Tag Archives: Leftovers

Asian Pork and Sweet Corn Hash

Why is it that every stage of parenthood just seems to get harder?  Once they sleep through the night, they begin to move and roll and fall off things.  Once they don’t need to eat every two hours, they start protesting solid foods and stop eating altogether.  Once they can dress themselves, they start talking back.  Once you get used to one baby, you go and have another one and wonder how you ever thought one child was hard.  There is a constant game of “one-upmanship” going on — and somewhere in their cute little faces they are saying, “You fool, I’m going to make you realize how easy you had it back then.”

And so it goes with older children and activities.  You thought your time demands were rough with babies?  Just wait until they have school, and homework, and soccer, and t-ball, and dance, and piano lessons.  I can hear you now, “I am not going to be that parent.  I am going to let each child have one activity at a time and we will not cater to their every extra-curricular desire.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Ha. Ha. Ha.       Ha.

And you thought it was under your control.  Here’s the deal:  even if each child does one thing, you have to do them all.  Get it?  And in our house, we definitely don’t over commit, but once you get multiple schools and multiple activities, it adds up to some sort of clusterfuck matrix of driving and practices and games and crying over homework and going to plays/parties/cultural celebrations and making quiches (don’t ask about that one) and writing checks and buying snacks (because you can’t have an activity without a damn snack).

It is the reason my right eye keeps twitching.  Plain and simple, we are on overload.

Hence the reason you need quick and easy dinners in your arsenal.  And I call it an “arsenal” very purposefully.  (An aside and a funny thing:  In the food blog world, there is constant conversation about the danger of people like Sandra Lee or those who are proponents of things called “30 minute meals.”  The danger, in the words of some, is that people aren’t really learning to cook and appreciate real food.  The opposing viewpoint is that any cooking is better than none.  Now, you know I am the biggest proponent of cooking real food — but these conversations fail to recognize the point that most of us in this stage of life don’t have a choice related to how much time we spend on food preparation.  On many nights, I’d love to linger over a glass of wine while making Boeuf Bourguignon.  But shit, it’s soccer night.  Get it?)

So, I guess what I’m hoping is that on the nights you can cook, you do.  And on the nights you cannot, you try to do something like this rather than ordering a pizza.  Be smart when you cook and make sure there are leftovers.  Because you can do an infinite amount of things with a little leftover meat, some veggies, and some eggs.  This recipe (when prepared with leftovers) can be done in 15 or 20 minutes and is much more healthy and delicious than some frozen chicken nuggets.

And next up?  Teenage Angst.  Fantastic.

Asian Pork and Sweet Corn Hash

Serves 4-6

1/2 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large leek (white part only), cleaned and chopped
2-3 leftover baked potatoes (2-3 cups), cut into small cubes
1/2 of a cooked pork tenderloin (about 1/2 lb. of protein: can be chicken, beef, or beans too), chopped
1 cup of frozen corn (or fresh if you have it)
4-6 eggs
2 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 T soy sauce
1 T water
Chopped fresh herbs, such as chives or parsley

1.  Heat 1-2 T of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or saute pan.  Saute garlic and onions for 2-3 minutes.  Add leeks and saute for 1-2 minutes more.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

2.  Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil and add potato cubes and cook for about 5 minutes (stirring frequently so they don’t stick), or until they begin to brown slightly.

3.  Add 1 T of water and 2 T of soy sauce and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add pork or protein and corn.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until heated through.

4.  Meanwhile, fry eggs to desired doneness (we like ours over-light and nice and runny).  To serve, place hash on plate.  Top with fried eggs and sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.

Sprouted Wheat “Enchiladas”

This meal was one of those “fly by the seat of my pants” moments.  I have many of those.  

It highlights one of those go-to ingredients that allow you to have a quick and easy family dinner:  tortillas or wraps.  With a few leftovers and a few simple ingredients, you are on your way to dinner in about 45 minutes.  This recipe is inspired by the old enchilada casserole recipes that I remember having years ago (and yes, I realize that enchiladas are only made with corn tortillas — I’m taking some crazed mother latitude here).  

I usually have sprouted wheat wraps on hand and in the freezer.  If you haven’t heard much about sprouted grains, here’s the lowdown… they tend to have better vitamin and nutrient content because the grains are whole and sprouted.  In addition, they are digested more like a vegetable than a starch and have a lower glycemic index.  The sprouted wraps tend to be tougher than a typical white flour wrap or burrito, but in this recipe they are baked in sauce and some cheese so they become very soft.

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As with most leftover inspired meals, use what you have on hand and think of this more as a technique, rather than a recipe.  

Sprouted Wheat “Enchiladas”

Serves 4 adults, or 4-6 with kids

4-6 oz. of leftover protein (we used pork, but chicken, shrimp, tofu, etc. would be great —  or skip it and up the amount of black beans)
1/2 cup of leftover sauteed greens (we used collards, but try spinach, kale, etc.)
1 medium onion, chopped 
3/4 cup of cooked or canned black beans
3/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese, plus additional for the top
1/2 t smoked paprika (or chipotle powder if you want to make it spicy)
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
Zest of one lime
16 oz. jar of good quality salsa
1 cup of sour cream (or try yogurt if you like)
4 – 8 inch sprouted wheat tortillas (or white, or whole wheat, your choice … if you are using corn tortillas, you will need a lot more than 4, b/c they are usually much smaller)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Lightly oil an 8 inch casserole pan.  

