What am I going to make for dinner tonight?

Finding creative ways to re-work left overs can be one of the toughest kitchen challenges. If I was better at making the appropriate amount of dinner to begin, it would help curtail this dilemma. But alas....I'm hopeless. I always joke that I was an Army cook in a previous life. I set out to made some soup and by the time I'm done the pot is miraculously full. I am pretty good at packaging things like soup and freezing for another day. But sometimes you just have to deal with a smattering of this and that when you just can't bear to throw it away. Your left overs may be different from mine but maybe my combinations will spur an idea for yours. Experiment away; what can it hurt?

Left over Meatloaf Cabbage Rolls

Upon a fridge assessment the other night I found I had grain free meatloaf and a little spaghetti sauce. I decided that cabbage rolls sounded good so I bought a Savoy Cabbage and peeled off the outside biggest leaves. I cut out the tough stem and blanched them to make them pliable. Then I used an ice cream scoop to place a scoop of meatloaf in the middle of the leaf. For a little extra flavor I sprinkled a little Parmesan cheese over each before rolling up. I wanted to add more veg so I cut up the rest of the cabbage and a little shredded carrot and nested them on the bottom of the pot. I covered that with the tomato sauce and nestled in the rolls. I baked them at 400 degrees until the cabbage was tender. I added a little shredded cheese to the top and put back until melted. The filling was a little looser than if I had made them from raw meat but the parcels did hold together. In all, not a bad re-work.

Cheesy Veggie Enchiladas

This is only a partial left over remake. It is actually more like taking miscellaneous items from the fridge and pantry to make a new dish. Even though there are many ingredients in these enchiladas, I really did not do very much chopping. I needed to make a large pan of veggie enchiladas for an event so here is what I created. You can modify based on what you find in your fridge and pantry.

Tortillas – I usually have corn tortillas in my fridge. The key to getting them to roll up is getting them warm and wet.

Filling – For fresh ingredients, I diced up some large sweet potatoes and onion and sweated down some mixed braising greens. I sautéed the onions and sweet potato with a little oil and garlic to give them a head start in the cooking. Then I filled out the rest by opening cans. I added pinto beans, sweet corn, hominy, diced tomato and diced up some pickled jalapeño.  I moistened the mix with some of the pickled jalapeño juice, salsa verde and the tomato liquid. I seasoned with cumin, smoked paprika, powdered garlic, Tajin seasoning (which I love!) salt and lime. I used about half a bunch of cilantro and minced it.

Base liquid – I warmed some bean dip and sour cream, which had been watered down to make is liquid.  I dipped each tortilla in the warm liquid until supple then rolled a spoonful of the filling in before lying down in the baking pan.

Top Sauce – Normally I would either make a homemade enchilada sauce but I was low on tomatoes. Therefore, I thinned out some tomato-based salsa and covered the completed enchiladas.

Cheese Sauce – Here is a great way to use up some cheese odds and ends. I melted down a little cream cheese and thinned that out with a little half-and-half. Then I added in a collection of hard cheeses like cheddar and jack. It was seasoned with a spoonful of stoneground mustard and some turmeric. This was poured over the top.

The pan was covered with foil and baked for about 20 minutes at 350 F. Once it baked through, I removed the foil and sprinkled a little more grated cheese on top and back in the oven just until it melted. After removing it from the oven, it was topped with chopped black olives, cilantro, and green onions. Guacamole makes an excellent side topping.

So….how healthy?? Well the overall dish had multiple sources of fiber and vitamins. It was probably high in sodium with the cheese and salsa. The dairy products were the only fat sources so you could reduce those for a lower fat version. I used organic produce and canned products with the exception of the hominy. Over all, I do believe it is a healthier version of a comfort food. It just is not “diet” food. If you wanted to convert this to a low fat version, you could eliminate the cheese and make a highly flavored bean and non -fat yogurt sauce. To make it vegan you could use the bean sauce and silken tofu.

Stuffed peppers last night transformed to meatballs tonight

My goal for leftovers is to refresh them in a new direction, so that it doesn't feel like you are just re-warming left over. Like usual, I overproduced the amount of veggie and quinoa filling that I stuffed in to yellow bell peppers. That gave me the opportunity to re-use very nutritious ingredients to bump up the nutritional value off my beef meatballs and spaghetti. I chopped up the leftover yellow bell peppers and mixed them in with the quinoa and veg. That became the binder to go with the pound of local, organic grass fed beef. I added an egg, seasoned and mixed gently. Since the quinoa is very small and not very starchy, I omitted my usual browning phase to avoid the chance of them falling apart. Instead, I dropped the formed meatballs directly in to my bubbling tomato sauce. I covered the pan and allowed them to simmer, then turning once to ensure they were fully cooked. I served the meatballs and sauce over an adzuki bean spaghetti style noodle for less carbs and extra nutrition. The meatballs came out light and fluffy and little ones like my picky grandson would never know there is quinoa lurking inside. The veggies were apparent because I left them a little larger for texture. They could always be chopped finer before adding if needed. Have fun playing with your food, not to mention, stretch that food dollar - win/win!

Kofta with Raita becomes the next day's salad

I seem to be incapable of making a small batch of meatballs. Last night I made Kofta, which are meatballs (or patties) that are very flavorful with Egyptian spices. I served them with a chunky Raita that was made from Greek yougurt and loads of cucumber, fennel and fresh herbs. So rather than rehash last night's dinner for lunch, I decided that the Raita could be the base for a great salad dressing. I blitzed the Raita in a food processor with a ripe avacado, avacado oil, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper, and a few more spices to taste. Now I had a creamy avacodo salad dressing that is full of nutrients. I rewarmed and crumbled some of the meat to top the salad, along with a fried (without oil) egg. Fresh take on a remake.