Tag Archives: leftover recipes

Dress Up Leftovers

Another (not so funny) thing happened to me on the way to continuing my last series; my husband was hurt. It was not a life-threatening injury, but one that literally knocked him off of his feet for three months. Unlike many men who malinger, I had to basically hold him down so that he could recover. (He does hit the bed when he has the sniffles, however!) Much went neglected, including this blog.

We will revisit with more antipasti and on to more party foods, but since this is Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S.A., I thought I’d start talking about not only using, but improving, on leftovers.

Ham and turkey, and for some, “Tofurkey” and Quorn “roasts”, were what was on the table last Thursday. My family enjoys another plate like the basic one, but let’s face it, too much is too much! And when the leftovers are small, or chunks, or scraps, you just need something different to do with them.

Here is what I made today:

An easy casserole to update your leftovers!

An easy casserole to update your leftovers!

It is made with leftover ham, mashed potatoes and vegetables, but it can be made with any combination of meat or meat substitutes and vegetables, or just vegetables. Substitute whatever you have that might fit and no one thing or measurement is absolute…this cooking, not rocket science. Gluten free, it can be adjusted to be  vegan.
“Leftover Casserole” just doesn’t sound right to me. How about :

Post-Feast Casserole”?
Pre-heat oven to 350F
1 +cup leftover ham, turkey or meat substitute
1 ½ cups mashed (or other) potatoes [Hash browns, (hash brown casserole),cubed and boiled with green beans, etc.]
½ cup sour cream or vegan sour cream [Do you have dip left over? Use onion, spinach or ranch]
1-2 cups leftover cooked vegetables, [I used broccoli and cauliflower. Green beans, (green bean casserole),Brussels sprouts, spinach,(spinach balls),carrots, etc. Increase the amount if you are only using vegetables]
Gravy,or sauce, optional [Did you make cheese sauce or a sauce for your Tofurkey or Quorm roast? Use what you have left]

Mix the potatoes with the sour cream or dip. Place half in the bottom of the casserole or baking dish. Add a layer of each vegetable you chose to use. If you have gravy or sauce, pour in about a 1/2  cup now. Cover with the rest of the potatoes and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

If you cool this completely and wrap well, it will keep in your freezer for at least 3 months. It will be either a nice break now from the regular leftovers, or a quick, warm, comforting meal on a cold night in the coming months.

I have been waiting to post an easy, very easy, upscale dinner salad recipe, but I think I will add it next, using leftovers as an option.

I hope you will continue with me.

Dinner Salads/Meat/Vegan/Pescaterian

Last night Number One Son stopped in and while here, grabbed a fruit and grain bar. I asked him if he was hungry, hoping he wasn’t, as he chooses not to eat pork and what I had ready was breaded boneless loin chops and polenta topped with sauce that contained Italian sausage.{We’ll be discussing Italian sauces in the future.]
But he was hungry. Fortunately, I had just made a salad to which for him I added wagon wheel pasta that was in the refrigerator and Italian-style chicken breasts which I had just removed from the freezer. I had made and frozen them a month or so ago when I hit a big sale on chicken. I have found it easier and much more convenient to freeze cooked food than raw.

Some years ago on an Ash Wednesday I had made shrimp-stuffed, twice-baked potatoes,

. One of the few times I made ‘just enough’ for all of us, but, as luck would have it, my husband invited his boss for dinner on a whim.
He had worked overtime and the boys and I had eaten. Fortunately, he arrived at home before the boss. He suggested that the boss be given his potion but there is no way one can let a guest be that uncomfortable.
I quickly made salad and added pre-made rice I had in the refrigerator , cubed cheese and tiny shrimp I kept on hand in the freezer. The boss was none the wiser and the men ate well.

You’re thinking, “All well and good, but I don’t always have enough (or any) fresh vegetables on hand” and that is a good argument, many people don’t or get caught off-guard. I have been to dinner where the my hostess broke up iceberg lettuce, poured ranch dressing on it and called it salad. I had a friend who had invited me to lunch and then lost her cool when she found that she had no cucumbers,(which I don’t particularly care for, anyway). There are many ways to make a salad and I seldom make any of them the same way twice.

Fresh veggie salad is extremely healthy, if the vegetables are clean and it actually gets eaten. The best way to insure that you actually eat the salad is to have it made with flavors you like. You don’t like cucumbers, tomatoes or radishes? Leave any or all of them out, add what you like, for instance: green peppers, carrots, fresh cauliflower. Non-traditional ‘salad’ vegetables are good, like slivered parsnips, celery, bok choy. There is a very wide variety of fresh vegetables out there, mix and match as you like.

