Cook once, eat twice Leftovers get make-over into real dishes

January 17, 1993|By Jeannette Stephenson | Jeannette Stephenson,Contributing Writer

To most people, leftovers sound as unappetizing as dinner from a can.

"People are sick and tired of the word," says Anita Frank, a cooking instructor. "By definition, 'leftovers' is the same thing reheated."

Even children have learned to despise them. But it doesn't have to be that way.

By changing the name and using them creatively, you can make leftovers blossom into new, more appealing dishes.

And they're a smart way for busy cooks to streamline dinner and stretch grocery dollars. The strategy is to buy meat with two or more meals in mind.

Ms. Frank avoids the word "leftovers" in her classes, concentrating instead on ways to use them creatively.

"If you're using it as an ingredient in a different dish, then it's not leftovers anymore," she says.

Kay and Rod Tinsley of Dallas understand this.

"Leftovers are particularly important to me because I cook during the week," says Mrs. Tinsley.

"With three children underfoot (including two preschoolers), it's easier to do a leftover than to start from scratch," she says.

The couple, who run their own business, watch for foods that are economical, low in fat and easy to prepare.

They often cook more meat than they can eat at one sitting just so they can whip up something such as a lower-fat quiche the next day.

This is right in step with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new food pyramid dietary guidelines, which call for eating more breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables and only two 3- or 4-ounce servings of meat a day.

More families at all economic levels are saving money by making better use of leftovers, according to a Food Marketing Institute survey conducted in the spring.

The poll shows "doing more with leftovers" is one of the top three strategies shoppers use to save on food bills. The other two are using coupons more and buying fewer luxury or gourmet items.

Ms. Frank suggests using leftover meats in stir fries -- adding the beef or pork at the very end just to heat it up -- or in an Italian dish.

One of her favorite Italian dishes uses thin-sliced leftover beef that is simmered in a skillet with tomato sauce, green peppers, onions, garlic and crushed red pepper.

Leftover vegetables also can be the starting point for planned leftover dishes, says Patricia Savidge, head of an agricultural extension service nutrition program. They can be incorporated in casseroles and soups or added to a sauce and served over pasta or rice. Leftover mashed potatoes can be used as a thickener for soups, fried into potato cakes or used in shepherd's pie (a meat dish topped with mashed potatoes and baked).

But as good as leftovers can be, they won't keep indefinitely.

The FMI survey showed increased concern among shoppers about food spoilage, an issue of particular importance when using leftovers. Edie Meleski, spokeswoman for FMI, says consumers should be especially careful about how long they refrigerate leftover foods.

"We would encourage consumers to properly handle the products with as great an emphasis on food safety as their budgets," Ms. Meleski says.

Rod Tinsley's baked chicken

Makes 8 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry

1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

2 teaspoons garlic salt

8 skinless chicken pieces

bread crumbs

In a sealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients except chicken and bread crumbs. Add chicken and marinate overnight or all day in the refrigerator, occasionally working the marinade around.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover roasting pan with foil and spray with olive-oil non-stick cooking spray.

Drain excess marinade from chicken. Roll chicken in bread crumbs and place in pan. Spray top of chicken lightly with non-stick cooking spray and bake 25 to 35 minutes or until brown. Do not turn. Serve with rice pilaf and a steamed vegetable.

Per serving: calories: 171; fat: 4 grams; cholesterol: 72 milligrams; sodium: 231 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 23 percent.

Tinsley quick quiche

Makes 8 servings.

1 unbaked pie crust

8 large egg whites (divided use)

1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken, fish, sausage or ham

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or any cheese)

1 cup leftover vegetables

1/4 cup chopped bell pepper

1/2 can condensed cream soup (mushroom, celery, chicken, onion, asparagus)

1/2 cup low-fat or skim milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 450 degrees for a metal pie pan, 425 degrees for a glass pan. Brush pie crust lightly with egg white and prick with fork. Bake about 5 minutes, or until brown. Turn oven down to 375 degrees for a metal pan, 350 degrees for a glass pan.

Sprinkle meat or fish and cheese in crust with vegetables, including bell pepper. Beat egg whites and remaining ingredients. Pour over crust. Bake 45 to 50 minutes until done.

Per serving: calories: 248; fat: 13 grams; cholesterol: 13 milligrams; sodium: 627 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 46 percent.

Pork roast

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1 (4- to 5-pound) pork shoulder roast

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 garlic clove

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