Tag Archives: Leftovers

Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup — Foster’s Market

I seem to make this Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup once a year, around the holidays when leftover turkey is abundant. The recipe is from the Foster’s Market Cookbook, but fortunately, it is also online.

I start by cutting all the leftover meat off the turkey bone. I put the bone in a big pot, cover it with water, and add roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery (don’t bother to peel). Throw in a bay leaf and few whole peppercorns. I simmer this for a couple of hours, then drain and discard the solids. This homemade stock doesn’t take much effort and definitely results in a richer, more satisfying soup.

I like this recipe because it is very adaptable, and thus is a great way to make use of any leftovers hanging around. I omitted the pasta and parsnips this time, but I added a peeled, diced potato and, in the last few minutes, some leftover green beans. Watch the cooking times in the recipe: I think they’re a bit too long, especially at the beginning. I was able to shorten the time for softening the vegetables without any noticeable issues. This recipe will yield plenty of leftovers, suitable for freezing.

This soup is tasty and, after the indulgences of the holidays, very healthy. You can also make it with leftover roast chicken. Here is a link to the recipe on the Foster’s Market website. Enjoy!


A Standard Weekly Menu

Planning a menu for the week helps me keep my shopping and cooking on track, and also helps me meet my goal to have a home-cooked, healthy meal most nights. By planning ahead, I can also ensure that I’ve got prepared ingredients and leftovers to make cooking easier as the week gets more hectic. I’ve experimented a lot with different menus and dishes, and at least for weeknight cooking, I keep coming back to the same roster of dishes. They cook easily using ingredients I can easily find, but they can be changed up each week for variety.

Here is my basic menu for a week’s worth of cooking, developed with these principles in mind. I do try to remain flexible to take advantage of special occasions, requests from family members or the availability of a seasonal ingredient.

Sunday: baked casserole or hearty soup served with a big salad. Because my Sundays are usually open, this is a good day to do a lot of prep work and make things easier for weeknight cooking. A family dinner calls for hearty comfort food that results in leftovers for lunch or dinner. Macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, chili, ratatouille, potato soup–there are endless possibilities. If I get started early enough, I can even break out the slow cooker. To accompany it, I make a salad using seasonal ingredients, including a salad dressing of the week that I can repurpose for lunches. This gives me the opportunity to prep all the vegetables from my weekly shopping trip.

Monday: sauteed or roasted boneless chicken breasts, potatoes and vegetable. This is a hearty meal that is also quick to prepare. I can vary it with different quick sauces or by adding some cheese or prosciutto, and there are about a million ways to make potatoes. For the vegetable, I stick to what’s in season and look for simple preparation methods. All leftovers can be repurposed for other dishes as the week goes on.

Tuesday: pasta with tomato sauce or broccoli, or stir-fried noodles. All of these pasta dishes are quick to prepare and kid-friendly. This meal can easily be made vegetarian, or adapted depending on what is in the fridge and pantry.

Wednesday: tacos or wraps. This is the perfect night to use up any leftover vegetables or cooked meat, but if no leftovers are available, I can quickly whip up beans or ground meat for a taco filling. Leftover salad and sauces can often be repurposed as toppings.

Thursday: frittata. By this point in the week, the cupboard is getting a little bare, but we always have eggs. Any bits of meat or vegetables remaining can be quickly cooked for the frittata filling, while shredded cheese from the tacos goes on top. Leftovers make a good breakfast or lunch for the weekend. If we don’t feel like frittata, scrambled eggs and bacon or baked eggs are a great substitute.

Friday and Saturday: pizza, sandwiches, grill or special requests. If we don’t go out to dinner, the weekend is a good time to make something fun that everyone enjoys.

Sunday breakfast: I usually try to make a hearty breakfast on Sundays of bacon and eggs, bagels or some other baked treat.

Shopping list: Keeping the pantry stocked is the key to cooking at home. If you open the fridge and see nothing tasty there, you’ll be tempted to order out. Here’s a standard list of ingredients to keep on hand to make an entire week’s worth of meals:

  • Produce: fresh fruit for snacking and breakfast; salad greens and vegetables; seasonal vegetable; broccoli; potatoes or sweet potatoes; onions; garlic
  • Meat: boneless chicken breasts; bacon, ground meat and sausage for the freezer; other meat that you like for stir-fries or grilling
  • Eggs: I buy cartons of 18 to make sure I always have enough eggs on hand for a quick meal
  • Dairy: yogurt for snacking and breakfast; one or two kinds of cheese; butter
  • Bread: small, soft flour tortillas; breakfast breads; sandwich rolls and pizza dough for the freezer
  • Pantry: various dried pastas; canned beans and tomatoes; tomato puree; chicken stock; olive oil and vinegar; salsas, sauces and condiments that you enjoy (or make your own); nuts and dried fruit

Bending the Rules on Bacteria and Food Safety

If you are making stock or otherwise trying to use up your holiday leftovers, this article provides some useful information: Bending the Rules on Bacteria and Food Safety – NYTimes.com.


Baked Eggs + Leftovers

Here is another great way to eat leftovers, which I am always seeking. Put the leftovers in a little cup (technical term: ramekin), break an egg over it and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. This works well with most cooked vegetables and meats, especially well with ratatouille and cooked spinach or greens, and especially, especially well with mashed potatoes.

Quick and Easy Weeknight Frittata

Happy new year! As is the tradition on this blog, at the start of every year, I try to revitalize things around here and motivate myself to post more. I am especially motivated this year because recently I have been getting a lot of visitors and wonderful comments, which has inspired me. I love hearing your ideas, and they do motivate me to get into the kitchen, so keep them coming.

