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Your best ideas for food that is past it or almost past it?

What brilliant ideas do all you lovely, generous chowhounders have for using up food that is past it or almost or flawed in some way? I have some stale bread go tos, but I'm always open to more. What about ideas for other things that need to be used NOW or they go in the garbage, or stuff you cooked that didn't work the way they should, like dry cake or overdone beef?
Yesterday I saw a show on homemade cosmetics and they recommended strawberry puree mixed with lemon juice and granulated sugar as a facial scrub, so I took the strawberries at the bottom of my carton that were going soft and blended them up to use, so it doesn't even need to be a strictly food use.

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  1. Stale bread> breadcrumbs
    Older mushrooms>duxelle
    Brown bananas>freeze for smoothies
    Overcooked meat>ravioli, depending
    Dry cake>trifle

    7 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      How far gone can mushrooms be and still be rescued?

      1. re: dianne0712

        I have used ones that were pretty dried out (they got lost in the back of the frig in a brown paper bag) but once they get slimy, I toss them.

        1. re: escondido123

          Jacques Pepin has said he likes using "older" mushrooms in a dish because they have more flavor. I've done it too with very tasty results.

          1. re: escondido123

            I've dried surplus mushrooms, then reconstituted them when needed. It's an old way of preserving them. But the slimy ones, yeah, those go into the compost.

          2. re: dianne0712

            They can be very dry and work well, but if slimy, not so much.

            1. re: magiesmom

              I had some older but still fine mushrooms and used them to make a cream sauce for pasta. The flavor was great but since the "gills" had fully developed and were basically black, it turned the sauce an unappealing grey.

          3. re: escondido123

            Also re: bananas, once they start to turn brown, I set aside three and let them go completely black. Those ones are best for banana bread.

          4. I have used old bread in soups as a thickener, in meatballs, and, of course, things like french toast, bread pudding, etc.

            Wilted veggies often become vegetable soup or stock.

            Soft fruit ends up in smoothies.

            Finally, when I realize that something won't get used in time, I tend to start sauteeing and freezing. I over buy on mushrooms regualrly so I'll clean them, chop them, and sautee with onion and olive oil. Frozen, they are a great addition to meals when I'm cooking at the last minute.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wandajune6

              I like that idea! Maybe even in little icecube trays so that I can just throw in a cube.

            2. Herbs go into the food processor with 1/2 yogurt 1/2 mayo a few lumps of garlic, some lemon juice, and some salt. Keep thick for fish sauce, thin with some vinegar or worcherster for a dressing.

              3 Replies
              1. re: chinaplate

                my herbs get whizzed up with some olive oil and frozen in globs -- about a serving size.

                tomatoes get cooked down into confit.

                i don't have much else potential waste.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Is the oil necessary? Could it just be puree?
                  Also, I have tons of rosemary in my garden right now with Fall fast approaching. Rosemary oil perhaps?

                  1. re: dianne0712

                    the oil prevents the herbs from oxidizing and turning black. you wouldn't then use them like a sprinkling of fresh herbs, but in a saute or sauce.

                    woody herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen on the stem.

              2. I've made some delicious soup from red bell peppers that had gone wrinkly and sort of soft.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JonChance

                  What's your recipe? Mine always comes out bland.

                  1. re: dianne0712

                    I always try different ones... just yesterday I made the ceci-roasted red pepper soup from Appetite for Reduction. It came out good but I thickened it with some corn starch because that's what I was in the mood for. Flavor wise it was nice - I do find I always need a little more salt than her recipes usually call for, but that's about it.

                2. Food that's past it gets tossed. I have no interest in eating sub-par food. The key is to buy in the right quantity (as best you can) for what you can use and make sure it's used while it's still prime.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Harters

                    well, yes, but life does not always go as planned and I hate throwing out food.

                    1. re: Harters

                      It's hard to buy two stalks of celery.