By Cookbook Author, Maggie Parkinson*
Last month (well actually two ago) I talked about being frugal with the household budget and referenced that, for me, not wasting food is an important item in that scenario.
In that conversation, I did reference leftovers and that it was a big subject. SO, that’s what this piece is about and I hope to inspire you with some ideas in that arena.
Food is expensive and it used to be that PROTEIN was the big expenditure.
These days, I am finding that my veggies are burning a hole in my wallet, too! I well remember when spuds and other root veggies cost pennies and we all know that ain’t SO anymore!
Because, as I confessed last time, I am frugal and making sure that we (my Sweety,) and I can live on a dramatically reduced income soon when he retires-the question of using up ALL we buy is very important.
For these reasons, I have long practiced a no waste policy and am happy to say I have been blessed with feedback such as: “Your leftovers are better than most folk’s first time arounds!” That isn’t going to win any grammar prizes but I was happy to hear it, of course.
So, let’s go through some ideas on how to use up foods. I confess my emphasis is mostly on proteins-meats, as in fact, if we have leftover veggy dishes I store them carefully and just add them to meals in the days after cooking them.
Here’s a protein list and we will do an intensive study of the first one and some suggestions for the remainder.
Chicken/Turkey, Beef, Pork, Ham, Lamb, Sausage
Before I go any further, I am not going to say anything more than pay homage to the sandwich. We all know that if you have leftover proteins, you can and should take a sammich to work – a great way to use up leftovers and save time, money and it’s even RELATIVELY healthy- well certainly more so than say fried food or pizza. If I do that, I add in a chutney, which takes the humble sammich into high realms in my view. Nuff said on that!
I bet you buy those rotisserie chickens in the big warehouses – actually I know I said that last time on the subject of making stock. And I bet often you eat the breasts from it and wonder what to do with the rest.
So what else? Lots and lots of things! For chicken it’s a really long list and I bet I miss a few things!
Chicken with pasta and Alfredo sauce (Is this Chicken Tetrazzini? I think so!)
Chicken pot pie
Chicken and ham calzones
Chicken sausage patties
Chicken soup using your bones to make the stock
Chicken stuffed Chile Rellenos
Buffalo chicken pizza
Chicken curry (Indian style)
Chinese stir fry
Regular chicken salad and Chinese chicken salad
Chicken stuffed ravioli
Chicken Taco Pacos. This is a concoction I just discovered. It’s pizza dough cooked with leftover chicken, and cheese and beans (and whatever you want to experiment with), baked in muffin tins. I did mine in a jumbo muffin pan, but, for the little guys in your life you can use regular muffin pans. These are crispy and really great with some salsa and sour cream! I certainly dinked with this recipe but here’s where I found the inspiration by accident – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nancy-fuller/chicken-taco-pacos.html
Special Fried Rice
Let’s look at those last four-these are for me the TITANS of leftover cooking.
I can make all of these with leftover anything-well maybe not burritos with HAM, but these concoctions are extremely versatile. Do I think that Thai curry with leftover meat is as good as starting from scratch? NOPE -definitely not, but we are talking about creativity combined with a valuable resource so I’m not being a purist in this case.
I am not going to go into specific recipes too much in this piece because if I did:
- I’d be writing for a month
- You’d not have the time to read it all!
All of my ideas above are notions for which you can easily find recipes with a simple search.
However, if any of my concoctions sound intriguing and you want more detail, just comment on this piece and let me know how to provide the information you want! I am, however, going to go into detail on the big four – because you might enjoy my version of burritos and/or be unfamiliar with Biryani.
This dish is something I make when I want dinner in short order-it’s absurdly simple and fast to make. Not as fast as a plastic dish of supermarket stuff in your microwave – but almost, and infinitely better!
You will need: onion, meat, (even TOFU), THAI curry paste, a can of coconut milk, a little peanut butter, some lime juice, (bottled will do for this- shudder), and some THAI FISH SAUCE.
Thai curry paste: The reason I urge you to try this (and yes it works with fresh meat and certainly SHRIMP-num) is that you will be using the same product as the restaurant kitchens use! That’s why this is as good as OUT! All Asian and many regular supermarkets carry this ingredient. If you live in the boonies, Amazon will deliver it to your door.
It comes in many varieties: Red, Green, Yellow, Panang and Massaman.
The latter two kinds are the ones I use the most-and PANANG is my go-to favorite. I usually use the Massaman when making a Thai peanut sauce or marinade.