2.   Shred or chop pork/meat and place in medium bowl.  Mix with chopped leftover greens, chopped onion, black beans, grated cheese, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and lime zest. (Other mix in ideas:  corn, cilantro, peppers, etc.)

3.  Mix together salsa and sour cream.  

4.  Spread a 1/2 cup of salsa/sour cream mixture onto bottom of casserole dish.

5.  Lay out one tortilla and spread 1/4 of the pork mixture in the middle.  Roll up and place in casserole.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  

6.  When all tortillas are filled and in dish, cover with remaining salsa/sour cream mixture and sprinkle with additional grated cheddar cheese if you like.

7.  Bake at 375 F for about 35 minutes until bubbly and browned.  Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.  Use a long spatula to serve one whole wrap, or cut into portions for the kids.  

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Spicy Curry Chicken Salad

So I should start this post by saying it was supposed to be Grilled Chicken and Roasted Potatoes.  But you see, my husband came home very late last night and our grilling was done in the dark — so I couldn’t take any pictures of the work in progress because my photography skills are definitely in the “beginner” category.  It’s a great marinade and a great technique, so I promise I will do it again when it’s either lighter out or I have the proper equipment to take good pics in the dark.   

That being said, we had a couple of pieces of leftover chicken today.  The kids claimed the drumsticks for their lunch and I was left with a half of a breast.   And I know chicken salad is not exactly difficult, but I do think it is a forgotten favorite and it is great for lunches.  Kids typically love the sweet and crunchy texture with dried fruit (or grapes) and nuts/seeds.  If they don’t dig creamy things with mayo (like my daughter), just dress it with a little olive oil.   And while this isn’t overly spicy, you could use a regular curry powder (or skip the curry entirely) if children will be eating it.  

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Spicy Curry Chicken Salad
(serves about 2 people)

3/4 Cup chopped cooked chicken
1/4 Cup chopped celery 
Zest of one lemon, Juice of half that lemon
1 T dried cranberries
1 T pumpkin seeds
1/4 t hot madras curry powder (or regular curry, or skip it entirely)
1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 t honey
1 T chopped parsley (cilantro would be good too, but I didn’t have any)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Mix all ingredients and season to taste.  Serve with salad greens, on toast, or with lightly crisped flatbread or naan.

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Fried Brown Rice with Edamame (With Bonus Leftover Idea)

I have been making fried rice for years.  I have analyzed the techniques of the master chefs (you know, at Benihana) and come to the conclusion that the best fried rice recipe has no real recipe at all.  The whole point is to use the ingredients that you have on hand.  This is a brilliant meal when you have lots of things in small amounts —  a carrot, an onion, an egg, leftover broccoli, or pretty much any little thing you want to use up.  Except of course, maybe that old container of cottage cheese.  No, that won’t work.

However, almost anything else is fair game.  I have marked this recipe vegetarian because that’s how I made it last night, but it is also great with meat in it if you are so inclined.  Chicken, pork, or ham are all great in it. I have done versions with leftover barbecued pork rib meat, leftover corn cut off the cob, and a bit of hoisin sauce to make a “summer barbecue fried rice.”

The key is to cook your rice up as far in advance as possible to let it cool so it is firm and not sticky.  Think ahead — maybe make some rice as a side dish on a Monday and make a double batch, use half that night and fry the remainder on Wednesday.  Last night, however, I didn’t figure out what we were having until 4:48 PM (like most nights).  If you find yourself in that position (especially with brown rice b/c it takes 50 minutes to cook), try this:  cook the brown rice completely, fluff it, remove from heat and let it steam dry without the lid for 5-10 minutes, and then spread it on a cookie sheet and park it in the fridge.  Mine was cool and not sticky after about 15 minutes.  That had us eating by 6:30 (with two glasses of wine to slow me down).  You can also certainly use white rice as it takes less than half the time to cook — but brown rice is obviously much healthier because it includes the bran portion which gives you more fiber and more vitamins and minerals.

Fried Brown Rice with Edamame (Serves 4 as a main dish with leftovers)

2 cups of long grain brown rice (I used Organic Brown Basmati)
1 T chopped ginger
1 T chopped garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 package frozen edamame
Other veggies or meats (or eggs) or your choosing
Olive or vegetable oil for cooking
Sesame Oil for flavoring
Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper

  1. Cook two cups brown rice according to package directions.  (Usually takes about 50 minutes)
  2. While rice is cooking, cook one package of frozen edamame (soybeans) for about 5 minutes.  I used frozen edamame from my CSA last year, so this is a guess, but it probably amounted to about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shelled edamame.  Shell the edamame and set aside.
  3. Chop one onion, a couple of carrots, a tablespoon of fresh garlic, and a tablespoon of fresh ginger.  Prepare any other veggies or add-ins at this point.  (Ideas:  green onions, corn, broccoli, leftover meat or shrimp, one or two eggs, peppers, cilantro, etc.)
  4. When rice is done, fluff, and remove from heat and steam dry without lid on for 5-10 minutes.  Spread on cookie sheet and put in fridge to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  5. While rice is cooling, get out a big wok or saute pan and heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.
  6. Quickly saute garlic and ginger (about 30 seconds) and then add in carrots and slow cooking vegetables. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until carrots begin to soften.
  7. Add onion and quick cooking veggies (like peppers) and stir fry all for a few minutes until onion begins to get translucent.
  8. If you want to add eggs, whisk one or two eggs in a bowl.  Spread veggies to side of pan and pour in eggs to scramble them.  It doesn’t matter if the veggies get mixed into it.
  9. Get cooled rice from the fridge and add to wok or pan.  Stir well so all veggies, eggs, etc. are incorporated.  If you are using stainless steel or cast iron pans, the rice will probably stick — but it’s really no big deal.
  10. Start seasoning with soy sauce (do about two tablespoons at first and then add more to taste), salt and pepper (won’t need too much salt b/c of the soy), and a bit of sesame oil.
  11. Add edamame and any other “barely cook” veggies (like green onions, corn, cilantro or other herbs) and any precooked meat or shrimp if you are using it.  Stir it all until well mixed and keep tasting and seasoning until it’s good!
  12. For the grown-ups, it’s great served with Asian Hot Sauce (like Sriracha or the Rooster) or Chile Garlic Sauce.

It’s a complete meal with whole grain and protein (even my vegetarian version), it’s cheap, it cleans out your refrigerator, and it’s easy.  What more can you ask for?

OK, so how about a bonus idea for leftovers?

Reheat some leftover fried rice, slice some cabbage (you know cabbage is one of my go-to veggies for family cooking), mix together with some olive oil and Sriracha Rooster Sauce for a fantastic Spicy Fried Rice Salad.

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Barbecued Chicken Tacos with Slaw

Some of my favorite meals are the leftover creations I enjoy at lunchtime.  In fact, leftovers are a staple and become the basis of almost every lunch that the kids and I eat.  That’s the beauty of cooking real food at dinner time — it generally always provides you with another meal.  And these meals are quick — the meat is already cooked, many of the veggies are prepped and washed — which leaves you only a few minutes away from a lunch (or a soccer night dinner) that’s ten times better than anything you can find in a restaurant.  For a heck of a lot less money, too.

So last night, we had a simple and delicious dinner of my husband’s “world famous” (he has deemed it so) barbecue chicken and cucumber salad.  We always try to grill a little extra meat to have for leftovers — in this case we had boneless chicken thighs with some awesome barbecue sauce that we found on vacation in South Carolina.  Also in the fridge were a wedge of purple cabbage from the other night, some corn tortillas, and some cheese.  So, my first grader got a nice chopped salad made of purple cabbage and barbecued chicken with some olive oil and spices on it.  (She also got a banana and a cookie).   My two year old only wanted the chicken and a rice cake.  That was easy.dsc_5598

I was left with one chicken thigh and my brain obsessing about barbecued chicken tacos with slaw.  You could just as easily make a chicken quesadilla or chicken soft taco with a flour tortilla. These kinds of things aren’t really recipes as much as methods — so get creative.  I should also add that a head of cabbage is on my farmer’s market or grocery store list every week.  It is perfect for quick family dinners because it’s easy to wash and prep (remove some of the outer leaves and give it a rinse, cut it into quarters, remove the core, and slice thinly), you don’t have to spin it dry like salad, a half of a head easily makes enough cole slaw for 4-6 people, and the remainder stores in the fridge very well for a long time.  Try it lightly sauteed with butter and a bit of beer or wine served with mashed potatoes — my kids love it.  And certainly feel free to use pre-sliced, bagged cole slaw mix if you like — but it is more expensive, much less flavorful — and I trust my own kitchen a lot more than the “salmonella spinach farms.” It takes all of five minutes to prep the whole head.

Barbecued Chicken Tacos with Slaw

  1. Make a quick slaw with sliced purple cabbage, a handful of chopped cilantro, some olive oil, salt and pepper, and lime juice.
  2. Slice leftover chicken and shred some cheddar cheese (or grab a bag of preshredded like I did).
  3. Heat a splash of oil in a saute pan over medium heat and place one small corn tortilla in the oil.  Spin it around a bit until it softens (so you can bend it without it breaking — important for corn tortillas, flour ones aren’t as fragile).  Quickly add sliced chicken, a bit of slaw, and some cheese and fold the tortilla in half.  When lightly brown on one side, flip and brown the other side.  Remove to a paper towel to soak up any extra oil and repeat with remaining ingredients until you’re done!
  4. Serve with additional slaw and sour cream, guacamole, or salsa if you like.

*If you or your kids have access to a microwave at school/work, this would make a great lunch with a flour tortilla heated for a bit just to melt the cheese.  Wrap it in parchment paper to keep it safe for microwaving (plastic wraps and containers leach chemicals into your food in the microwave and obviously foil causes a little fireworks show — something the lunch lady might not be so pleased about).