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New Life for Leftovers

May 9, 2009 | by Stephanie Savir

Creative ways to get the most out of your leftovers.

Does your family dislike eating leftovers? Do you throw away food? If so, perhaps you should consider the savings benefits of using up the food in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. There are two: time and money. Here are some ways to get creative with your leftovers by making whole new dishes with food that is often thrown out.

What to Do with Rice

Rice, especially steamed rice from a Chinese restaurant, never tastes as good as when it's freshly cooked. But, you can whip up quite a few tasty foods with leftover rice.

Rice pie crusts are great for quiches. They are much thicker and heartier than pastry pie crusts, and crunchy, too. Reheat 2 cups of rice with a little water. To hot rice add: 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. garlic powder, and 6 egg whites. Mix until sticky and press into pie pans with a spoon. (Spray spoon with oil so rice doesn't stick.) Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool crusts before filling.

Rice pudding is sweet and healthy. This is a fun dessert or Shabbos breakfast treat. Use this recipe or check your own cookbooks for many variations of this recipe: Preheat oven to 375°. Heat 2/3 leftover rice on a low flame. Add 11/2 cup milk. Beat together 2 eggs, 2/3 sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp.vanilla. Add warmed rice to this mixture. Pour into 11/2 quart baking dish. Place in a larger pan of hot water or place a pan of water in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring several times for the first 20 minutes.

Lentil and rice casserole is very nutritious and filling. The lentils are a great source of protein and fiber, and their flavor goes nicely with the rice. To prepare lentils, place desired amount of lentils in a pot and cover with water until one inch over the lentils. Simmer with lid tilted on pot for 20 to 30 minutes. Lentils should be soft but not mushy.

Add 1 cup cooked rice to 1 cup cooked lentils. Add 2 T. onion soup mix for flavor. I add cheese, milk, and chopped spinach, and mix it all together on a low heat until the cheese melts and the milk is absorbed. It comes out sticky and yummy.

Alternatively, you can make this dish fleishig (meat) by adding diced chicken and chopped spinach. For a casserole-like consistency, prepare a pareve bechamel sauce: Melt 2 T. pareve margarine in a pot, add 2 T. flour to make a paste, and pour in 1 cup soy milk. Stir constantly. Sauce will thicken as it heats up. Remove pot from burner and add salt and pepper. Mix the sauce with the lentil mixture, spread in a baking pan, cover with breadcrumbs, and bake for 20 minutes at 350° - or just serve it right out of the pot.

What to Do with Challa

You can do so much with leftover challa and bread. Save it in a zipper-bag in the freezer until you have enough for some of the following. (Keep in mind that, according to the Vaad Hakashrus, challa that has been on the Shabbos table that served meat is to be considered fleishig.)

You can make delicious French toast from stale bread. Just slice it and soak in eggs with a little milk added. Two slices per egg is a good ratio. Melt butter in your frying pan and cook the bread on each side. Serve savory with ketchup, salt, and pepper, or sweet with maple syrup or cinnamon and sugar. (This can be made for a fleishig meal by substituting soy milk. Serve as a quick supper accompanied by soup and a salad.)

Breadcrumbs: Slice all leftover bread and toast it in the oven, on cookie sheets, until both sides are well toasted. When cooled, drop the toast into your food processor at medium speed. Add a little salt to absorb any moisture. To make Italian flavored crumbs, add 1 tsp. each of dried basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. Store the finished crumbs in sealed containers in your freezer.

Croutons: Cube your leftover bread and place in a large bowl. Mix in salt and garlic to taste. Add Italian herbs if you like. Shpritz with olive oil. Mix well with your hands until cubes are nicely coated. Place cubes on cookie sheet and toast in the oven until well dried out. These taste great in soups or salads. Use within a week.

Challa kugel: Cube your leftover bread until you have 3 to 4 cups. Soak cubes in soy milk until quite mushy. Add sauteed mushrooms, onions, and celery. Mix with 3 eggs and half a cup of oil. Add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste. Cook in 9 x 9-inch pan at 375° for 1 hour. This comes out like stuffing. You'll find more recipes for a variety of challah kugels in many kosher cookbooks.

Kishke: Place 11/2 cups homemade bread crumbs in food processor with 2 stalks sliced celery, 2 sliced carrots, 1 quartered onion, 1/2 cup oil, 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and 1 tsp. paprika. Blend until a thick mixture forms. Shape into a roll and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for 1/2 hour at 350°. Just before Shabbos, place kishke, wrapped in foil, on top of cholent. Slice and serve together with cholent.

What to Do with Meat and Vegetables

Have just one or two leftover pieces of Shabbos chicken or 1/2 cup of leftover cooked vegetables? Dice it up and store it in a container in the freezer. When the container is full, make a stir fry. Saute onion and a bag or two of frozen Chinese vegetables. Buy or make a sauce, add chicken, and serve over rice.

You can also use your diced chicken in a pot pie or shepherd's pie. Save veggies that didn't get eaten from various meals in another freezer container. Slice and saut? mushrooms, celery, carrots, and onions, and add these to the defrosted leftover veggies and chicken. Make or buy a gravy, place in a homemade pie crust and bake 30 minutes at 400°.

Diced frozen chicken and vegetables will save you time and money putting together many other creative, nutritious meals. Toss chicken into soups, casseroles, seasoned rice, or a garden salad.

What about the sauce from your chicken? Many times I have enough that it can be frozen and reused for another Shabbos. This is a nice time saver. You can also use this sauce as a basis for a chicken vegetable soup or gravy.

What to Do with Fruit

If your family is like mine, once the bananas begin to brown, no one will go near them. This is the time to bake banana bread. The following recipe is healthy enough for a snack and not just dessert. We have it for Shabbos breakfast, too. Once baked, slice and freeze it. Then stick slices in your family's lunches or take it with you on car trips.

Banana bread: Blend 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar. Add 1tsp. baking soda, 11/2 cups flour, and three mashed bananas. Mix well. Bake in well greased loaf pans at 300° for 50-60 minutes.

Banana ice cream: This is a delicious and healthy dessert or snack that's simple to make and has a consistency that is amazingly like chocolate ice cream. Peel, wrap, and freeze overripe bananas. Cut one frozen banana into chunks and throw into the food processor with about 4 T. cocoa powder. Process. First the banana will form tiny separate balls. Continue processing until it begins to clump into one- to two-inch chunks. Don't over process. Serve immediately, plain or sprinkle with toasted almonds, coconut, etc.

Flavored oatmeal: You can cook other overripe fruits, like peaches, apples, or pears with your oatmeal. Add brown sugar instead of regular and it tastes just like those packages of flavored oatmeal that kids seem to love. Put the fruit in with the water and let it boil for up to five minutes for apples, less for softer fruit. Then cook the oatmeal as normal. Add the brown sugar during the last minute of cooking.

This article original appeared in Baltimore's Where What When magazine. Published: Sunday


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