Friday, January 30, 2009

Simple Chicken A La King

Every Friday, Gayle over at The Grocery Cart Challenge hosts a recipe swap for her readers. It's a great way to find new recipes, and hopefully it's bringing a few of you over here where you can learn more about using up those leftovers in new meals that your family will love! If you're here from the swap, welcome to my blog! It's fairly new, but there is a lot of information here. Please feel free to look around for awhile - I think I have lots of great recipes and ideas!! :-)

This will probably be my last swap for a few weeks, as I'm having major surgery next week and will be in recovery mode for quite awhile. I will get back to it as soon as I am able, but since I won't be cooking for 2-3 weeks, it won't be as easy to post recipes with leftovers!!! ;-)

Today I'm sharing a recipe my kids really like. I used to make a fancier version of Chicken A La King that they didn't like to eat and would only pick at it. Then I came up with this version and they gobble it up!! Another plus for the recipe is it's very simple and cheap! Here's how I make it:

Simple Chicken A La King

1-2 cups leftover cooked chicken (shredded or cubed)
1 bag frozen corn
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 T. cornstarch
2/3 c. evaporated milk
Salt and pepper

In saucepan, combine broth, chicken, and corn. Bring almost to a boil over medium high heat.

Meanwhile, stir cornstarch into evaporated milk until completely dissolved.

Pour milk mixture into hot chicken mixture and stir quickly. Continue stirring over medium heat until thickened (won't take long).

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this over hot rice, over waffles (really good!) or even as a baked potato topping to further stretch it. You can also serve over toast. It's very versatile!

For more great recipes, be sure and visit The Grocery Cart Challenge. Happy cooking!!!!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My First Blog Award(s)!!!

I feel just terrible! I was given this wonderful award earlier this month by three - yes, THREE, fantastic bloggers, and I haven't even acknowledged it until now! I'm so sorry, ladies....I've been all caught up in preparing for surgery next week and just didn't take the time to properly thank you!

So....a HUGE, hearty thanks to Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker , Jennifer at Cooking Like a Frugalite, and Amy at Cutting Coupons in KC. I so completely appreciate you!!!

The Lemonade Award is given by a previous winner to 10 people who have shown a great attitude or gratitude this week. It’s a great way to show these people that you appreciate them. So.....I am bestowing the award on the following blogs, in blog alphabetical order:

Beth at $20 Challenge for Charity

Cynthiaa at Confessions of a Yummy Mummy

Ali at Divine Domesticity

JodieMo at Eatin' on the Cheap

Jessica at Finding the Joy in the Journey

Stephanie at Fun Foods on a Budget!

Minda at Minda Homemaker

Michelle at Momstoppable

Annie Jones at Real Life Living

and last but definitely not least.....

Jackie at Save a Dime in '09

In addition, I want to give a special honorable mention to the following blog, but I don't want her to feel obligated to pass along the award, as she is dealing with some personal issues right now and I don't want to add any stress:

CookinsforMe at Plain Ol' Food

Congratulations to all the above blogs - I enjoy keeping up with every one of them and they are run by truly remarkable individuals who are worthy of more than a simple award! Be sure to visit their blogs - I'm sure you will be hooked!!!

Please accept my apology for my delay in passing along the award. I really do appreciate it greatly - I just let life get in the way!

And if you're an award recipient, please read the following, which I did pilfer from Cooking Like a Frugalite! :-)

You won, now what?

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs, which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude! Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

3. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

4. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celebrating National Chocolate Cake Day!!!

I'm going to re-visit my use-up-those-leftover-bananas posting and wish everyone a Happy National Chocolate Cake Day at the same time!

Today I was doing some freezer reorganization and making room for pre-cooked meals for my family to eat next week while I'm in the hospital. In doing so, I uncovered a bag of over-ripe bananas (5 of them). I couldn't throw them out!!! I thawed them a bit, removed the peel, and let them finish thawing in a bowl. Then I had to figure out what to do with them. My husband had been reminding me all day that today is National Chocolate Cake day, so I figured I would try and make a nice compromise using the bananas.

I got a chocolate cake mix and dumped it into the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer. I dumped in the bowl full of bananas (wow...this just sounds scrumptious so far, doesn't it?? lol) and then added the 3 eggs called for by the cake mix instructions. I started mixing it and it seemed a bit dry, so I added 2/3 of a cup of water and beat it on medium-high for about 2 minutes. It looked pretty good.

