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Tiffani Thiessen’s ‘Here We Go Again’ Cookbook Helps Stretch Your Budget and Avoid Food Waste

Creative recipes turn leftovers into delicious second acts


spinner image tiffani thiessen wearing jeans and white and red striped shirt; hands in pockets; blue background with illustrations of dishes on it
Photo Collage: MOA; (Source: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Diamond Crystal Salt)

Nearly 40 percent of all food in America is wasted, according to national nonprofit Feeding America. That shocking statistic is part of what prompted cookbook author, actress and television host Tiffani Thiessen, 49, to get creative. Instead of recipes that require obscure ingredients that can only be used for one specialized dish, Thiessen created a resource that helps readers make use of leftovers and ingredients they probably already have in their pantries and refrigerators. The result is Here We Go Again: Recipes & Inspiration to Level Up Your Leftovers, a collection of 85 recipes designed to repurpose ingredients into brand-new family-favorite meals. The former Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210 star and current host of MTV’s Deliciousness finds smart ways to use pretzel crumbs, nearly forgotten veggies, yesterday’s rice and more. AARP chatted with Thiessen, who shared whom she would invite to a celebrity dinner party, her favorite food storage tip and how she plans to celebrate turning 50.

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What inspired you to write a book about creative ways to use leftover meals?

It's actually a couple of reasons. At the beginning of the pandemic, I think we were all sort of apprehensive about going to the grocery store as often, so I was kind of forced to push ingredients and groceries a little longer than usual. It got me thinking that this is how my mom used to cook. She really is the queen of leftovers, not because of a pandemic or being frightened to go to the grocery store, but really because of budget. I didn't grow up with a ton of money, so my mom tried to be creative with constantly repurposing ingredients or recipes that she had made earlier in the week. It got me thinking about food waste, which is something that I really try to instill in my children — the importance of not wasting food. I thought, I've never seen a cookbook like this before. So that's how the idea kind of came about.

How do you want people to feel when they cook through this book?

I wanted them to have a little bit of nostalgia. For me, it was like a little love letter to my childhood, growing up in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I wanted the book to feel that way with the colors, the props and the style of photography. But it’s also modernized, so it's not a full vintage book. I wanted to have elements of it that people could think, Oh, my grandmother had that bowl, or My mom used the same sort of Pyrex. I think it's almost like music — it can evoke so many feelings and memories, and the food is very comforting.

What are some of the favorite dishes that are in your family's meal rotation?

Now that it’s getting a little colder, the Sausage, Beans and Greens [recipe] is a favorite. It's very nostalgic for me, and my kids love it as well. There's always a pizza night, generally once a week or once every two weeks. That's super popular. We also do some sort of Mexican or Spanish night per week, whether it's enchiladas, tacos, taco bowls or even burritos. I try to cook at least four times a week.

For some, getting creative with ingredients they have on hand can be intimidating. Any tips?

Nowadays, I feel like it's even easier to be able to kind of dip in, because we have so many areas where you can get inspiration. Back in the day, it was just cookbooks and maybe the newspaper would have their weekly Sunday recipe. That's what I remember growing up. But now, [beyond] a plethora of cookbooks, you can go online where people have blogs and websites and Instagram. I get inspiration from all sorts of different platforms where I'm able to see food, which I love.

If you had to eat one ingredient again and again, what would it be?

That’s so hard! I mean, cheese is one of those things that can make anything good, right? Little bits of cheese, big wedges of cheese … I’d choose that ingredient. It is one of those things that you can do so many other things with.

Can you share a top tip for storing food?

I generally store everything in glass. I like seeing my food. Tupperware has these great little [silicone bags] that are kind of fun and come in different colors. But it's usually glass for washed and prepped vegetables and fruit. It's almost like your closet: If you can see it, then you'll wear it. If you can see it in your fridge, you'll eat it or use it. It's the same sort of philosophy.

When did you catch your passion for cooking? And how did your on-air hosting career begin?

[Cooking has] always been a love. I grew up with all the women in my family cooking together, so it was always something I enjoyed. As I got older, I got to travel a lot, falling in love with different cuisines and cultures. [This cooking career was] a whim of an idea when I was shooting in New York City, and I used to go to Chelsea Market all the time. I saw that Food Network and the Cooking Channel were [filming] there. I called my manager and I was like, “Do you think they'd ever take a meeting with someone like me? I have an idea for a show.” That's sort of how [the show Dinner at Tiffani’s] happened.

Do you always have a plan, or is cooking for you a little like improv acting where you look at your pantry and fridge and think, What can I do with what I have?

spinner image cover of here we go again cookbook with tiffani thiessen eating pizza in front of open fridge
Worthy Books

Cook With Tiffani

Thiessen shared three recipes from Here We Go Again for AARP members to try:

Cheese Board Pinwheels

Cheese board leftovers lend themselves perfectly to this salty, cheesy appetizer using store-bought puff pastries.

Pot Roast & Potato Pizza

Pizza is the perfect canvas for reinventing leftovers. With this recipe, we’re putting your pot roast to work again.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies

These decadent treats combine candy canes and hot cocoa into one chewy, chocolate-y cookie.

It’s a little more [improv] these days because I am trying to be really cautious about using what I have. I actually find it to be kind of a fun challenge, you know? So I look and see what I have in the fridge or freezer. But then there are days when I know we're gonna have some friends over. Those types of days are planned because it's, you know, a specific sort of night or event.

Do you ever host your former costars? What is it like to host a star-studded dinner party?

I don't know if we call it star-studded — they're longtime friends. I love having old costars over if we get the chance. To be honest, finding a schedule that works is probably the hardest [part of getting together]. With most of my old costars being parents and working [and] traveling … it's not as common as I probably would like. Having people over is one of my most favorite things.

If you could host a dinner party for past or current celebrities, who would make the list?

Princess Diana would definitely be one, if we could include nonliving celebrities. I would probably go with Snoop Dogg. It would be fun to have him there because, of course, he's a riot and loves food and could appreciate it. We’d have to bring his “girlfriend,” Martha Stewart. One more, right? Let's go with Betty White. I think that would be a good combo.

We recently spoke with your Saved by the Bell costar Mario Lopez in honor of his 50th birthday. You’ll celebrate 50 in January. Do you have anything planned for that milestone?

I have nothing planned yet, but I really need to get on it. … My birthday is right after all the holidays, so people are usually tapped out. I’ve got to figure it out because it is a big one, and I don't want to not give myself some sort of celebration. Turning 50 is a big milestone! [The celebration is] definitely going to be food-driven, I'm sure, either in a region that I want to be in or just surrounded by people that I love.

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