Most salads start with a base of something green and leafy, often lettuces. There’s more than iceberg out there. There is endive and leaf lettuces. There are spinach leaves, kale, mustard and collard greens, (these are strong-flavored). But salads don’t have to be only ‘fresh’ vegetables. I suggest that you try out some styles and flavors, but in a pinch, you can probably come up with a salad if you have any staples on hand.

Hopefully , you have some fresh vegetables in your refrigerator. If you don’t, please do yourself a favor, buy and taste some. Learn what you like; you will not like them all, I sure don’t.

A salad can be made with whatever vegetables you have. With any fresh ones, you can go to your cabinet and add any reasonably firm canned vegetable. For example: cut green , wax or Italian beans, peas, sliced carrots, beets,(shoestring work best), and beans, (garbanzo, canelli ,lima, great northern , black, pinto, kidney; drain and rinse before adding to the salad). Even corn kernels, fresh or canned, will work, but I do like to use canned baby corn on the cob.

I always keep a jar of gardiniera around; these a pickled vegetables, which usually include peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Right now I have a huge jar that is half-full in my refrigerator as my husband loves it in his salad, as I use it when I don’t have a lot of veggies on hand. One company makes a nice canned garden salad but I can’t get it where I now live. Their ‘Three Bean Salad’ is good and makes a nice addition to salads. Roasted peppers are easily found in stores these days to add to salads and also sandwiches; pickled peppers will help in a pinch. Black or green olives are also a common addition I make especially when short on fresh vegetables.

To make a dinner salad, one must make it a complete meal , which mean that you need to add a carbohydrate and make sure there is a protein. Beans and corn will add carbs, plus that is in itself a meatless protein combo. [See Meatless Protein Combinations, July Archives]. You can add cooked pasta,(vegetable pasta is great), couscous, barley, re-hydrated Bulgar wheat, cooked rice, lentils or cubed potatoes, (the last three for gluten-free).

If you have guest and are not sure of their preferences or dietary restrictions, you can make your own ‘salad bar’ with multiple bowls, divided serving dishes or a platter. It is always a good idea as just within our little family, (even between just me and my husband), our tastes are radically different, especially when it comes to veggies.

If you are then inclined, you can add or offer cooked cubed meats, anything from, (as I had last night), chicken breasts precooked in your favorite recipe, (or rotisserie chicken),to leftover roasted meats , to sliced lunch meats,(turkey, ham, salami). You can add crab meat, imitation crab meat or shrimp. You can add nearly any kind of reasonably firm cheese, from Velveta, (I don’t recommend it), Muenster, Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Havarti, whatever suits your taste. I am still working on my trials, but if Tofurkey or seitan is your thing, then toss it in.

[Note: You really don’t have to be caught unaware to make a nice dinner salad; you can actually plan for it!]

Here is a recipe which has been a big hit for me. I served it in my bakery/restaurant and used it for our special boxed lunches. If you really can’t deal with fresh veggies, this one is for you; even non-salad-eaters like this, so it would be good for a Sports buffet.(I hope to start on Super Bowl and March Madness foods next.) If you need something for a pot luck, you can have these things on hand. If you can open a can , a jar and boil water, you can make this.
(The little extra effort in making it a day ahead or the night before and adding another pasta shortly before serving is worth it if you can afford the time, trust me.)
The garbanzos and the pasta make a complete meatless protein.

Vegetable Pasta Salad

one can cut green beans,(preferably ‘kitchen’ or short-cut)
one can wax (yellow) beans
one can sliced beets (pref. shoestring)
one can sliced carrots,(pref. crinkle-cut)
one half-cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), add more if you really like them
1/3 cup thinly sliced onion,(pref. red)
½ cup sliced black olives
one bottle Italian salad dressing,(not ‘creamy’)
2-3 cups cooked, firm pasta, divided in half, (or use two types; *see note below)

Open and drain all canned vegetables. Place in a large bowl and add the onion, olives , half the pasta and the dressing. Toss gently and refrigerate, preferably over night. If the lid is tight, rotate the bowl a few times or toss the salad gently a few times.(Fold with a large spoon or spatula). Add the rest of the pasta up to two hours before serving.