Into my stoneware Bundt pan went the mixture and I popped it into the oven for about 50 minutes at 375°. It smelled heavenly!!!! The cake came right out of the pan and after it cooled for a bit, I put it on a platter. I happened to have some leftover chocolate Pillsbury icing in my refrigerator from a dessert a week or so ago. I put the container in the microwave for about 45 seconds until it was the consistency of a glaze and drizzled it all over the top of the cake, running a bit down the sides and into the center.

This cake was great!! It had just the right blend of chocolate and banana and was soooo moist!!!! Everyone loved it. And even with the glazing, it was still a fairly low-fat cake. It could probably be made better with egg whites or egg substitute, but it definitely could have been worse! :-) is another use for leftover bananas - let me know if you try it!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yes, We Have (Some) Bananas....

Bananas. They are quite a healthy snack, and even in today's difficult times, generally reasonably priced at your local grocery store. We often purchase them greenish, but they ripen quickly to a lovely yellow color, which is when they are at the peak of flavor for munching.

However, the quick ripening also leads to an equally quick over-ripening. I don't know about your house, but around here the "yuck" factor is directly proportionate to the amount of brown on the banana skins. So....once the brown starts showing, the poor bananas are left to sit on the counter, browning more every day. The good news is that the more brown the banana, the more perfect it is for baking.

So what do you do with leftover bananas?? I bet the first things that come to mind are banana bread, banana muffins, and maybe even banana cookies. Those are all very good uses, and most folks have their preferred recipes for these items. I've been known to make banana biscotti (Yum!), banana snack cake, and even banana pancakes!

In fact, this morning, I felt sorry for the pitiful brown bananas sitting on my kitchen counter, and decided to make a batch of those pancakes. I've made them before, and the recipe has evolved into my kids' very favorite pancakes - they ask for them frequently. Here's how I make my pancakes:

1 c. leftover oatmeal (or pour about a half-cup of very hot tap water over about 3/4 of a cup of quick oats and let sit for 3-4 minutes)
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
2 c. milk
2 - 2 1/2 c. flour (I use whole wheat)
1/3 c. brown sugar
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Mix first 4 ingredients well in bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients until well-incorporated. Cook pancakes on hot griddle, flipping when bubbles cover the top surface of the cake.

Sometimes as a special treat, after pouring out the batter onto the griddle, I will sprinkle the wet batter with flavored baking chips and cook as usual. I've used chocolate, white chocolate, and even butterscotch chips - the kids love this!!

Enjoy this unique way to use up your leftover bananas!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Versatility of Pizza

Pizza is a favorite to many, and on almost every kid's top foods list. Just mention the idea of ordering pizza for dinner and the kids get quite excited. Even schools now have pizza nights, where the school receives a certain percentage of orders from a pizza parlor placed by parents on a specific evening. Pizza is just plain good!

I've reached the point in my pizza making that my kids actually prefer my homemade pizza to anything we order from a pizza place. I have finally perfected a couple of different crusts that I make in the bread machine that everyone absolutely loves. One is a whole wheat Weight Watchers recipe, and the other is made with my sourdough starter. A couple of weeks ago, I ran out of white flour and made about a third of the required flour whole wheat, and the kids deemed it "gourmet" crust. Who knew??

One of the best things about pizza is that you can put just about ANYTHING on it and it gets eaten up. What is it about a bready crust and melted mozzarella that makes everything taste great?? Years ago, we lived in the very college town of Springfield, MO. There was a pizza joint there which had all sorts of bizarre toppings, from artichokes to tuna to everything in between, and people just flocked to their locations! Lately, I've been experimenting a bit with my pizzas just to try a few things that were in my fridge waiting to be utilized. I haven't been disappointed yet!

Tonight I had chicken alfredo pizza on the menu. Earlier this week, we had grilled steak (YUM!) and beef tips in gravy the next night. I still had a small piece of steak left, AND I hadn't made sourdough yet this week, so I needed to use my starter. So....we had steak pizza on a sourdough crust. That doesn't sound so strange, does it?? Well, I also tossed on a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach leaves. The kids thought it was fantastic! I truly believe I could put just about anything on a pizza and it would be gobbled up in one sitting.

If you're used to ordering pizza and not sure you can tackle the task of making the crust (though I really recommend trying, as it isn't that difficult), you can start with one of those pre-baked crusts at the store (i.e. Boboli) and start experimenting from there. My pizza tonight was made of a piece of steak that was literally about 5 inches long and 2 inches wide at its widest point, and it was plenty of meat for it. It doesn't take much! You can also change your cheese if you don't have mozzarella. I've made one entirely with cheddar cheese before. As long as it's pizza, it's going to be good!

