Tag Archives: leftovers

Sides Show

10 Jul

Everyone needs some good summer sides, right? IMG_2014Either for a BBQ at your place or a summer potluck, it never hurts to have a few more recipes for tasty, healthy dishes, right? So, as promised yesterday, here are the sides that completed last week’s birthday barbeque-less BBQ dinner menu. Both are from the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine.

Red Coleslaw with Grapes – serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp fat-free Italian dressing, to lighten things up even more)
  • 1 small or 1/2 large head red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes, chopped

Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until well blended.

Add the cabbage, parsley, scallions and grapes to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours before serving.

Baked Beans with Swiss ChardIMG_2026 – serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard or mustard greens, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked turkey or lean ham (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 7 minutes.

Add the chard, turkey and 1/4 cup water to the skillet; cook, stirring, until the chard wilts slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, increase the heat to medium high and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the pinto beans, then add the navy beans and their liquid. Add the parsley, thyme and oregano and return to a simmer.

Coarsely mash about one-quarter of the beans in the skillet with a potato masher or fork to thicken the mixture; season with salt. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

*Public service announcement: Please ignore the apple cider vinegar in the ingredients shot for the beans. For some reason, I got it in my head that there was vinegar in there, but clearly, there’s not. I only realized this once I had already started the recipe. Thank you for your cooperation (not like you have a choice Smile with tongue out).

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Mashing up part of the bean mixture with a potato masher.

 

 

 

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This is what it looks like when it’s ready to go into the oven.

 

 

 

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…and when the beans come out.

 

 

 

Now the coleslaw was great, I really enjoyed it. But…I CANNOT say enough about these beans! Seriously…I. LOVE.THEM. Now, these are not what you would typically think of as “classic” baked beans (molasses/brown sugar, bacon etc) but I love this twist on them. And if you are lucky like me, you’ll have a good amount of leftovers.

The leftover beans were a standout in the salad I showed you yesterday. IMG_2056Also delectable on Friday stuffed inside a pita with garden-fresh lettuce and arugula (I almost forgot I had that stuff for a while…SO good), mustard, onion and tomato, with a bit of leftover coleslaw and a big old pile of roasted garlic scapes on the side.IMG_2063

Saturday, the beans made another star turn in a delicious tofu shirataki “pasta” dish. I sautéed a boatload of fresh veggies (zucchini, asparagus, orange pepper, garlic scapes, sliced portabella) and a minced garlic clove in a teaspoon of olive oil, then added part of a can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, salt and pepper, reduced heat and simmered a bit, and at the last minute, added chopped fresh basil.  I made HG girlfredo, and stirred this in, along with 1/2 cup of the beans, simmered for a couple of minutes just to heat through and served – voila! This was SO tasty and filling with all the veggies and protein and fibre-packed beans.

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Speaking of awesome uses of the leftovers from Wednesday’s birthday meal, I just can’t sign off without showing you this simply AMAZING pizza I made Friday night: Slightly Spicy BBQ Chicken Pizza. By now, you know what I did for the crust.

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For the sauce/meat component, I mixed 1/2 cup of the leftover pulled chicken with just a bit of light ketchup and BBQ sauce, a couple of dashes of the hot sauce I bought in Mexico (‘cause I like to live dangerously) and some cumin (I like it smoky).

I spread this on top of my crust, then topped with 1/3 cup light shredded Tex-Mex cheese, chopped red bell pepper, Vidalia onion and chopped jarred jalapenos (there I go living dangerously again).

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When the pizza came out of the oven, it looked like this. But I didn’t stop there.

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After slicing it up, I topped with the rest of the leftover coleslaw and some chopped fresh cilantro. I have seen enough BBQ recipes where you put slaw on the bun to think that this might be a good idea – and it was! The sweetness and coolness of the slaw contrasted perfectly with the spicy, smoky chicken – I’d definitely do this again!

