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How to use leftovers in ways even your kids will like

Sarah Dickerman can make a frittata out of just about anything.



Can you and your kids really learn to love leftovers?

Sara Dickerman has some ideas for making them creative, delicious … and maybe even fun.

In her new book Secrets of Great Second Meals, the Capitol Hill mom of two acknowledges what a chore cooking can be “when I’ve spent hours driving the kids from activity to activity, when volunteering and work pile up.” So she relies on some of the tricks she learned cooking in restaurants like Le Pichet in the Pike Place Market neighborhood: Preparing components in batches large enough for more than one meal. Tracking fridge contents so she can use them before they spoil. Reveling in flexible dishes like pastas and frittatas.

A few highlights from our conversation:


How did working in restaurants make you a better home cook?

“I saw the value that was placed on food costs, and how to get the most out of every bit of food. That meant making stocks, that meant making a stew out of the lesser cuts of meat, that meant puréeing vegetables into a soup. Not using bad food, but using food to its fullest capacity. That stuck with me as I became more and more of a home cook. I try always to be thoughtful about how to use any extra food in the kitchen. I also find it’s an incredible spark toward creativity, almost like a writing prompt.”


I noticed egg dishes and pastas are sort of catchalls for creating second meals. Are enchiladas, too? What else?

The other one is a curry base … One thing I’ve noticed is, my kids are not super adventurous eaters, but once they’ve grown used to a flavor of sauce, they’re more open to [unfamiliar ingredients prepared] in that sauce.


With a family of five, I find it difficult to deal with tiny quantities of leftovers. Thoughts?

Sometimes small amounts of food are best for lunch for a working parent … but another thing that often works well is a soup … (and) one of the classic stretchers of food are starches, so that’s the reason tacos make sense, or pastas. Eggs will always make sense too, because a frittata will just welcome any small odds and ends.


Anything else parents should know?

“It’s not health-related, but there’s a recipe in there for a chocolate-based cookie that’s meant to use up the leftover s’mores fixings, or leftover Halloween candy, or whatever sweet thing you have around that you want to clear out of the house. It’s a really delicious, fudgy, brownie-like cookie. It’s delightful and the kids think it’s hilarious, and I think fun in the kitchen is also helpful.”


Seattle parent Rebekah Denn puts a lot of leftovers into single-serving frittatas in muffin tins.


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