My week in leftovers. Dinner, a side, a salad and dessert with my leftovers. 

My friends always ask: “How do you just look into the fridge and know what to do with random ingredients?” Answer: I brainstorm.  I investigate.  I experiment.  And the people who eat at my table eat better because of that.  This week I made a series of #Cheftovers dishes with all kinds of stuff I had in the form of leftovers or extra ingredients.  

Now, I don’t profess to be an experienced recipe developer.  I do what I can to share what I am doing, or have done, with specific ingredients.  But the inherent nature of leftovers is that no one household is going to have the same ingredients (of leftovers) so it’s hard for me to share or spread “recipes.” I prefer to share ideas, and inspiration.  So in that spirit, here is what I did this week:


I roasted a whole chicken and prepared stuffing (confession: it was boxed and I’m not ashamed).  Needless to say, in a household of two adults, a whole chicken and a whole recipe of stuffing left us with excess.  I took the extra stuffing and added a beaten egg and pressed it into a small tart pan (no reason you couldn’t use a pie pan on a larger scale) then baked it for a while for a crust.  



Then I combined beaten eggs and a hodge podge of what I had around (shallots, zucchini, and some of that roasted chicken) and poured it into the “crust.” I topped it with a little bit of shredded cheese and baked it until the egg was firm.  Boom. “Dinner Quiche-ish.”


Hands down, my hubby’s favorite meal I make is bruchetta and spaghetti carbonara.  Made that Sunday.  But there was leftover bruschetta.  Shocking, I know.  I immediately thought of panzanella.  


It’s a bread salad of sorts using stale bread, basil, tomato, red onion and red pepper (which I already had on hand because I made chicken cacciatore over the weekend too) I chopped up the leftovers and looked up a couple of recipes online to see if I was missing anything. But it was super easy and super fresh, despite may use of leftovers.


Risotto is one of my favorite go-to dinners, because you can play around with it, kind of like a canvas.  I made a nice lemon and artichoke risotto, a hit with both my kids and my husband. But again, there was more than we needed.  So I thought of arancini.  Essentially they are fried rice balls. Now do I have our attention?  I took leftover risotto, mixed in a little grated cheese and a beaten egg, rolled them into balls and coated them in bread crumbs to fry them up.  Mic, dropped. 

 
Now to dessert.  It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, I am up early and thinking about what I am going to do, and cook.  When I wake up on a weekend, I usually put on Food Network to get inspired.  I landed on a nice episode of “Southern at Heart,” with Damaris Phillips, who I had the chance to meet at this year’s Fabulous Food Show.  


She was making a picnic for $30 date and prepared chocolate mason jars. I thought, “I can do that !” And I had some leftover eggnog in the fridge (yes, it’s still in stores, it is not a month old!) Instead of whole milk, I used the egg nog.  And I’ll be honest…it was kinda genius.  Just for show, I crumbled a little of the Rice Krispie treats my kids asked me to make that same day, and topped it with a chocolate covered almond.  And it was spectacular.  And easy.  And quick. And delicious.


The moral of the leftover story is, you have more around than you realize.  More potential and more deliciousness.  You just need to get adventurous!  And get to sharing.  Tell me what you’re doing with your leftovers. 

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Back to School Power Breakfasts

I know it’s easy to sleepwalk through breakfast, especially for busy moms or teenagers.  But c’mon, people.  With a little planning, and very little effort, you can have a power packed breakfast, full of “good brain food.”  My friend, Natalie, of Life Success For Teens and I combined on this effort, to help teenagers get out the door well-prepared for a productive day.

Cinnamon Cocoa Overnight Oats

My inspiration here are those “tall mocha, extra whip” type drinks with TONS of sugar and too much caffeine.  This recipe will fuel you just the same, and scratches that itch, without all the unnecessary sugar. SUPER FOOD: almonds

Cinnamon Cocoa Overnight Oats

1/2 c. rolled oats, 1 c. almond milk, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 T. cocoa mix, 1 T. chopped almonds.  Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, stir.  Refrigerate overnight.

Power Pancakes:  

It’s hard to believe there is cottage cheese in this recipe, packing these pancakes with protein.  And you don’t miss syrup if you want to just grab them and go. SUPER FOOD: blueberries.

power pancakes

I use the Blender pancake recipe from Katie Lee and add blueberries.  Combine 1 cup cottage cheese, 1 cup rolled oats, and 2 eggs in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Heat skillet (or griddle), and add butter.  Pour batter onto skillet (about 1/2 cup) and drop a hand full of blueberries onto the pancakes.  Cook until you see bubbles forming on the sides.  Flip and cook another minute or so.  Top with syrup, or powdered sugar.  (But it might be sweet enough for you with the blueberries alone) You can also sub smashed bananas for the cottage cheese (and add peanut butter). 