Just to recap the birthday menu, since it was broken down over 3 posts, I thought I’d bring it all together for you here:

HG Guacamole with veggies and Guiltless Gourmet Chips

HG Crockpot Pulled Chicken on Buns

My Mom’s Potato Salad

Red Coleslaw with Grapes

Baked Beans with Swiss Chard

Chocolate Cappuccino Cake

Try some (or all of it)….it was really good!

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Barbeque Supper (sans BBQ)

9 Jul

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So yesterday, I shared the cake recipe from my mom’s birthday with you. I thought, since the meal was so tasty, you’d like to know how to re-create the rest of it. It never hurts to have a full roster of recipes for summer entertaining, right?

So you’d think that for a birthday on July 6, a barbeque IMG_2013is a no-brainer, right Or maybe you’re super-clever, read the post title and figured that I’m going an alternate route). Although the crockpot is often thought of as a go-to tool in the winter, perfect for long-cooking roasts and stews, it is more than just a fairweather friend, and can make great summer meals as well (just ask Katie). I used my slow cooker to make Hungry Girl’s slow-cooked pulled chicken (recipe here) and served it on light buns  – a much lighter option than delicious but fatty pulled pork. Recipe tip: I added a teaspoon of cumin because I like it smoky. Also, the recipe is VERY saucy, so I pulled the chicken out of the sauce and shredded it, then just added part of the sauce (please save the rest though, don’t throw it out!).

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The pulling in process!

 

 

 

 

 

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Our starter was another HG favourite: guacamole! Now, if you click here and read the recipe, or look at the photo below, you’ll notice that there are CANNED PEAS in it – please don’t get scared off! The peas help keep the dip way lower in calories/fat than traditional guacamole, but still keep a good colour/texture/flavour (and don’t worry, there’s still avocado in there too). And trust me, everyone LOVED it.

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Looks like typical guac ingredients, right? Look closer at that yellow can in the bottom right….peas please! And of course, buy some Guiltless gourmet tortilla chips to go with (optional but HIGHLY recommended – Spicy Black Bean are my fav).

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This is the peas all mashed up and ready for the other ingredients to be added – if you don’t tell your guests, they’ll never know!

I served the dip with the chips and some cut up veggies (I ate mostly veggies).

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I had 3 sides. Number one was the potato salad you see above. It comes from an OLD and super-simple family recipe. All you do is cook new potatoes (my mom usually peels them, I like skin on – your choice), then slice (and maybe peel) while still warm. Add red wine vinegar (my mom would want me to tell you that it HAS to be Unico brand or it won’t taste the same), olive oil, chopped fresh chives, and salad and pepper to taste. Chill to let flavours blend – that’s it! Growing up, I didn’t used to like this (crazy I know), but in my family, this is what potato salad means – not your typical mayonnaise-y deal.

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Sides numbers 2 and 3 came from my Food Network Magazine, delayed due to the postal strike, but which arrived the day before my mom’s bday (perfect timing, eh?). There was a fun article called “Choose Sides,” where they took typical summer side dishes and made light and rich versions. I made the light versions of the baked beans and coleslaw: Baked Beans with Swiss Chard and Red Coleslaw with Grapes. IMG_2014

Both were yummy, and a nice twist on classic sides. Since this post is getting lengthy, I will share these recipes with you tomorrow. Another plus of this menu, is that is very make-ahead-able (which makes for easy-breezy summer entertaining). Even better, this meal made for absolutely AMAZING leftovers. I was saying to my friend, I was actually HOPING for leftovers when I made this meal….do you ever do that? You know, when you just KNOW that leftovers will be absolutely delicious and possibly even better the next day? …so I will show you my leftover supper today and then come back tomorrow with thIMG_2047e two side recipes.

Thursday’s leftover supper was a bit unconventional, but delicious nonetheless: a dish I’m calling “Hot and Cold BBQ Salad Bowl” with a side of guacamole and veggies. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it, that’s all I have to say.

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I started by making a small salad with garden-fresh lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions and orange pepper. I poured some of the leftover sauce from the chicken (which I saved and DID NOT throw out) over top.

