Saturday, February 20, 2010

A "Free" Dinner in my Future

It's been a long time since I made Freezer Soup. I guess the reason it's been so long is that I generally use up all of my leftovers. But there is always, always room for improvement, right?

A couple of days ago, I cooked a pot roast in the crock pot with potatoes, baby carrots, and celery. I used the leftover roast last night for pizza, because my kids think that "steak" pizza is the bomb! But this morning, I looked a bit wistfully at the container in my refrigerator with the remaining potatoes, veggies, and beef broth. I didn't really have a meal plan for those items, and suddenly I realized that this was the PERFECT beginning to another Freezer Soup.

I diced up the potato chunks and the lengths of celery and cut the baby carrots in half and put them in another, larger container with the broth. Now it's sitting on a shelf in my freezer, waiting for other random leftovers to be added. Once the container gets close to full, I'll thaw it and add it to a saucepan with some broth and have an easy, free meal.

The neat thing about Freezer Soup is you can add even the smallest amounts of items. Say you cook a can of green beans and only have 3 or 4 left, which you would normally toss. Instead, put them in the freezer container and they will add an element to your Freezer Soup. There are no rules or guidelines....just put all those tiny amounts of leftovers in a container and you get what you get. When I made it in the past, it was very tasty. I was surprised at how much everyone enjoyed it.

So what are you waiting for?? Go put a container in your freezer and start adding little bits of everything. Soon you will have a neat mystery dinner that you will probably really enjoy!

Lovin' Leftovers,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Leftovers to the Power of.....

Well, I've done it again. And I didn't get any pictures, dang it! A few nights ago I pulled a meatloaf out of the freezer for dinner. We didn't finish it, so the next evening I cut it into cubes and we had spaghetti and "meatballs." Since I use the same meat mixture for my meatloaves and meatballs, the kids have no problem getting past the cubes. :-)

That night, we ate all the spaghetti, but sauce and meat still remained. The following day (yesterday), I had a pizza mystery shop which provided us with one large pizza. That doesn't go far with a family of 5, but it will feed three kids just fine when only one is a teenager. So, I decided to let the kids have the pizza and do something with my leftovers. And another leftover leftovers meal was born.

I cooked about half a box of penne pasta and drained it. I dumped in the sauce and "meatballs" and stirred it up. Then I mixed in a big scoop of cottage cheese and some Italian Blend shredded cheese. I poured this into a glass casserole dish and sprinkled on some more of the shredded cheese, then popped it into a 350° oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese was nice and bubbly.

It was SUCH a good dinner! It was sort of like lasagna, but the penne pasta gave it a completely different feel. It was fantastic! I had just enough left for lunch today. :-) I just love it when I can make yet another new meal from the first new leftovers dinner! The meatloaf in question that made three dinners (2 for 5 and 1 for 3 since the aforementioned teenager had some, too) cost me $4.95 to make. Can't beat that!!!

Lovin' Leftovers,

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Muffins Make Another Appearance

I should start this post by sharing my recipe for Cappuccino Muffins. They are a fairly low-fat muffin that taste realllllly good and my kids love them. I make them for breakfast now and then, and recently, they were an accompaniment to an egg bake for dinner. Here's the recipe:

Cappuccino Muffins

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
2 T. instant coffee granules
1/2 c. vanilla fat-free yogurt
1 egg
2/3 c. cinnamon chips

In a mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate small bowl, stir coffee granules into milk until dissolved. Add beaten egg and yogurt to milk mixture and then stir into the dry ingredients. Fold in chips.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes.

This will make about 18 muffins, and they are really good!

The day after the egg bake and muffin dinner, it was time for dessert. My children expect a sweet treat around 7 each evening, or they get pretty grumpy. I was very tired that evening and did not feel like making anything exciting. I contemplated the Little Debbie snacks in the freezer downstairs, but then spotted the Cappuccino Muffins that needed to be eaten. In order to make them presentable as dessert, I dressed them up a bit. Here we have a winner (according to my kids), Cappuccino CUPCAKES:

Isn't it amazing what a little leftover canned icing and some red sprinkles can do???

Going Beyond the Quiche

I've posted about making quiche to use up leftovers a couple of times. Earlier this week, I had an overabundance of eggs that were about to expire - gasp! I knew that eggs needed to be the star of dinner one evening, but quiche only uses a few. So, instead of a quiche, I opted for an egg bake! Of course, I told the kids it was a "crustless quiche," so they ate it straight-away! :-)

I took a glass pan (I think it's 11 x 7) and began to raid my refrigerator. I found a quarter bag of shredded cheese from soft tacos night (you might have read about THAT adventure on my Monkeys blog...ugh!). In it went. Then there were a few slices of crisp bacon from a family breakfast. A few quick squeezes of the bag and the bits went into the pan, too. I also had some leftover cooked cubed ham that went well with the plan. Once I had the bottom of my pan filled with yummy filler ingredients that had been hanging out in my fridge, I started on the eggs.

