A New Look on Leftovers

Most everyone has had the experience of opening the refrigerator to find next to nothing. Empty shelves and a variety of condiments isn’t going to make much of a meal.

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At this sight, it is easy to call it quits, throw in the towel, jump in the car and drive to the restaurant down the street for some quick eats. I beg you though, STOP! You haven’t lost all hope quite yet, and in fact, you can probably pull together a few scraps from here and there to build a meal at home.

It’s hard to imagine this in a world that expects the creme de la creme, but a meal doesn’t actually have to be perfect.

More than likely, you have a meat of some sort stored away. That could be leftover pork chops, frozen beef strips or canned chicken. Either way, there’s a protein.

Even though the fruit or veggie drawer may be barren, don’t knock the frozen or canned veggies. Pull those out for a semi-homemade meal.

Sandwich bread or tortillas or rice or a potato? Any of those will work to build a meal into. Pick one!

The key to re-purposing leftovers, no matter how empty your refrigerator or pantry shelves may be is creativity. Use your imagination and the meal options become limitless (and MUCH easier to throw together at the last minute).

When I am in a pinch, here are a few meal ideas I keep in my back pocket.

  • grilled sandwich
  • loaded baked potato
  • pasta
  • tossed salad
  • quesadilla or taco
  • tortilla pizza
  • soup
  • enchilada or burrito
  • stir fry
  • omelette
  • hash

Hopefully these meals don’t sound too foreign. And more than likely, you have enough ingredients on-hand to throw one together.

Just the other day I was working with leftover rotisserie chicken and a spinach and artichoke dip. Well, nuking each for a couple minutes is okay, but how boring! Instead, I thought to boil pasta and combine the chicken and dip with the pasta for a delicious, creamy take on “chicken alfredo”. Strawberries and green beans were the fruits and veggies around that day, which will work. Now THAT puts a fun twist on those ingredients to make a meal.

What about the always-popular baked potato? It never fails, we have a bag of potatoes on hand and ready for action. Yes, wrapping the potato in foil to bake is an option, nothing wrong there. I’ll challenge you though, throw a curve ball in sometime by chopping the potato into cubes, tossing in a bit of olive oil and seasoning for roasting. Layer the roasted potatoes with leftover meat, a drizzle of BBQ, dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of cheese. Now you know why this is such a hit at our house 🙂 Served with a fruit and veggie to make a meal and balanced plate!

Or, earlier last week we had leftover pulled pork that needed to be used. After glancing through the pantry, I found corn tortillas that would work as a perfect base. A little further below, canned corn. Nailed it. Next thing you know, everyone is shuffling through the build-your-own taco bar: pulled pork, corn dip (cream cheese, ranch seasoning, corn and rotel), shredded cheese and lettuce.

Does this look like something your family may enjoy?

It is important to me that I feed my family well. Sometimes though, I don’t quite have the time or energy to put together something fresh from scratch. By re-purposing leftovers, I able able to save LOTS of time and energy, while still creating a meal that I know my family will enjoy and is nutritious for us, too. Both are important to me, food that fuels and tastes delicious.

The ideas listed above are just a few meals that work for my family. Which of these could you try with yours? Or even better, can you add to my list? What fun twist have you tried to put on new look on leftovers?


Meat the Only Stromboli Recipe You Will Ever Need

In my previous life (a few months ago), I would roll out a pre-made crust from the can to treat my family on pizza night. Our lives forever changed the day I stepped up and experimented with homemade pizza dough. The feeling of molding a perfectly developed dough—irreplaceable. I can’t say that I will never-ever use a can of crust again, but I can say that my family will be completely crushed on that day. Roll-up this hearty, meat-filled Stromboli for a REAL treat this week!

Makes: 10 pieces

Ingredients

For the Dough:

1 cup warm water

2 ÂĽ teaspoon active dry yeast

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking spray

For the Filling:

1 cup marinara sauce

½ pound lean ground beef, cooked

½ pound deli pepperoni, sliced thin

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Âľ teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions

  1. Combine the yeast and water. Let set for 5 minutes.
  2. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt and olive oil. After 5 minutes, when the yeast is frothy, pour the water over the flour mixture. Using the dough hook, begin mixing the dough. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Knead the dough on medium speed until fully developed. See notes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly spritz the inside of the bowl with cooking spray and return the ball to the bowl. Lightly spritz the top of the dough with cooking spray as well and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until double in size.
  4. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Roll the dough out on a clean surface into a 1 ½ x 2-foot rectangle, about ½ an inch thick.
  6. Spread the marinara evenly across the dough, leaving about 1″ around the edge.
  7. Layer the ground beef, pepperoni and cheese over the marinara sauce and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon seasoning.
  8. Beginning with the shorter side, roll the dough into a log. When rolled entirely, transfer to a greased baking sheet with the crease from the dough tucked under.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a golden crown crust has formed on the top.
  10. Remove the Stromboli from the oven. Spread melted butter across the top and sprinkle with remaining seasoning.
  11. Let set for 5-10 minutes before slicing into 1” pieces for serving.

Notes

  1. Kneading the dough usually takes around 5 minutes. A fun way to test and see if your dough is fully developed is the “windowpane test”. Pull apart a small piece of dough and begin to stretch it between your fingers. When the dough is fully developed, it will thin as it is stretched to create a small window but won’t break apart. That’s when you know that you are ready to rock-and-roll on to the next step!
  2. Pizza dough adapted from the Crazy for Crust recipe, https://www.crazyforcrust.com/the-ultimate-pizza-crust-recipe/.
  3. Alert. Family-friendly recipe here! Get your kids’ (or borrowed nieces and nephews) hands in the dough: measuring, rolling, filling. Fun stuff!

Tell me, what would you pair with Stromboli to build a balanced plate?


A Hungry Cowboy’s Chunky Chili

Ever crunched for time and that special someone asks, “What’s for supper?” Rather than letting yourself begin to boil, may I suggest taking this as-easy-as-it-gets chili to a gentle boil instead? Dump. Dump. Dump. Stir. Enjoy as-is, or pour over chips with cheese and sour cream for a take on the ever-classic chili pie.

Makes: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 cans chili beans, 15 oz

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained, 15 oz

1 can diced tomatoes, 15 oz

1-2 cups of meat (chopped brisket, shredded chicken, ground beef, etc.)

1 package chili seasoning, 1.25 ounces (or homemade chili seasoning)

1-2 cups of water

Directions

  1. In a large dutch oven or stockpot, sauté the onion in oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the beans, tomatoes, meat and seasoning to the onions.
  3. Simmer on low heat for an hour.
  4. Add water to thin chili to the desired consistency.

Notes

For a more balanced plate, serve with a fruit or veggie or glass of milk! You could even be a little sneaky and stash some veggies in the chili. So sneaky.