 

 

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Then, I heated up a nice big scoop of the leftover chicken and the beans in the microwave.

 

 

 

 

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All together now! I topped the salad base with the hot chicken and beans, and then some of the beautiful coleslaw. Mmm…this was the PERFECT mix of flavours, temperatures, and textures. It was like when you’re at a barbeque with lots of different things on your plate, and all the juices and flavours kind of run together. So maybe, if you’re someone who doesn’t like your food touching/mixing, you wouldn’t like this salad…but I sure did!

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And of course, I couldn’t let that leftover cake in the fridge go to waste, could I? Winking smile

Back tomorrow with the bean and coleslaw recipes, my friends. But I hope you try these recipes – as I said before, perfect easy-breezy summer entertaining!

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Speaking of summer, I just love it. The photo to the right shows my location while typing this post (any guesses?). I enjoyed a road trip to Brantford, class and swim at the gym (while I’ve got my cheapie wagjag membership), and then headed to Starbucks to be one of those cool bloggers who blogs there, while drinking an iced passion tea and then later on, chatting with Donna. Oh summer, I love you!

How are you enjoying summer this weekend?

Take a guess

5 May

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Let’s play a game…it’s called: “Guess what the above photo is” (I know I know, where do I come up with these names?). A pile of rocks? A close-up of a swamp? Nope. How about some slightly freezer-burned-but-still usable and totally delicious frozen leftover’s of Katie’s Mushroom Barley stew? Yep, you got it!

IMG_0972I made this stuff a couple of weeks back, and never got around to posting it (plus, I figured you could just read all about it on RFKW). I changed the veggies and seasonings a bit, based on what I had on hand, added some dried mushrooms, but kept the recipe the same other than that….delicious! We had one portion in the freezer, and the tupperware somehow got broken (hence the freezerIMG_0974 burn) so I wanted to use it up. I made a few additions, turning one portion into two, and another tasty meal. When it comes to leftovers, I’m a re-invent and re-imagine kinda girl (but Katie, it’s not because your stew wasn’t already delicious), so here’s how I re-imagined this stuff.

I started by chopping up some garlic (surprise, surprise), onion, eggplant, red pepper and mushrooms. I sautéed them in 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high heat until slightly browned.

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Then, I added a bunch of chopped kale, and cooked until it had wilted. To the veggies, I added the frozen stew, 1 cup of Romano beans (leftover in the fridge after the veggie stew…when I have leftover beans, I am always itching to use them, as they get slimy SO fast) and some canned tomatoes. I seasoned with salt and pepper, IMG_0976Italian seasoning and dried thyme and added a bay leaf. I brought it to a boil, then reduced heat simmered for about half an hour….long enough for the frozen stew to thaw and everything to blend together. This made two hearty and SUPER-filling bowls of bean, barley and veggie stew (my mom couldn’t even finish hers)!

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Now, I had planned to make turkey bacon BLTs on the side, but I was in for a nasty surprise when I opened the package – super-slimy turkey bacon. Too slimy even for me to use! So I went for plan B – opened the freezer, found some frozen pre-cooked chicken breast pieces, and made a Mediterranean chicken pita. I filled two light pitas with the chicken (tossed with a bit of Greek seasoning), spinach, tomato, red onion and spread with a bit of my fav – PC Blue Menu Tzatziki and seasoned with a bit of garlic salt and pepper. Turned out a pretty yummy plan B! And the light, fresh flavours went perfectly with the hearty, filling stew. IMG_0984

I’d say if you compare the top and bottom photos, it makes a pretty good before and after, wouldn’t you? I guess I’m all about the remixing this week. What do you do when an ingredient you were planning to cook with has gone bad? Do you totally scrap the meal, or just improvise a little?