So, if you're needing to use up a bit of meat and some veggie toppings and nothing really sounds good, give a pizza a try! I bet you don't get any complaints, no matter what toppings you choose. And if you have any funky combinations you've tried and your family raved about them, please post a comment. Creativity is fascinating and very appreciated!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stuffed French Toast

I mentioned this in my prior posting about the quiche. Believe it or not, stuffed french toast is amazingly easy, and soooooo good!! Here's what you'll need:

Day-old bread (not sliced as thickly as you might do for standard french toast)
Flavored cream cheese ** (very cheap at Aldi if you have one)
2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. sugar

**If you don't have flavored cream cheese, or you're just plain cheap like me, you can take regular cream cheese and soften it. Whip it together with either some chopped up fruit and a bit of powdered sugar, or mix in some fruit jam of your choice. Once combined, this will serve as flavored cream cheese - and this is how I usually do it.

In a shallow bowl, beat eggs. Blend in milk, vanilla, and sugar to make your french toast batter.
Cover half the slices of bread well with flavored cream cheese. Top with remaining slices to form a "sandwich."
Dip the ENTIRE sandwich in the batter, coating both sides well.
Place on hot griddle and cook until both sides are deep golden brown.

It's just like regular french toast, but you're making it in more of a sandwich form with the flavored cream cheese. It's sooooo good!! Serve it with fresh fruit and a fruit compote or syrup. Enjoy!!!

I also slather the flavored cream cheese on toast in the morning for an even quicker breakfast. I know it isn't super healthy, but it's very yummy!! I'm going to try making bagels one of these days - I really am!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Real Men Really DO Eat Quiche!

This week, let's turn those leftovers into a wonderful quiche!!! I posted this a few days ago, but it definitely works for me!! And for more amazing tips from all over the globe, visit Rocks in my Dryer all day today!!

Tonight for dinner I was really wanting quiche, which I haven't made in a very long time. As I was putting it together, it occurred to me what a wonderful way this would be to use up small bits of meat and veggies in the fridge. And who would ever guess that this fantastic meal was borne of leftovers???

I was questioning my crust earlier in the day and my friend Tammy (I am SO going to get her to guest post one of these days!) suggested a potato crust, since I have so many potatoes currently in the fridge (gotta love sales). So, I combined her instructions with the directions in a couple of recipes I found online and came up with an absolutely delicious hash-brown style crust.

First, I peeled 5 small potatoes, because that is what was in my bag. 2-3 larger ones would be just fine. I then put them in my salad shooter and shredded them into a colander. After I had them all shredded, I rinsed the shreds and then placed them on paper towels to dry. I pressed on top with other paper towels to get them as dry as I could. And then they looked like this:

Now, I got out my handy-dandy pie place and I pressed the shreds into the bottom and up the sides, like this:

I popped that into the oven at 425° for about 30 minutes, and when it came out, this is how tasty it looked:

Now, a word to the wise: There was some serious shrinkage that occurred here. Be aware of this when forming your crust. In my case, it was fine, but if you want a bigger quiche than I made, you will certainly want to allow for the shrinkage factor (real men deal with that, too - HA!).

Next came the filling. In my case, I put about a quarter-cup of cheddar cheese, maybe 1/3 cup of diced ham, and a few tablespoons of bacon bits onto the crust. In a bowl, I beat 4 eggs and poured in about 3/4 of a cup of milk and just a bit of salt and pepper. I whisked this well, then poured it over the meat, cheese, and crust. I put it back into the oven for another 30 minutes, and HERE is my result:

It was really good, and even my picky 6-year-old ate every bit of hers. Both the "men" ate quite a bit of it, too! I changed up my menu plan a bit and served it up alongside strawberry-cream-cheese-stuffed french toast, which is just so darn good! Wanna see THAT?

Yeah, it's that good and then some! Yum!!! It was a very tasty, VERY well-received dinner. Every bit was gobbled up, which is a rarity around here. And if you have kids (or a kid-like man in the house) who balk at the idea of a "quiche," maybe you could call it a scrambled egg hash brown pie?? Well, maybe not......

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Potato Bread

This makes fantastic rolls, or a delicious stuffed bread! I tend to make this bread whenever we have just a bit of mashed potatoes leftover (see prior post about using mashed potatoes!).

