At my house, I seldom know exactly how many I am feeding (can be anywhere from 2 to 6). Usually I have a rough idea, but erring on the side of planning for more is usually prudent. Then there are those recipes which are difficult to cut down. The end result means leftovers. The nice thing about leftovers is a meal made with them is “easy” (and we like easy, right?). This does not mean having to repeat a meal either as there are so many ways to vary them.
Leftover Tip #1: Be Creative
- Leftover boneless poultry can be save for recipes which call for cooked chicken or turkey (just freeze it).
- You can freeze most things for use at a later time. Many can be combined (such as two different recipes for Sloppy Joes) or served as a small buffet (when there are only one or two servings left).
- Leftover spareribs, bone in chicken and/or Cornish hens can be combined together in a shallow casserole with barbecue sauce poured over them (the rum barbecue sauce from the past blog An Assortment of This and That works wonderfully-quick, easy, & tasty). It doesn’t matter what the meat or poultry’s original flavor was. Heat in a 3750 oven for 30 minutes, basting once. Use the sauce on the side for dipping or just pour it over the meat.
- Remember in blog #1 TPC Comfort Cookin, I said I make menus? Well, I made a special page containing side dish suggestions of vegetables, potatoes, and salads which can be added to a leftover entrée.
- Leftover casseroles, potatoes, and bone in chicken I prefer to reheat in the oven. They tend to taste better than reheating in the microwave. I lightly grease a casserole and either use a lid or aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out. You can add a little moisture before sealing if need be (such as broth, juice, wine, sherry, or even plain water). Heat for 20-30 minutes at 3500-3750.
- Left over meats or poultry meat can be used in main dish salads or sandwiches, either reheated or cold.
- I love meatloaf sandwiches so I don’t use that, however other ground beef (such as patties, meatballs, or Sloppy Joes) can be broken up (or diced) and used to fix Taco Salad, Tacos, or Tostadas; just add taco seasoning and moisture as needed.
- Reheating something “crispy” such as chicken or pork chops? Line a large shallow pan (such as a jelly roll pan) with aluminum foil. Place a cookie rack over it. Spray rack with cooking oil spray. Place poultry or meat on the rack. If dry drizzle with a little butter. Heat at 4000 15-20 minutes (until heated through).
- Small amounts of meat, poultry, and/or vegetables, dice and add to cooked rice mix heating just until they are warmed as well.
Leftover Tip #2: Be Focused
I was reminded a couple of months ago of the need to focus on what you are doing. I am sure you recall how with some medications (or procedures) you are cautioned not to drive, use heavy machinery, make important decisions or care for children when these are in effect until you know how they affect you. You need to use caution with pain also as it can be a major distraction. Unless you concentrate on not being distracted a major or minor accident or injury can occur. Let me tell you what reminded me of this important axiom; I was peeling potatoes with a new potato peeler. Instead of concentrating on what I was doing (after 48 years peeling potatoes is close to mindless for me), I remember thinking about my head hurting, how nice this new peeler was doing (the old one must have been much duller than I realized), and if should I wake my 3 year old up who had fallen asleep on the chair in the living room and she’d never go to sleep that night if I didn’t. All of a sudden I had taken a huge chunk out of my index finger (about the size of a pea). There was lots of blood, lots of pain, and a long healing phase of over 6 weeks (being painful the whole time). I am left with a reminder—a keloid (scar tissue) which remains tender as if to remind me to practice what I preach. Believe me I am focusing now. There are so many ways to hurt yourself (or someone else) while cooking you need to remember FOCUS. If you can’t do that, if the pain is too bad or there are too many problems someone else needs to fix the meal or take-out food needs to be obtained.
Leftover Tip #3: Be Inventive
This is one I love and it is useful for anyone. Save your cereal insert bags. These are sturdy and perfect for using when you need to shake something in crumbs or flour. They can be tossed afterwards. I use most any bag except the one from my Chocolate Factory cereal (it does retain a chocolate smell).
Leftover Tip #4: Be Clever
More on convenience foods:
- Rice Mixes: I think of these as convenience foods. We aren’t big rice eaters, however these are really more convenient to use when doing rice beyond basic.
