sweet potato waffles + thoughts on food waste

cornmeal sweet potato waffles // brooklyn supperFood waste is a serious problem. According to the NRDC, American consumers waste a full 25 percent of the food they buy. This is alarming for several reasons. To start, wasted food also represents a waste of water, land, energy, and financial resources. After being discarded, that wasted food largely ends up in landfills, representing 16 percent of methane output in the US.

So what to do? Consumers can prevent food waste through meal planning and thoughtful shopping. Once home, keeping the refrigerator organized can be a big help. As far as produce goes, Brian and I have found that keeping produce in (reused) clear baggies helps us to keep visual tabs on what we’ve got. Consumers can also prepare smaller meals and freeze leftovers to keep food out of the trash. (Or make crazy good enchiladas with your leftovers.)

In our home, Brian and I strive to not waste food, though it happens from time to time. But you know who seems to delight in wasting food by the bucketful? My kids. One day they’ll eat two eggs and beg for a third. Another day, they barely touch one. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially since kids tend to group up on nutrients, eating a balanced diet week by week, but not necessarily day by day. These ever-changing tastes and nutritional needs can make it very tough to avoid waste in the kitchen. We do what we can by talking with our kids about the resources that go in to getting their food to the table and discussing those around the world who are food insecure.

cornmeal sweet potato waffles // brooklyn supper

Last night, I composted at least a cup of sweet potatoes and another of vibrant, perfectly blanched broccoli. It’s always hard to part with, but after years of on again off again super viruses, I’ve learned the hard way not to prevent food waste by eating the kids’ leftovers. The food is sometimes saved to be offered a second time, but mostly, off to the trash it goes. I try to limit portions, serve vegetables first, and occasionally offer to slather ketchup on whatever it is, but picky, inconsistent eating is just what kids do. Mine anyway, and I’m doing my best to accept it. How do you deal with food waste? I’d really love to hear your tips in the comments and maybe get a conversation started.

cornmeal sweet potato waffles // brooklyn supper

On the other hand, these sweet potato waffles saw not a single bite of waste. Waffles this good are a treasure –– even my two year old can see that. These are airy, yet toothsome, almost like a sweet potato quick bread in waffle form, but lighter and more buttery, with chewy bits of cornmeal throughout. In short, these waffles rule. Consider a promptly made batch another step forward in your road to world domination, or just a really good way to use up extra sweet potato or winter squash puree.

Sweet Potato Waffles (adapted from Bon Appetit)
makes approximately twelve waffles

2 cups sweet potato cubes (1 inch)
4 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Cut your sweet potatoes into one inch cubes and set in a sauce pan. Fill with cold water and a dash of salt, and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender, strain, and set aside. When cool, mash, so that you have about 1 1/4 cups mashed sweet potato.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and separate the eggs.

Preheat your waffle iron, set the oven to 200 degrees F, and slide a baking sheet in it to warm.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, spices, and sea salt.

In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato mash, melted butter, egg yolks, milk, and sugar. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry.

Use a beater (or big time muscles) to beat the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold into the batter, stirring just until everything is nicely combined.

If needed, grease the waffle iron, and then cook waffles according to your waffle iron’s instructions. (Mine make 4 inch waffles, and I found that 1/3 cup batter worked best for these.) Store cooked waffles on the baking sheet in the warm oven.

We served our waffles with a mixed citrus salad and maple syrup –– it was pretty perfect, so you may want to follow suit.

cornmeal sweet potato waffles // brooklyn supper


  1. says

    We minimize food waste TO THE MAX! But I know a lot of other people don’t. For example, I’ve read a few bloggers straight up say “I don’t like leftovers”…uh, what? So it’s garbage? CRAZY! I’m so glad you posted about this today AND! these waffles. They look perfect!

    • says

      Hi Katrina, Three cheers for you! It can be tough to stay on top of things, but I think planning on leftovers is a good approach. Like, we try to make a double portion of a dish so it will make two meals instead of an awkward 3/4 portion leftover. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. says

    Oof I don’t know what super viruses are but they don’t sound good! I also have no experience with children not eating their food/picky eaters butttt when I have a lot of leftover vegetables, I tend to toss everything into soup or a quiche or scrambled eggs or a bowl of noodles. It really kills me that people barely recycle in Houston and I miss the compost my mom runs back home since I can’t compost from my apartment…in the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with using every part of certain vegetables to reduce my food waste–I made kale stem pesto the other day and it wasn’t bad!

    • says

      Hi Erika, Thanks for stopping by and commenting! We didn’t have any crazy sickness or anything, but kids are secretly germ buckets (adorable ones at least). And yum, I love your leftover ideas –– eggs make everything better. In our old apartment we had a balcony, and tried composting out there for a while, but things got gross, fast. Kale stem pesto sounds great! We save ours for broth too.

  3. Jessica says

    I serve things on the table in pots and platters instead of dishing it up on each person’s plate first. That way if my son (age 4) doesn’t want it, he hasn’t put his hands all over it (or coughed on it…). That helps. Also, after throwing away way, way, way too much food, I simply don’t give him food until he asks for it or I offer it and he responds that, yes, he would like some of whatever it is.

    I don’t serve more than a little at a time. His latest favorite food is frozen strawberries, so I’ll only put 3 or 4 in a bowl at a time. If he wants more, I’ll get them, but I’m not going to put 10 in a bowl and let half of them get thawed and forgotten. Yes, it gets annoying when I have to haul my super-pregnant belly back and forth for refills, but better than throwing money out the window!