This is a bread machine recipe, adapted from The Bread Machine Cookbook (can you tell I love that book???).

Potato Bread

1/2 c. leftover mashed potatoes
3/4 c. water (scant)
1 egg
2 T. sugar
1 t. salt
3 c. flour
2 t. yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Set on dough for hand-shaped rolls or stuffed bread, or just set it to bake - it's wonderful either way!

Stuffed Bread

This is an amazing way to use up little bits of leftover meat and fillings for sandwiches. I've even made stuffed bread out of remaining fast food hamburgers! You know how the kids will sometimes eat the fries and pick at the bun, leaving the burger intact? Well, refrigerate that burger and chop it up to make a cheeseburger stuffed bread! :)

Sometimes you might have just a cup or so of shredded beef, pork, chicken, etc, and not know what to do with it. Well, you can add a few other ingredients (mushroom, peppers, onion, chopped tomato, cheese....about anything you like in a sandwich that can be heated) and make a yummy hot meal. Combine it with some chips for a casual light dinner, or soup for something more hearty, or even regular sides like rice and a vegetable - the possibilities are endless, as are the combinations for your bread.

We start with your favorite bread recipe, or you can even use frozen bread dough to make it more simple. Make (or thaw) the dough, and then roll it out on a baking sheet or rectangular baking stone to the size of the sheet/stone. Here is the recipe I use most often for bread, adapted from The Bread Machine Cookbook II:

White Bread

1 1/4 c. water
2 T. olive oil
3 T. honey
3 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 t. yeast

Put in machine in order suggested by manufacturer and set on "dough" cycle.

Once you have your bread all rolled out, you're ready to "stuff" it. Right down the middle (about the middle third of the bread), stack whatever you want in your bread - spread out the leftover cooked meat, then top with the veggies or other items, and finally, whatever kind of cheese strikes your fancy.

Now, on either side of the filling, from the outside of the loaf in, cut the dough into slits about 1" wide. I usually go at an angle from the top corners and go about 1.5" from the filling. Once you've done this, simply braid the bread strips over the filling. Allow the bread to rise in a warm place for 30-60 minutes, then bake for about 30 minutes at 350°.

The result is a hot, fresh-baked "sandwich" of sorts. Cut it into slices and serve. My family LOVES these! This really makes soup more of a meal, too, if your family doesn't feel that soup is enough to fill them up.

In addition, you can make this a breakfast meal by filling your bread with scrambled eggs, cooked and crumbled bacon, chopped cooked sausage, etc. It's a wonderful and inexpensive breakfast meal that is very filling.

Pizza Rice Casserole

Welcome, Grocery Cart Challenge recipe-swappers!! I was torn between using this recipe or my Stuffed French Toast, but since I did a French Toast recipe last week, I thought I'd link up this one instead. Thanks for visiting, and for more wonderful recipes, be sure and visit the recipe swap at Grocery Cart Challenge! :-)

This is a wonderful recipe to use up leftovers of spaghetti sauce, rice, and/or beef. It's quite versatile and can be a very inexpensive dinner! This is based on a recipe that was printed in Country Woman magazine several years ago.

Pizza Rice Casserole

1/2 lb. ground beef (or a cup or two of leftover shredded beef)
2 c. tomato sauce (or leftover spaghetti sauce)
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt (if using tomato sauce)
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 c. cooked rice
1/2 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella

If using ground beef, cook and drain the meat. If using already cooked, leftover beef, just put it in a skillet. Add the tomato/spaghetti sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, covered.

Combine rice and cottage cheese. Layer half of this mixture in a greased casserole dish. Top with half of the meat mixture. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 30 minutes or till heated thru and cheese is bubbly.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another Note on Leftover Bread

One thing that I neglected to mention in my previous blog is leftover hot dog and hamburger buns. Invariably, we end up having a few of these left whenever I buy them. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often, because I tend to make them instead, and I never have those left-over!

So, if you've eaten the burgers and the "dogs" and still have a few buns sitting sadly on the counter, what do you do? You could make bread crumbs out of them, but I'd save that for the stale stuff and the heels and crusts. My family just LOVES when I turn those buns into garlic bread!

It's very simple. Just separate your buns into 2 pieces - you'll have round bread out of hamburger buns, and a wide bread "stick" of sorts from hot dog buns. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and butter them. I generally use the butter spray for this. Then, you can sprinkle on some garlic powder or minced garlic if you like the stronger flavor. Alternately, you can melt the butter, stir in the garlic, and brush it onto the buns. Another thing that I like to do is sprinkle them with a little shredded mozzarella, too.