*Note: Please use a strong type of pasta; radiatore, wagon wheels, fiore, penne, shells, or  even elbow macaroni. (.Noodles, bow ties and other flat pastas will break apart after absorbing the dressing and are stirred; do not use these.) Please under-cook the pasta(s) slightly. The term ‘al dente’ is over-used and often misunderstood, but you need to have the pasta firm and separate for several reasons:
The pasta added in the beginning will absorb not only a great deal of moisture from the dressing ,
it will absorb flavor from it and from the vegetables
and it will turn pink from the beets,(as will the garbanzo beans).
The ‘new’ pasta, (which should have been also pre-made and chilled, whether it is the same type as added before or a different style), will not have absorbed the moisture,
flavors or color,
so it will add contrast in color, texture,(it will still be quite firm) ;
it will also add a ‘clean’ taste, since the strong flavors have not been absorbed.

I hope you try this. Enjoy!

You Can Do It…Breakfasts/Potatoes and Leftovers

To continue with the Breakfast theme I started, (and the uses for Parsley Potatoes from the previous posts), I have found that I can turn nearly any leftover into an omelet, scrambled eggs, or casserole, which is helpful when you have guests staying.

The Parsley Potatoes, or any leftover/pre-cooked potatoes, are a good way to diversify breakfasts. Leftover hash browns, Potatoes O’Brien,(recipe below), baked or mashed potatoes are easily cooked in an egg mixture, with or without added meat or cheese and can be made into breakfast.
All it takes is a little pre-planning to have leftovers in the first place.
Use sausage, bacon or ham, or any leftovers in your refrigerator.
Do you have steak or a roast? Ham or pork roast? Chicken? Whatever the form, if you can chop it, you can add it to eggs and if you have potatoes, all well and good. Pot Roast? Stew? Go ahead and add whatever veggies are left over; if there is gravy, add some as well. Believe me, especially if you have males in for breakfast, they will love it.

Want to wow them? Scramble eggs with spaghetti sauce. Go ahead, add potatoes,or serve with toast.

If it seems daunting, (or you can’t stay over the stove stirring), butter or oil a casserole dish, or pie plate and layer the beaten eggs and fillings,(preferably browning the potatoes first).
If you are not adding meat, or the meats are not very flavorful, please add cheese and/or your favorite sauce…hot pepper, soy, Worcestershire, chili, picante’ ; whatever you like. If you know your spices, (I’ll be talking about spices in the future), add some of what you like and bake until the eggs are set.

Want to go vegan? Fry or bake the potatoes with leftover vegetables, vegetable ragut or other leftover, flavorful dish, with added sauces. Zola’s Zucchini or Italian Baked Tomatoes,[October Archives], work well. (Ovo-vegetarians, these also go well with eggs.)

You can use mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes.

If you are truly unused to cooking and entertaining; let’s start with the basics:

Mashed Potatoes

Wash firm potatoes, [I like to use russets]
Peel and cube (approx. 1 inch squares; no larger. Make them as uniform as possible, except for a very few, which should be a bit smaller)
Place in a large pot; f ill with cold water and add at least 1 Tbsp. salt
Boil just until all the larger pieces are soft enough for a fork to easily slip into them; do not overcook.
Drain and immediately add butter or margarine and a little cream or milk,(almond or rice milk can be used).Mash, preferably with a hand-held mixer, until it is completely smooth.
Add more salt if needed.

Potato Pancakes from Mashed Potatoes

For each cup of mashed potatoes , add:

one egg ,(optional)
1 Tbsp flour (all –purpose or rice flour, if you have it)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. sautéed onions, chives, scallions, leeks (or 1 tsp. dried chives)

Drop large spoonfuls onto hot, oiled skillet, flattening with the back of the spoon.
Fry until the bottom is browned. Lower the heat, flip gently and fry slowly until the bottom is browned and the insides are semi-firm.

These are also a good side dish.

Potatoes O’Brien

Wash, peel and slice potatoes very thinly; you can use a mandolin slicer, the large or medium side of a grater a food processor or you can use frozen hash browns from your grocery store.
In a large frying pan, brown the potatoes in oil with ¼ cup of diced onions (or scallions), and 2 Tbsp. diced green pepper for every cup of potato. Add salt and pepper. Fry until the potatoes are crispy on one side. Flip and brown until crispy on the other side.(It does not matter if it breaks apart.) Use as they are, or add to eggs or vegetables.

Any questions?

With a little ingenuity you can be a hit with family and friends…and entertain well on a shoestring.

Have fun; entertain and don’t stress out. You can do it!