Monday, February 21, 2011

LEFTOVERS SOLUTION

Yes, I love to cook...but yes, yes, I LOVE to go out to eat. If my funds were unlimited I would probably be out to eat twice a day almost every day of the week.

Aside from the cost of it, it’s darn near impossible to leave a restaurant these days without carrying a little ‘doggie bag’ that will get stashed in the fridge for later. For whatever reasons, most restaurant portions are way out of control. Even the new meals at one of our chain restaurants that tout a “cut back” meal of less than 550 calories is out of whack with their meat portions. At 7 ounces, the size of the beef on these meals is nearly twice the recommended daily intake of animal protein. Yowser!

So when I come home many nights and really DO feel like cooking, what I’m faced with is a refrigerator filled with little bags and boxes of meals half- eaten from restaurants that I now must either deal with or toss away.

A sneak peek in my fridge - too many
little doggie bags for someone that
doesn't own a dog!
Learning to deal with these bits and bobs of leftover meals can really be a creative process. Since generally what I’m left with in these little containers is some sort of meat (chicken breast, beef steak, half of a corned beef sandwich, etc), I’ve been learning to salvage the good parts (the actual meat) and toss out the icky-over-cooked parts (mushy bread, browned salad greens – whatever).

Tonight I’ve come home for dinner and have been contemplating a good-sized portion of pork tenderloin that’s been rambling around the fridge for a few days. I brought this home from a good meal eaten at Triple Crown where I was simply too full to deal with a full 8 ounces of pork, even if it was slathered in an apple brandy cream sauce.

So tonight I’m using one of my hocus-pocus leftovers-to-new-meal techniques – FRIED RICE.

Brown rice with an extra bonus of
more whole grain.
Almost everyone loves fried rice and it’s one of those meals that takes to whatever you decide to add to the pot. In its simplest form it is nothing more than cooked rice with a few vegetables tossed in and then lightly sautéed till warmed through. Add an egg if you feel the need, bits of leftover meat if you have it and some soy sauce for seasoning and dinner is served.

Feel free to use any type of non-sticky rice you like, white rice, brown rice, whichever you prefer as long as it is precooked. Yes, this means a little preplanning or a short wait while your rice cooks while you change clothes after work. I’ve become partial to a rice blend I discovered that contains some additional grains giving the rice a nuttier, richer texture and flavor. If you can find it, give it a try, if not, a bag of instant boil-in-bag rice will do nicely here too.

8 inch wok - perfect tool for a single cook
ANOTHER COOL TOOL
Tonight I’m reaching for my 8-inch stovetop wok. Small enough for stir fry or fried rice for one meal, yet large enough to hold a meal for 2 or 3, this pan gets a workout in my kitchen. Stir fry and fried rice don’t require long cooking, but will take high heat and this pan is made for that. If you have room in your kitchen for such a pan, I’d highly recommend getting one.

FRIED RICE WITH PORK
3 teaspoons peanut oil
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup cooked rice
1 scallion, chopped
2-3 ounces of leftover pork tenderloin (or chicken or beef), diced small
¼ cup frozen peas or peas and carrots mixture (or any other precooked veg you like)
Soy sauce to taste (1-2 teaspoons)
sprinkle of chopped cashews

Egg cooked and set aside.  Everything else
heating nicely in the pan.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the peanut oil in the wok over high heat. Add the beaten egg and stir in the oil until the egg is nearly cooked through (this will go quickly - now is not the time to wander away to answer the door.) Remove the egg from the pan.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons peanut oil to the pan, then add the rice and the scallion. Stirring the rice to coat it evenly in the oil, cook over high heat until slightly browned and heated through. Add the cooked egg back to the pan along with the chopped meat. Continue to stir and saute until the meat is heated through then add the peas and cook until they are warmed.

Add the soy sauce, heat through and serve immediately.  Sprinkle with cashews for a bit of extra crunch.

Leftovers to new meal in a snap.  10 minutes
start to finish if you have cooked rice
in the fridge or freezer.

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