Pop these babies into the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes, until beautifully browned (and with bubbly cheese if you used it). Your family might not even realize that these are "recycled" buns!

Or, one more thing, but this works best with hamburger buns or sub rolls. You can make mini-pizzas for the kids! Ever had French Bread Pizza (if not, you realllly need to try it!!!!)?? Split your buns and again lay them on a cookie sheet. Spread with tomato/pizza sauce, your toppings of choice (i.e. leftovers in the fridge!), and some mozzarella cheese. Bake these (as opposed to broiling) for about 10 minutes at 375°. Yum!!!

So many ways to use up bread.......please share yours!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let's Use Up Some Bread!!

I'm posting this as both a recipe for Super-Simple Overnight French Toast to share on Gayle's Recipe Swap over at Grocery Cart Challenge, and also as an aid in using up the last bit of bread in your home! There are lots of great recipes over at Gayle's, so after you've left me a comment, be sure and pop over there for a visit! ;-)

I don't know about you, but I always have bread in the house. We have store-bought bread for sandwiches, the sourdough DH sometimes brings home from the restaurant for us, my homemade breads (usually some sourdough and/or some wonderful cinnamon-raisin), and quickbreads from various dinners. And I used to end up tossing some of that bread when it got hard and old, or when it accidentally became a science experiment (yuck!!). And I ALWAYS used to toss out the heel ends, because who eats those?

Well, no more, my friends! I now use every bit of that bread, and I've not had any green fuzzies in my kitchen for some time now. Wait...I have to take that back. My darling hubby did once stick the cheddar cheese block in the CABINET rather than the refrigerator for some inexplicable reason. That was an unbelievable mess when I finally found it a few weeks later!!!

To start, I'm going to share what my kids and I had for breakfast this morning. I can't share a photo, as every bit of it was gone in a flash! Last night before I went to bed, I quickly assembled breakfast for this morning, using up the last of a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread I had made in the bread machine for a breakfast earlier this week. A little less than half the loaf was left. I cut it into thick slices, then into triangles, to make Super-Simple Overnight French Toast. Here's how:

Overnight French Toast

Leftover bread - can be sliced thinly or thickly, torn into pieces, or cut into large cubes (enough to fill a 13" x 9" pan, one flavor/type or several)
2 eggs
About 1 3/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. sugar if not using sweet bread

Place your bread in a greased 13" x 9" pan. Break eggs into a 2 cup measure and whisk quickly with a fork. Add vanilla and sugar if using, then fill with milk to the 2 cup line. Whisk it all together with the fork. Pour this mixture over the entire surface of the bread. Some will remain in the bottom of the pan - this is fine. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove pan from refrigerator and preheat oven. Bake, uncovered, at 375°, for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot, with butter and syrup.

The cinnamon raisin bread I used for this morning made absolutely wonderful French Toast. It was devoured! I have used both homemade bread and the store-purchased variety, both with great results. As the bread is just what's left and might otherwise be discarded, this is a VERY frugal breakfast!!

Now, let's talk about those bread "heels" and the last couple slices of the loaf that have been sitting on your counter for awhile. You might feel a little hesitant at using these for French Toast, so what do you do with them? We're going to borrow a fabulous idea from my friend Tammy that has saved my dinner more than once! Whenever you have those ends that you know won't be eaten, stash them in a bag in your freezer. And those last few pieces that are too old/dry to make a sandwich (or that you don't want to put in your French Toast)? Put them in the bag, too! You're going to make your own bread crumbs!!!!

Once you have enough bread pieces (store-bought, homemade, whatever) in the bag to fill a cookie sheet or two, pick an evening and lay those bread pieces out on the cookie sheet. Place them in an oven that is preheated to 200° and "bake" for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Now, just turn off the oven and go to bed! The next morning, remove them from the oven and use a blender or salad shooter or whatever you have handy (a cheese grater would work, but would be tedious!!) to chop the bread into tiny breadcrumbs. Put these in a bag and store in the freezer. Use just as you would packaged bread crumbs. When I used these to make oven-fried chicken, my family agreed it was the best ever. And the first time I had done this, I planned a meal involving bread crumbs, thinking I had a cannister in the cabinet. I panicked when I couldn't find that cannister, but then remembered my freezer bag and dinner was fine!

