TND – In the Kingdom of Leftovers . . .

March 31, 2014


The Kingdom of Leftovers is always problematic.  How do you define leftovers, and having defined them what do you do with them?  In my personal Taxonomy of Cooking the Kingdom of Leftovers is divided into two Phyla, and then further categorized into more and more specific Classes and Orders*.

Kingdom: Leftovers
Phylum: Intentional
            Class: From the Depths of the Freezer
                  Order:  Instant!Dinner – Just Requires Reheating
Question – Why would you make a recipe that serves 6-8 people when you’re only feeding two people at the time?

Answer – Because it is a recipe that freezes well, and you can divide up the leftovers into portions that feed however many people you usually feed, and stash them in your freezer against some week when you’re too busy or too tired to cook, or for when you are home for dinner on a night you were expecting to be eating elsewhere.

Recipes that fall into this Class range from chili to stew to soup.  Basically anything that tastes better the next day, and/or was cooked for a long time the first go around will freeze-defrost-reheat well.  My freezer is pretty much always stacked to the brim with these.

Kingdom: Leftovers
      Phylum: Intentional
            Class: From the Depths of the Freezer
                  Order:  Homemade Shortcuts – Some Effort Still Required
For example, a full recipe of pizza dough makes enough dough for three thin crust (10”) pizzas.  Generally speaking I only need one portion at a time, but I’ll make the full recipe and freeze the two portions of risen, but unbaked pizza dough that I don’t need immediately.  This isn’t a fully cooked meal – the pizza dough still needs to be rolled, topped, and baked.  But, the time consuming kneading/rising part has already been done, so it makes for a quick meal prep.

Similarly, if I make tomato sauce for baked eggs, I’ll make enough for two iterations of the meal and freeze half of the sauce.  When it comes time to have that meal again (which we do all the time, because I love eggs baked in tomato sauce), half the work is already done.

Kingdom: Leftovers
      Phylum: Intentional
            Class: From the Depths of the Freezer
                  Order:  Solving for Annoying Recipes – Raw Ingredients
Recipes frequently call for inconvenient amounts of ingredients –this is particularly true when you’re either cutting recipes down to serve two people, or scaling them up to serve 6-8.  I frequently find myself with an extra chicken breast, or ½ cup of crushed tomatoes, or 1 cup of coconut milk leftover after I make a recipe.  If you have something to do with that in the near future you can stash it in your fridge in tupperware, but if you don’t a lot of raw ingredients freeze just fine and the next time you need a ½ cup of coconut milk you won’t have to buy a new can, because you already have some neatly tucked away in your freezer.

Just remember to freeze things in portions that are useful to you – i.e. don’t freeze seven chicken breasts all together because then you’re going to have to wait for some occasion when you need seven chicken breasts all at once before you can defrost them.

Kingdom: Leftovers
      Phylum: Intentional
            Class: Stashed in the Fridge
                  Order:  It Has a Sacred Purpose
This is what happens when you are organized enough to plan your weekly menu to maximize both your time, and your ingredients.  I always feel like I’ve won at being a grownup when I manage to do this.

For example, when you sauté chicken for Cobb salad on Wednesday night, you also sauté enough to put on a Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo Pizza on Saturday night.  Or, if you grill up ham steaks on Tuesday, you hold some back for Ham & Barley Stuffed Apples on Thursday.  Or, you make a huge quantity of mashed potatoes with the intention of using some of them to make mashed potato pancakes a few days later (although, I’ll warn you that if you plan to do this, don’t serve all the mashed potatoes the first night in the expectation that there will be leftovers because mysteriously there never are – if you want leftover mashed potatoes, reserve what you need for later in the week before you serve them the first time around).  Just make sure anyone you live with knows that that particular Tupperware container of leftovers has a sacred purpose for later in the week so they don’t accidentally eat it.

Kingdom: Leftovers
      Phylum: Intentional
            Class: Stashed in the Fridge
                  Order:  Winning the Office Lunch Pool
Lunch is what happens when there either isn’t enough left over from dinner to be worth freezing for a future meal, or it’s not the kind of thing that will stand up to freezing & defrosting – chicken fingers reheat just fine in the toaster oven the next day but won’t survive being frozen and then rebaked.  Conveniently my roommate will cheerfully take anything that gets remaindered from dinners during the week for lunch.  Sometimes she comes home and tells me that she spent her lunch hour with her coworkers covetously eying her leftovers.  I always feel like a hero when that happens.