So, to make a Thai curry, you simply sauté onions until they are soft, throw in veggies if you like, (green beans, snow peas, mushrooms, sliced carrots, etc.) and then put in ONE tablespoon of curry paste. Stir that well to smooth it out. Then, add a dollop of peanut butter, your leftover meat and the can of coconut milk; sometimes I just take the creamy stuff off the top. Better yet, use coconut CREAM; stir well to integrate everything. (If you have access to a Trader Joe’s store, their coconut cream is divine and you can use half a can – freeze the other half! Frugal!)
Finally, you season with a little lime juice and a tablespoon of fish sauce. Do NOT smell the fish sauce-the flavor is essential, the smell is obnoxious. Do not add salt until your dish is virtually finished as the fish sauce is very salty.
Now, serve hot over rice and sprinkle with desiccated coconut and/or fresh cilantro. Bingo.
I am not claiming that this is totally authentic, but it’s darn good and probably just as good as your local Thai hut?
NOTE 1: I say ONE tablespoon of curry paste because these pastes can be very hot. Use it as prescribed and then add more paste if you want your dish hotter. After a few tries, you will know what suits your palate.
NOTE 2: These pastes come in little plastic bags in the tub shown above. To use the paste, cut one small corner from the bag and measure out what you need; then squeeze the remaining paste back into the bag. Fold the corner of the bag over firmly and then roll the bag up tightly and put it back into the tub. It will keep this way in the cupboard for – well – months and months!
NOTE 3: IF you need to shop for fish sauce, there is an interesting article on the relative merits of Fish Sauce-also known as NAM PLA- (click here)
I acknowledge that in the South, in places like California, Mexican food in restaurants might be great; but not here in the average eatery. The last time I went to one I ordered a Chille Relleno and it was so gross I could not eat it. This from the human food vacuum! We virtually never eat Mexican food out any more. The quality of the items served in most of the places here is frankly awful and certainly not for chubbies like me. So I started making our own dishes and have a formula now for Chorizo that gets rave reviews.
Burritos and Enchilada are favorites with the Pirate and certainly suitable for using up leftovers.
I do use a can of refried beans for these but I season them with various things like chili powder, cumin, garlic, etc. to make them a bit less sludge-like! Then, I put a puddle of those in the center of a flour tortilla and smooth it out.
On top goes:
Chopped raw onions
Chopped bell peppers
Grated pepper jack cheese
Roll these and place them in an oven-suitable casserole and top with more cheese for burritos or a can of sauce, then the cheese if you want to be saucy! In which case we call them Enchiladas. (This reminds me of the first Mexican recipe book I was given. I read it from cover to cover and then said-there are ten ingredients in here all wrapped up in different ways and called many different things…true if you think about it! Tortillas, as in this recipe, are burritos or enchiladas or tacos, or chips, or tostadas, or flautas, etc., etc.)
Bake until the central meat is warmed thoroughly!
There is a restaurant not far from us in a town called BREMERTON which makes a Burrito with everything but the kitchen sink in them and that does include french fries!
Usually pronounced by me as Bi-ree-ahni- and that may not be correct!
This dish is similar to and schizophrenic as a Pilaf or Pilau or even special fried rice, (coming up), and you might be more familiar with those terms. However, strictly a Pilau is made by cooking rice in a broth. To make Biryani we just add a couple of spices to the water or USE LEFTOVER pre-cooked rice. Every time I make this I’m cooking from the seat of my pants so I don’t have an iron-clad formula. But generally speaking, you can take precooked rice, (use basmati always for Indian style dishes-it’s always super fluffy) and proceed as follows:
In a big wok style pan, sauté some sliced onion until golden.
Add a tablespoon of turmeric, a half teaspoon of cumin and coriander and a good pinch (half teaspoon) of curry powder. I like a fat pinch of cardamom and garam masala too! (Garam masala is actually a blend of flavorite (sic) spices including cinnamon, cloves. Many Indian homes make their own traditional versions. It has a very variable formula and you can read up on it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garam_masala)
Stir and fry your rice adding leftover meat, chopped hard-boiled egg, and a little half and half to moisten the mixture. Optional and delicious are nuts-pistachios or cashews typically, fruits like raisins or dates, and when it’s done, you can top with cilantro or desiccated coconut.
Here is one I made with fresh shrimp. In this case, I garnished it with green onions and fresh tomatoes.
Of course, this does have a mild curry flavor and it’s supposed to! This dish might convert your belief that you hate all things dubbed “Indian or curry?”
By the way – you can make this or something very similar with smoked fish and it’s then called KEDGEREE!
And now to the MOTHER of all leftover recipes…
SPECIAL FRIED RICE!
Oh my – how do they dare to call that Special – in most places its rice and peas!