Another thing I've done with this bread is cut it into cubes and apply the same principal, only I baked them 2 hours and then removed them from the oven. This made the bread cubes for my Thanksgiving stuffing, and I've also used them as great low-fat croutons. If desired, you can even toss them with a little oil and seasonings to make seasoned croutons. Good stuff from otherwise discarded bread!!

One thing you will notice with me is that my recipes are generally a little vague on amounts and ingredients. I am not a precise cook, and I love flexibility. I don't tend to measure much, and it always turns out fine. Cooking should be at least a little bit fun, and I like to give myself some "wiggle room" to experiment and adjust things to taste. I hope that works well for you! :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chicken Leg Quarters

I mentioned in Menu Plan Monday that I was going to have a lot of chicken meals this week due to a good deal I received on chicken leg quarters. I've heard from a few people who said that they don't purchase the leg quarters because they didn't think there was enough meat there to make it worth buying. I'm hoping this post will change your mind if you think that way!!

Today I cooked off the entire bag to make several meals. I removed 4 quarters from the bag and set them aside for dinner tonight. I took the remaining 6 and placed them in my crock pot with about a cup of water and cooked them on low all day. At dinner time, I turned off the pot and removed the chicken to a platter to cool.

For dinner, I baked the four quarters. Two were covered in barbeque sauce for DH and I and two were "oven fried" with bread crumbs for the kids. They were wonderful!!! I just coated the oven fried ones with a little egg and the bread crumbs and placed them on a cookie sheet, and poured some sauce over the other two. I baked all of them at 375° for about 25 minutes, until the temperature was 170°.

The picture isn't great, but here is my barbequed chicken:
And here is the oven fried variety - it's my son's piece, so please ignore the Spiderman plate! :)

After our yummy dinner, I returned to the now-cooled leg quarters in my kitchen. I easily removed the skin and then set about deboning and shredding the meat. It went very quickly, as the meat had cooked all day and was falling off the bone. I was able to shred it with my fingertips. After about 10 minutes of work, I had a wonderful pile of shredded chicken for my other recipes this week:

That is a full-sized dinner plate heaped with chicken ready for recipes!

The next step was to strain the tasty broth for tomorrow night's chicken noodle soup. A bowl, a strainer, and a piece of cheesecloth were all that I needed to produce this LOVELY chicken stock:
I will refrigerate it tonight and remove all the fat before turning it into soup for tomorrow. Real chicken stock is light years away from the bouillon variety - if you haven't tried it, you absolutely MUST!

Doesn't that look worth the $4.90 that I paid for all this chicken?? And it's going to make us five dinners! That's less than a dollar a meal for the meat to feed 5 people, with leftovers! And the same principles apply to the utilization of leftover chicken. If you make too much, you can simply shred what is left and make an entirely different dinner. I posted a couple of recipes in earlier blog postings if you need a little inspiration.

Thanks for reading, and please leave me a comment to let me know you were here! Have a wonderful week!!

The "free" soup lunch

This morning when I got up, the soup was nowhere near ready. I was surprised by this, but it was okay, since we weren't having lunch for several hours. So I let it keep on cookin'. Around 10:30, I got out my hand blender and pureed everything. I know it's best to puree some of it and leave the rest, but it's easier (and just as good) to puree it all.

After pureeing, it was a bit more thin than I liked, so I added some mashed potato flakes and blended it a bit more. Then I left it on low until we ate around 11:45. It was wonderful soup!!!! We each had two bowls and were full, but it was sooooo yummy! I have a lot left in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, and then I might freeze the rest for another day. I can't believe something that good only cost me pennies!

Wanna see how pretty it was??? Here ya go:

Moral: Don't throw away those ham bones - you will be shocked at how far you can stretch 'em!!! :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Almost-Free Lunch

Free or nearly free food works very well for me! How about you? :) For more great Works for me Wednesday tips, head over to Rocks in my Dryer!!

I just got finished making lunch for tomorrow. And I am amazed at how little it cost me for what we'll be having. Just a little background.....I purchased a Honey Baked Ham recently with a half-price coupon (my other blog has details). We had that ham for New Year's and for several days afterwards. When we got toward the end, I took off what I could to freeze, then decided to boil the bone with some veggies to make a nice stock. I was absolutely AMAZED at how much meat I got off the bone after it was boiled - I thought I had cleaned it well!!!

