Food waste. Wasted food.

While unnecessary, it also seems inevitable. Yet, we can always strive to do better. There are many ways to keep food out of the trash can and on the table. One of my favorite ways to waste less is a strategy I call “kitchen creativity.” Creativity is defined as the formation of something new or valuable. Therefore kitchen creativity is the ability to put together an edible dish (and hopefully a tasty one) with ingredients you have on hand.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person or good “cook”, you too can boost your creative capacity. Cultivating kitchen creativity will save you money, protect the environment, and nourish your family. Here is how you can put this strategy into action:

Start simple.

Minimizing food waste can simply look like combining one food with another. For example, I will add wilted spinach into scrambled eggs or incorporate my toddler’s untouched turkey burger into spaghetti sauce.  For most of us, we are never truly out of food before we grocery shop. As you make your grocery list, assess what you have on hand.  Plan upcoming meals with those foods in mind. Here is a concrete example how kitchen creativity could be implemented:

Ingredients: Fresh spinach, cottage cheese, eggs, refried beans, marinara sauce, leftover taco meat.

Meal 1Mexi scramble: Scrambled eggs with spinach over refried beans with taco meat
Meal 2Italian melt: 2 slices whole-wheat bread topped with marinara sauce, cottage cheese and spinach – melted in oven toaster or oven

Start simple. Create a yummy meal. Boost kitchen creativity confidence!

Google it.

Google can help you find recipes that incorporate random ingredients you have on hand. While you might not have all of the ingredients necessary for the recipe, give yourself permission to omit, add, or substitute other foods. The stuffed acorn squash recipe is one I created based on a similar recipe I found online.

Googled items: Acorn squash & spinach

Recipe I found: Spinach and Parmesan Stuffed Acorn Squash

The recipe called for acorn squash, fresh spinach, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and eggs. The following are the modifications I made:

For the breadcrumbs, I used leftover cooked rice. I omitted the egg, subbed crumbled goat cheese for the parmesan cheese, and added roasted nuts for a crunch factor since I did not have crispy breadcrumbs.

I aimed to use similar portions of the ingredients, as well as following the recipe directions. The result was a totally tasty stuffed squash that I will make again – my way! Enjoy this kitchen creativity recipe in your home, and keeping trying on your own creativity hat!

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acorn squash stuffed with spinach and cheese

Spinach & Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash

  • Author: Jennifer McDaniel
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x


  • 1 acorn squash, halved, de-seeded
  • 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • 4 c. fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (any green will do)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. cooked rice (any kind, I had black rice on hand)
  • ¼ c. goat cheese crumbed (any cheese will do)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat all flesh of the acorn squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. On a roasting pan or cookie sheet, place squash in the oven open side up and bake for 35 minutes.
  4. While squash is baking, in a sauté pan, warm 1 T. olive oil. Sauté garlic and spinach. After spinach has wilted, add rice and goat cheese until combined.
  5. Fill the baked squash with spinach filling. Pack the filling into the squash. Feel free to mound the filling over the squash.
  6. Put stuffed squash in the oven and cook an additional 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and enjoy!


For a bit of crunch, toss in any kind of chopped and toasted nut. We loved pine nuts in this recipe.

  • Category: dinner
  • Method: bake
  • Cuisine: american

Keywords: Spinach and goat cheese stuffed acorn squash

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.