This year, I’m going to focus on posting what I most like to cook: simple, easy recipes with a focus on healthy eating and seasonal ingredients. I will try to post at least one favorite recipe a week, plus tips and tricks as I pick them up.

My favorite recipe for this week is the frittata. A frittata is an Italian omelet. It’s flat and usually thicker than a French-style omelet, with a lot more stuff in it. Making a frittata is a good way to use up those odds and ends of vegetables and cheese that might otherwise get thrown away. You can even throw in leftover pasta, if you like.

I make a frittata about once a week. It fulfills all my requirements for a fast weeknight meal. I can usually make it with the ingredients I have on hand, so a trip to the grocery store isn’t required. It cooks in less than 30 minutes. Often, it can be made without meat, as we try to eat a vegetarian meal at least two or three times weekly. And the leftovers keep beautifully. They are good reheated for breakfast the next day or even cold in a sandwich.

I have tried a lot of frittata recipes from a different cookbooks, and I have gradually worked out a technique that produces good results every time.

  1. Start with a 10-inch nonstick oven-safe pan (i.e., one with a metal handle, rather than plastic). Pour in a little olive oil and heat the pan over medium. In the meantime, prepare the vegetable filling. Chop up any vegetables you like. For this week’s frittata, I used red onion and spinach. Leftover cooked vegetables are perfectly fine. You could also throw in some cooked meat, if you have any, like bacon or sausage.
  2. Once the pan is warm, add the chopped vegetables and let them cook until tender or wilted. For onions and spinach, this only takes about 5 minutes. Firmer vegetables will take longer. Pre-cooked vegetables only have to be warmed through.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, beat 5 eggs with some salt, pepper and 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced. Once the vegetables are ready, spread them out in the pan and pour the eggs over the top. Turn on the broiler. As the eggs are cooking, lift up the edges with a spatula and let the uncooked egg run to the sides of the pan. You want the eggs to be almost set but still a bit liquid on the top. It may be necessary to turn down the heat to keep the bottom from browning too much.
  4. When the eggs are almost set, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the top with grated cheese. For the frittata this week, I used mozzarella, because that’s what I had. You can do without cheese, but I always add it. It makes the frittata more satisfying, in my opinion.
  5. Transfer the pan under the broiler and cook until the top is puffy and the cheese is melting and starting to brown. This should take no more than a few minutes. Take it out, cut it into slices and serve with toast.

Note: You don’t have to broil the frittata during the last step. Rather, you can put it into a 350-degree oven and let it finish more slowly. This works fine, but the frittata doesn’t get as puffy and browned, which I prefer. We call it egg pizza!

Leftovers keep for 3 days or so. Try a frittata sandwich for lunch the next day with slices of cold frittata between crusty bread.

No More Food Waste!

Your food is the best - Don't waste it - NARA ...

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So, 2012 is the year I really try to reduce the amount of food I waste. Did you know that Americans waste about a pound of food per day? Chefs try hard not to waste anything; why shouldn’t home cooks strive for the same goal?

Not wasting food is particularly difficult when you live with a picky toddler. I feel like I have to keep offering him vegetables, chicken, eggs, grains and other things that are good for him, but he will likely turn his nose up at whatever I set before him that isn’t a peanut butter sandwich. Still, I keep trying, and I am getting better at making appropriate quantities and saving what he doesn’t eat for later.

One way to reduce food waste is to think up clever things to do with leftovers. Many recipes are designed to make use of leftovers. For example, bread that is going stale can be recycled as bread crumbs, crostini, bruschetta, bread pudding, bread salad, bread soup and so on. I’m going to feature tips and recipes for using up those leftovers here as I discover them, and I hope you’ll share your tips in the comments.

Now here’s a holiday tip that is super-simple, but I honestly would never have thought of it myself (I read it in one of my new Christmas cookbooks). If you have leftover eggnog, you can recycle it as batter for French toast. Just dip the toast in the eggnog and fry in butter. I am definitely trying that this weekend!

What are your food-related goals for the new year?

Turn Leftovers Into Soup

I’ve been trying to eat more soup lately. It’s the season for soup, but it’s also one of the best foods you can eat if you’re trying to lose weight or eat more healthy foods. Broth-based soups fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied without adding a lot of calories. They also are a good way of getting a lot of vegetables into your diet.

Often, I’ll try to make a big pot of soup on the weekend and then freeze the leftovers for lunches. But I have to admit that I don’t often think ahead. I either don’t take the container out of the freezer to thaw in time, or I skip making the soup altogether.

I usually have a lot of cooked vegetables left over from weeknight dinners, though, and I hate to throw food out, but eating reheated vegetables doesn’t always appeal to me. This week, the lightbulb went on. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before to turn those leftover vegetables into soup. All you really need to keep on hand is some stock, which is easy enough to make ahead of time, or you can buy it pre-made (I prefer the kind that comes in the aseptic containers, as those brands seem to have less salt).

All I did was simmer the cooked vegetables with some stock to cover for about 10-15 minutes. Roasted and braised vegetables seem to work best, but any veggies will do. If the vegetables get too soft and mushy, just puree the soup in the blender or with an immersion stick blender, and you have cream of whatever soup. Season well, but make sure the seasonings you add don’t clash with whatever seasoning might already be on the pre-cooked vegetables.

A little grated cheese or a dollop of plain yogurt makes a great garnish. You could also toss in whatever bits of leftover cooked meat there might be, such as roasted chicken or some crumbled bacon. Voila! A quick and healthy lunch is on the table, with very little pre-planning required.

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