Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

When Life Hands You Leftovers…

on 06/28/2011

You know it’s time to clean out  your refrigerator when….

Doesn’t that just sound like a routine from a housewife turned comic?  All funny business aside, unless you’re just one extremely talented cook who can successfully predict the exact portion sizes he/she needs to prepare to feed X number of people for one meal…or better yet, if you have a teenager in the house which means the word “leftovers” does not apply to you, we all have to deal with a little of this, a smidgen of that or a bunch of something going bad.  Now, i personally do not know how to take 2 leftover pieces of chicken, a bowl of macaroni and cheese, 1/3 of a portion of Pad Thai nestled in a cute little to-go container, and a large bunch of grapes that are about to be fuzzier than my bedroom slippers and turn that into a casserole.  That doesn’t mean they all have to go in the compost heap!

Hubby Michael just absolutely LOVES to go to our local Food Lion and survey the meat department.  You can get some truly good deals when they start marking things down.  Our chest freezer has been the mecca of meat which is either in its uncooked state or grilled for later use.  Last week he got a bargain on steaks which he grilled and we partially ate that night.  Notice the word “partially.”  It really had to be dealt with today, so  it took a nice hot bath in the crock pot in order to be fajitas for supper.  We also had a rather sizable bowl of leftover mashed potatoes that magically changed form.  And for dessert?  Something new with something “old” that turned into something new.  Feel like hanging around for supper?  Have a seat and let’s cook!

First of all, don’t expect measurements.  The art of cooking is in creating a masterpiece with your food.  If Van Gogh were to paint “Starry Night” twice, would it really look exactly the same?  Experiment and “uniquify” your food.  Okay, so there’s no such thing as “uniquify.”  But doesn’t that make me unique?  Hmmm.  (insert mental slap)  Back to the food.  With the steak, i simply used what i had on hand.  May never do it this way again although it got rave reviews from the Franz clan.  Do have to admit, though–it has some kick!  As my dad, Bear, would say, “It’ll put hair on your chest.”  You know, as a girl, that didn’t exactly encourage me to eat whatever follicle-producing dish he referred to.  (Wasn’t exactly hair i was hoping for, you know what i mean?)  Slap.  Sorry.  Anywho….

The steak was cut into strips, tossed into the crock pot, and marinated in a sauce made of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (left over when i only used part of the can in another dish), half a packet of onion soup mix, cumin powder and about a half cup of water.  After marinating for hours, it was tender, flavorful and SPICY!  Winner, winner, fajita dinner!

The mashed potatoes reminded me of something my Mama used to make when we were kids.  IF there were any mullet leftover, she’d make Fish Cakes with the fish, mashed potatoes, and onion.  Sooo good.  These taties became Tex-Mex Potato Cakes.  Cooked up a pot of black beans but you could use canned (just get out a portion you want to use and rinse them); to the mashed potatoes, added some beans, frozen corn, the first 2 jalapenos from our garden–yeah!–, a little seasoning (cumin, ancho chili powder, and dry ranch dressing mix), and some shredded cheese.  Would have been smart to add a little bit of flour as well to firm it up, but you live and learn.

Using an ice cream scoop, put the potato mixture into a bowl of coating (flour, corn meal, chili powder) and coat completely.  Pat the ball down into a patty.  Add enough oil to coat your frying  pan and heat until ready to fry.  Cook until a nicely browned crust forms on both sides.  The potato cake will be crispy outside but moist and creamy-like inside.  We ate them with a sauce made of sour cream, dry ranch dressing mix and a pinch of chili powder but i’ll bet it would be even more awesome with some avocado thrown in!

Okay, one more for the road!  Dessert was actually a drink.  We stopped by an Asian supermarket that we used to frequent when we lived in Virginia (actually looking for Pocky but none too be had–probably another victim of the tsunami.)  But we did find the cutest pastel tapioca pearls!

Long story short, this became the basis for Bubble Tea.  Two cups worth of cherries were about to get hairy in the fridge (guess the girls finally reached their quota); so instead of a solid dessert, they became syrup.  You really need four cups of fruit but instead of grabbing a package of frozen cherries, i decided to get my last package of frozen blackberries to add to them.  And voila! Black Cherry Berry Syrup was born.  We’re going to cheat on this and use measurements.

Fruit Syrup

1 pound (4 cups) fruit such as berries, cherries, etc.

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. lemon juice.

Boil the fruit, water and sugar over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and it begins to boil.  Boil, uncovered, for ten minutes, stirring consistently.  Remove from heat; add lemon juice.  Strain fruit (which i saved to use for something else.)  Cool and refrigerate.

We added the Black Cherry Berry syrup to our Bubble Tea which i think really helped the flavor, but you could also use it in coffee, lemonade, or on your pancakes or waffles!

Now that i’m full as the proverbial tick, it’s time to grab a kitty and cuddle.  Happy Experimenting and Happy Eating!

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