Kingdom: Leftovers
      Phylum: Unintentional
            Class: Stashed in the Fridge
                  Order: Now What Do I Do With This?
So there’s that thing that’s been sitting in your fridge for 10 days.  You don’t want to throw it away, but you also can’t quite figure out how to repurpose it.  It sits there on the shelf silently judging you every time you open the fridge.

Dinner last week is an excellent case in point, I bought crumbled blue cheese to serve with salad at the Oscars and was then left with most a container of crumbled blue cheese.  I don’t love blue cheese so I’m unlikely to just snack on it, and blue cheese isn’t the kind of thing you randomly add to dishes even when you like blue cheese.  I managed to use some of it in a Cobb salad, but there was still a lot of it left, and my creative faculties were failing me.

It finally it dawned on me that the solution to leftover crumbled blue cheese is to make buffalo chicken, so that you have an excuse/reason to make blue cheese sauce.  And, thus, this week for Dinner we had Buffalo Chicken Tenders, used up all of the blue cheese, and allowed me to claim a victory in the Leftover War.  Now if could just figure out what to do with the enormous container of white miso paste that’s lurking in the back of the fridge . . .

* virtual high-five to my high school biology teacher Madame de Smet because more than 20 years later I still remember the sequence of classification – I mean, I did look it up to check to make sure I was getting it right, and was thrilled to discover that I was.  So, thank you Madame de Smet.


Buffalo Chicken Tenders
with Blue Cheese Sauce (+ traditional dipping accoutrements, i.e. celery, carrots & red peppers*)
Vegetable Pasta Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Green Salad


* okay the red pepper is less traditional, but I had one in my crisper drawer and needed to use it before it went soggy (see above about the Phylum of Now What Do I Do With This?)

Buffalo Chicken Tenders (well, fillets this time, but same principal)

Recipe previously given:  Birthday Season 2012 (Part I)

buffalo chicken

Blue Cheese Sauce
(makes . . . enough to serve 8 people generously)

½ cup sour cream
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ – ½ cup buttermilk
1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt/pepper, to taste

Lightly mash half 1/3 cup of the blue cheese with ¼ cup of buttermilk until it forms a paste – unless you do this with a blender it won’t be perfectly smooth, that’s fine.  Stir in the sour cream, yogurt, and the juice of half a lemon.  Gently stir in the remaining blue cheese.  Season to taste with salt/pepper/additional lemon juice.  Add more buttermilk if needed to either add a little tanginess to the sauce, or thin it out a little.

Vegetable Pasta Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
(serves 4-6)

Green Goddess Dressing
½ cup cottage cheese
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp buttermilk
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup parsley
1 clove garlic
Zest & juice of 1 lemon

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.  Add additional buttermilk as needed to thin the dressing to your desired consistency (although this is a fairly thick dressing, and you don’t want it to be runny).  Season to taste with salt/pepper/additional lemon juice.

This will make more dressing than you need, use the rest as salad dressing, or a dip for vegetables.

12 oz fresh pasta (or 8 oz dried pasta)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Broccoli, cut into small(ish) florets
Sugar snap peas, cut in half on the diagonal

I confess to not weighing how much broccoli and sugar snap peas I ended up using.  Eyeballing it, it looked like about as many sugar snap peas as cherry tomatoes, and twice as much broccoli as tomatoes

Cook the pasta according to instructions.  Drain and run under cold water until cool.  Allow to drain well – or drain on some towels briefly.  Mix the pasta and vegetables together and toss with a generous pour of the dressing – you want the dressing to coat everything thoroughly, but not so much that it’s gloppy.  Season to taste with salt/pepper/lemon juice.  Serve.

If you let this stand for any period of time you may need to add a little extra dressing to loosen it up because the pasta will absorb the dressing.

pasta salad


One comment

  1. […] Recipe (for dressing) previously given:  In the Kingdom of Leftovers […]

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