When you’re planning meals, think about what the extras can become because they can be a time and budget saver. If you prepare twice the vegetables you’ll need for tonight’s dinner, you’ll have the starting point for a soup or pasta dish later in the week. Anticipate using leftover roast poultry, meat or fish on sandwiches; cook twice as much rice and potatoes as you need and freeze the extra for later use.
Put aside a lunch-able portion of dinner in a container and pack it for lunch the next day. With a bit of planning and no extra effort, you can create a week’s worth of healthy take-it-to-work lunches.
Turn extra cooked vegetables into a frittata. Mix cooked vegetables with a can of whole tomatoes and seasonings to create a pasta sauce. Use leftover cooked rice, meat and vegetables for a burrito for a quick dinner.
Extra leftover vegetables can become soup on another day. In a blender, puree the vegetables with 3 or 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, then warm the soup in a pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and finish the soup with a bit of pesto, olive oil and croutons.
Another way to use extra cooked vegetables, cheese, grilled steak, shrimp or chicken is to toss them with lettuce and your favorite dressing to create a delicious salad.
Certainly, for environmental and financial reasons, it makes sense for us to get smarter about using the food that we purchase.
Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
I often have a small amount of cooked spinach leftover and since I am a frugal cook, I save even small amounts of leftovers. They can go into soups, omelets or a stuffing.
- 6 large mushrooms, stems removed and chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup leftover cooked, chopped spinach
- 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- Pinch salt and pepper
Heat a small skillet and add the olive oil, onion and chopped mushroom stems. Cook until lightly brown. Add the spinach to the skillet and heat. Add the cream cheese and chives and cook until the cheese melts. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the panko crumbs. Stuff the mushrooms with the spinach mixture and place in an oiled baking dish.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes.
Zucchini, Onion and Pepper Fritatta
Have leftover sautéed vegetables? They are delicious in a fritatta.
- 6 large eggs plus 2 egg whites
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 3 cups leftover sautéed vegetable mixture, such as zucchini, red and green bell pepper, onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup mixed Italian shredded cheese (mozzarella, parmesan and asiago)
Preheat the broiler to high.
In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk and salt. Set aside.
Brush a 9 inch ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat.
Saute the garlic until soft and add the vegetables and oregano. Heat about five minutes.
Pour in the egg/milk mixture.Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the eggs are partially set. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Place the pan about 5 inches under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes until the top cooks and puffs up and the cheese melts.
Italian Fish Cakes
Have leftover fish and mashed potatoes? Turn them into fish cakes.
Makes 8-12 fish cakes, depending on size
- 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
- 1 cup minced onion
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound leftover, cooked fish (such as cod, halibut, flounder or salmon, flaked
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously brush two baking sheets with olive oil.
In a large saucepan melt the butter and saute onion, garlic and celery in butter over medium high heat until tender. Slowly mix in flour, cheese, Old Bay seasoning, dry mustard, salt, pepper, mashed potatoes and milk. Turn heat to low and fold in flaked fish. Mix gently. Remove pan from heat. If you have time, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour.
For perfect even cakes, try using an ice-cream scoop to form balls. With floured hands shape batter into cakes 1/2 inch by 3 inches. Coat in breadcrumbs and place on the prepared baking sheets.
Spray the top of the cakes with olive oil cooking spray.
Bake the fish cakes for 10 minutes, turn the cakes over and bake another 15 minutes until golden brown.
Leftover Vegetable Pasta
If you have leftover, cooked sausage, chicken, pork, etc, add them in as well.
For 2 servings
Any of the following leftover vegetables:
- Bell Peppers
All of the following:
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1 cup dried penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
Slice all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Put the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and vegetables. Cook and stir until heated through.
In a separate pot, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water. Drain.
Add the pasta and cheese to the skillet with the vegetables. Add the pasta cooking water and stir well. Heat and serve immediately with extra cheese on the side.
Quick Meat Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cans (14 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 lb leftover pork or beef roast, cubed
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 red potato, cubed
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, or until golden. Add the flour and cook, stirring, just until the flour turns a light brown, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes (with juice), meat, vinegar, carrots, potato, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until flavors have blended and the meat is hot. Remove the bay leaves before serving.