The New Normal—Reflections and Stories from the EAT Family—Don’t Waste the Taste by Cinda Chavich

As the world shifts and changes below our feet right now, EAT thought it might be a good time to check in with our family of contributors, supporters, and friends to see how they are dealing with daily life in this new reality. 

The world’s population is cocooning, and Mother Nature is one of the few to see the benefits—like many places worldwide having blue skies again with the reduction in air pollution (something younger people who live there may never have seen). Or that after 10 years of zoo keepers unsuccessful attempts to make it happen, the zoo became quiet with no people gawking, and the pandas are mating.

This is a temporary stage in the world timeline, we realize, but one few of us will forget. Read on for the second story in our series.


Don’t Waste the Taste

by Cinda Chavich

Keeping with my typical plan ahead and be prepared personality — begat by a hope-for-the-best-but-expect-the-worst prairie upbringing — this kind of a crisis sends me into a spiral of both work and worry.

There’s no real end in sight to the economic woes faced by so many out of work individuals and shuttered small businesses, and that is a big concern. With so many local publications on hold, my job as a freelance writer is on hold, too.

So I’m definitely following my own advice from my Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook — making sure that absolutely no food goes to waste, while we stay home and cook from scratch with what’s at hand.

I’m letting the ingredients I have in the freezer and pantry guide my menus.

There’s an unique freedom that comes with creating your daily dinner this way, a challenge that’s fun and rewarding, too. I call it “cooking backwards”.

Last week, I dusted off a classic Polish sauerkraut soup recipe, inspired by a package of smoky sausages in the freezer and a big jar of pickled red cabbage that was in the cupboard.

A chicken and vegetable curry, served over basmati rice, started with the Thai red curry paste and coconut milk I dug out of the pantry.

And we used the squidgy spinach and grated heels of cheese, along with the coveted bits of slightly stale Fol Epi baguette with a can of sockeye salmon for a savoury bread pudding, a recipe that’s long been a family favourite.

In this strange crisis that keeps us all apart, it’s hard to find solace in sharing meals, but at least I can share recipe ideas and inspiration.

I’m returning to lots of my old recipes from my own books — including The Girl Can’t Cook, The Guy Can’t Cook, and The 250 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes — because I know they’re all well tested and fail-proof, and I’m not willing to take any chances with our precious food stores. But we’re eating well, maybe better than ever. We’ve enjoyed everything from Lamb and Fig Tagine with Israeli Couscous to Breakfast Bearclaw Cookies to Wild Mushroom and Italian Sausage Lasagna.

We don’t know how long this crisis will last and how our small city will fare. Still, I’m hoping that the new normal will include a renewed appreciation and support for our health care system and social safety nets, and a shift toward local food production and supply chains.

It’s a good time to learn something new and a great time to make healthy home cooking a priority.

Don’t worry if you don’t have every ingredient. Just start with a “mother recipe” — a stirfry or frittata, risotto or soup — and improvise.

Stay home, stay safe and eat well.




Serves 4

Bread is the most wasted food of all — but you can freeze it to use for French toast, Caesar Salad croutons and bread puddings. We often think of bread pudding as a sweet dessert, but you can use a similar technique for this savoury dish.

This is classic comfort food and a mother recipe that works with all kinds of leftovers. As long as you have bread, cheese, eggs and milk, feel free to use any cooked vegetables, meats or fish that you have on hand. Try chicken or tuna with roasted peppers and artichokes or sundried tomatoes, basil and black olives. Or go sweet with added sugar or maple syrup and fruit. Make your bread pudding the night before and bake it for brunch, or whip it together after work for a fast family dinner with a salad on the side.

From The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook by Cinda Chavich (Touchwood Editions).


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped or thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups 2-inch bread cubes (slightly stale French bread is the best)

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

3 cups chopped fresh spinach, kale or chard (mince the stems and use, too)

2 cups grated cheese (Gruyere, Gouda, Fontina, etc.), divided

1/2 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 regular can (220 ml) sockeye salmon, drained


Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat and slowly cook the onions until they are soft and caramelized. This will take 20-30 minutes. Add the garlic halfway through cooking.


In a large bowl, toss the caramelized onions with the bread cubes, dill and spinach. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese.


Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture evenly over the bread cubes and stir until most of the egg mixture has been soaked up by the bread.


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a deep, eight-inch round or oval casserole dish that has been lightly rubbed with olive oil, layer half of the bread mixture. Break the salmon into chunks and spread evenly on top, then finish with the remaining bread cubes. Press down lightly so that most of the bread is soaked with the custard. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese.

Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes, until the pudding is golden brown and crisp on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving.



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