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Refrigerator Orphans

If you're like us, you tend to accumulate little bits and pieces of leftover foods in the refrigerator as the week goes on. We're a household of just two people so we often have the typical leftovers but we are also savers of the little things -- sauces, components of other meals and vegetable pieces and parts. We try hard not to waste food, although sometimes something gets mysteriously hidden in the fridge, only to be discovered after it has developed a wonderful rainbow of colors (but that's why we compost).

Once a week we usually try to put together a meal from these pieces/parts before they reach the end of their usefulness. The other night, Cynthia managed to cobble together a particularly delicious one that I felt deserved to be memorialized here. I'm not going to try to write this as a recipe - it's more of an inspired invention.

Earlier in the week she had purchased some ground turkey. When we eat burgers these days, they are much more likely to be made from turkey than from beef. We appreciate the lower fat and cholesterol content, higher protein and fewer calories,  and have learned some tricks to make them juicy and delicious. As the week progressed, we realized the turkey needed to either be cooked or frozen after sitting in the fridge for a few days. Cyn saw it as a perfect opportunity to do one of our fridge clean-outs. Here's how.

On the previous Monday she had made won-ton wrap ravioli stuffed with a ricotta and fresh pea filling. You'll read more about this when I get around to writing this Meatless Monday gem up (yes, yes, I know, I'm behind). There was leftover ricotta and spring pea filling stored in a little baggie in the fridge just begging to be used up. Since she typically mixes ricotta into our turkey burgers to keep them moist, using the leftover ravioli filling blended in to the ground turkey was a no-brainer. (1/2 c whole milk ricotta to a pound of 6% fat ground turkey) A couple of teaspoons of the fabulous Pickapeppa sauce (you can substitute any sort of steak sauce), a tablespoon of Worcestershire, a little ground coriander, black and white pepper and voila!  Juiciest turkey burgers ever.

The second component of the dish, a slaw, came together from a variety of pieces and parts of veggies. She tossed together the remains of a yellow pepper, an orange pepper, a red pepper, a grated carrot, some snow pea pods, a couple of radish and a red onion, all julienned, mixed with the last ounces of a bottled Greek salad dressing and a little mayonnaise.

Finally, there were the cherry tomatoes sitting on the counter looking a little past their prime. Now what? Well, how about a quick homemade ketchup for on top of the finished burger? Shallots, part of an old onion (concentrated flavor in old fruit and veg) and a couple of cloves of garlic got a quick saute until golden and beginning to brown. Cherry tomatoes were added along with some salt.  After 5 minutes or so,  a little brown sugar and apple cider vinegar hit the pan.  Once the tomatoes 'pop' and release their juice, you're ready to whoosh.  Into the Vitamix it went for pulverizing and then back into the pan where it was allowed to thicken as the water content cooked out. We pan seared the 1/4 pound burger for 6-7 minutes on each side (internal temp = 160) and viola! a dinner made from foods that were almost ready to go over the edge.

Honestly, these types of meals are some of my favorites. They alleviate the guilt of throwing away food and they are really pretty quick and easy to assemble.  Not fancy but really delicious.


  1. I think this is great cooking - I love the challenge of opening the fridge door and making something delicious from what's in there. ...and as I said on twitter - we call this 'eating the fridge' in our house. It began when you are trying to eat stuff up before you go on holiday but now refers to all attempts to use up leftovers ...

    1. Thanks Liz - I wish we could say that we NEVER throw anything out, but that would be stretching the truth. We try very hard to find a way to use as much as we can and it's actually a fun challenge to try to come up with something creative from disparate ingredients.

  2. Love the idea of refrigerator orphans! My leftovers don't get a chance to sit for long before I've created them into something new. Posted my leftover moussaka last weekend, made with left over chilli and shepherd's pie!

  3. Thanks Janice! Great idea with the leftover moussaka.

  4. Ricotta in your turkey burger huh, I'm going to have to try that the next time I make turkey burgers. And homemade ketchup, what a wonderful use of the tomatoes. You and your wife have some great ideas in the kitchen.

  5. Thanks for reading and for your comment. Turkey is good for us because it is lower in fat - it's also hard to keep moist for the same reason. We found adding the ricotta keeps the burgers very moist while adding flavor also. The homemade ketchup was a shot in the dark that turned out nicely.

  6. Love the tip about ricotta in turkey burgers, can't wait to try it! And what an awesome meal from left overs, great work! We need to do a better job at that, for sure! Otherwise our left overs start a new life as chicken food :)

    1. Hey, the chickens need to eat too! :)

      Thanks for your comment.


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