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Saving money on food: Leftovers become cuisine

BY MARY HARRINGTON | FEBRUARY 24, 2009 7:29 AM

Some homemade meals are changing with the economy, with local amateur cooks looking to drop high costs and retain the big flavors of their food favorites.

On Monday evening, three women picked up new recipes at a Hy-Vee cooking demonstration where overlooked leftovers were whipped into innovative dishes.

“These days no one can afford to throw away anything,” said Kym Wroble, a dietitian and the event coordinator. “I wanted to teach individuals some creative, easy ways [to cook], that also taste good, to use those leftovers.”

Parmesan breadstick appetizers, barbecued beef, and a layered trifle emerged from stale bread, a reheated roast, and day-old dessert ingredients.

“Instead of looking at it as leftovers, you can look at it as a whole new meal,” attendee Janet Snyder said.



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Even though cooking demonstrations are frequently available to the Iowa City resident, this was the first time she had been interested in attending. The free event was a great opportunity to help modify her cooking budget in tough economic times, she said.

“As things get tighter economically, you need to stretch your food dollar,” she said.

In between bites of a colorful casserole made from leftover baked potatoes, the three women attendees expressed woes about overpriced restaurant meals. Wroble offered dollar-stretching advice, such as using leftover meat from restaurant dishes as a salad topper the next day.

She stressed the importance of cooking at home to lower the costs of eating.

“Now’s the time to get creative as a foodie,” she said, sprinkling cubes of leftover chocolate chip cookies onto a layer of sliced strawberries. “You have to pick what’s most important to you when you put yourself on a food budget, and spend your money where it counts, on the ingredients that count.”

Snyder handed out packets with recipes for cheap, creative concoctions: Grilled leftover ham and pineapple sandwiches, turkey and mushroom hash cakes, bumped-and-bruised fruit sauce.

Even wine or liquor leftover from a party could be turned into sangria with marked-down fruits, she said.

The recipes and demonstrations came with safety advice as well, such as labeling and dating leftovers before refrigeration to know when they must be used by.

Zdenka Daszkiewicz was delighted to apply the advice to her own home cooking. Leftovers were on constant rotation from her family refrigerator to the garbage can, the Iowa City resident said. She came to the event seeking culinary inspiration to transform the budget-friendly ingredients into new meals that would actually appeal to those at the dinner table.

“I thought it was a delightful demonstration,” she said. “Because of the economic times, it was very worthwhile.”


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