Go Bites:

These are portable and popable, perfect for the bus ride to school or the carpool.  Don’t make them too big, or they’ll melt in your hands. For an afternoon snack instead of breakfast, use trail mix instead of cereal. SUPER FOODS: cranberries and almonds.

go bites

1/2 c. peanut butter. 1 T. honey, granola,  raisins, craisins, and leftover cereal.

Mix the peanut butter and honey, then freeze for about 20 minutes.  Remove from freezer and roll into balls (a small spoonful each) Pop them back in the freezer for a few more minutes, as they’ll get warm from your hands.  While those firm up, combine granola, raisins, craisins and any leftover cereal you’ve got in the house, like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc.  Roll the peanut butter balls in the mixture to coat completely.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.  

Avocado English Muffin:

I will eat just about anything if it has avocado in it.  But they’re not cheap.  So adding cream cheese will make them stretch, and feed a couple teens, or you.  And adding spinach will sneak in a vegetable serving before the bell rings. SUPER FOODS: avocado and spinach.

Avocado English Muffin

1 Whole Wheat English Muffin, 1 avocado, 1/2 c. fresh spinach leaves (finely chopped), 1-2 T. cream cheese, kosher salt to taste.

Toast the English muffin.  Slice the avocado and remove the fruit.  Combine the avocado with the cream cheese, a pinch of salt and spinach.  Spread over the muffin.  

If you really want your teen to be well-prepared this fall, check out Life Success for Teens.  Natalie has an upcoming workshop, boot camp style, that will help optimize a teenager’s performance at school.  Click here for information.

 

 

 

A Deviled Dozen: 12 varieties of the Easter favorite

Every year I have to make at least two dozen deviled eggs for my in-law’s Easter gathering.  They gobble them up faster than you can say “Peter Cottontail.”  It’s my role and they love it.  I try to challenge myself each time the holiday comes around, to make an innovative and delicious variety of the seasonal favorite. This year I took it to the next level and tasked myself with creating a dozen different varieties.  I came up with 4 new flavors of filling and 8 new toppings.

Start with your basic filling (I use mayo, Dijon mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper blended with a hand mixer) Pipe the filling into your hard boiled egg halves. I spoon the filling into a Ziploc bag then snip off a corner for a make-shift pastry bag.

Then try these:

eggs candied bacon and caper berries

1. Candied bacon. Cook strips of bacon to your liking, then sprinkle generously with sugar to coat, letting the sugar melt onto the bacon. Cool, then crumble to use as topping. Salty, savory and sweet in one bite.

2. Caper berries. I’ve done capers before and loved the bitter bite they add. Top your eggs with the fruit of the caper bush (versus the unopened buds that are the capers), sliced length wise for some interesting texture to boot.

eggs pickled beets

3. Pickled beets. Make your own or buy them already pickled. Julienne them, slice them into thin discs, or dice ’em up. Your call. Gives the eggs a great bite.

eggs, green and ham

4. Green eggs and ham For a salute to Dr. Seuss, add blue food coloring to the yellow filling to achieve the green effect, then top with prosciutto (or chopped ham) I will eat them here or there. I will eat them everywhere.

5. Roasted red peppers.  Another thing I like to make on my own to have around when I need it. (But store bought is fine too!). Blend them into the filling for a different color or dice the peppers up for a sweet topping.

eggs crispy shallots

6. Crispy fried shallots. Slice your shallots about 1/8-1/4 inch thin. Toss them in seasoned flour and fry until crispy. Even better than French fried onions.

eggs pimento cheese

7. Pimento cheese. I’ve spent many an Easter Sunday in the south, where I believe they’d eat a spare tire if it had pimento cheese spread on it. Add a dollop of this southern treat and find out why.

eggs caramelized onions

8. Caramelized onions. Hardly anything makes a kitchen smell better. Before the last couple of onions in that bag go bad, slice them up and take the time to caramelize them. Once I have some prepped I find a way to work them in to as many dishes as possible.

eggs smoky chipotle

9. Smoked Chipotle. Add some of the juice from smoked chipotles in adobo to your base filling, or for more smokey heat, top with chopped pieces of the peppers themselves. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika.

eggs horseradish and chive

10. Horse radish and chives. Spoon in a generous tablespoon at a time into your base filling until you reach the desired level of zip. Top with chopped chives. If ran a steak house, this would be on my Happy Hour menu.

eggs buffalo and whole grain mustard

11. Whole grain mustard. Replace the Dijon mustard in the filling with whole grain mustard to add more depth of flavor and a great texture.  For a ballpark flare, try stadium mustard!