Anyway....tonight I defatted all the nice ham stock and put up 3 freezer containers full (had to do some re-arranging but I fit them in!). Then I took the rest of the stock and started preparing tomorrow's lunch. Into my crock pot went:

8 c. ham stock (no real cost as most people just toss that bone)
1 lb. yellow split peas (.65 bulk)
3 diced carrots (.37)
1 stalk of celery (stalk was .48, so about .06)
A handfull of the ham I pulled off the bone I would have thrown away (considering that free, too)
Salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary (negligible)

So, I have this full pot of split pea soup that cost me about $1.08. This will easily be lunch for 2-3 days! I'm going to have my kids try it to see if they will eat it, and if so, this will become a regular menu item. I'm interested to see how it turns out with the ham stock and in the crock pot - never done it before. But I figure if it comes out terribly, I'm only out a buck! ;-) I suspect it will be just fine.

If you're wondering why this would be posted on my Leftovers blog, it's because the ham bone would be considered waste by many people. It would normally be tossed - in fact, I have tossed them in the past. But I thought I'd try boiling it and getting some nice soup starter for the winter. I ended up with enough meat and broth for a few more family meals, which I think is really cool! So, it's sort of like leftovers, and it's definitely a way to save money!!!

I will post a review of the soup experiment sometime after lunch tomorrow. DH is actually excited about it - he hasn't has split pea soup in years! :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chicken Tetrazzini

This is another go-to recipe for leftover chicken that everyone enjoys!

Chicken Tetrazzini - adapted from Taste of Home

1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 can mushroom pieces and stems, drained
1/4 c. flour
2 c. chicken broth/stock
1/4 c. milk
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. pepper
3 T. apple juice (can be omitted if you don't have it)
2-3 c. chopped cooked chicken
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Briefly saute mushrooms in margarine; stir in flour until blended. Pour in chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in milk, seasonings, and apple juice. Fold in the chicken and spaghetti noodles. Pour into a 13 x 9 baking dish and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes.

Chicken Packets

I got a great deal recently on chicken leg quarters, and when I cook them, I generally cook off the full 10 lbs in my crock pots, then shred the meat for a variety of meals, and make a batch of chicken noodle soup with the resulting chicken stock. Since this is almost like having leftover chicken, I'm going to post some of the recipes that I turn to when I need to use up bits of chicken that remain from meals. This week, I'm not using "leftover" chicken, but it's certainly a similar enough concept to post some of the recipes!

Chicken Packets are one of my kids' all-time favorite meals. I only make them when I get a good deal on crescent rolls, which isn't terribly often, but they really are quite yummy, and very versatile.

Chicken Packets

1-2 cups of chopped, cooked chicken
1 c. chicken-flavored white sauce (melt 1 T. butter in pan, stir in 1 T. flour. Gradually blend in 1 c. chicken stock. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens)
1/2 cup (or any amount) of leftover cooked veggies, like sauteed celery, corn, peas
3 oz. cream cheese (optional)
2 tubes of crescent rolls

Make your chicken-flavored white sauce. Once it has thickened, stir in the cream cheese (if using) until melted. Then stir in your chicken and any additional ingredients you need or want to use.

Unroll your crescents into 8 rectangles. Roll out gently, pressing the perforations together, to form a solid rectangle. Place 2-3 T. of chicken mixture on one half of the rectangle, then fold over the other half to cover. Press to seal around the edges and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350°. If you have some left, they will reheat well for lunch the next day, or my son says they are just as good cold if I put one in his lunchbox.

When you're all done, you end up with 8 of these beauties:

Meatloaf/Meatballs Recipe

Here is the recipe that I use for making my aforementioned meat mixture which becomes either 3 meatloaves or a meatloaf or two and several meals' worth of meatballs. This is completely kid-approved here!!

Meat Mix

3 lbs. ground beef
1 1/3 c. quick oats
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
3 eggs
1 can tomato sauce
1/3 - 1/2 c. ketchup

Mix everything together (a messy task) and either shape into balls (I use a cookie scoop), press out flat onto a cookie sheet (you can then cook and cut into square meat"balls" - the quickest way to do it) or place in loaf pans. Bake at 375° for an hour for the meatloaves, 30-40 minutes for the cookie sheet full, or 20-25 minutes for regular meatballs. Be sure to test for doneness - there should be no pink remaining.

Now get cooking! :-)

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Meatloaf is a staple around here. I find that a little funny, because growing up, I absolutely detested my mother's meatloaf! It was dry and full of nasty onion and just about the grossest think she made me eat, next to liver (which fortunately was a rarity!). Initially, my kids turned up their noses at meatloaf, until one day when I declared that I had made a "giant meatball" for dinner. Ever since, it's been one of their favorites. And it really was a true statement, considering that I make the same meat mixture for both meatloaves and meatballs!

