Monday, August 17, 2009

S-t-t-r-e-t-C-H, Stretch, Stretch

The nicest thing about cooking is leftovers. The nicest thing about leftovers is remaking them into 'not-leftovers'.

To wit:

Dinner One: Slow-cook a chicken (skin chicken, put breast side down in slowcooker with a little water, sprinkle with chopped onion and garlic, or onion powder and garlic powder, and tarragon, or Italian seasoning...whatever you like. Add sliced carrots for cooking. When tender, scoop the chicken onto a plate and pour off the chicken broth and store for cooking on another night.)

Serve with biscuits (you got crescents cheap with coupons a while back, didn't you?)

Dinner Two: Slow-cook potatoes au gratin (thinly slice 4 to 6 potatoes, layer in crockpot, layer in some onions and garlic, pour 1/2 cup to 1 cup of half and half, top with a few ounces of shredded cheese, salt and pepper to taste, cook for 4 to 5 hours on low, maybe longer, I'm no good on timing, I just check the stuff)

Quick cook swiss steak that's been marinating in the freezer and as it defrosts. Put it in a skillet (you don't need butter) add whatever extra seasoning you want, cover, cook a few minutes, turn, cook another minute or so.

Service with potatoes and maybe some steamed broccoli.

Breakfast One: Scramble up some eggs with some leftover potatoes, steak and broccoli. If you have any leftover biscuits from dinner one, douse them quickly under the faucet and chop them right into the eggs. You can feed an army with a few eggs and a bunch of leftovers.

Dinner three: Remember the chicken broth you saved? Use it to cook rice, add the leftover chicken from Dinner One. Add whatever leftover broccoli you've got also. If you're sick of broccoli, serve with a salad and whirl the broccoli in your blender the next day with some more chicken broth, a little milk or half and half and some cheese. Heat in the microwave and voila! Broccoli/cheese soup.

Dinner Four, or breakfast Two: Any leftovers left? whichever you have, make two quiches - the swiss steak one and the chicken one. Add broccoli to either. Or mix them all together, just be cautious if you used tarragon. It's a great herb, but would do better in a quiche by itself

Hmmm...I'm losing count. From a whole chicken and a pound of swiss steak, you've got three/four dinners and one/two breakfasts. Remember the chicken cost you about 2 bucks, the swiss steak was under $3. The broccoli was 77c/lb, so may 2 pounds max, you picked up the cheese a few months ago for $1.25/8 ounces and the rice was about 60 cents a pound, or about 20 cents max for the amount you made for the family.

I don't feel like doing all the math, but I'm figuring less than 10 bucks for 5 really good meals. And soup.

Don't think you have to eat the meals in the orders listed. You can refrigerate leftovers for a few days, or even freeze them for a week or so before using. The addition of a little broth and a little pureeing can do wonder for anything getting a little dried out. Eggs are great ways to make leftovers look like you meant to use them in the first place.

Other good uses - bread pudding to use up stale bread or leftover biscuits and make use of some of those stockpiled dried apricots and raisins. Or grind the biscuits in the blender and call them bread crumbs. You can use them to bulk out any leftover swiss steak which you've doused with a little bbq sauce you picked up free with coupons to be served on day-old rolls you picked up in Albie's bakery section for make-shift sloppy joe's. The sauce softens out the bread.

Use your imagination. Put the leftovers away in the freezer or the fridge. Pull them out before they go bad and think of them in a new way. Since they're already cooked, remaking them can be done in a jiffy. When all else fails, puree with mayo, mustard or relish and call it 'sandwich spread'.

EDITED TO ADD: If you're wondering where you got the swiss steak - it's disguised as 'bottom round' for $1.37/lb at Basha's this week. Or you have it sitting in your freezer from having gotten the butcher to run something like it through the cubing machine in weeks past.

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