Friday, September 21, 2012

Little Bit of Leftovers - part 1

Cooking for two can be a little challenging, but it helps if you are willing to ear leftovers.  Which we are.  Sometimes, we can eat leftovers for a few days before I need to cook again, though my husband draws the line at eating spaghetti more than twice a week.

Some of the things I've learned along the way of cooking (and dealing with a slightly stubborn spouse) is that giving leftovers a facelift, or makeover, keeps the meals interesting and keeps me from eating spaghetti for 5 days straight.

For those that are looking for some new inspiration to keep the leftovers moving or just for quick throw-together meals for busy weeknights, here are some of my tried and true ways to move leftovers out of the fridge without throwing away food.

Leftover veggies and fruits:
If you have half an onion, part of a pepper, some garlic, mushrooms, some leftover celery, carrots, or tomato, here are some tips to use it up.

1.  Homemade stock.  Using a standard mirepoix (the holy French trinity of celery, carrots, and onion) and some aromatics like garlic, herbs, and even peppers - you can have an amazing stock that can do wonders.  Stock can be used:
In soups and chowders (cream of broth/stock based)
As a base for gravy
To roast meat in (gives roasted chicken and pork tons of flavor)
Replaces water when cooking rice
As a flavor base for sauces
Works well when making homemade dressing or stuffing

2.  Salsa.  Salsa is a great way to make small bits of vegetables disappear and can even be used with fruit.  When making a fruit salsa, simply replace the tomato portion with mango, peach, pineapple, apple, or even some varieties of melon (cantaloupe works well).  Adjust your seasoning (use slightly less onion and pepper for fruit based salsas) accordingly.

3.  Pies, Crisp, and Cobbler. If you have some fruit that you need to use up and have a fair amount of it, making it into pie filling or cobbler is a great way to go.  If you want to make pie filling ahead of time, for apple and other fruit based pies, simply cut up the fruit into bite sized pieces, toss with flour and sugar (1/4 C. each 2-3 C. chopped fruit).  Toss to coat the fruit well and freeze.  Thaw and pour into pie crust when ready to bake.  If you have complimentary fruits, it's best to freeze separately or you can make a cobbler or crisp, depending on the topping your prefer.

4.  Taco night!  Everybody loves Mexican food and when you brown ground beef, chicken, or turkey, it's so easy to sneak in some extra veggies.  I usually chop up half a medium onion, half a pepper, and a few cloves of garlic for every pound of ground turkey I cook up.  With a couple of hearty seasonings like oregano, chili powder, cumin, and a pinch of red pepper (if you like) you've got some excellent filling for tacos without buying those little overpriced seasoning packets at the store.

5.  Shepherds pie.  Another easy way to fold veggies into a quick meal, this British classic has seen quite a few modern updates and can easily use small amount of peas, carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes while making an easy dish to feed your family or a hearty dish for two.

6.  Soups, chili, stews, and sauce.  Soups and veggies go so well together, it's a match made in heaven.  Got some leftover meat bones?  Make it into a stew!  Pasta sauce is a favorite place for me to hide pieces of vegetable before they get overripe.  I love doing an arribiata sauce with some peppers and lots of garlic, adding in a little leftover wine and serving over gnocchi or pasta.  Chili can be a great place to use leftover peppers, tomato, beans, and small scraps of meat (if you're a meat eater).

7.  Smoothie time!  Leftover berries, overripe bananas, and many other fruits can combine with a little calcium from yogurt and a splash of milk to give a great breakfast on the go or a delish treat for after work or school or a healthier alternative to a rich dessert.

8.  Omelets and frittatas.  I love using leftover veggies, especially mushrooms in a heart omelet.  A couple of eggs, some salt and pepper, a little cheese and I'm in heaven! 

9.   Breads and muffins.  A nice way to use herbs and fruits, making homemade muffins is a great touch to any meal - breakfast, a hearty brunch, or to a rich dinner.  Make an herbed bread or an herbed butter to pair with a classic bread, use some leftover veggies like tomato and onion to top a foccacia, fold some berries into muffins, chop some apples and toss with cinnamon and add to the batter of sweet muffins, or fold bananas into banana bread.

10.  Cakes, bars, and fillings.  Make a classic pound cake and top with mascerated strawberries, fold some juice from a few limes into a pie filling, or cook down some berries to make a smooth filling to a layered cake.  Use orange zest in a batch of dark chocolate brownies or fold some raspberries
into the batter for some bars.  There are endless opportunities to use what you have on hand - never miss a moment to use some goodies in new ways.  Your taste buds will thank you for it.

Next week, I'll have some ideas ready for using leftover meats and cheeses!

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