Learning to use leftovers creatively is a wonderful way to add variety to your menus — and save significant $$!! Here are a few meals that we did in our household this past week, mostly accomplished by my daughter-in-law with only a little tutoring. She is quickly learning the art of cooking.
We’ve created “loosely transcribed recipes” to guide you in the process, but truly, these are just guidelines! Use what you have on hand and create your own wonderful, delicious — and healthy meals!
Clean-the-Fridge Stir Fry
Dig through the fridge and find an assortment of odds-and-ends veggies that you want to use up. In our recipe this week (done right before Market Day), we found broccoli, snow pea pods, red bell pepper, carrots, celery, a little cauliflower, some kale leaves, and of course onion and fresh garlic, which we try to always keep on hand. Prior to washing and cutting these veggies, we began cooking a pot of brown basmati rice. Brown rice takes a little longer than white rice, so allow about 40 minutes (instead of 30). The time it takes to cook the rice and prepare the stir fry is just about perfect! Dinner will be on the table in no time.
To serve four hungry adults, we used about 8-10 cups of veggies. As you cut and chop, think in terms of a variety of colors and shapes. In other words, don’t chop everything exactly the same. Variety is good! Take a large pizza pan or tray and “mound” the veggies, so that they are easy to transfer to the skillet.
Your tray might look something like this:
Included in the 8-10 cups of veggies is some coarsely sliced onion and 1-2 Tbsp of freshly minced garlic. Fresh garlic adds a lot to any dish that you prepare. It’s worth the extra effort! Organizing your veggies is not only practical, it is also inspiring, when you see the beautiful colors arranged so decoratively on your tray. Time in the kitchen can and should be a wonderfully energizing and enjoyable time.
If you have some leftover chicken, i.e., 1-2 cups, this can be added to your stir-fry (and generally pleases the men around the table!). We used one 8 oz package of Applegate Grilled Chicken Breast Strips. These are precooked, have a nice flavor and are quick! A little spendy, yes, but in a pinch, sure does make cooking easy. And a little bit can go a long way in stir fry.
So you’ve assembled all your ingredients; now it is time to do the stir fry. Heat a skillet with your favorite oil. It could be a dollop of coconut oil, grape seed oil, or olive oil. Just remember with the olive oil, to not heat your pan too high, as it has a lower smoke point than the other two oils. You can “steam stir fry” and minimize the amount of oil you use by adding a tablespoon or two of water during the process.
In stir frying, begin with the hardest veggies first (like the carrots), and add the other veggies until you get to the red pepper and onion, and then they should cook for only a minute or two. You want crisp tender.
Now, for the sauce. We’re talking super-easy here and we splurged a bit and used 1/2 bottle of San-J Thai Peanut Sauce, drizzled over the veggies in the pan, right before serving, just enough for the pan to heat the sauce.
By now the rice was done cooking and veggies were ready to be served over the rice. A lot of them. It was a meal-in-one. It not only was delicious, but it made our consciences feel good to have used up all those bits and pieces in the fridge and have nothing go to waste.
What stir fry can you make tonight? Clean out the fridge and made something delicious!
Easy Egg Bake
Do you have about 3 cups of leftover rice, perhaps from your stir-fry meal? How about a handful or more of assorted fresh veggies? With some local, fresh (no soy) pastured eggs and some milk, you can make a delicious egg bake. Here’s how we did it…
Grease a 9×13 pan with butter or coconut oil. (Our favorite is the Pampered Chef Rectangular Baker.) Crumble 3 cups of leftover cooked rice in the bottom of the dish. Prepare the veggie layer:
1 bunch (1#) asparagus (or may use broccoli) – 2-3 cups total
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, diced
Saute the veggies in a skillet with 1-2 Tbsp butter or olive oil, just until slightly softened. This process is mostly to remove some of the excess water in these fresh veggies and to bring out the flavors. Add the freshly minced garlic. Layer these veggies over the rice in the casserole dish. Then sprinkle with 8 oz grated cheese (use whatever you have on hand, even a combination of leftover cheeses is fine).
