Leftover Delights: Maintaining the same good taste in left-over food

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Today’s Recipe Sunday, since it’s been awhile since we’ve last had one, is all about leftovers. Since studies show that most Americans throw away too much food anyway, it is easy to see that they also cook too much food. And alas we have the invention of leftovers, when you can have the same great meal today that you had yesterday. The exact same meal. We’ve all had them. Some of us love them and some of us hate them. But leftovers do come in handy, especially for extremely busy days. The problem however, is that not all food taste good the second (or third) time around. For this reason, some have opted out of the LO and just decide to throw away all the extras. But, why waste all that food? Here’s the truth: Not everyone knows how to store and reheat leftovers. Here are some tips on how to ensure your meal stays delicious days after you’ve cooked it in a segment I like to call: Leftover Delights.

Stay Away from the Microwave

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We all use the microwave, or at least I do. But when it comes to reheating last night’s dinner, stay away from it. The microwave is going to dry the food out and rob it of its nutrients and natural flavors. A microwaved bowl of chili will not taste the same as a stove top heated bowl. When you re-heat food over the stove or in the oven, it’s the same way you cooked it in the first place and has a tendency to maintain the same flavors. Take French fries for example: Fries is just about the only food that cannot be eaten the next day, or can it? A brother once told me of something I couldn’t believe. But it made so much sense that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself: To re-heat French fries, re-fry them on the stove for no longer than a minute or two. They will taste almost the same as when you had them the night before. I say almost because fries are nearly impossible to re-do, but if you had to, use this method.

And for every other food you wish to have again, just use the stove. We didn’t have a microwave when I grew up so all our leftovers were through the stove. And as children, we barely knew the difference. I just reheated some Asian rice a few days ago as a matter of fact (it was super bomb) on top of the stove instead of the microwave and it was just as delicious as the first time.

Note: If you work in an office, chances are you’ll just have the microwave. To make it taste better, add a little water and stir throughout since microwaved foods tend to get hard on the sides but still be cold in the middle.

Storage

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The way food is stored also play a role in how they will taste the next day. Many of us just throw them in a couple of bowls or stick entire pots and pans in the refrigerator and be done with it. But here’s a better way:

• Make sure all food is stored in some kind of a container before putting in the refrigerator. If you can help it, try not to store away the whole pot, this affects the taste of the food.

• Aluminum Foil is widely used to cover food. That’s because it’s good for wrapping and helps food to maintain moisture. But you shouldn’t use foil to cover all kinds of foods. Foods that are high in acid, such as fruits, cabbage or tomatoes, should not be covered with foil because the aluminum can affect the taste of the food.

FYI: How should fruits be wrapped before refrigeration?

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• Mold requires oxygen to grow, so air-tight packaging prevents that.

• Fresh-cut fruits should either have the cut surface covered in an airtight manner (with plastic film) or be placed cut surface down in a plastic container or on a plate. This prevents dehydration (melons), discoloration (apples and peaches), mold growth (most fruits), and vitamin loss. (Source: Ethel Tiersky, Susan Brewer, Ph.D., University of Illinois, Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Virginia Cooperative Extension “Food Storage Guidelines for Consumers”)

Tip: Start paying attention to how fruits and vegetables are stored at the grocery stores for a better idea of how to store them at home.

Timing

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OK, everybody hold their breaths. I am sorry to report to you super leftover fans the following fact:

You can only reheat food once.

Earlier, we spoke about reheating food on the stove to maintain a better taste. After all, the whole purpose of having the same meal is to get the same taste. You may have needed to, but wouldn’t you also want it to taste just as good tonight as it did last night? So yes, reheat over the stove, but you can technically only reheat food once. The more times food is cooled and reheated the greater the potential for food poisoning as bacteria may multiply because the food is cooled too slowly, and might survive because the food isn’t reheated properly. It is a good idea not to eat leftovers after 2 days.

When you do reheat, make sure that food is reheated thoroughly so it is steaming hot all the way through. If you must use a microwave, stop to stir occasionally.

Note:  Since I just had leftover rice I should also say: Leftover cooked rice is fine to eat as long as it gets cooled and refrigerated quickly after cooking and eaten within 24 hours. This is because rice can contain a tough type of bacteria that can survive heating. Most other leftovers are safe to eat up to two days after cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot.

Serve Immediately

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When serving leftovers, make sure you are getting ready to eat immediately after reheating because the temperature can drop and bacteria could grow. It also tastes wayyy better this way.

