Posts tagged ‘leftovers’

December 2, 2019

Thanksgiving Keeps On Giving at Cooking2Thrive

Thanksgiving keeps on giving by warming our hearts and our bellies. This week, I’m focussing on the role of food in this process. When we’re hungry, it’s hard to feel anything but tired and irritable. When it’s cold, a warm bowl of pasta can set the stage for gratitude on many levels.
Yesterday, I decided to use some of my Thanksgiving leftovers to create dairy-free pasta sauce. Many Cooking2Thrive recipes begin this way. The process goes something like this:

The idea centered around what was available in my kitchen. For the base, I used two cups of broth leftover from making stuffing. To this I added water, half an onion, a couple of pieces of bacon, two large fresh sage leaves, two sprigs of fresh thyme, garlic powder, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a dash of cayenne.

When I first cook a recipe, I don’t measure. I just cook. I use sight, smell, and taste to get the proportions right.

I considered thickening my sauce with corn starch but decided I’d rather try using potatoes. I peeled and cubed two Irish potatoes. Once I’d added these to the broth, I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer until the potatoes were falling apart.

I removed the onion, bacon, and fresh herbs and let the broth cool. Of course, I tasted it as well. It was delicious! I considered just eating it as soup with or without adding some leftover turkey. For the ideal soup, I would probably cook the potatoes a little less, add a hint of curry powder, and throw in some frozen green peas.

Once the broth had cooled sufficiently, I put it in a food processor and pureed the mixture. Actually, I just have a small food chopper so I have to do this in stages. At the end, I returned the puree to the pan and turned the heat on low.

While I was doing this, I cooked some gluten-free egg noodles in lightly salted water. This gave me plenty of time to cube two cups of leftover turkey and add it to the sauce to warm. When the pasta was done, I drained it and topped it with the sauce.

The result was hearty, warm, rich and creamy enough to be pleasing without including cream, milk, cheese, or non-dairy substitutes. The flavors are pulled from Thanksgiving, but the combination provides enough variety to prevent leftover flavor fatigue.

Green peas would also be a good addition to the pasta sauce. I almost always have some in the freezer. They cook quickly so adding them into the puree along with the turkey should allow ample cooking time. If I were adding them, I would cover the pan while it simmers.

After tasting a recipe, or eating two helpings, I sit down at the computer and record what I did. To some degree, I’m guessing how much salt I added, but I’ve followed this process for years creating and testing recipes so it’s an educated guess.

I also taste the dish again warm and cold. I note both taste and texture and add notes of things I may want to try next time I cook the dish. This process will be repeated until the recipe is right. Along the way, we get input from tasters and testers. These include friends, family, neighbors, and volunteers as well as professional bakers and chefs.

Sometimes a recipe only requires our minimal triple testing. Other times, it takes more than 10 trials to get it right. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s also like solving a puzzle with delicious food as the reward.

We are grateful to have food to put on the table, rework and put on the table again. We are grateful to have input from people who help us improve. We are grateful for those of you who follow us.

And for all of this, we give thanks knowing Thanksgiving keeps on giving!

September 20, 2016

Avoid Leftovers With Component Cooking

radishesIt’s easy to cook efficiently and avoid leftovers with component cooking. I eat a lot of leftovers. I like them. I like one pot meals cold from the refrigerator. I like them warmed up again. I like to pull a pork chop out of rice, chop it up and turn it into something totally different. Of course I realize not everyone is as keen on leftovers as I am. I’ve dated a lot of men who hate them. Okay, let’s qualify that before you start calling me Fleabag (love that show by the way). I haven’t dated that many men in general, but a high percentage of those lucky gentlemen haven’t liked leftovers.

You may have experienced the same thing. If you’re in the habit of doing most of your cooking on the weekends, a week without leftovers may sound impossible. Luckily, a tiny change in approach can make cooking efficiently while avoiding leftovers easy to accomplish.

Batch cooking for the week requires some planning. If you’re like most of us, you shop with specific dishes in mind, cook those when you have a block of time and then heat them up later. For some people, this makes a dish less desirable. Instead of preparing finished entrées, I sometimes prep in the following ways. The result is my leftover averse guests are happy and I don’t feel overwhelmed.

I like to think of it as Component Cooking.
First, I start with Basic Proteins.
This component is comprised of proteins cooked with simple seasoning – salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, pork loin, and ground turkey or beef can all be cooked with basic seasoning and then further seasoned later to create delicious “fresh” meals.

