The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 28, 2013

Cooking with leftovers a challenge

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TARBORO — We all end up with leftover foods most of the time. It’s difficult to cook the exact amount needed for a meal. When there are leftovers, we generally have a few options. We can toss it out, feed it to the dog or put it into a storage container and stick it in the fridge where it sets for several days and then we throw it out.

 There is one more option. We can turn the leftovers into something entirely different from its original taste, appearance or presentation. When this is done, leftovers are used up, a few bucks are saved, and your family does not feel it’s being served the same thing over again.

Here are several tips for some common leftover items. Remember that imagination and experimentation are the keys to success. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like the result and end up “ordering out” for dinner instead!

Asparagus:

Make asparagus omelets by chopping cooked asparagus and add to beaten eggs. Add a little grated cheddar or American cheese. Add any other of your usual omelet items, such as onion, crumbled bacon, tomatoes, etc. Proceed as for an omelet.

Place cooked asparagus in a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese. Bake until heated through.

Biscuits:

Split in half and spread each cut side with butter. Sprinkle with garlic powder, parsley, dill weed and shredded cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F until the cheese is melted.

Candy:

Break Hershey bars into chunks and mix into chocolate chip cookie recipes.

Add crushed pieces of Butterfinger to peanut butter cookie dough.

Top rolled sugar cookie dough with gummy worms.

Make a hole in the uncooked cookie dough and fill it with Life Savers, Warheads or Jolly Ranchers. They melt for a stained-glass effect.

Mix candy pieces into a boxed cake mix.

After frosting a cake, sprinkle it with candy pieces.

Fold small candy pieces into cheesecakes or whirl them into milk shakes.

Make your own McDonald's McFlurry by mixing candy into softened vanilla ice cream.

Candy canes:

Dissolve in mugs of coffee or hot chocolate for a tasty drink.

Cereal:

Crush unsweetened cereal well, dip chicken pieces into egg wash and then roll in the crushed cereal. Bake according to your favorite oven baked chicken recipe.

Coffee:

Freeze leftover coffee in cubes to cool off hot coffee.

Add black coffee to pot roast to create a rich, brown gravy.

Ham:

Use diced in Denver omelets.

Ham kebabs. Thread large ham chunks onto skewers, alternating with fresh pineapple chunks and squares of sweet red or green bell pepper. Brush kebabs with butter and grill until browned. Serve with rice and fresh asparagus.

Julienne and use in a chef's salad.

Use in scalloped potatoes.

Use odd-size pieces of the fattier ham parts as a seasoning. Drop a chunk or two into the water when cooking green beans or cabbage for real down-home flavor.

Pie: Dice ham. Combine in greased casserole with canned or frozen peas and a can of undiluted cream of mushroom soup. Top with mounds of cooked, mashed and seasoned sweet potatoes or Irish potatoes.

Scallop: Arrange alternate layers of mashed potatoes, sliced onion and sliced ham in greased casserole; add hot milk to cover. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until potatoes are done.

Scottish: Mix together ground ham, cold seasoned mashed potatoes and seasoning. Shape into oval cakes and roll in flour. Sauté in hot fat until brown on all sides.

Scramble: Brown the last bits of cooked ham in a small amount of butter or margarine in skillet. Pour in scrambled egg mixture. Scramble as usual over low heat.

Savory: Sauté slivers of cooked ham with a little sliced onion, green pepper and celery until golden. Add canned baked beans. Heat through.

Pudding: Mix chopped ham, a can of cream-style corn, 2 beaten eggs and breadcrumbs. Pour into a greased casserole and bake like a custard. Serve hot with corn muffins.

Meat Balls:

Slice meatballs. Sauté bell pepper strips until crisp-tender and then add the meatball slices to the pan to heat through. Use as a sandwich filling for French or Italian bread, adding warmed spaghetti sauce as desired.

Meat loaf:

Blend a can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup with 3/4-cup milk. Spread about 1/3 of this on the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer slices of leftover meat loaf and mashed potatoes over this. Top with the remaining soup mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Hamburger patties:

Crumble into large skillet. Chop onion and a bell pepper. Cook with olive oil until onion and pepper are tender. Add a can of drained green peas.  Dish into a casserole dish, top with spoons of leftover mashed potatoes. Bake until potatoes are browned.

Punch:

Make smoothies by mixing with canned fruit in a blender. Add yogurt or ice cream for variety.

Roast Beef:

Cut into 1/4-inch slices. Dip into beaten egg, then into dry breadcrumbs. Fry the slices in oil or butter until hot and golden.

Put into a crockpot with some canned green chilies, a little cumin, a little garlic, and a little water. Cook until the beef is easily shredded, then use as a taco or burrito filling.

Top meat slices with cooked onions and peppers and provolone cheese; serve on hoagie rolls.

Steak:

Heat slices of steak with sour cream, diced onions, garlic, pepper, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and enough water to make a nice sauce. Serve over egg noodles.

Slice it very thin and then heat up in a skillet with sliced green bell pepper, slivered onion and fajita seasoning. Serve in warmed flour tortillas as fajitas.

Potatoes:

Potatoes can easily be turned into 'designer leftovers'

Cooking a whole tray of jacket potatoes (baked potatoes) will take no longer than cooking one or two, just a few extra minutes scrubbing time needed. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Flat fries: Slice and shallow fry leftover jackets in hot olive oil and some mixed dried herbs or cumin spice. Turn occasionally. Serve hot with anything, Ranch dressing is a good choice.

Family omelette: Peel and dice leftover jackets and gently fry in olive oil, with a chopped onion. Pour over beaten eggs and add some grated cheese. Cook gently for a few minutes. Turn and cook the other side. The omelette will probably fall apart during this maneuver. Just push it back together. No one will know! Serve hot with a green salad.

Rough potato salad: Peel leftover jackets and chop roughly. Mix in a large bowl with sweet corn, tuna and a little chopped onion or chives. Serve with a mayonnaise sauce.

Baked mashed potatoes: Put leftover mashed potatoes into a large bowl and stir in cooked bacon pieces, or cooked vegetables. Place in a greased ovenproof dish, top with grated cheese and bake in a medium oven until hot right through.

Burger mash: In a large bowl, mix leftover mash with a little beaten egg, some chopped chives or very finely chopped onion. Then form small balls in your hands. Flatten slightly and, if available, coat with breadcrumbs or chopped nuts. Fry as you would a burger!

Chicken stir fry: Put cut up chicken pieces in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Mix in thinly sliced sweet peppers, onion, tomato and any other bits in the fridge that look healthy enough to eat. Cook gently for a few minutes, ensuring the chicken is thoroughly hot. Then mix into a bowl of hot cooked noodles. Serve with an oriental style sauce.