In Defense of Leftovers

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Country Beef Stew
Everything these days seems to be disposable. From appliances to electronics to clothes, even the food we eat. Each year thousand of pounds of perfectly usable food is thrown into the garbage, while thousands of dollars go down the drain. And, the restaurant industry hasn’t helped much, with larger portions that most people can’t consume in one sitting. Oh, some restaurants compost the waste and some donate leftovers to shelters or soup kitchens. But, the reality is we prepare way more than we consume.

Have you sat in a restaurant and noticed how much food goes back to the kitchen? Or been to a party or family gathering and watched the buffet plates being piled higher and higher. Ever thought about the number of meals that could be made from those leftovers? Most people find leftovers distasteful, but for the more self-sufficient homesteading crowd leftovers are just the ingredients for another meal.

Food waste can be a challenge for many households, but it doesn’t need to be. Even small bits of leftovers can be transformed into luscious, satisfying meals or snacks. With a few tricks and some simple recipes you’ll soon be turning last nights’ leftovers into tonight’s hearty dinner. Of course, the number of servings will vary with the amount of leftovers you have.

Take a simple chicken dinner – it can be turned into several additional meals using any remaining meat and the carcass for broth. Use breast meat to make chicken salad; chicken, broccoli and rice casserole or chicken and broccoli Alfredo. Leg and thigh meat can be used to make chicken soup. Simmering wings, skin and remaining carcass makes a wonderfully rich chicken broth for use in other dishes.

Hearty Chicken Noodle

8c water
2-3tbs bouillon (I like “Better than Bouillon”)
1 Large carrot, sliced
1 Stalk celery, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1tbs Italian herbs
1cup Wide egg noodles
Leftover chicken from one baked chicken

Put water, legs and thighs or carcass into large pot and simmer until meat falls of bone. Remove carcass and strip meat from bones. (this can be done earlier and frozen for future use) Put meat and bouillon into pot along with carrots, celery, onion and herbs. Simmer until veggies are soft. Add noodles and cook until noodles are done, but not mushy. Serve with warm bread and butter and green salad.

Likewise, beef leftovers can be made into beef vegetable; beef and barley or beef and mushroom soups. For heartier dishes, try making small pots of stew with lots of veggies and potatoes or small meat pies.

Beef Stew

Leftover beef cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Carrot, sliced thick
1 Celery stalk, sliced thick
1 Onion, chopped
6 Button mushrooms, whole or 6oz. can sliced
2 Potatoes, quartered, any variety
1 15oz can seasoned beef broth or beef consommé
1/2c Red wine or dark beer
1/4c Peas (fresh or frozen)
1 Packaged stew mix

Cut vegetables and place at bottom of slow cooker. Sprinkle stew mix over vegetables. Arrange meat on top of vegetables. Pour liquid over all. Set slow cooker on high and put lid on.

Fruit that is past its prime can also be used in a variety of scrumptious ways. With a little imagination and a willingness to use all you can, you’ll soon be reducing the amount of food that goes to waste.

Bananas that have turned brown are usually a real turn off to most people, but they are perfect to make the most wonderful banana bread you’ve ever tasted. Keep in mind though; the color of the bananas will turn your bread darker than usual. If you don’t have time to make bread as the bananas turn, toss them in the freezer for later use. Just thaw in a bowl and use the banana along with the juice for an even more decadent banana bread.

Banana Bread

½ cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
½ cup applesauce with cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Sift dry ingredients and combine with the butter mixture. Blend well. Add the bananas, applesauce, and vanilla; stir well. Stir in the nuts and pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3-inch loaf. Bake one hour. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Makes 1 large loaf.

Soft apples are no more appealing than brown bananas. But, they can be just as delicious when turned into applesauce or apple jack pancakes. These dishes are heartwarming winter favorites.

Apple Jack Pancake

2-3 Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2-3 T Butter
2-3 T Brown sugar
½ t Pumpkin pie spice
Pancake mix (mix enough to make 7-8 pancakes)

Sprinkle apples with sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Sauté in a 10-inch, oven-proof skillet in butter until just warm. Pour pancake mix over and place in a 350 degree oven. Top will puff up; cook until well browned. Invert onto plate and cut into slices. Top with maple syrup. Serve warm.

Soft apples can also be made into applesauce. Simply peel, core and chop. Place into a large saucepan with a little liquid (water or apple juice will do), sprinkle with nutmeg and cook on low until apples breakdown. Mash with a potato masher until the desired consistence is reached.

Chopped or thickly sliced apples can be used when cooking pork roasts, or baked with winter squash.

Some veggies can be difficult to reuse only because our imagination or knowledge is limited. But, most can be frozen for later use in stews or soups. Even small amounts of leftover veggies can be used to great success. For more challenging veggie leftovers like mashed potatoes or yams try this simple solution.

Potato or Yam Pancakes

Melt several tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Pat mashed potatoes or yams into single serving sized pancakes and place in skillet. Cook on medium-high heat until bottom is well browned. Flip and brown the other side. These make great additions to breakfast, a quick snack or a side dish.

Keep in Mind - very few homesteaders use a traditional recipe for dishes like the ones above. Ingredients vary depending on the amount of leftovers you have so use your best judgment and adjust quantities accordingly. Fortunately, these recipes are friendly and hard to mess up.

And Remember – what ever can’t be used in other dishes can always be given to the chickens or put in the compost.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kaytethinks



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