For instance, chicken can be cut into strips, additionally seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and onion powder for fajitas, fajita salad, or nachos. Or you can shred it and use the same seasonings to create delicious Chicken Enchiladas.

If you love curry, Basic Pork Loin can be cut into small cubes and added to a curry sauce (the sauce can be prepared in advance as well) along with vegetables and/or rice. Basic Ground Turkey or Beef can be made into lightly baked meatballs that can later be finished in red sauce for pasta or meatball sandwiches. The same meatballs can be finished in Sweet-and-Sour Sauce, or added to gravy for a different flavor profile.

And, of course, Basic Ground Beef can easily be converted into taco filling for tacos, taco salad, enchiladas, chili, nachos, Frito chili pie or stuffed bell peppers.

Other fantastic options for Basic Chicken include: Chicken Alfredo, Lemon Parmesan Chicken, Chicken Caprese, Chicken Spaghetti, Pesto Chicken, Chicken Burgers, or any salad topped with chicken.

squashMy second component is Vegetables.
I sometimes like to prep all the vegetables in the fridge when I have a meal in the oven. Let’s say I’m cooking pot roast. I’ll have already chopped some potatoes, carrots, and onion to cook with the roast. While I have the cutting board out along with the vegetable wash and a good knife, I’ll peel any potatoes I may want to use later in the week, wash the broccoli and remove the large stems, clean and cut some summer squash into medallions, and core a red bell pepper and cut it into long strips. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll also peel and chop a couple of onions.

I’m finished in time to clean up my mess and have a glass of wine before the roast comes out of the oven. Then I store the ready-to-use vegetables in airtight glass containers with tight-fitting lids in the refrigerator.

While the oven is hot is also a great time to roast Spaghetti Squash and Butternut Squash, or bake a Sweet Potato. Later, I can combine any of these Basic Vegetables with my Basic Proteins to create dishes like Pasta Primavera with Chicken or I can serve them unadorned steamed, sautéed, or grilled.

Finally, I fill in the blanks with starchy items.
My morning routine is to drink coffee, read the paper, and watch the news. This gives me plenty of time to cook a pot of pinto, black, or navy beans that I soaked overnight. It’s also plenty of time to boil potatoes or cook some rice. By the time I go upstairs to shower, all I have left to do that night is mash some potatoes or add some beans to my chili.

Using only basic seasoning allows me to turn any of these items into anything I want without really planning ahead. The family wants Chinese – I’m ready to stir-fry the veggies and add some pork or chicken; Mexican – I can whip up tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, chili, or fajita salad; Italian – I have the components for pesto chicken, pasta primavera, and meatball sandwiches at my fingertips.

You could argue that beginning with cooked protein isn’t the same as starting from scratch on the day it’s served. While that’s true to some degree, once I’m finished with the meal most people won’t know the difference and the end result has more fresh ingredients, less additives, and is much tastier than a meal at any chain restaurant or fast casual outlet. And I don’t precook halibut, salmon, scallops, or steak.

If preparing components is the difference between eating fresh food or processed food, components win in my book. If preparing components is the difference between spending $240 per month on lunch (5 lunches at $12 each for 1 person) and a $2880 vacation budget, components win in my book. If preparing components is the difference between me feeling overwhelmed and feeling happy to be in the kitchen, then components win again. And component cooking pleases my leftover averse friends and family.

I love it when a plan works for everyone!

June 27, 2016

If You Can’t Stand The Heat, Get Out Of The Kitchen or Use the Microwave

bf casseroleFor the past two weeks, it’s felt like 108ª outside and all I can think over and over again is: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Once we hit the middle of summer, it’s always hot in my kitchen, but this year the sweltering started a couple of months early. recipeWhile my west facing kitchen may hold more heat than some, at these temps everyone’s kitchen seems hot.

To avoid the heat, some of my friends grill out, some eat salads, and some flee to the lake. Another summer option is to cook in the microwave. If you’re like me, you only think to use the microwave for a cup of hot tea, heating up left overs, or cooking frozen edamame, but the microwave can be used to cook a variety of casseroles, quick breads, and steamed vegetables. Microwave cooking is also great for dorm rooms or for seniors who no longer trust themselves to remember to turn off the stove.

Of course you can also get out of the kitchen by grabbing a burger on your way home from work. We do this at a burger joint that gives us unlimited French fries. That means I always go home with meat and fries. For years I wondered what to do with those left over fries. Now that I’ve commandeered the microwave for actual cooking, I have a solution that won’t heat up the kitchen. Give this left over French fry breakfast casserole a try. It’s hearty enough for an evening meal. Bon appétit!