- Minute Rice or precooked rice (in bags): Also convenient when time is an issue or rice is not often used especially the more exotic.
- Instant mashed potatoes: I use these primarily for different bread recipes. As for actually eating, I think they are convenient at times IF you like the taste (my husband does, I don’t).
- Canned chilie peppers: Oh, definitely convenient; peeling, dicing, or mincing these especially the hot ones is time consuming at the very least. Any food you have to wear gloves to work with raw makes me very nervous.
- Canned broth (chicken or beef): Very convenient; when we are talking about “easy” it doesn’t include making broth from scratch.
- Bouillon and Meat Base: I never use bouillon as it lacks any taste. I do use frequently meat bases (one common one is “Better than Bouillon”) for broths, adding to potatoes while cooking, and when bouillon or broths are called for. Individual taste is also important-I love the chicken and beef-don’t care for the vegetable or seafood bases-choose whatever works for you.
I am sure others may have more tips; so please share.
[toggle title=”Ravioli, Tomatoes, and Zucchini”]
I wanted to share this recipe with you as it is almost end of zucchini season and it is not only so easy but also so good. My six year old says she loves it! It is adapted for a recipe in Pillsbury’s Easy Vegetable Meals (1998)
1 9 oz pkg refrigerated spinach & cheese (or just cheese) filed ravioli.
1 Tbsp. butter
2 small zucchini cut in 2 inch strips
1 small onion cut in wedges
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, & garlic, undrained
2 Tbsp. sliced ripe olives
Shredded or grated fresh parmesan
Cook ravioli as directed. Keep warm.
Melt butter in skillet over med-hot temp. Add zucchini and onion and saute 3-4 min (until vegetables are tender crisp). Add tomatoes and olives: cook and stir 2-3 minutes until warm through. Add cooked ravioli and stir gently; heat 1-2 minutes longer.
Sprinkle each serving generously with parmesan cheese.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Baked Potato Sticks”]
The first time I served these to my granddaughters they were ecstatic. This recipe is adapted from one in Farm Journal’s Americas Best Vegetables (1970).
2 lbs. russet potatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp. instant onion
½ tsp. ground pepper
¾ cup dairy half and half or fat free half and half by Land of Lakes (others don’t work as well).
3 Tbsp. butter
½ cup shredded Mexican mix or cheddar cheese
Peel potatoes and cut in strips like you were making French fries. Placed in greased 2 qt. casserole. Sprinkle with parsley, onion, salt, and pepper. Pour half and half over and dot with butter. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and bake at 4000 40-50 minutes (until tender) watch so it doesn’t burn.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Corn with Sour Cream and Bacon”]
I have made this for over 40 years and it remains my husband’s absolute favorite vegetable dish (and yes I know corn can be considered a cereal or fruit yet most commonly it is treated as a veggie). My original is a very yellowed and stained clip from some newspaper and I have adapted it quite a bit so it’s origin? Just know it is yummy and easy.
6-8 slices of bacon cut into pieces
¼ Cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup sour cream (I use the light)
2 cans corn (11 oz. vacuum packed cans)
Sauté bacon in 10” pan until crisp; remove with slotted spoon and let drain on paper towel. Drain all but 2 Tbsp. of bacon grease and sauté onion for 1-2 minutes; stir in flour, salt and sugar. Stir in sour cream and when slightly thickened add corn. Cook until warm (do not let boil). Serves 6.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Magic Cookie Bars”]
These have been around forever so I would be surprised if you haven’t heard of them. I have them (and variations) in a lot of my cookbooks. Every time I bring them to a function people rave about them and they are always a hit at home. They are so-o-o-o easy.
½ cup of butter
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (not evaporated)
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (I prefer walnuts)
Preheat oven to 3500 (3250 for glass dish). In 13” x 9” pan melt butter in oven. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over butter; pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients; press down firmly. Bake 25-30 minutes until browned. Cool. Cut into bars. Store covered loosely at room temperature.
Substitute chocolate covered raisins or cranberries for chocolate chips.
Substitute chocolate covered peanuts for chips and nuts. [/toggle]