Fiesta con pollo

29 Mar

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I was searching for a creative title for this post, and kept coming up short….so I turned to my Spanish knowledge (fun fact: I was a Spanish major until my third year of University, when I switched my second major to Political Science due to lack of course availability) for something creative….for those of you who don’t hablar much Español, the title means “party with chicken.” Doesn’t have the same ring, eh? Why the Spanish? Because I used my leftover chicken from the weekend to make a delicious Mexican supper on Monday. As you can see from the photo above, I combined the chicken and rice with refried beans and wraps (and other ingredients) to make some tasty burritos. How did I do it? Let’s get started!

I finely chopped a HUGE clove of garlic, a bit of green pepper and part of an onion (why the pink tinge? I had previously chopped some beets which will appear in the final meal shot). I sauteed the veggies in a tsp of olive oil, then added some Epicure Pueblo Bean Dip Mix, Salsa Mix, and Nacho Cheese Dip Mix (if you don’t have these, you could just use chili powder and cumin). I chopped the chicken, and added it to the skillet along with the little bit of leftover rice and a bit of salsa, seasoned with salt, and cooked it all together for a few minutes.IMG_0605

 

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I spread half a cup of refried beans over the wraps (note: this was the first time I bought organic refried beans…the can said “lightly” salted…they needed some help, so I topped them with garlic salt, cumin, and more dip seasonings). Then, I put the filling over that. I folded/wrapped up the tortillas (fold the ends in first so the filling doesn’t gush out, then roll up), put a thin layer of salsa over the bottom of my baking dish, put the burritos on top, topped with more salsa and a bit of light Tex-Mex shredded cheese. I baked for about 1/2 hour at 350 until the cheese was nice and melt-y and everything was heated through.

IMG_0609The result of my Mexican madness? DELICIOUS! As I was eating this, I thought “it’s been a while since I made Mexican at home…I need to do it more often ‘cause it tastes SO good!” And since the chicken was already chipotle-flavored, it went perfectly in these burritos. On the side, I enjoyed boiled beets (I didn’t peel them, ‘cause it’s way easier and I don’t mind the peel) and cut them smaller before cooking so they’d cook faster and a salad with a sort of Southwest dressing I made (olive oil, Italian dressing, red wine vinegar, salsa, light BBQ sauce, liquid smoke and the various Epicure seasonings, then just slightly sweetened). Take a close look at the salad. See the bean sprouts in there? Remember how I told you about how I try and avoid buying bags of them ‘cause they go slimy so quickly? Well, no less than 2 days after I wrote that post, my mom bought a whole bag! She had company over on Saturday while I was out and made stir-fry….well, having that bag in the fridge just makes my mind work harder to think of ways to use them up before they head into slimy territory. They were in a salad at lunch yesterday, and again at supper (they brought a little Asian to the Tex-Mex party).

Do you ever make Mexican food at home? Any favourite dishes/recipes/ingredients? And any good ideas for using up bean sprouts (besides the obvious)? There are still some left!

Before and After

26 Mar

Mushroom Pasta Casserole

I love leftovers (you know this by now Smile). If I can help it, I won’t let any food go to waste. This was the inspiration for Wednesday’s dinner: mushroom chicken pasta bake. The leftovers I used: cooked whole wheat penne, more of the infamous mushroom cream cheese (you would NOT believe how much of this stuff is still left!) and leftover roasted chicken.

If you take a look at my nifty photo collage (can’t believe I’ve been using Picasa for years and just discovered this feature!) you can see the before and after photos – before is in the top right, after is the large photo on the left and then my plated portion is on the bottom right, alongside some roasted veggies (eggplant, carrot, cauliflower, red pepper with cumin, olive oil and salt). Before I go on to describe how I made this casserole, let me just say that I am really getting into cumin-roasted veggies, cauliflower in particular. I’ve always LOVED cumin and its delightful smokiness (without being spicy hot)…and lately I’ve been sprinkling it on my cauliflower, then roasting with oil and salt…YUMMY! Open-mouthed smile Give it a try.

