If you cook a lot — or even a little — chances are you’ve got a bit of this and some of that hanging out in your fridge. Don’t waste it and certainly don’t go shopping for new groceries; you’ve probably got all the basics of a really great meal already on hand. Here’s how to make smart use of all those little bits and pieces.
Extra taters make great soup. Thin the mashed potatoes with milk, cream or broth and garnish with thinly sliced scallions.
You can also make fabulous fritters. Add flour and an egg to bind the mixture, fold in some diced ham (or lots of onion) and shape it into patties. Dredge in bread crumbs or flour and sauté.
Don’t throw away that smidge of mustard left in the jar. Add some oil and vinegar and make vinaigrette by just shaking it up right in the jar. Or stir in a little bit of jam — ideally apricot, or a red-currant jelly — and use the mixture as a glaze for pork or chicken.
Of course you can slice it and freeze it for morning toast, but there’s lots more to do. Make bread crumbs by pulsing the bread in a food processor or make a batch of croutons. Just cut the bread up into chunks, toss with olive oil and a little salt and sauté in a pan or toast in a 400 degree oven. It’s also great for crunchy crostini.
Don’t throw out that hardened brown sugar. Put a couple of slices of apple in the container and seal it up. In a day or two it will be supple and ready to use. You can generally trade about half the amount of granulated sugar for brown sugar in baked goods like brownies and some cakes and cookies.
Until dairies figure out they should be packing buttermilk in half pint containers, you’ll probably have leftovers. Don’t despair — swap in buttermilk for regular milk in pancakes by adding a little baking soda and decreasing the baking powder by a drop. Use it for marinating chicken for fried chicken — it both tenderizes and gives a little tang. Or try it in a salad dressing with a small amount of oil.
Luckily it now comes in smaller cans but if you’ve got leftovers, stir it up and freeze in ice cube trays for use in drinks and soups later. To use it right away, substitute coconut milk for some or all of the water when you make rice. Substitute it for butter to finish a sauce or stir a little into some broth along with cooked pasta and garnish with peanuts.
Chop some of that leftover stew meat and any extra vegetables and make them into a pasta sauce. Add a little broth, butter, and Parmesan, toss with hot cooked pasta and you’ve got an instant meal. Cooked meat also makes a great filling for tacos, a topping for a pizza, or it can even be folded into an omelet. Got extra meatloaf? Break it into small pieces and stir them into tomato sauce for a quick meat sauce.
Who hasn’t cooked up enough rice to feed an army when it’s just you and a couple of friends? Fried rice puts leftovers to delicious use and actually works better with cold cooked rice.
Don’t want to break out the wok? Mix the cooked rice with a little egg, some Fontina or your favorite cheese, add some seasonings and make rice cakes. Cook them in a little olive oil and you’ve got a vegetarian dinner.
When you get down to just a couple of tablespoons in that can of tomato paste, transfer it in ice cube trays and freeze. You’ll have it on hand for stirring into soups and stews for extra body or to thin with a little water for those times when you only need a little bit of tomato in something. Or if you find yourself without ketchup for those burgers, mix the tomato paste with a little vinegar and honey and you’re good to go.
Have half a package of tortillas languishing in your fridge from taco night? Pop them into the freezer so they don’t spoil — use them for savory or dessert pizzas. Place the tortillas on a baking sheet, brush with a little oil and crisp them in the oven. Then scatter cheese, cooked vegetables or meat on top and make an individual pizza. For dessert, brush with butter and brown sugar and top with thinly sliced plums, bananas or peaches and bake.
I’m th inking these would have been good to own during all the snow, but I’m also thinking we’re done with snow for this year. (I hope, I hope). They seem to be a real good buy in olive and barley.