I placed 10 eggs in a large bowl and beat them a bit to break up the yolks (no, I wasn't worrying about the cholesterol that night!) and then stirred in about a cup of milk. A bit of salt, pepper and nutmeg were stirred into the mixture and I poured it over all the filling. I popped it into a 350° oven for about 45 minutes until a knife in the center came out clean. I didn't even get a picture taken before it was about half-gone, but here's how it looked:

Alongside the entree, we had home-canned peaches and the kids' favorite Cappuccino Muffins. It was a very good dinner and cleaned out the fridge. There was only a small piece of the bake left, and my son was happy to take care of that for me the next morning for breakfast.

After dinner, we still had a few muffins left. I had fun with three of them, and I'll tell you all about it in another post momentarily! :-)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

Hi. Annie Jones here, making a guest appearance from my blog Real Life Living. For those who aren't familiar with my blog, it's all about living simply, stretching a dollar and trying to get out of debt. It's also all about gutting and remodeling our only bathroom without ever losing the ability to flush. But mostly, it's about food.

Yesterday, I put together a dish that I knew would be perfect for Not Just Leftovers - Brand New Meals. Using the art of gentle persuasion and a little ESP, I convinced Janelle to let me guest post here.

Let me start at the beginning. On Sunday, I made this recipe for Sicilian Meat Roll. It was yummy and we ate all but three slices of it. My husband Shane is a big eater. I knew there was no way three slices of meat roll would make another meal for us, so I chopped those slices into small bits and tossed them into a bowl.

I found some cooked rice in the freezer, a smidgen of corn in the fridge, and a little bit of shredded cheese. I tossed those into the bowl with the meat roll and stirred in some pasta sauce. I stuffed this filling into a couple of bell peppers that weren't being saved for anything else and made a brand new meal! I had to open a new jar of pasta sauce (because I couldn't find anything "tomato-y" in the fridge except ketchup), but everything else was more or less left over from previous meals.

In addition to being thrifty, this dish is also versatile. I went with Italian flavors (except for the cheese, which was a colby-jack blend), but it could easily be adapted to Mexican flavors by using salsa instead of pasta sauce.

These stuffed peppers turned out great. We especially liked the sweeter, riper orange ones. I couldn't get our granddaughter Kat to try one, but that wasn't a problem. It just meant there was more for us!

Annie's "Leftover" Stuffed Bell Peppers

1-1/4 cups chopped leftover meatloaf
1-1/2 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup cooked corn
1/2 cup shredded cheese, any kind
1/2 cup pasta sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 large bell peppers, halved top to bottom, seeds removed and par-cooked
additional pasta sauce for topping
additional shredded cheese for topping

Combine meatloaf, rice, corn cheese, pasta sauce, salt and pepper in large bowl. Set aside.

Place cleaned pepper halves in shallow microwave-safe dish, cut side up. Add 1/2 cup water to dish. Place dish in microwave and cover with inverted large microwave-safe bowl to form lid. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave and carefully drain any liquid from peppers.

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray casserole dish with pan spray. Fill pepper halves with filling and arrange in dish (I cut them from top to bottom so they will sit better in the pan). If there is extra filling, place it in the bottom of the casserole dish first, then rest the pepper halves on top of the filling. Cover dish with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove casserole from oven. Remove foil, then spoon on additional pasta sauce and cheese. Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Makes 2-4 servings.

Exciting News!

I know everyone probably thinks that since I haven't posted lately, I've given up on leftovers, but I haven't! In fact, the other night, I made what is quite possibly the weirdest pizza ever created. I had some leftover sweet and sour chicken that I had made the night before, and just for fun, I put it on my pizza crust and topped it with a combo of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Everyone LOVED it! Honestly....would you have EVER thought about sweet and sour PIZZA??? So strange, but so good! I love leftovers!

I'm sorry for my lack of posts lately, but I do have some exciting news! I am going to have a guest poster! My friend, Annie Jones, who has a great blog called Real Life Living, is going to share one of her own leftover ideas. She is truly amazing and has some fantastic ideas. I can't wait to read what she has to say, and I know it will be valuable information to all of you, as well!

In the meantime, please check out her blog, Real Life Living. I can guarantee you that you will find some useful information on living happily and frugally. Grab a cup of tea and settle'll feel like you're reading a letter from a cherished friend. Enjoy, and check back soon to see Annie's guest post!!