Anyway…back to the casserole. My sister was visiting this week Red heart, so instead of making a dinner for two, this casserole serves three. The amounts I used of my leftovers were (approximately): just about 3 cups cooked penne (I chopped it up a bit before putting it in, because I wanted smaller pieces), 6 or 7 ounces cooked chicken, chopped and a nice scoop of the cream cheese. I started by sauteeing some mushrooms, onion, garlic and kale (for added colour, nutrition, and to use up the little bit left in the fridge) in a teaspoon of olive oil. Meanwhile, I was soaking some dried mushrooms in boiling water. I added the mushrooms, a bit of frozen spinach that I had defrosted and drained (again, why not bump up the veggies?) and the chicken, my seasonings were salt, pepper and thyme. I added in the pasta, my scoop of cream cheese and a bit of the reserved liquid from the mushrooms (if you soak dried mushrooms, save the liquid, it’s SUPER flavourful) and cooked it together for a few minutes until heated through, tasting to check for seasoning (oh: just remembered, I added a splash of soy sauce just for an extra punch of flavour).

I put the pasta mixture into a casserole dish, then topped with 1/3 cup grated light cheese (I had Tex-Mex, so that’s what I used) and 2 tbsp light Parmesan cheese (as processed as I know the stuff in the plastic can is, I like it because it’s grated so fine, a little goes a long way). I baked it at 400 for about half an hour, just to heat it all through and get the cheese nice and bubbly.

This wasn’t my absolute favourite meal, but it was a tasty and inventive way to use up leftovers, I think. It got positive reviews from the other diners too Smile.  Since this post is about re-imagining leftovers/using up food, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite tricks and tips for using up leftovers/food that’s almost going bad…there are always ways to incorporate something, and I’d much rather do that than let something go to waste!

1. Be creative! Just because you have leftovers of a meal doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meal for days straight. Leftover meatloaf can be made into a sandwich, or even crumbled onto nachos. That mushroom cream cheese wasn’t just for appetizers, but pizza, pasta, chicken…(still looking for ideas)! You just need to think outside of the box. Part of the fun of leftovers is that you can create unique combinations that you never would have thought of before and maybe make something you like even better than the original!

2. Don’t throw out produce that’s past its prime. Limp veggies can be revived! They’re probably not great for eating fresh…so cook ‘em up. Limp celery and bendy carrots? Cook them in a soup…either chopped in a chicken noodle soup, or blended into a puree for a cream soup. You can also stir fry or roast veggies that may not be at their freshest.

3. Even sour milk can be saved! Ok, if it’s separating into big chunks and clear liquid….it’s past its prime. But, if it’s just a little off, you can bake with it. There are recipes that actually call for soured milk (it’s true!)…like my favourite banana cake recipe (will have to post it here some time). And speaking of out-dated dairy, remember that expiration dates are just a guideline. I eat yogurt that’s past the date all the time…and sometimes milk too! I open it up, take a whiff, and if it smells ok, I go for it, no matter what the date says. Remember, it’s best before, not terrible after!

4. Don’t banish the bruised! Soft or bruised fruit can be used. Over-ripe bananas? Freeze ‘em! Freeze in the peel and then microwave to use in baking (hello banana bread Smile ) or peel first, cut in half, freeze, and use for banana soft serve, smoothies, or just eat as-is for a quick and delicious snack. Pears or apples that are bruised, past their prime, or just kind of mealy or soft are great if you cook them in a little bit of water with cinnamon/spices and sweetener of your choice. You can stir them into yogurt, use as an ice cream topped, or make my squash breakfast.

I’ve got lots more great leftover tips, but I will save them for future posts. Do you have any favourite ways to use up leftovers? And…any ideas for what else I can do with my mushroom cream cheese? Or do you want some? I’ll give it away, free of charge!Smile with tongue out

Leftover love and Asian Invasion

25 Mar

Remember that chicken I made last week? Well, as much as I love a hot roast chicken, I also love it for its versatility as leftovers (note: if you don’t have the time/inclination to make a whole roast chicken yourself, a rotisserie roasted chicken from the grocery store is also quite tasty, and a great substitute for leftover roast chicken). Last Saturday, I used the chicken to make a delicious pizza for lunch (though I don’t always succeed, I am trying to eat more protein/slightly bigger meals at lunch time, so this pizza was perfect).

