and let it cook on low for 6 hours
  • Shred the cooked chicken
  • Add cream of chicken soup, stir well so the broth of the chicken and the soup mix well
  • Incorporate drained corn and real bacon bits
  • Add spices to enhance the flavor profile

The transformation of this dish over two nights was remarkable - from a brothy soup to a thick and chunky delight, made even more delectable with the addition of potatoes and cheese. 

So, as I explore the art of upcycling food in my own kitchen, I'm curious - do you also find joy in transforming leftovers and overlooked ingredients into culinary gems?  Share your creative kitchen adventures with us, we love to hear from you. 

Below you can find more examples of recipes created on the fly with ingredients we had on hand.  No fancy kitchen work here, I am about as down to earth as you will find when it comes to cooking and baking.   

Blueberry Cake with Buttermilk

Have buttermilk you need to use?  Why not try this cake: Irresistible Blueberry Cake Recipe with a Twist.  Buttermilk on the brink of expiration was the element behind the development of this recipe.  

Ground Turkey and Asparagus Stir-Fry

Asparagus have you stumped?  Check out our Flavorful Ground Turkey & Asparagus Stir-Fry



Would you like to comment?

  1. Cara, these recipes all look and sound delicious. You have totally got me on this one becuase my hubby does most of the cooking these days. I will putter in the kitchen to make a dessert or pickles, but I have not made a meal in ages. One thing I am really good at is passing recipes on to my hubby, which I will be doing with this post. The corn chowder looks delicious.

    1. You are so lucky Wendy that you no longer cook! I do it every night and sometimes it gets old, lol. Thank you, my husband did not care for it the first night, but the second night, he loved it with the tweaks I made.

  2. I really need to get back into planning meals like this, to make things stretch and use as much up as I can. I think your grandmother's wisdom is something we should all embrace!

    1. I agree Molly! My grandmother's generation was so smart, but sometimes I do not feel they were given the credit they deserved. If it were not for them, we would not have many of things we have today. I love seeing how far I can stretch everything in our home.

  3. These recipes look amazing, Cara, and what a special legacy for your grandma to pass down to you too! I love corn chowder so I'm super excited to include this in our monthly meal plan. Thanks so much for the recipe and for the gentle reminder to be mindful of how we're taking care of our homes and the planet. Hugs, CoCo

    1. I hope you and your family enjoy it CoCo. I admire my grandparents, and the way they lived. So much we have today is because of their generation. In my opinion, they were brilliant.

  4. Cara, I really want to make that blueberry cake recipe. I love anything and everything with blueberries in them. I am sure it is delicious. I love all the recipes that you shared with us. Thank you so much for sharing this post on Crazylittlelovebirds link party #2.

    1. I loved the blueberry cake, so I am hoping you will too. My taste testers also loved it, sometimes I think they get sick of me experimenting on them, and then I create a recipe they love, and I think hey, their job isn't so bad afterall! ha! Thank you for hosting Stephanie.