The basic key to good leftovers is to remember that reheating means to re-cook, not just to warm up. This alone is what makes the difference between good foods the second time around, or stale food. Don’t just warm up tonight’s dinner, but re-cook it.

Health Tip: When washing your hands, always make sure to dry them. Evidence has shown that bacteria spreads more in the presence of moisture, so always dry your hands after washing them thoroughly.

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Recipe Sunday – Potato and Beef Pie

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Its been a minute since we’ve had a Recipe Sunday. For those of you new to the PBS place to be, Recipe Sunday is when I share a fun recipe with you on you guessed it…Sundays. Not just any recipe, but recipes that are specifically designed to be simple for those who are not experts in the kitchen. Cooking is an area I’m not very excited about but I love getting creative and that means recipes. They put me in a cooking mood and give me the motivation I need to get going. After all, I do have a family to feed. Meal preparation is not just important, it is one of the skills I don’t think is taught enough these days.

So anyway, last week I was searching around the house for something to cook. But I was in the mood for something creative. I decided to take regular household foods we often always have in bulk, and try to see what I could do with them. This is good practice for lean days. If for whatever reason a catastrophe ensues, are you capable of creating a meal from the seemingly little things?

I grabbed:

Potatoes, Nacho Cheese, Ground Beef, Pancake Mix, Butter, and Tony Chacheres Creole Seasoning (while your at it, go ahead and chop up some Onions and Bell Pepper).

 
What a wide range of stuff huh? What exactly did I make?

 
I call it: Potato and Beef Pie

 
1. In a skillet, season and begin cooking the ground beef.

 
2. While the ground beef is cooking, cut your potatoes into squares, set aside.

 
3. Next, lubricate a baking dish with the butter. Make sure it covers the entire pan on all sides.

 
4. Your ground beef should be done now. Make sure it’s well done. Set Aside.

 
5. Make a pancake batter. (Make sure to add an egg or two). Be sure that it’s a thin mixture. If it’s too thick, add more water or milk but make sure it’s nice and thin.

 
6. Coat the baking dish with the batter. This is your crust. Using pancake mix adds a better flavor to me than regular flour. Plus, this is supposed to be a recipe made up of random foods around the house.

 
7. Heat the Nacho cheese so that it’s nice and smooth

 
8. Layer the dish: Add Ground Beef, Onions and Bell Peppers, Nacho Cheese, and Potatoes

 
9. With the leftover Pancake Batter (you may have to make more), coat the entire dish with the batter. This is your top crust.

 
10. Place this dish in the oven and bake uncovered at 350 degrees F. for one hour.

 
Regrettably, I did not take pictures so I cannot show you the end result. But when you take it out of the oven it should be a nice golden brown with delicious goodies tucked on the inside. You should be able to slice into squares or triangles or whatever shape and eat like a pie. The cheese provides just enough moisture for it not to be dry and the beef provides just enough meat to be filling. It was delicious.

 
This is an easy and efficient meal that even the kids will love. A vegetarian version can be made also. Just substitute the ground beef with ground Mung Bean, a good meat substitute.

Recipe Sunday: Spinach, Onion, and Swiss Frittata

l210500737I know, Recipe Sunday is mad late, but, better late than never is what they say. I am dying to get into this one though. I decided to switch it up a bit so this is a breakfast recipe. You can however make it a dinner if you’re a 24 hour breakfast eater like me. I’ll make pancakes and eggs for dinner in a heartbeat. But enough about me, you will need:

2 Teaspoons canola oil
2 Cups vertically sliced onion
4 Cups baby spinach leaves
8 Large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 (3/4th cup) shredded Swiss cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes, stirring just until spinach withers.

3. Combine eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over vegetables in pan; cook until edges begin to set, about 2 minutes. Gently lift edge of egg mixture, tilting pan to allow uncooked egg mixture to come in contact with the pan. Cook 2 minutes or until egg mixture is almost set. Sprinkle with cheese.

 
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or until center is set. Transfer frittata to a serving platter immediately; cut into shape of choice and devour. 🙂

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

It really don’t make no sense how good this looks. Beef stew anyone? We’ll need:

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• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 pounds trimmed beef flatiron steak or chuck, cut into 8 pieces
• Salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup finely chopped onion
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 thyme sprig
• One 5-ounce piece of pancetta
• 15 pearl or small cipollini onions, peeled
• 15 cremini mushrooms
• 15 baby carrots, peeled
• Sugar
• Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the meat in the casserole in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 minutes. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the meat with it. Add the wine, bay leaves and thyme, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

2. Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Cook the stew for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is flavorful.

