My mother often jokes that I married the only man in the world whose tiny appetite matches my own. And while I don’t know if that’s exactly accurate, I do say that I often wish my husband just ate more. And my girls, for that matter. I have learned to serve them only itty-bitty bird-size portions, only to have half of it come back, uneaten, even if it’s something they love. (The possible exception to this is mac and cheese). To top this off, my husband doesn’t adore leftovers. He will eat them if he must, but he would really rather not have the same thing two nights in a row. So I often find myself with leftovers, and lots of them. Here, my patented (ha!) ways of using, transforming, and otherwise disguising the humble leftover.
1. Freeze it! When we have enough leftover for an entire second meal, which happens fairly often, I don’t even bother to stick it in the refrigerator anymore and hope that someone will eat it. I am the only person who ever does, and even I don’t get to leftovers that often for lunch. So I put them in those disposable plastic containers, or a Ziploc freezer bag, seal, label, and freeze immediately. On a night when I have no time to cook, I have a full meal ready to go. Another option when you cook twice as much as you need: package it up nicely and take it to your next door neighbor, your sick friend, or a mom with newborns! Who doesn’t appreciate not having to make dinner one night!
2. Transform it!: Early in our marriage, I started taking all the leftover pieces of chicken, beef and pork from a couple of days worth of dinners, slicing them up, adding chopped fresh veggies, dousing the whole thing in soy sauce, serving it with brown rice, and calling it stir-fry. My husband loves it, and so do I. Another technique, and one I tried tonight for the first time, is one that is described in my go-to slow cooker cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. An essay in the book suggests freezing pieces of chicken, pork, lamb, beef, etc, and when you have enough to make a meal (that doesn’t take long in our house), toss it in the slow cooker with some veggies and the seasonings of your choice. If you fee like Italian, try some basil and oregano; for Indian, use cumin or turmeric or masala. And be sure to add some liquid, like chicken stock or wine. This is a virtually foolproof method. Today, I combined some grilled slices of flank steak, chicken breasts, and even some ribs, threw them in the slow cooker, and added half a jar of bottled Indian Korma cooking sauce. It’s kind of like a yellow curry sauce, and it’s amazing. The whole house smelled incredible, and it tasted great! Plus it makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I don’t toss food out. Try this with your favorite sauce…
3. Market It! On nights when I find myself without the time or desire to cook, and a refrigerator’s worth of leftovers beckons, I bring everything out, heat it all up, and call it Tapas Night. Everyone gets to serve themselves and pick only the things they want to eat. I sometimes round this out by adding bread, rice, or pasta. Works like a charm!
Now I’d love to hear from you: How do you handle leftovers in your house?