Finally, prepare the liquid ingredients as follows: 1 dozen pastured eggs, beaten well with 1 1/4 cups milk, and seasoned with 1 tsp sea salt and freshly ground peppercorns to-taste (1/2 tsp or so). Pour this over the veggies and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until is set. I like to test my custardy type foods with a clean, thin-bladed knife that is inserted in the center of the dish. When it comes out clean, then the dish is done. Remove from oven and set on a cooling rack for about 5-10 minutes while you call everyone to the table and do any final preparations, like adding sliced cucumbers (unpeeled if you are using organic). Add a muffin on the side and this can be brunch….or a mighty fine supper meal. We thought so. Leftovers were perfect for breakfast the next day, too.
Gluten Free Muffins
There are many ways to make muffins. Here is a recipe that we “made up as we went” and it happened to turn out quite nicely, so we thought we would share it with you.
Mix together these ingredients: 2 pastured (soy-free) eggs, 1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt, 1/3 cup local honey, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/2 cup coconut oil (or softened butter). Whisk together until blended (or you may use a hand mixer, but we liked the little workout). Add 2 cups Pamela’s Baking Mix (a wonderful gluten free blend of flours that even gluten lovers will enjoy!). If desired, stir in 1 cup of fresh blueberries (we did!). Spoon into greased muffin tins (Pampered Chef Muffin Stoneware, our first choice!) or regular muffin pan, lined with chlorine-free paper cups (If You Care, our favorite brand). This recipe will make 12 muffins. Bake at 400 degrees….or if you don’t mind a little compromise, bake at 350 degrees along with the Egg Bake. You won’t get quite as high a rise….but it was economical to do it this way and the muffins were still absolutely delicious!
Pizza – a favorite Stand-by
This is a long post, I know. But sometimes it’s helpful to get a glimpse inside someone else’s kitchen. To be honest, we haven’t been the best at menu planning lately. But with a well-stocked pantry and a refrigerator loaded with plenty of fresh veggies to work with, most anything is possible.
Pizza is a favorite, can be a fun family event — and is also another way to clean out the fridge! So consider pizza for one of your meals this coming week.
This is the recipe that we use for our frozen pizza crust at the Market (sells for $2.95 for a 1# ball). Now, that is the easiest way to go! But if you want to make it from scratch (also easy), you can. We make ours (always) with 100% whole grain wheat flour, or for a VERY SPECIAL TREAT, we make it with Einkorn Original Wheat. (Soon we will be offering this frozen pizza dough at the Market as well.) We have this freshly ground ancient whole grain flour for you at the Market in the refrigerated section. It is most amazing in its texture and flavor. Here are the ingredients:
2 1/2 cups whole grain flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp instant rise yeast
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 c. or so of very warm water
Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the olive oil and water. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture begins to form a ball. Dough should be soft, not dry, crumbly or tough. Adjust water as needed. Turn onto a lightly floured counter and knead the dough a few times, until smooth. Grease the bowl you were using with olive oil and return the ball of dough to the bowl, then turn the ball “greased side up” and cover with a plate. Let sit for as little as 15 minutes or for as long as a few hours. Punch down and with greased hands (again, olive oil), pat onto your favorite pizza pan. This dough is enough to fit a 10×15 Pampered Chef stoneware pan or Round Pizza Stoneware. Pinch up the edges, then prick the crust generously with a table fork. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until crust looks baked and begins to smell delicious. (It should not look wet.).
While the pizza is baking, you can prepare your toppings. Anything goes! We always use a generous amount of chopped veggies (broccoli, onion, red or green peppers – even cauliflower, kale or spinach). You can add a little browned hamburger — or nitrite free pepperoni slices (Applegate Farms). For more specialty pizzas, add fresh mushrooms, olives or artichokes, or whatever suits your fancy.
You’ll need about 1 cup (8 oz) of tomato sauce, pizza sauce or crushed tomatoes. It’s up to you if you want to put the sauce on first, then the toppings, or do the toppings first, and then drizzle the sauce over the top. Sprinkle generously with Italian Seasoning and approximately 8 oz of grated cheese (typically mozzarella, but you can use whatever you have on hand). Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes more, or until cheese is melted and a little golden. Pizza is always best after it has rested on a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes, to allow the sauce to settle and thicken.
A delicious tossed salad with homemade dressing can be eaten while the pizza is still baking. There will be no finer restaurant than eating right at home.
My favorite way to eat pizza? Leftover the next day for breakfast or lunch. To do this: Heat a little olive oil in a stainless steel saute pan, add the pizza and turn heat way down and wait about 5 minutes. Pizza should be warmed through by then and crust will be very crisp and delicious.
There you go. Three menu options to have fun with.
Time to head to our kitchens!