3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cover the pancetta with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain the pancetta and slice it 1/2 inch thick, then cut the slices into 1-inch-wide lardons.\

4. In a large skillet, combine the pancetta, pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 cup of water and a large pinch each of sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until almost all of the water has evaporated, 15 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat, tossing, until the vegetables are tender and nicely browned, about 4 minutes.

To serve, stir some of the vegetables and lardons into the stew and scatter the rest on top as a garnish. Top with a little chopped parsley and serve.

– Contributed by Jacques Pépin

Chicken Noodle Soup

Winter has its perks, among which are soups. The warm feeling of delight as it travels your inward parts is deliciously heartwarming—literally. If there is one meal to enjoy during the cold it is Chili’s and Soups.

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We’ll need:

• 1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken
• 3 quart(s) low-sodium chicken broth
• 6 carrots, peeled
• 4 stalk(s) celery, ends trimmed
• 3 medium onions, peeled
• 5 black peppercorns
• 1 clove(s) garlic, crushed
• 10 sprig(s) parsley
• 2 sprig(s) thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter
• 4 leeks, tops and root ends removed
• 1 teaspoon(s) salt
• 1 teaspoon(s) fresh-ground pepper
• 3 cup(s) (5 ounces) medium egg noodles

 

Make the stock: Place the chicken and chicken broth in a large stockpot and set it over medium heat. Roughly chop 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, and 1 onion and add to the broth. Add the peppercorns, garlic, 2 sprigs of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is very tender — about 1 1/4 hours — skimming the surface periodically. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Strain the broth through a very fine sieve into a large, clean bowl or stockpot. Discard the vegetables.

 

Make the soup: Skim any fat off the top of the strained broth and discard. Slice the remaining carrots, celery, onions, and leeks into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and set aside. Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside. Chop the remaining parsley leaves and set aside. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until the onions are translucent — about 7 minutes. Add the chicken, the reserved broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender — about 1 hour. Stir in the egg noodles and parsley and cook until the noodles are tender — about 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

 

Add toasted bread or tortilla for an added treat :).

Skillet Salmon & Parmesan Potatoes

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I LOVE potatoes: French Fries, Baked Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, all kinds of potatoes. So, today’s recipe is a nice easy dish that takes just a little bit of time to prepare. You can make this meal in less than 15 minutes and it is delicious. For tonight’s quick fix, we will need:

1 (6-ounce) salmon fillet (about 1-inch thick)
Cooking spray
2 medium potatoes
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups mixed salad greens
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a nonstick skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat fish with cooking spray. Add fish to pan, and cook until it’s well done ( 6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork).

 
2. While fish cooks, pierce potatoes with a fork; arrange in a circle on paper towels in a microwave oven. Microwave on HIGH 8 to 10 minutes, rearranging potatoes after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

 
3. Cut cooked potatoes in half, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cheese.

 
4. Combine greens, tomatoes, and vinaigrette in a bowl; toss gently.

 
5. Cut lemon in half, and squeeze lemon juice over fish. Serve with potatoes and salad.

Tomato and Beef Casserole With Polenta Crust

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Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Caroline Murphey

Today’s special recipe is a feature from Kathy Gizzi, of Rotonda West, Florida. It looks so tasty I cannot wait to try it myself. This time, we’re all going to do it together, yall with me? Tonight’s dinner is: Tomato and Beef Casserole with Polenta Crust. We’ll need:

1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper < or zucchini. I don’t care too much for it so I substituted with bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring 3 cups water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in cornmeal; reduce heat to low, and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in steak seasoning and 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese. Spread cornmeal mixture into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish.

 
2. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until meat is well done; drain and transfer to a bowl.

 
3. Sauté onion and bell peppers in hot oil in skillet over medium heat until crisp-tender. Stir in beef, tomatoes, and tomato paste; simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes. Pour beef mixture over cornmeal crust. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

 
4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle casserole with parsley just before serving.

Enjoy!

Do you have a tasty recipe you would like me to try? Send it in! I love recipes and will try it seriously, no joke. :). Just be sure to send a picture along with it so I can feature it on Recipe Sunday.