Contents for Tips & Ideas
After over 30 years of ownership and management of several different restaurants, the most important lesson learned is: Use everything you buy. The very worst thing that can happen to a food business is waste – thrown away food. It is the same for a home kitchen.
LeftOvers: This is a misnomer. Think of it as transformation. To the Leftover Queen “leftover” means turning food left in the refrigerator into new and delicious meals. It means no waste of food, no waste of money, a path to food sustainability and a healthy diet.
Think of these items of food left in the refrigerator, freshly purchased or perhaps something opened and not yet finished, as perishables that can be utilized in many forms. It could be the fixings left from a large dinner, which can then be turned “over” into many more delicious meals. Leftovers don’t have to be food that you have fixed and then reheat and eat again.
Think of it as transforming food items (whether it be meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy items, or sauces) into casseroles, soups, quiches, desserts - creating a variety of choice entrees to perhaps freeze ahead for future meals, all ready to go.
For example: You have prepared a roasted chicken dinner with potatoes and gravy, and a medley of fresh vegetables. The remainder of the meal that was not eaten that first night can be turned into a Shepherds Pie, Mexican Enchiladas, Chicken Noodle Soup, Potato Pancakes, Chicken Pot Pie, an Indian Curry, Chicken Caesar Salad, or even Chicken Salad Sandwich Spread - and so on. You do not need to eat the same meal twice, but you do not need to throw it out – turn it into many more meals.
Plan menus ahead. When you buy this chicken, plan on having rice or pasta or tortillas on hand – none of these will spoil if unopened. Not a lot of time to spend cooking? Stock up on Marinara and Enchilada Sauces. Many grated cheeses can be broken into small baggies and frozen for future use. It is all in the planning. And the planning will mean having a few recipes on hand. Easy: If you get stuck, go online to many of the recipe food sites and pick one that you like and have time to prepare.
Or have the Leftover Queen come to the rescue.
Hearty St Patrick’s Day Fare
A favorite dish for St Paddy’s Day (or any day) is the great Irish entrée Corned Beef & Cabbage, served with lots of vegetables and a dollop of good horseradish. This being the main meal for that celebration, many other dishes can be prepared from these “leftovers.”
To name a few, there is easy to make Corned Beef Hash for breakfast, a Corned Beef & Swiss Reuben for lunch, and a very hearty Corned Beef and Cabbage Borscht Soup topped with a scoop of Sour Cream for either lunch or dinner with your favorite side dish, maybe a deli salad and bagel with cream cheese. One good sized corned beef will provide all these entrees for at least 4 people.
Some other food "makeovers"
Common to almost all main entrees is to transform what is left "over" into soups, savory pies, ethnic foods, pastas, salad dishes, breakfast, lunch or dinner items. These transformations are exciting because you can really use imagination and creativity. Keep notes on what you come up with. Have fun sharing!
Veggies: Roast a pan of your favorite seasonal vegetables in the oven in a large deep baking dish: possibilities include squash, potatoes, carrots, beets, leeks, celery, onions, parsnips, tomatoes, beans, other. At the same time, steam your favorite greens such as chard, kale, mustard greens, beet greens, spinach, other. (Cooked veggies can be bagged and frozen for future use).
These vegetables can then be used in many entrees such as veggie pad thai, curried veggies over rice, pasta primavera, veggie quiche, veggie soups with pasta, grains, or beans, omelettes, tacos, burritos or enchiladas. Many deli salads can be created from cooked and marinated veggies.
Ground Beef Entrees: Stock good organic ground beef in the freezer by the pound and pull it out for many quick easy meals. You can make fun meatloafs with your favorite veggies, beef and black bean enchiladas, a hearty Italian beef and macaroni soup, Mexican tostadas, really good hamburgers or sloppy joes, stuffed cabbage rolls. Meatballs are a fabulous way to use ground beef in many ethnic recipes and are easily frozen for later use. There is an endless list of possibilities for ground beef (or ground turkey, lamb).
Leg of Lamb: Often a traditional Easter dinner, yet delicious all year round, there are always very good "leftover" choices. Some favorites are lamb curry, scotch broth soup (lamb and barley), lamb kebobs with lots of veggies, Greek gyros, shepherd's pie,
Fish Fillets: After the main entree, any fish left can be transformed into fish tacos or burritos, a fish chowder, fish salad recipes (such as tuna salad) for sandwiches, a seafood fettucini or casserole dish.
There are several aspects to freezing food that require some decision making before shopping and food preparation begins.
Uncooked Food: You can freeze raw foods, either in large tray packs or broken into smaller serving amounts and placed in freezer bags. This choice will depend on how many people you plan to serve, how much room you have in your freezer, how soon you will be using the product (to avoid freezer burn). Raw or cooked foods will normally last up to three months in the freezer.