    For things like scrambled eggs, once I’ve made it, I’ve made it and I won’t be making more. If the 2 eggs aren’t enough for him, he can have fruit, nuts, a glass of milk, a slice of cheese, or something else that’s quick and easy.

    • says

      Hi Jessica,
      I LOVE your ideas! I feel like you’ve articulated some of the tactics I try to use, but since I’ve never sat down and listed them out, things can get wishy washy. Even though it’s so simple, your idea of serving dinner in pots and platters is great. Somehow, I got in the habit of plating my girls’ food before we sat down, and that definitely leads to waste. I really appreciate you taking the time to share all of this great advice!

  4. says

    The colors in these photos are just beautiful! I love the contrast of the blood (cara cara? grapefruit?) oranges against the white plate.
    I think even being aware of waste is so important. A lot of people, unfortunately, would not think twice about it. And composting is great! As long as that compost goes back into the earth along the way.

  5. Amy says

    I love leftovers for a weekday lunch at work. My favorite kind of lunch. Sometimes I choose what to make for dinner based on how easy it is to reheat at work.

  6. says

    With bigger munchkins in the house now, nothing is ever left over. They plow through everything I cook. However, if I leave something in the frig, in the back, it can become scary. Most dairy products can still be baked with way over date (not that I would admit to them that I’ve put such things in their muffins.) Also, eating later at night without snacks beforehand makes them more willing to accept things on their plate. Of course, with littles, you have to balance the tiredness factor. As you mentioned, veggies first is always important, as is limiting sugar so that they taste the naturally occurring sweetness in their food. Of course, as a last resort, (or for children who you are feeding when their mother is far, far, away) bribing with dessert can work wonders to get a little protein into the mouth.

  7. says

    Great post! What a wonderful use of leftover sweet potatoes. I’ve even seen waffles made with leftover mashed potatoes!

    I have yet to have to feed little ones but we do try to minimize waste as much as possible. Here in Nova Scotia, we are lucky to have province wide composting to keep food waste out of landfills. We do try to use up leftovers as well. They make perfect lunches! I also save my vegetable scraps weekly to makes a batch of stock plus freeze anything that seems to be past its prime like spinach since it can then go in a stew or soup. Lately, we find the more we plan, the less we waste. That way we buy exactly what we need from the market without anything going to waste.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  8. says

    I hate food waste but sometimes we just forget things are there. Things like vegetables and fruit, that look a bit limp or have gone by the use by date, unless they have mould we use in soups or sauces etc
    We often cook meat even if it’s past it’s use by date by a day or two. If it smells good we usually eat it.
    The freezer is a good tool to prevent food waste and we often buy met that is about to go off and store in the freezer to reduce shopping costs

  9. says

    What a gorgeous post… the waffles look divine. Thanks for bringing up such an important topic as well. Oh, the guilt I feel when my family wastes food! It’s tough to get the portions just right sometimes, and I find myself saying to the kids… “Please finish what’s on your plate.” But if they say: “I’m full, no thanks.” What to do? I do like Jessica’s idea of serving from pots and platters… and I am the queen of taking leftovers for lunch…

    • Elizabeth says

      Hi Angelina, That’s it! We’re currently renting, but I definitely see a chicken coop in my future. Thanks for dropping by and sharing this fantastic advice. Now, I just have to convince Brian that this is the way to go.

  10. Lauren says

    Internet Confessional: I’m the worst about food waste. Truly. It would seem to follow that if I KNOW I waste food and keep mental, guilty tabs on it, that I wouldn’t in fact be “the worst.” However, it’s the fact that I am fully aware and still choose selfishness and LAZINESS consistently that drives me nuts about myself!

    My husband and I don’t have children yet and work oddball hours – I’m a bookkeeper and funky retail manager, and he’s in titles, cars, and accounts receivables. We make PLENTY of money, and we love giving to our church and responsible city organizations. It thrills us to be in a position to be generous! And I STILL just threw out $9 worth of raw chicken that we set out to thaw, had a last minute change of plans, and then I chose — CHOSE, not forgot, chose — not to cook it the next day because I preferred reading my book.

    And I have to be wheat free and limit other grains, so we always have tons of fresh produce around because I eat so very much of it since I can’t just snack on a piece of toast or a sandwich or normal crackers. We always buy more than we need because I’m so flighty and “free-spirited” (read: selfish) that I want whatever I want, and I don’t want to run out.

    Sigh. Thanks for reading and letting me share. I think I’ll go tell my bestie so she can hold me accountable to how much money and food I cause my family to waste. It’s certainly not the hubby’s fault – he does the grocery shopping and buys things this way because I’ve asked him to.

    Thanks for the thoughtful blog post that poked at a little guilty spot in my heart and made me want to face a part of me that I don’t like. One day, we’ll have kiddos, and leading by example starts before they ever make an appearance.

    • Elizabeth says

      Hi Lauren, I love your thoughts on this. While we’re confessing, I’ve been staring down a busier than usual few weeks, and food I bought or got through the CSA has absolutely been slipping through the cracks. I hate knowing it’s going to waste, and yet I feel powerless to stop it. I think you outline a nice (but gentle) approach going forward –– speaking about intentions with friends and just generally committing to waste less is a great place to start. We’re all in this together, so thanks for sharing your experience here –– I really appreciate it.


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