12. Buffalo sauce. I often add Sriracha to deviled eggs, always a hit. So I thought its more “vinegary” cousin, Buffalo wing sauce, might provide equal punch.  I added it to the filling and drizzled it on top but you could certainly do one or the other.

How about your versions? Please add to my list by sharing what creative things you’ve done to your deviled eggs!  Happy Easter, everyone!

Cooking with Craft Beer: Market Garden’s Beer and Butternut Squash Cheesecake

Yes, you read correctly.  We are baking…with beer and butternut squash.  It’s fall, y’all!  So it’s time to incorporate seasonal flavors like pumpkin ale and squash.  I went to my favorite beer experts, the team at Market Garden Brewery to get some great ideas on how to cook with beers.  Cheers!

Executive Chef, Andrew Bower, concocted something up for just this occasion.  The restaurant and brew house has a Pumpkin Beer Fest coming up on October 8th, so he dreamed this dessert up for use then too. If you’ve ever cooked cheesecake, the process will be familiar to you.  It’s the inventive ingredients that will surprise and delight your palate.

The full list of ingredients and measurements, plus instructions are listed below.

market-garden-brewery-mixing

We started by mixing softened cream cheese with both dark brown and white sugar.

Market-garden-brewery-eggs

Next, Chef Bower added four eggs (and some vanilla) one at a time.  Then the magic happened.

market-garden-brewery-pumpkin ale

To that mixture he added 1 cup of Franklin Castle Pumpkin Ale and 15 oz. of butternut squash puree.  (A lesson he learned and shared with me after experimenting with this recipe: make sure you cook and cool the beer before added it to the the rest of the ingredients to prevent bubbles or air pockets)

Finally he added a mixture of your classic pumpkin pie spices.  And that’s it folks.  Pretty simple, yet pretty genius.

market-garden-brewery-graham-cracker-crust

He buttered his home made graham crackers after crumbling them to create the crust.  There is also some cinnamon and brown sugar in there.  (Recipe for those is also below)  Then we poured the cheesecake batter in to a springform pan and placed it inside a water bath to prevent breakage in the crust.

market-garden-brewery-baking-cheesecake

To stick with the theme of fall’s favorite indulgences, Bower whipped up a Pumpkin Ale Caramel and a Bourbon Spiced Whipped Cream to top off this boozy autumn dessert. (Recipes for both of those are also below) 

market-garden-brewery-beer-and-butternut-squash-cheesecake

When it came out to the table and it was time to dive in, I was surprised at how subtle all the strong flavors had become.  The beer and squash notes were mild and worked so well with the classic pumpkin pie spices.  Chef Bower had dreamed up a deeply divine dessert!

market-garden-brewery-cooking-with-beer

A couple of tips about cooking with beer per my conversation with Brewmaster, Andy Tveekrem and Chef Bower:

The reason Bower chose the Franklin Castle Pumpkin Ale for this particular dish was because of the aromatic tones of the beer…allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and chamomile.  Their more mild, subtle tones played well into what he was creating.  Keep that in mind when you’re choosing your brews.

When incorporating beer into a dish, avoid using IPAs…too bitter. (unless you’re doing spicy food).  Stick to mild/malty beers like a Scotch Ale, for their caramelized flavors.  Brown Ales are a great addition to a chili.  Stouts are good mussels.

Now I want to go out and but a growler of all of these to start experimenting…don’t you??  Let me know what you come up with and send along pictures of your fall flavored triumphs!

Market Garden Brewery Beer List

Recipes:

Butternut Squash Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups- crushed graham crackers
2 tbsp- brown sugar
1/4 tsp- cinnamon
4 tbsp- melted butter
1/2 cup- brown sugar
1 cup- white sugar
24 oz- cream cheese
4 each- whole eggs
2 tsp- vanilla paste
15 oz- butternut squash puree or pumpkin puree
1 tsp- ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp- ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp- ground ginger
1/8 tsp- ground cardamom
1/8 tsp- ground clove
1 cup- Cooked and cooled pumpkin ale
For Graham Cracker Crust:
Crush all graham crackers and combine with cinnamon, brown sugar and melted butter and set aside.
For cheesecake: (preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit)
1. Let cream cheese sit out to soften (about one hour should work)
2. Cream softened cream cheese, brown sugar and white sugar on high in stand mixer for about 4 minutes.
3. Slowly add eggs one by one and let the eggs fully incorporate into the cream cheese before adding the next. Then add the vanilla paste.
4. Add butternut puree and beer and let fully incorporate.
5. Add spices to cake batter and let mix fully.
6. Using a spring-form pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and line the paper with the graham cracker crust.
7. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring-form pan and put into a baking dish.
8. Pour hot water into baking dish until it reaches halfway up the spring-form pan and place into the oven.
9. Cook for 45-60 minutes until cheesecake is set but still jiggly in the middle.
Pumpkin Ale Caramel
1 cup- white sugar
1 cup- water
3 oz- pumpkin ale
3 oz- heavy cream
1. simmer sugar and water together until they reach a caramel color, then cut off heat.
2. add the heavy cream in intervals and whisk between each addition.
3. add pumpkin beer in intervals and whisk between in addition
4. Set aside and cool
Bourbon Spiced Whipped Cream
2 oz- Bourbon
8 oz- Heavy Whipping Cream
3 oz- White sugar
1/8 tsp- Nutmeg
1/8 tsp- Ground Cardamom
1/8 tsp- Ground Cinnamon
1. Heat bourbon and sugar together just until sugar dissolves and set aside to cool.
2. Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed.
3. Add bourbon sugar mixture and spices to whipped cream.

Chef’s Table: Date Night at Flour

Old friends are the best.  Old friends, and good food…now that’s a great night!  My husband recently reconnected with a childhood friend (through a chance encounter I had with him during one of my cooking segment shoots).   They quickly caught up over the phone and decided to plan a night at the restaurant where he is a chef, Flour.  We scored the Chef’s Table on Saturday night so that we could chat up Brett and enjoy the incredible menu the place offers.  

Flour Salumi 

Seems only fitting in a restaurant labeled an “Italian Kitchen” that immediately after being seated, Brett greeted us with a stunning Salumi plate (complete with delectable selections like mortadella, coppa picante and salametto framani)

Flour cheese plate

And before we could even look at the menu, I was won over by the cheese plate that had fresh sliced turkey figs, Calabrian pecorino. langherino, humboldt fog and aged gouda.

Flour Allison and Andy

We had the pleasure of dining with another couple of old friends of the chef, Allison and Andy.  They too were ready to indulge in all that the menu offered, toast, taste and celebrate the success of their childhood buddy.

When I mentioned that we were coming to Flour, a friend who dines there often recommended one of the appetizers.

flour big a$$ meatball

“I have dreams about the Big A$$ Meatball at Flour,” she said

Didn’t take much to convince us.  We ordered a pair of these softball sized portions, which were placed on a rich whipped ricotta and topped with fried sage.  Heaven indeed.  We also tried the chorizo stuffed dates and a plate of mussels.

Flour Mussels

Since Brett is the self-proclaimed pizza master of the kitchen, we had to try one of the wood-fired pies that people rave about here.  Didn’t need to hem and haw about this choice…it was the potato carbonara for us and we were not disappointed.

Flour carbonara pizza

This killer pizza incorporates potatoes as part of the base beneath the aged provolone, egg and pancetta.  You’d think that was enough food…but once again our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we decided to order three entrees to share as well.  We went for the Mediterranean Branzini, a tagliatelle with a bolognese, and the show stopper, a lobster strozzapreti with pancetta, bone marrow and cream.

Flour Lobster Pasta

This was a noodle new to me, and worth every single calorie.  Just when we thought we were done, Brett brought out dessert, a cereal panna cotta, sweetened from Frosted Flakes!

We shared a couple bottles of wine, plenty of memories, more food than we should’ve eaten, and some good laughs.  That’s a good date night no matter what your taste in food, or friends!

Sweet and Sour “Book Ends”

Who doesn’t have a hankerin’ for Chinese food on the regular?  And Lord knows there’s usually leftovers after a night of Chinese take-out.  But I’m flipping the script and turning leftovers into Chinese!  

pork book ends

I scooped up a BOGO deal for pork sirloin roast at the grocery store this week and made it with an herb rub that included orange zest for my initial dish.  So when I searched my mental catalog for things to do with “book ends” of the roast, I thought of trying to make a sweet and sour sauce to incorporate with the leftover pork and some veggies.  Let’s do this.

sweet and sour supplies

I searched around the web to see exactly what goes into various varieties of sweet and sour sauces, and determined that I had what I needed already in house to cobble something together.  Bonus!  I set aside some rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar and pineapple juice.  Some people use ketchup, but I wasn’t in the mood for that “nuclear orange” color you usually see on your sweet and sour pork/chicken, so I decided to go with the pineapple juice from the canned pineapple chunks I had in the pantry.

