As I am often just cooking for two at my house, one of my biggest challenges is trying to not waste food. If I cook full batches of things, we often end up eating the same meal for two or three nights in a row. If I halve recipes, I often have to buy ingredients in a larger quantity than I need to make the recipe, as I still haven’t figured out a way to buy half a bell pepper or just an ounce or two of shredded cheese.
I often freeze things that I can, but still end up with odds and ends in the fridge. Here are four types of recipes I employ to make use of leftover ingredients:
Quiches – I often make a quiche without the crust, which I guess is more of a fritatta if we want to get technical about it. It’s a great way to use up leftover meats (chicken, sausage, ham, bacon, shrimp – I could even imagine a scenario where I used leftover taco meat, though I haven’t done it), chopped veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, onion, spinach, bell pepper, mushrooms, potato, and pretty much any kind of cheese. I typically spray my pie plate with cooking spray, chop up the leftovers and put them in the pie plate, then whisk up four eggs and two cups of milk along with salt and pepper and pour on top. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes until it looks solid in the middle, and that’s it. You can also make these mini-quiches in a muffin tin. Those freeze beautifully and can be heated up for quick breakfasts.
Pizza – Pizzas are a wonderful way to use up things you have on hand. If you get creative, you can come up with all sorts of flavor profiles – barbecue pizza with leftover chicken, red onion and bell peppers; a white pizza with leftover ricotta and sliced tomatoes. Use homemade pizza dough, or any of the several versions sold in supermarkets. I typically bake my pizzas at 450 regardless of what the directions say (I’m a rebel that way). I prebake the crust for about five minutes, then pull it out, add toppings and bake until done. And btw, after years of messing around with stretching dough to be round, I threw it on a sheet pan. My pizzas are now always rectangular, so much for convention.
Mac and Cheese – My daughter calls mine “Mom’s Mac and Cheese,” even though it’s different nearly every time. I have used up all manner of cheese in my mac and cheese, as well as adding leftover bits of veggies and meat if I have something I’m trying to use up. And you probably shouldn’t expect that all the pasta in it will be shaped the same either. I have a canister that I throw odds and ends of short-cut pasta in, so the dish may have penne, rotini and traditional macaroni all in the same bite. My basic formula for the cheese sauce is 2 T. butter and 2 T. flour in a saucepan over medium heat, cook for a minute, then add 2 cups of milk, salt, pepper and any other seasonings you want (I often add dried mustard and a dash of Cholula.). Simmer until thick, remove from heat and add 2 cups of shredded cheese of any (or several) varieties. You can stir this into the pasta and eat immediately, or pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so.
Soup – This one is a natural. All manner of veggies, meats and starches (leftover cooked rice, beans, etc.) can be used up in a soup. Start with a couple tablespoons of fat (olive oil, bacon grease, butter, etc.) in the bottom of a skillet and add aromatics you have (think onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, celery, etc.). Saute. When soft, add whatever else you have on hand (meats, potatoes, beans, etc), and stock. I keep a couple of boxes of organic chicken stock on hand, and this is one of the reasons. Simmer until you’re ready to eat. You can also add leftover tomato paste, canned tomatoes, etc. to a soup like this.
How do you use up leftover ingredients?
Thanks to Flickr user serenejournal for the photo.
This is one of those quick meals that can come together while the pasta cooks. It’s also a method as much as anything that can be adapted to what you have one hand. In addition to broccoli, I have used mixed veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, cherry tomatoes I sauteed for a few extra minutes, peas, really, whatever you have on hand. When I filmed the companion video to this piece, I was using steamed broccoli leftover from a restaurant meal.
Here’s the video:
And here’s the recipe, which will make about 6 to 8 servings. It is super flexible, and I often just make about a fourth of this for two people.
Cheesy Broccoli Pasta
1 head broccoli, steamed (or frozen broccoli florets, or leftover veggies, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. short cut pasta of your choice (I used Whole Grain Penne in the video and pic)
16 oz. Ricotta cheese
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
3 T. olive oil
- Boil the pasta.
- While pasta is boiling, heat olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan or skillet. Add broccoli and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and saute for about 3 minutes. Take a fork and mash the broccoli into smaller pieces.
- Add the Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Reduce heat to low or turn off completely.
- Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, to thin the sauce to desired consistency.
- Drain pasta, toss with sauce in skillet, and serve.
And, that’s it. But just as I said that whatever veggies you use are optional, the seasonings are optional, too. I often add some red pepper flake, because I like the heat it adds to the background of the sauce, and some lemon zest for a little acid. But if I don’t have those on hand, I skip them. Likewise, if I have some fresh basil or thyme, I stir it in after the dish is off the heat. If you don’t like garlic, skip it. Once you’ve mastered the method, you can vary what goes into the dish.
Whose ass did Halloween kick this year, raise your hand?
ME! Mine is kicked! Over here!
Seriously, whose idea was it to trick or treat on a school night? A full day of treats at school followed by an evening of sneaking candy from her trick or treat bag in between the few stops we absolutely had to make and a late a dinner of leftover pizza does not an easy bedtime make. After watching my kid’s head spin around a few times I finally managed to get her butterfly face paint scrubbed off in the tub and only had to threaten her life seven times to get her to sleep.