Freezing Food That is Prepped: You can prep an entrée in bulk form (several meals) up to the cooking point. A stir fry, for example, can be made ahead in batches by slicing and marinating meat and putting this into freezer bags, cutting all the fresh veggies into different freezer bags, possibly even cooking rice ahead and dividing it into smaller bags. Then put the bag of meat, the bag of veggies, the bag of rice into one large freezer bag. You will have several meals ready to be pulled individually for a quick stir fry.
Freezing Large Batches of Cooked Entrees: Depending on the above factors, especially freezer size, you may want to cook a large batch of one entrée and repeat this with several other entrees. For example you could prepare a chicken dish that might yield 4-6 servings for 3 occasions or more. It could be the type of recipe that once thawed, might yield itself to totally different entrees that could be made from this already prepared food. You could repeat this same process with several different food products, such as beef, pork, or meatless choices. When you go to the freezer (a large storage freezer), you would have many meals to choose from. You could prep this food in mass, several meals all in one time period, or spread it out when you have available time. This process is especially great if you entertain guests often.
If you are planning to cook in large batches, watch for local sales or make a warehouse shopping run, saving money. If you plan to prepare several large entrees at one time, you will need a really good, detailed shopping list. Check that you have marinades or sauces on hand, or plan to purchase and make these in bulk form to meet the recipe requirements.
Preparing One Large Entrée and Freezing Smaller “Leftover” Meals: Let’s take the example of the Roasted Chicken Dish. Chicken that is left can be transformed into many other dishes. You can freeze a batch of Chicken Noodle Soup in freezer bags or plastic containers saved and recycled for your own use. Also easily frozen are Chicken Pot Pies, Curries, Mexican Entrees, other. You can cube up chicken pieces from the main roast and freeze them in bags for use in salads, sandwiches, pizza, savory pies, pastas. This method of freezing will still require preparation time, but won’t take as much freezer space. It allows for many choices from that first meal. Here again, you will need to make sure you have ingredients on hand for all the secondary meals.
Sauces and Marinades: Pestos, Cheese Sauces, Marinara Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Butter Logs for many dishes, can be made ahead and frozen in airtight containers or freezer bags. Many will last in the refrigerator for several days.
Thawing: You will want to take an already cooked entrée or other frozen product out of the freezer one day ahead of using it and let it thaw in the refrigerator on a tray. You can do a quicker thaw by making sure the product is in a sealable plastic bag and then let it unthaw in a bowl of water. Most of these meals can be reheated in a low oven until hot, or in the case of soup, reheated in a saucepan on the stove. Small portions can be heated in the microwave.
Labeling: Everything that you pack into containers or freezer bags needs a label. It should describe the food, whether raw, prepped to cook or cooked and ready to serve. Always put the date you put the food in the freezer on the label. Indicate the number of servings in that package. Try to organize the food into the above categories and also label and organize sauces, marinades, fruits, veggies, desserts, other. You can keep a running inventory of what is in the freezer and cross things off as you take them out.
Pots and Pans and Misc
- 2 Large Skillets, 1 Small Skillet
- 1 Medium Saucepan
- 1 Large Saucepan for Soup or Pasta
- Steam Basket
- Rimmed Baking Sheets
- 9 x 13 Baking Dish
- Meatloaf Dish
- Cooling Rack
- 8 or 9 inch Pie Pan
Knives & Utensils
- Chef's Knife
- Serrated Knife
- Paring Knife
- Knife Sharpener
- Wooden Spoons & Tongs
- Metal and Teflon Cooking Spatulas
- Large Metal Spoon
- Slotted Spoon
- Soup Ladle
- Vegetable Peeler
- Basting Brush
- Potato Masher
- Metal and Plastic Whisks
- Garlic Press
- Rubber Spatulas
- Mixing Bowls, different sizes
- Cutting Boards
- Measuring Cups from 1/4 cup up to 4 cups
- Neasuring Spoons
- Can Opener
- Cheese Grater, Rasp Grater
- Salad Spinner
- Instant-Read Food Thermometer
- Sharp Scissors
- Pepper Grinder
Not Essential (But Nice to Have)
- Chopper/Grinder (small cuisinart)
- Electric Mixer
There are a million kitchen "doodads" but this list will get you through most recipes for any type of meal.
myfridgefood.com Plug in the "leftover" items in your refrigerator and this site will give you the recipes
www.realsimple.com Has many kitchen tips, organizational info and recipes.
county.wsu.edu Island County recycling information
vokashi.com Great recycling info. Also utube videos (Vokashi Kitchen Waste)
thepioneerwoman.com Cooking advice, tips on storage and other good info