Now, before I go into a real SPECIAL version I’m going to introduce an ingredient that you might not have used before-I think you should! A long time ago I ate in a THAI restaurant and they also make a fried rice-it was delicious and I kept coming across a delicious chunk of something I did not recognize- so I asked about it. It was CHINESE Sausage! You can read all about Chinese Sausage here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_sausage
There are many different varieties of this sausage which does have a sweetener in it and that’s partly why it is so tasty! Some have a white package. If you Google KAM YEN JAN you will see many of them.
I store these like a squirrel in my refrigerator-vacuum sealed they keep for many weeks. I use a few and then put them back, sealed up, until next time.
To use these, cut into half inch slices and render the fat out of them in a fry pan.
Here’s a photo of the one I made today for the Pirate’s work lunch – well, first the Mis en Place for it!
Mis en place-Put things in place-or my version—-get everything ready before you start cooking, otherwise you will plaster your fridge and cupboards with sticky finger marks and food crud!
I made this with about 1.5 cups of leftover rice from a Chinese dinner AND bits of leftover turkey AND bits of leftover pork AND a two slices of pastrami-it all works. All of these treasures were vacuum sealed in my fridge. At the top of my assembly are the rendered pieces from three Chinese sausages. I took two eggs, added a ¼ teaspoon of sesame oil to them ready to scramble them which I did first. Finally, there is about a half cup of good old frozen mixed veggies and a small amount of brown liquid. For today’s version, that happens to be half SOY SAUCE and half YOSHIDA’S GOURMET sauce which they sell always at Costco! Otherwise, your favorite Teriyaki works! Sometimes I use all Yoshida’s to moisten and darken the rice.
After you’ve precooked the rice and eggs, you just bang this all into your pan and get it all hot. How simple is that? I like cilantro with mine. I ADMIT that this one is a bit meat heavy/rice-light but I’m not eating a lot of carbs. You can adjust your own effort to be much heavier on rice. This dish extends to feed a crowd!
Doesn’t this look better than rice ‘n’ peas? Trust me on this!
Now let’s talk briefly about other proteins. The other big one is of course:
Many of the titles that I called out above work just as well for beef as for chicken. But for beef I would add:
HASH! LOVE HASH for breakfast with an egg on top!
Shepherd’s Pie: good to use up leftover mashed potatoes too!
Cornish pasties: (like a calzone with beef or lamb, leftover gravy, and cooked potatoes, turnips or rutabagas)
Steak in Stilton Sauce – the recipe for this is buried at the bottom of this page (click here)
Rissoles-Minced leftover beef with added binders like crumbs and an egg, moulded into patties and shallow-fried.
I don’t think pork is quite as versatile as chicken and beef, but my favorite things to do with leftover pork are:
Stir fry it with an Asian (Chinese) sauce,
Make Thai curry
Make great dumpling fillings in wonton wrappers!
Add good broth and green chilies for a Chile Verde
There are a ton of folks who think differently and have placed intriguing pork leftover ideas on Pinterest and I must broaden my horizons on this one! (https://www.pinterest.com/explore/leftover-pork-roast/ target=”_blank”>click here)
Add it to mac and cheese
Put it in a frittata or quiche
Make scalloped potatoes with ham
Put it in omelets
Put it into a dip with sour cream, and cheese and seasonings for a warm dip
Whizz it up finely and stuff big mushrooms with breadcrumbs, egg and sage
Use it with pasta a la CARBONARA
Add leftover pork and pickled veggies for a BAHN MI sandwich-I lied!
Add to ground pork or turkey and make hammy sausage
Roll it up with dates and goat cheese and eat as appetizers
Lamb is great in Biryani or any other curry sauce
Well, you’re not eating lamb much anyway so I’ll say more! But I do have a fun dish called Cardinal Lamb loaf if anybody is interested!
Leftover cheeses – Fromage fort!
Just the other day I had leftover mashed (sweet) potatoes. I cooked up some butternut squash and added those after mashing them. THEN I made some super gnocchi for supper!
Bread – Make croutons for your salad or breadcrumbs and put them in the freezer until you need them for breading or meatloaf or or or!
Well, I do hope that this piece gives you some inspiration… but in any case…
Thanks for reading!
* About the author:
Maggie Parkinson is the author of the low-carb cookbook: Carb-Less in Seattle. We did an interview with her in 2013 (click here). Since then, she has moved from Renton to Poulsbo, Washington where she and her husband (The Pirate) built a beautiful home with gardens and an orchard.
She has given us several fabulous (original!) recipes including Pizza, Saag Panir, Pear & Fig Bread, Fromage Fort, Easy Bechamel Sauce. and Macaroni & Cheese. Her latest contribution was a guide for Stretching the Waistband of Your Food Budget. Her expertise as a cook makes her tips invaluable to us and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.