I did the usual crust routine (my flatout stash is fully stocked thanks to my recent trip). For my sauce base, I mixed 2 ounces of the cooked chicken, chopped up with light BBQ sauce and light ketchup, with some cumin sprinkled in (I don’t love the flavour of the BBQ sauce I currently have, hence the ketchup/cumin additions). I spread this over the crust as the sauce. I added some chopped red pepper and red onion, then topped with 1/3 cup grated light cheese. To top it all off, I gave the pizza a light sprinkling of cumin and ground chipotle pepper (I went VERY light on this….that stuff is HOT). Then I baked it up for a few minutes until everything was melted and hot. Mmmm! This was yummy…will have to do it again. The addition of the cumin and chipotle really kicked up the flavour/smokiness. This pizza reminded me of the BBQ Chicken pizza at Boston Pizza…..only better, ’cause it was obviously healthier. 🙂

See that salad on the side? That’s where the Asian Invasion part of the title comes in. After last Friday’s tasty Chinese fest, I had leftover Asian veggies that aren’t normally in my fridge (like snow peas and water chestnuts)….I made a tasty salad and added in the veggies, along with tomatoes, onion, celery, cucumber and spinach. Then for my dressing, I made “Asian balsamic vinaigrette.” I combined a tsp of sesame oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, fat-free Italian salad dressing and some soy sauce and shook it together….mmm! Loved the flavour combo…winning (no, I am NOT a Charlie Sheen wannabe).

I liked the salad/dressing combo so much that it has made several repeat appearances. I made a tasty salad for Monday’s lunch….with 2 ounces of the leftover chicken and then lots ‘o veggies…onion, celery, water chestnuts, coleslaw mix, cucumber (forgot about the snow peas though…oops). And the dressing was the same as Saturday’s.

For Thursday’s lunch (carried over from Wednesday, since it was a snow day :)), I made a slaw with the same dressing, broccoli slaw mix, chopped red onion, the rest of the snow peas (didn’t forget this time ;)) and chopped cabbage. The Asian invasion is a welcome addition to the usual lunch/meal rotation.

Do you use any Asian ingredients in your cooking? How do you switch up your usual meals?

P.S….continuing on the leftover theme…I have one more meal I made with the leftover chicken and, you guessed it, more of the mushroom cream cheese….but that’s to come in another post!

More mushrooms

13 Mar

What? You didn’t think all the leftover mushroom cream cheese filling would disappear overnight, did you? I joked to my mom when I made that mushroom-stuffed chicken, “I just have to make this every night for the next 2 months, and we’ll get rid of this stuff!” 😛 It is good stuff….I’m not tired of it yet…but if I ever see the bottom of that container, I’m sure I will be!

Thursday’s mushroom adventure was GOOD!!!!! I made mushroom-spinach lasagna with butternut squash sauce, oh yes I did and it was as delicious as it sounds! Here’s how it went down. I sauteed some onion and fresh mushrooms, in a little olive oil, seasoning with salt, pepper, thyme and sage. Right at the end of cook time, I added some dried wild mushrooms (bought a GIANT jar at Costco) that I had soaked in water (save the liquid…it has great flavour!). I spread some of the mushroom cream cheese on 2 sheets of fresh whole wheat lasagna noodles (look for them in the refrigerated fresh pasta area) (I had just 2 sheets leftover from a lasagna I made a few weeks ago) and topped with a bit of fresh spinach and the sauteed mushroom mixture on one half of each sheet. To make the sauce I cooked about 1 and 1/2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash in salted water in the microwave until tender. I pureed it with one wedge of Laughing Cow light cheese, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and some of the reserved mushroom liquid. To assemble the lasagna, I spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of a stoneware pan. I folded each lasagna sheet over the mushroom mixture and laid them on top of the sauce. I spread the rest of the sauce over the lasagna, and topped with 1/2 cup shredded light Italian blend cheese. I baked for 1/2 hour at 400, then let it sit in the oven for about 15 minutes (waiting for my mom to get home 🙂 ). I served with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.

