Friday, November 10, 2006

Second-Chance Foods and a Plea for Ideas

Election night. The easy but lovely soup. I even told a friend I'd drop some by for her. Then I ended up needing to stay late at work and work more when I got home. I didn't feel like eating or cooking -- even cooking the minimal-effort meal I'd planned. So Phil got out some soy sauce, olive oil, vinegar, and Chinese five-pepper spice and stir-fried up some leftover chicken breast, broccoli, and cauliflower. He heated up some leftover couscous to put under our stir-fry. It was wonderful; he's quite the master with the spices. I'm still planning to make the soup, but I can't imagine it's going to be better than that makeshift, fridge-cleaning meal.

Meanwhile, yesterday I was in our east coast office for a one-day trip, and I got this e-mail on my Blackberry from Amy, which made me sorry I had an airport meal in my future:

"Last Monday I made turkey stock for gravy for the upcoming holiday. Anytime I see turkey parts in the market I've learned to buy them because when I actually get around to wanting to make stock, I can't find a cut up turkey anywhere in a 5-miles radius. So I made the stock using wings and legs, which of course are so super meaty because turkeys are so freakin' big, that the idea of giving the cooked turkey parts to the dog or, heaven forbid, tossing them out of sheer laziness after is kind of unthinkable. So, i just make the filling for turkey pot pie for dinner tonight using what i had in the fridge - 1 leek, the rest of a bunch of carrots, some celery, thyme I've been drying from the garden, the rest of a head of broccoli I bought at the farmer's market last weekend, salt and pepper. Tossed the cut-up turkey in flour, added it to the cooked vegetables and poured in a can of vegetable broth. This is tonight's dinner. "

This was so resourceful. I know how well Amy cooks, so I know that the pot-pie was delicious. And it used things she had on hand that would probably have been chucked in a couple days when pulled, limp and fuzzy, from the back of the fridge -- at least, it would have if it were my fridge.

So between the delicious stir-fry and the airport coveting of Amy and Dan's dinner, I started thinking of some other ways I have used leftovers and need to remember to use them. Please, chime in with some other ideas; I'm just learning all of this, and I know there are a million tricks I've not thought of.

  • Fried Rice: Stir-fry leftover rice up with a little liquid, a beat-up egg, soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, and leftover vegetables and/or meat.
  • Faux Sesame Noodles: Cook spaghetti or other noodles (or use leftover, but you'll have to heat them in boiling water first. Drain, and while the noodles are still hot, stir in a glop of creamy peanut butter, a little vegetable or sesam oil, soy sauce, some red-pepper flakes and whatever other herbs and spices you like, and some leftover vegetables. If you've got scallions around, cut some up and sprinkle them on top. Maybe add some sesame seeds. If you have time to wait, stick it in the fridge until it's chilled. Back when I was single and my metabolism wasn't so creeping so could handle many dinners of pasta, oil, and peanut butter, I lived on these.
  • Clear-the-Crisper Vegetable Soup: Any or all of this can be made from fresh, frozen, or cooked vegetables. Just add the vegetables in order of how much cooking they need. Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a soup pot; add a cut-up onion and a cut-up carrot or two. A couple crushed cloves of garlic. Stir it around for about 5 minutes, then add about 6 cups of broth (whatever's around), and all the slow-moving vegetables you have in your fridge. Let it gently boil for 5 or so more minutes. Add in about a teaspoon of dried herbs -- whatever you like -- and some salt and pepper. Add some leftover meat if you're feeling crazy.
  • Quiche: M just kicked an egg and milk allergy, so I'm thinking there's going to be a lot of quiche in our future since I love it so much and haven't really eaten it for years. The basic recipe involves lining a pie pan with a pie crust. You'll need to pre-bake the pie crust for about 15 or so minutes. Then add about a cup of grated cheese and a cup of other ingredients like ham, cooked vegetables, whatever. Then mix up 4 jumbo eggs, 1-1/2 cups milk, a little salt and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg or mace, and pour it into the crust. Bake the whole thing at 400 degrees until it starts to get brown and poufy. Turn the oven to 350 and bake for another 20 or so minutes. If you're feeling lazy, skip the crust. If you're feeling extra frugal, skip the traditional pie crust and make a leftover rice crust with about 1-1/2 cups leftover rice, 1 egg, and about an ounce of grated cheese.
  • Shepherd's Pie: This dish was made up to use up leftovers -- those frugal Europeans! It's basically a casserole made with a base of leftover meat and vegetables cooked with a little flour for thickening, a bit of milk (maybe 1/2 cup), and some canned tomatoes. You simmer it all until it's a nice consistency: Not dried out, but not overly soupy. Then you put the whole thing in a casserole dish and cover it with mashed potatoes. Broil the lot for about 5 minutes -- just long enough to get the top of the potatoes a little crispy. (A couple weeks ago I made and froze shepherd's pie filling from ground lamb. My plan is when we're in a shepherd's pie mood, I'll thaw out the filling, dump it into a casserole, cover it with mashed potatoes, and bake it at 350 or so until it's all warm through. But if you have any aversion to the smell of lamb, like I sometimes do, I strongly suggest you not do this at 6 a.m.; I was awfully glad to get the Ziploc put away after 30 minutes of lamb aroma first thing in the morning.)
  • Pizza Crust Casserole: While I haven't gotten the exact recipe from my Uncle Joe-by-marriage, I believe this involves scrounging the uneaten pie crusts from church socials, cutting off the bitten parts and then cutting the "good" bits into chunks and freezing them. When ready to use, throw together with some other stuff -- eggs, maybe? -- and bake until the casserole is solid. Serve to family. Wait for raves. [For more, see this post.]
Thanks, Amy and Phil, for being resourceful enough this week to get me thinking about ways not to waste food -- and to eat well while not wasting it. (Amy, if you get a chance, can you post your pie-crust recipe, which is the best I've ever had, and for which I keep losing the recipe.)