You know who I feel sorry for is her teacher. How would you like to deal with 18 five year olds with severe sugar hangovers? Not I, said the Halloween ass-kicked mom of one. Scary stuff, man.
In celebration of surviving another All Hallows’ Eve, my favorite pins of this week will pointedly NOT include anything in the least bit Halloween related.
This recipe is at the top of my list to try. I’m a huge chorizo fan and the addition of orange zest is right up my alley. Few ingredients in a one pan meal – yes!
Spanish Chicken with Chorizo & Potatoes
If these yoga stretches really do help me fall asleep I will find the person who created them and kiss them full on the lips.
Nighttime stretches to help you sleep better.
Another sneaky good-for-you recipe I plan to try on my picky eater.
Cheesy Quinoa – like mac & cheese but better for you!
I adore this monogram pegboard. ADORE.
This brunch casserole sounds divine. Rich and eggy with gruyere and pancetta. I’m saving this one for a special occasion.
Make ahead ham and cheese brunch casserole.
On a scale of one to ten, how glad are you that Halloween is over?
Every Saturday night my five year old daughter and I have our version of a Slumber Party. It’s become a tradition over the last couple of years and it is capitalized because it is that important. Ahem. We snuggle up in comfy jammies in the big bed with extra pillows, a few select stuffed animals and watch a movie or two before sleep.
Snacks are, of course, a must and popcorn is a definite requirement. Sometimes we just have white cheddar Smartfood from the bag. Sometimes we add some M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces for a sweet mix-in. Occasionally we make Rice Krispies treats together. You know, a la carte. But always, there is popcorn.
I have strong opinion about microwave popcorn versus stovetop popped. Not that I don’t ever nuke a bag but popping it the old fashioned way is far superior. There is really no comparison. And it reminds me of my childhood, when packaged popcorn designed for the microwave didn’t yet exist. Even after we owned our behemoth late 70s/early 80s microwave, popcorn was something my mother never considered making in it. She ALWAYS made it on the stove with lots of salt and real butter (of course). Just the way I like it. So even now, a tiny part of me screams sacrilege when I break down and throw in a bag in an effort to… what? Save time? It takes just as long to microwave as it does to stovetop pop it, really. Save myself from washing a pot? Pff. Like I don’t have time on a Saturday night to wash a pot.
Every so often, as a special treat, my mom would let me talk her into getting Jiffy Pop at the store (tell me this commercial doesn’t take you back, fellow children of the 70s). We’d stand over the stove together, she constantly shaking the pan and my short self standing in a chair, brimming with excitement. This probably followed a salisbury steak tv dinner meal in a tin tray on a tv stand while watching special programming like ‘It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!‘. Oh, the 70s. Exciting times, they were.
Last weekend I mixed up our Saturday night Slumber Party routine a bit by introducing my daughter to the magic that is Jiffy Pop. Her response had me kicking myself that we hadn’t tried this sooner. I wish I’d recorded her reaction, though the first 8 minutes of video would have been filled with variations of “What is that thing? What’s it gonna do, Mom? What’s gonna happen? What’s it doing? Is something gonna happen now?” And so on and so forth. Her face though, once it began to pop, was priceless.
Jiffy Pop: Mind = blown.
I love that blasts from the past like Jiffy Pop still exist so I can share them with my daughter and wax nostalgic. Regardless of what kind of popcorn we’ll have next week, I can pretty much guarantee it will end with me sweeping furiously at the sheets in my need to not sleep in a pile of popcorn crumbs. Every. Single. Time.
Oh well, totally worth it.
Friends, it has been too overcast to film with the lighting I had set up. I am working on alternatives but wanted to go ahead and publish the Friday Faves in print form until I can get the video done.
- I can’t stop thinking about Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar | Caramel with Sea Salt. I live 2 hours from the nearest Trader Joe’s, but I stopped at one recently on a trip to Nashville, Tenn., and picked this up by the registers on the way out. It was $1.99, and was every bit as good as similar bars from fancy chocolatiers that I have paid $8 to $10 for.
- On my nails today is Essie’s Little Brown Dress. It’s a dark brown cream, and I love it as an alternative to black polish at this time of year. It feels more sophisticated to me than the black. In general, I love Essie’s formula, and Little Brown Dress doesn’t disappoint – it is opaque in two coats, difficult for a dark nail polish.
- I am also loving school pictures this week, and, let me tell you, I am a recent convert. My daughter is one of those who typically gives a cheesy fake smile when asked to smile for the camera, and some of her past school pictures have featured the fake. But we just got this year’s and yay! it actually looks like the third grader I live with.
- Next up is Bare Minerals Marvelous Moxie lip gloss in Spark Plug. I am loving this peachy-pink gloss. It has ingredients that make your lips fuller, and the glossy finish lasts for about two hours for me, which is pretty good for a gloss. The color is one of those, “your lips, but better” colors that I like to wear.
- Finally, friends, I want to tell you about a book that I hope you’ll read. It’s called “Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess,” and it was written by Christian bloggers Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin. The expanded edition came out this week, and its message – that moms aren’t alone in our weariness, that it’s OK not to have it all together, that God meets us where we are and works in us – is exactly what my heart needed these past few days. You can get it for your Kindle or in paperback at Amazon.com.