Ah, the bane of every mother’s life: leftovers. Or as the First Reader calls them, Leftinders. As in, left in ‘der refrigerator. Left in there until they become interesting fungal experiments, or grow little legs like the Luggage and scuttle away when the light comes on.
This doesn’t have to be the way it always happens. If you do what I once did, Once a Month Cooking, you know that cooking in bulk and freezing portions can be a lifesaver in a busy mommy’s day. The slow cooker is another book, and when you have 7 quarts of space in that baby, might as well fill it up. But when the kids object to eating it again, you know it’s time to repurpose that meal, and recycle it into something else. Sometimes, that might be the compost pile. I hate to waste food. I’ve eaten the same thing running three days because the kids wouldn’t eat it and I refused to toss it out. (Kids, I love you. Now you know why I always insisted you ate what was in front of you)
Freezing and saving for later is a good option. Once they haven’t seen it for a week or a month, they are much more likely to fall on it with approving noises. But it’s always possible to just make it into something else: dress them up, and let them strut their stuff in a new outfit. Leftover rice can become fried rice, or congee. Leftover pasta can go (if not overcooked the first time) into a casserole. Leftover pot roast, into a stew. My rule of thumb is that I won’t freeze potatoes that are not mashed/pureed. They go all gummy and nasty. Don’t try to freeze pasta. I’ve never been able to make that work. If I’m planning on freezing beef stew, for instance, I will use barley in it rather than potatoes for a starch, if I don’t leave them out all together.
If you take a leftover roast – chicken, pork, beef, or what-have-you – you can make a really nice stew up out of it with little effort. This works beautifully in a slow cooker.
I usually add more carrots, onions, and mushrooms to the leftovers. You could add potato, turnip, celery, shredded kale… anything that will take a long, slow cooking. I always keep cans of beef consomme and french onion soup (doesn’t have to be name-brand, that just happens to have been on sale!) in the pantry. A can of that, plus one of water, adds a lot of flavor. I will also add a bit of spices, thyme and garlic, usually, but whatever I’m in the mood for, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind that pepper amplifies in flavor the longer it sits. What tasted fine last night might suddenly pack a peppery punch, so do taste as you prepare this.
If you want ‘gravy’ you can make a roux or throw in some cornstarch (temper it into the broth, then pour into the stew). I’ve thickened it with instant potato flakes before.
You could serve this with biscuits, we like cornbread, or even bread if you’re baking that day 🙂
For an even simpler illustration, I give you fried rice, Lebanese style. I didn’t cook the original meal, we’d gone to our favorite Middle-eastern restaurant and gotten dinner for two. It would have fed four, generously. So I brought home the go-box of leftovers, stashed it in the fridge, and the next evening, I made fried rice. For asian-style, I heat the wok, put in oil, ginger, garlic, and then soy sauce and rice-wine vinegar to moisten the rice. For this, I went with some sweet chili sauce, a splash of worcestershire, and sauteéd up a chopped onion and chopped garlic before tossing the rice in. I’d cubed the leftover meat and put that in, just before the rice.
Stir-fry in hot wok for a few minutes, then serve. I served this with tzatziki sauce. This would work for the medjara rice recipe I put up on the ETWYRT post for Kate Paulk this week, if you make too much of it. Yummy!
So what do you do with your leftovers to make them attractive again?