Working with leftovers

As a rule I prefer to eat leftovers over sandwiches or anything else for lunch.  Sometimes, though, leftovers are kind of odds and ends–a bit of chicken, half a zucchini, whatever.  On Saturday night, rather than order pizza, we worked with what we had in the fridge and cabinets to make dinner.  This isn’t anywhere near ‘pantry eating’ as Molly at mommycoddle has done (that’s intense–a whole week without shopping), but it got us through the evening.  Course, then we spent all of Sunday visiting and had to order the pizza that night, but better that than take-out two nights in a row.

On this particular occasion, this is what we had handy:  half a cooked chicken breast from a previous night’s dinner; some carrots; onions and garlic; some leftover wine from dinner a few days before; half-and-half and butter; and the usual array of spices/oils.  Oh, and frozen peas.  Plus we had a quarter-box of spaghetti and a little less of linguine.  See where this went?  We boiled the water and cooked the pasta; in the meantime we sauteed half a thinly sliced onion in olive oil, adding some garlic, diced carrots, and eventually peas, adding wine to the pan and swirling in some cream (1/4 cup, I’d guess?), a sprinkle of dried basil, and salt and pepper.  The chicken was added, diced, near the end to just warm through.  Pasta was then tossed into the pot, tossed around.  Bowls were topped with plenty of grated parmesan.

Some people are terrified of this style of cooking, as I guess they lack the confidence to just pull stuff out of cabinets and call it dinner.  Some folks feel they need a recipe or risk messing up a pile of ingredients.  Working with what you have, though, is a skill worth cultivating and a confidence worth working on.  Once you have it, you eliminate the problem of throwing away a lot of leftover bits, can make dinner on the fly, and save money (I, being cheap, think that’s the best part).  Heck, if there had been more to work with I’d have done it again on Sunday.  The lesson, I guess, is that sometimes when you think you’re all out of food, if you look around, you’ll find out otherwise.

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2 responses »

  1. This type of cooking is often my favorite. I’m amazed at what I can come up with using what little I may have in the fridge/cabinets. The other night I made Farfalle with frozen peas and hamburg (actually thawed, crumbled and sauteed two frozen patties) and also made a parmesan bechamel. 🙂

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