All I can say is yum, yum, yum! This meal was fabulous in and of itself…tasted far better than just something made to use up leftovers. I love cooking to use up leftovers in the fridge…I find it oddly satisfying (I’m a weirdo, I know). I just love the challenge of taking something that’s sitting in the fridge and re-inventing it in a new and exciting way…anyone with me on that?

But the mushroom madness doesn’t end there, my friends…oh no. I also used the ‘shroom-y spread on my Friday night pizza. Here’s how it went down. I did the crust my usual way, then spread it with what else…the mushroom spread!  I caramelized some onion in 1/2 tsp olive oil, then used the same pan and added another 1/2 tsp oil and sauteed some button mushrooms and one mini portobello. Inspired by this recipe, I added some balsamic vinegar at the end. I also seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme. I topped the pizza crust/sauce with the onions, mushrooms, chopped light deli ham and my new cheesy crush, PC Blue Menu light Brie. I baked just until the cheese was melty. YUMMY! Once again, another mushroom winner!

My side dish? I cooked some butternut squash cubes in the microwave in salted water until tender. I cooked some kale and broccoli rabe in boiling salted water (just let it boil and then drain, I don’t like my greens overcooked). I re-used the same nonstick pan from the onions and mushrooms (all about minimizing the dishes), sprayed with a bit of nonstick spray, added the squash and greens and some leftover onions and mushrooms from the pizza, sauteed altogether with salt, pepper and thyme, and added just a splash of balsamic at the end. I forgot how much I like eating squash and greens together…it’s been a while. I always feel super healthy when I eat this combo, as I consider both to be super foods in their own right…and together? They can conquer the world! Okay…maybe not…but at least after eating them I can conquer, uh, something….sorry….I digress. Texturally, this dish was just ok…I think it’s because I didn’t add any more oil and didn’t drain the water from my veggies thoroughly enough…but it was still a satisfying side.

Although it’s not mushroom-related, the dessert that followed the pizza was also quite fabulous, so I thought I’d share :)…didn’t think you’d mind. I made an ice cream sandwich with a deep chocolate Vitatop and 1/4 cup of one of my new obsessions: President’s Choice Caramel Pecan Crunch frozen yogurt….WOW this stuff is good…I am in love! Try it if you don’t believe me…it’s like butterscotch ripple on steroids…so so yummy! And 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per serving? Yes please! In the Alumni Western mug (go Mustangs!) is hot chocolate. It was the perfect meal and dessert to kick off my March Break…followed by reading my entire new Food Network Magazine in one sitting on the couch in sweatpants! 😀 Yes, that’s my idea of a fun Friday night. If that makes me an old lady, then so be it.

Have you ever used leftovers to make something that turned out to be incredibly delicious? Do tell! And what’s your ideal Friday night…in or out?

Cheap and Cheerful Chicken

26 Jan

I didn’t get home until 7:30 last night (I met a friend for coffee and then had my weekly hula hooping class) and my mom also had a busy day, so for supper, we got some help from the grocery store with the good old rotisserie roast chicken. I always love this meal – the meat is so juicy and tasty, and it’s a healthy standby for when you’re in a hurry. And, at only $8 or $9, a whole roast chicken is a pretty good deal – even better if you can stretch it through the week.  Here are some of my favourite ways to use up leftover chicken:

Soup – just add the cooked chicken to any soup (canned or homemade) for added protein to fill you up more. For a quick chicken noodle soup, cook a combo of carrots, celery and onions (or any other veggie for that matter) until tender in a bit of broth. Add cooked chicken and cooked pasta and enough broth for desired volume, season with salt and pepper, a bit of thyme is great too…cook until heated through.