Whenever I get a great deal on ground beef, I will often make my meat mixture and freeze batches of meatballs and cooked meatloaves. It makes for an easy supper on a busy night, as it reheats beautifully. I usually make my loaves large, to ensure at least a little bit of leftover loaf. As my son gets older, though (he's approaching 13), he is eating more and more and the child can put away meatloaf! So I don't have the leftovers I used to, but I usually still have at least some.

If you have a large portion of the loaf, a great thing to do is to cut it into cubes and use the cubes as meatballs in a spaghetti dinner. When I do this, nobody even notices the "meatballs" aren't round!

I know that a lot of folks will serve thin slices open-faced on bread and covered with brown gravy. That isn't a favorite here, but lots of people love it.

Another interesting thing I've done with meatloaf when I only had a little bit was that I chopped it up into little pieces and used it in place of browned ground beef in a lasagna. I wondered if it would work, and it was perfect! Nobody noticed a thing, and I saved myself the cost of a package of ground beef in that dinner. Even if you only have a little left, it's a great substitute for plain ground beef in your recipes.

And something else I've been known to do when I had a lot of it left was cubing it and mixing the cubes into a nice gravy and serving over noodles or cooked rice. You can mix in a bit of sour cream to make it more of a stroganoff dish if you're using noodles. I wonder if I could use leftover meatloaf as the ground beef in my Pastitsio recipe. That just might be a little over the top.....

Thanks for all the comments I've been receiving! I will continue to try and post ideas for utilizing every bit of food that you have. Coming soon....bread crusts and heels and those last few buns in the package. :-)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese

If you're visiting my new blog from Gayle's Recipe Swap, WELCOME! I'm hoping to post lots of creative recipes to use up leftover food over the coming months. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll visit often! For more great recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!

I have a very unique recipe for leftover macaroni and cheese. Homemade mac and cheese (made with a Velveets-type cheese sauce) is the favorite dinner of my youngest and she requests it frequently. One night we had a large bowl of leftover mac and cheese and I really didn't feel like having leftovers. I had happened to plan a family favorite, Pastitsio, for that same week, 2 days later. The original recipe for Pastitsio calls for cooking macaroni, then draining and stirring in some butter and one egg to help it stick together.

Well, inspiration struck. If I needed macaroni that stuck together, and the recipe already called for cheese, why not TRY using the leftover mac and cheese that was waiting in the refrigerator, saving me a cooking step and utilizing something that needed to be eaten anyway??? In reviewing my fridge, I also found a half-jar of alfredo sauce that was left from a chicken-alfredo pizza from an earlier date. Again, I thought....the recipe calls for making a white sauce with parmesan cheese, so why not use up the rest of the alfredo instead??

The resulting dish was the most well-received Pastitsio I had ever made. It was completely consumed, and everyone in the family asked that I make it that way from then forward. So now, whenever I plan on making macaroni and cheese, it is always followed within a couple of days by Pastitsio, and frequently a chicken-alfredo pizza. It's a wonderful way to tie in 3 meals and use up every bit of that precious and expensive food!

So, in case you're still reading my rambles and interested in the recipe I'm now using for Pastitsio, here you go:

1/2 lb. ground beef
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 t. cinnamon
2-3 cups of leftover macaroni and cheese
1/2 - 1 c. alfredo sauce (or I will include how to make your own sauce at the end of this post)
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 - 1 c. cheddar cheese

Brown and drain ground beef. Stir in tomato sauce and cinnamon and set aside.
In greased casserole dish, place the macaroni and cheese. Top with the beef mixture.
Pour alfredo sauce on top, then sprinkle with the nutmeg.
Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake, covered, at 375° for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Now, if you don't have leftover alfredo sauce, here is the original recipe for the sauce that you would use in place of my leftover alfredo:

Melt 1 T. margarine. Stir in 1 T. flour. Add 1 c. milk all at once and whisk until smooth. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and then remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper to taste and 1/3 c. parmesan cheese. Use as the alfredo sauce above.

I know this sounds like a rather strange recipe, but it's VERY good! This was one of the very first recipes my mother learned to make when we got our first microwave, and I have modified the recipe over the years and make it in the oven, as I don't like the results of the fully-microwaved version. My family enjoys the variety of tastes and it would be a great addition to your recipe collection. Leave me a comment if you try this!!