Okay... the Plea for Ideas.

This year we're going to go fairly light with the holiday gifts in my family. Money's tighter in some segments, so we figure we'll just do cheap, thoughtful gifts like cookie mixes. So I'm looking for cheap, thoughtful gifts. Some thoughts I had were homemade mustard, Chai tea mix (I'll post the recipe because it's really lovely), knitted dishclothes (I'll post the pattern)... you get the idea. If you have any thoughts, can you post them in the comments or e-mail me? I'll post any ideas that come in so that anyone reading the blog can benefit, too.

It's Friday night and Phil rented The Notorious Betty Page, a movie I saw on pay-per-view in a hotel, but such a beautiful film (I covet her clothes -- especially the sundress Betty wears when she meets Bunny Yeager), that I'm going to mosey on up and hang out with my husband.

Have a great weekend!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:34 AM  
Blogger amyzeats said...

well, this is nothing very exciting or bording anywhere near the creative genius of using leftover pizza crusts, but i'm a fan of the burrito for leftovers. you can pretty much use anything as long as it fits in a tortilla. i keep them on hand all the time.

okay, C, double pie crust -- happy to oblige!

2 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks butter
about a tsp salt, maybe a little less
5 TBSP cold water (more if you need it)

1. Get a big bowl, dump in flour and salt. Mix up a little.
2. Cut butter into chunks and toss in. Using a fork, press butter into flour until it starts to stick together in small chunks (some recipe books will describe it as looking like peas -- i don't see that, but it's around that size i suppose).
3. Add the water until it still looks slightly dry, but if you press a finger in, it feels like something between Silly Putty and Play-Do.
4. Use your hands to press together and knead a bit until it sticks together and you can form a ball.
5. Roll out on lightly floured wax paper on a large, flat surface with rolling pin (rubbed with a little flour)

Around step 3, If it's too gooey, add a little more flour.
If it's too dry, add a little more water.

When I make savory things, like quiche or that turkey pot pie-a-muh-bob kindly described by CK, I add fennel seeds to the dough during step one. When making dough for dessert, sometimes I'll add a little nutmeg or cinnamon during step one.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Leneta said...

Regarding Phil's election night leftovers - That's our boy. It was Phil's grandpa, (Max's namesake), Vic, who frequently said when asked what he'd like to eat, "Whatever's movin' slow." He's also the same man who took Dairy Queen chocolate ice cream coating from the trash can and made cookies out of it. But we don't have to do everything Vic did.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Laura Kitchel said...

Okay, it may not go into the category of slow food, but my favorite way to make something quiche-ish is to use Bisquick. Probably not as good as fresh pie crust, but oh-so fast! Basically just put whatever you want in your quiche (meat, cheese, veggies, etc.) in a greased 9" pie pan, then mix up 1/2 c. Bisquick, 2 eggs, 1 c. milk, a little salt & pepper and whatever other seasoning sounds good (I like using dill weed in egg-based dishes), pour it over everything else in the pie pan and bake at about 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. A knife should come out clean when it's done.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:26 PM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

Love the Bisquick idea, Laura! I'd completely forgotten about the impossible pie! And this is slowish food, not slow food -- sort of slow food dreaming tempered with the reality of a full-time-plus job and young kids. Bisquick Pie is *totally* slowish food!

9:50 AM  
Blogger amyzeats said...

i second that. i'm actually really excited to try this.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous betsy said...

RE: plea for ideas ... those bookmark strings with beaded ends are cheap and easy to make ... glass cases in funky fabrics (most people have *some* type of glasses they could put in there) ... funky Fimo pins are also fun (take Fimo clay in fun colors, cut shapes or roll on texture and attach those cheapy pin backs with a glue gun ... ah, the glue gun) -- or do magnet version for people with clay jewelry aversions.

3:40 PM  

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