Leftovers - Detail - © drbmanning.com

Never Cringe Before a Counter Full of Leftovers Again!

The last weekend in May is traditionally (though not officially) the start of the summer ‘holiday’ season. And that means a cascade of family get-togethers. Which leads to endless refrains of: “How long will this keep in the fridge?”

Leftovers - © one woman’s hands via FlickrNever get stuck with a fridge full of strays and stragglers like this again!

Okay. I’ll admit it. The one thing I hate dealing with most over the summer holiday season is the leftovers from all those otherwise wonderful family and neighbourhood feasts. I’ll bet this not-so-little detail is one of your buggaboos, too.

My mom – and other moms of her generation – didn’t worry about this issue. They took a proactive approach to leftovering which basically kept the prep-and-serve ball rolling until everything edible had been eaten.

Many traditional ways to deal

One of my mother’s favourite ways of dealing with leftovers was to send off every dinner guest with a little aluminum foil package of leftovers – enough for another meal back at their house and maybe a lunch or two. This tactic, of course, assumes that your guest like your food and are happy to have ‘seconds’ for the coming week.

The mom of a friend always portioned out leftovers right off the serving plates into ‘TV Dinners’ – packaged plated meals which went into the fridge for convenient, quick microwaving later. Not a bad idea, but a lot of work after a day of making the feast in the first place. And some foods freeze longer and more reliably than others. Packing a variety of foods together means you’re storage time is limited to the safe keeping time of the most finicky ingredient.

Planning a series of casserole meals through the week following your big feast is another way of using up leftovers without necessarily staging a blow-by-blow, dish-by-dish rerun of the big event the previous weekend every time. This is probably one of the foremost reasons there are more casserole recipes on the Internet than most of the rest put together.

Perhaps the ultimate leftover hack…

Finally… I once ran into a mom who said she put all the meat and veg leftovers together in a food processor and gave the collective a good whizz. The key is to make sure that you don’t use to much mushy or puréed food. The idea is to make patties that will stick together during storage and baking. Ideally,the mom said, you have the same amount of veggies as you do meat. You can add bread as a filler, if your mixture is too wet to form into balls or patties, or pogos (frankfurter shapes).

The next stop is to coat the patties or balls or pogos with fine dried bread crumbs, crushed corn flakes or whatever you prefer and refrigerate until firm and the crusting is well adhered to the shapes. You can freeze these quick healthy snacks for a month. Freeze on a flat sheet in one layer not touching, and loose bag them for long-term freezing.

Easy and quick to serve…

When you want some, remove from bag (they shouldn’t stick together) and place back on a flat sheet lined with parchment paper. You can fry, microwave or oven-bake these little gems. Oven method works best. Try 8-10 minutes at 350 F for a start, and adjust according to the thickness of your patty/ball/pogo shapes. Reheating from frozen, different sizes and shapes make take quite different times to to reach the safe temperature; 165 F internally. If you have really thick shapes, try microwaving for a minute or two before oven baking to thaw the centres of the shapes.

Are they good to eat? The mom says, anything covered with melted and cheese and stacked with hamburger toppings, and slipped inside an appropriately-shaped bun is just fine with her kids. And her husband. The ‘meatballs’ are simply served with your choice of pasta and red sauce – again, with melted cheese.

Let your imagination run free!

Let your imagination run free and unfettered from here…

You’ll never fear leftovers again!

~ Maggie J.