You can use leftover roast chicken in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken – this can be a huge time saver if you’re using it in a casserole or other dish and don’t have time to cook the chicken yourself.

Sandwiches – you can simply slice the chicken, put it on bread and add your favourite toppings or condiments. Or you could add some cheese, grill it and call it a panini. How about mixing in some light mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, apples, and celery for a yummy chicken salad?

Salads – top off any salad with leftover chicken for a great protein boost. Good on anything from a basic garden salad, to Greek, to Caesar….whatever you can create!

This post is short and sweet, but hopefully it has lent some inspiration as to what you can create with a humble kitchen staple? And good ideas I’ve missed? Leave them below!

Hamming it Up

23 Jan

I love leftovers. I have matured a great deal since my childhood days when I would turn up my nose and/or roll my eyes when my mom proclaimed it was leftover night. I now get great satisfaction of using up what is on hand, taking leftover food and re-imagining it into a new dish.

One food that lends itself to particularly tasty leftovers is ham. And when you prepare a ham for two people, no matter how small the ham, leftovers are a forgone conclusion. My mom and I had ham for dinner this week, and I was able two create two new ham dishes on the subsequent nights.

Wednesday night I successfully integrated the ham into a delicious pasta dish. I sauteed some onion in olive oil until it began to caramelize, then added fresh mushrooms and kale. I also added some dried mushrooms (purchased at Costco, but somehow didn’t make it into my post about it). You just need to rinse them and soak them in hot water for about 15 minutes, then add them to your recipe. I used the soaking liquid from the mushrooms to cook the pasta in (whole wheat of course) for added flavour. I diced up about 6 oz of ham and added this to the veggies, then added the pasta and a bit of the cooking liquid at the last minute and cooked it all together briefly. Of course, I seasoned with salt and pepper, and I think the herbs I used were a bit of sage and thyme. The result? A hearty, delicious, ham and veggie-filled pasta.

Thursday night I was a little stumped. Of course, leftover ham is great for sandwiches, but I just wasn’t feeling the sandwich vibe. So I turned to google and typed in “leftover ham recipes,” hoping the internet wouldn’t disappoint. After perusing for a few minutes, I came across this recipe for a ham and polenta casserole – the idea intrigued me and I remembered that I had a tube of polenta that had been in my cupboard longer than I cared to admit. I decided to make my own spin on the recipe. So, for 2 servings, here’s what I did:

I used half of 500 g package of polenta (which is made from cornmeal, in case you don’t know what it is. I think I found mine in the fresh deli section of the grocery store, maybe on top of the fresh olive bar?) and cut it into 6 slices. I cooked the polenta in 2 tsp of olive oil in a nonstick pan on both sides until it was golden.

For the veggies, I cooked a few cups of broccoli florets (of course I didn’t have asparagus in the dead of winter) and a bit of cauliflower in the microwave until tender crisp.

Instead of alfredo sauce, I microwaved 2 wedges of the laughing cow light cheese with a splash of skim milk, a spoonful of Dijon mustard and some garlic seasoning until smooth.

I lay the cooked polenta slices in a 9 inch pie plate, topped with 6 oz diced ham and the cooked veggies. I drizzled my sauce over the veggies, then topped it all off with 2 tbsp light Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the plastic can – high class, I know). Then I baked for about 1/2 an hour at 425.

The result was actually quite tasty. Although it may not photograph beautifully (it’s in the left in the above photo), it was a great way to use up leftover ham, and different than what I would have come up with on my own. The right half of the plate is the medley of roasted veggies I made as a side dish (I wanted to use up the odds and ends in the fridge before going to the market the next day). I just roasted them with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and some herbs. Tasty!

If you look at leftovers as a negative thing, I encourage you to change your thinking. This may sound kind of nerdy, but I find using up leftovers quite rewarding. I have met the challenge of using up day (or more) -old food, and not let it go to waste, and created a meal that is new and different from the food it started with. I still have some more ham to use up though…any ideas? Maybe quiche? Or maybe I will go for that sandwich…..