sweet and sour sauce

I put a cup of pineapple juice, a tablespoon of soy sauce, some water, a hefty portion of brown sugar (like a quarter cup), and 3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar.  Once I stirred that around, I added roughly 3 tablespoons of corn starch to the mix and kept it at medium heat, stirring it consistently until it thickened up.

sweet and sour veggies

Next, I chopped up some green pepper, onion, celery and pineapple…the “usual suspects” of a sweet and sour combo plates.  I also used up the last of my frozen snow peas (not enough to serve as a side dish, but just enough to supplement this main course)

I’m also pretty savvy at an at-home version of fried rice, so I prepped those elements.  I like to cook brown rice in broth in stead of water.  In a separate pan, I sauted garlic and onion, then add peas and chopped carrots (and today, mushrooms since I had a couple ounces on hand).  I add the cooked rice, and mix, then create a hole in the middle of the pan, put about a tablespoon of oil (canola or vegetable) and fry an egg.

fried rice

Once that’s cooking pretty good, I mince it up in the pan and stir everything together, then add soy sauce to taste.  It’s not an exact process, but a method I mess with pretty much every time I make this.

Next step: cook the veggies for the sweet and sour.  I added some oil to a pan, and cooked then until just soft, then poured in the sweet and sour sauce I made.  After a few minutes, I tossed in the chopped leftover pork and the pineapple.

sweet and sour veggies in sauce

I tasted the mixture and decided it need a little bit of sauce.  Then, it was right where I wanted it!.  Time to eat.  I put a bed of fried rice in a deep bowl then piled on a heaping portion of the “sweet and sour book ends” for a pretty sweet dish.

Risotto Redux

When my husband bites into something he really likes, he often uses a playful term to describe it: “tastycakes.”  I believe I’ve just created actual “tastycakes.”  You be the judge.   I’ve asked those close to me, and those of you  following me to send me a challenge.  What are some of the leftovers you often have lingering around your house, that you’d like to give a “Cheftovers” makeover to?  My sister is this week’s challenger.  The subject: leftover risotto.

leftover risott

We like to make a lot of risotto in my family.  It’s a great side in its simplest form, and it’s a great canvas for other ingredients (often bits and pieces of excess ingredients from other dishes like asparagus, artichokes or spinach) that can help boost it up to an entree.  It takes time and attention, and arborio rice is much more expensive than white or brown rice.  For those reasons, it’s a shame to toss anything not eaten.

Whenever I see arancini on a menu, I can’t resist.  They’re rice balls (often with a cheesy center)  lightly breaded and fried, and served with a marinara…kinda like rice croquettes.  I knew I wanted to go this direction.  Problem is, I don’t have a fryer, which is necessary to get that even golden brown finish around the entire thing.  So I decided to adjust the shape for easier execution.  Just smoosh ’em down and call them risotto cakes!  I also remembered a half a bag of teeny tiny shrimp I had waiting in the freezer (the kind you’d use to make shrimp salad)  Now…I was cookin’!

start of marinara

I started on a quick marinara.  I chopped up some garlic, and onion and let those sweat it out in some olive oil while I finely diced up a stalk of celery and a carrot.  (for best results, you should really grate those both…but to be honest, I was feeling a bit lazy, so I decided to get past the slightly chunkier texture at the end to avoid that tedious step)  I allowed the veggies to cook down and soften, making sure to season them with salt and pepper.  Then I reached for the other half of a large can of crushed tomatoes I had in the fridge (from a recipe earlier in the week) as well as some tomato paste (from the same dish).  I added those, and a generous dash of crushed red pepper to give it some kick.  If I had fresh basil around, I would’ve used it here too.  But since I didn’t, I settled for dry herbs instead.  Since I was winging it, I stirred it and tasted it frequently, adding salt and water until it had the consistency and flavor I was looking for.  In the end, I actually ran it through a food processor to get a smoother texture.

marinar

Then I got to work on the risotto cakes.  To the leftover risotto, I added about a cup of chopped tiny shrimp, a heaping tablespoon of parsley, an egg and a little bit of breadcrumbs (until the mixture wasn’t “wet” anymore).  I didn’t season them too much, as the risotto already had been upon first preparation (with s/p, shallots and garlic).  I took about two tablespoons of the mixture and rolled it into a ball, then coated it in more breadcrumbs.  I placed them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then smashed them down until they looked more like crab cakes than meatballs.  I then froze them to prevent them from falling apart in the frying pan.

risotto cakes

When I was ready to cook them, I just defrosted them in the refrigerator to defrost, than pan fried them, just like I would a crab cake.  I warmed the marinara and served it on the side.  Tastycakes, indeed.

What’s next?  Give me something good to work with!  I’m ready.  Send pics or ideas and I’ll get cooking.