Jersey Farm Scribe here with 3 leftover tips that will save you time and money. In fact, these tips may even turn leftover night into the favorite dinner of the week! First, let me answer some common questions about leftovers.
What are leftovers?
When you prepare a meal and it does not all get eaten in the first sitting, the remains are leftovers.
Is it safe to eat leftovers?
It is safe to eat leftovers that have been put away before setting out for too long. Leftovers must be put away properly and they must be rewarmed properly.
How quickly do leftovers need to be put away?
The Food Safety and Inspection Service says, ” Within 2 hours of cooking food or after it is removed from an appliance keeping it warm, leftovers must be refrigerated.”
How should leftovers be stored?
FSIS also notes that food should be sealed in storage containers to “keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other food in the refrigerator”.
How should leftovers be reheated?
When reheating leftovers, the FSIS says to “be sure they reach 165° F as measured with a food thermometer. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.” You can click that Food Safety And Inspection Service link above if you have any more food safety questions.
How long are leftovers good?
The FSIS says that leftovers can safely be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Why is eating leftovers a good thing?
Most of us have heard that we shouldn’t waste our food because someone somewhere is starving. Sometimes that seems a little far removed and it can be hard to grasp that food waste does, in fact, affect everyone.
Here are a couple of food waste statistics provided by the EPA:
Food waste accounts for the largest percentage of United States municipal solid waste (21% in 2010)
In 2010, more than 34 million tons of food waste were generated in the US, with only three percent of that diverted for composting.
Feeding edible food to hungry people and animals, is not only heart warming, it is also great for the environment as it prevents food from rotting in landfills and releasing methane gas which is a gas with powerful global warming potential. Preventing food waste also prevents the waste of the resources that went into growing and transporting that food.
I wish you well in your efforts to reduce food waste by eating what you cook including leftovers, feeding appropriate scraps to your pet, and composting your food waste.
Leftover Tips So You Can Actually Enjoy Leftovers
You cook a meal… no a masterpiece!
It’s delicious. The family can barely get in their yummy noises between bites. You’re mentally high-fiving yourself – and if you’re like me – trying to make sure you remember exactly what it is that you did that is making even your pickiest eater lick their fingers and eye the pot for seconds. In fact, you’re thrilled to have “leftovers” because it was just THAT good.
BUT… but the next night, you open the fridge and imagine your masterpiece – ACK – reheated. Even the thought makes you flinch. No matter how scrumptious it was the first night, even the politest of your eaters sports a fake smile and says they’re sure it will be “fine.”
Don’t let leftover night be associated with dry meat, mushy veggies and family members sneaking nighttime snacks a few hours after dinner Leftovers can be spruced up to be amazing meals all their own.
Here are a few simple leftover tips that will leave all your personal food critics begging for leftover night to be twice a week.
1) Divide and conquer leftovers!
If the meat, starch and vegetable was cooked separately the first night, always store them separately! Aluminum foil is your friend here, so buy in bulk when you can. A large majority of things can be reheated at 350 in the oven, but they take drastically different lengths of time or else you end up with dry meat and runny, half-way heated vegetables that brown and mush into your starch. Starches like potatoes can reheat for longer (especially if they stay enclosed in foil) while meats and veggies take less time.
So preheat at 350, toss the potatoes in whenever. Once they’re heated through, put the meats in (enclosed in foil) and a few minutes later, the veggies (also closed). For the last 2-3 minutes, take out the taters, open the meat and the veggies, and turn on the broiler to let the meat and vegetables breathe and let the air bring out their natural flavors.
2) Double Down!
You look at the pots on the stove. The meats and veggies were devoured. But there it is, the big pot of rice, potatoes or pasta with a full serving or two left behind. But when you’re serving four or five people, a serving or so doesn’t seem like much, so it often gets throw away.
Stop wasting the ingredients and time on the side dish that you know will end up spooned into the trash. But don’t make less. Make more!
Make enough for two nights. Not only will you stop wasting food, you’ll also save yourself the time of prepping and cooking a side dish the second night.
Potatoes and rice are two of the easiest dishes to reheat. Cover rice and stick it in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds until it’s hot. Almost any style potatoes you can cover and toss in the oven until heated through. You can even dress them up a bit, spread mashed potatoes on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with cheese, heat through. And then pop on the broiler for the last few minutes.
3) Don’t just re-heat, re-imagine!
Sometimes proper reheating methods just aren’t enough. Or maybe pouches of aluminum foil have been building up for several days. You’re scouring the fridge for a dinner and finding a hodgepodge of food, but nothing that seems to make a meal.
Keep tortillas or wraps, salsa and grated cheese in the fridge for a quick, leftover reimaging the whole family will love!
Chop up almost ANY leftovers, grab a handful of cheese and the house-favorite condiments and roll up a meal that is fun and customizable to each family member. The possibilities are literally endless. Four or five leftovers can become over a dozen different wraps especially when you add fresh sauces and toppings. One great thing about using leftovers to make a dish is that a big part of the cooking is already done so it is usually a great time saver.
Here are some favorites made from common leftovers like onion, beef, chicken, rice and broccoli mixed with some everyday condiments:
Chicken and broccoli topped with ranch dressing.
Ground beef, onion and rice topped with sour cream.
Beef and broccoli topped with soy sauce.
Chicken, beef and rice topped with enchilada sauce.
Add some pasta sauce and mozzarella to leftover squash or meat.
The list goes on…
Let each person pick their sides and toppings, and roll up their individualized meal. This can turn leftover night into the best night of the week.
Or use leftover rice to make a fried rice dish with this recipe.
Keep these leftover tips in mind when cooking and storing your meals. You’ll save time and money, and the inevitable heartbreak of throwing away food that you know still had the potential for greatness.
With no leftovers left behind, you may even find yourself planning meals around your new favorite re-imagined dinners! Look me up on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe and tell me about your leftover tips and leftover recipe masterpieces!!