Tuesday, December 20, 2011


This is an older recipe; I'll admit that.  Generally, when I get this far behind on my pictures vs. actual posts, I just tend to delete out the pictures and decide to give that recipe another time.  I do re-use recipes, after all.  I'll just post the next time I make whatever it might have been.

But I feel this recipe is too good to pass up on.

It's less of a recipe, really, and more of a concept.

I have a lot of friends who don't cook.  It's not their fault, really.  My friends are mostly my age, and most of them don't have families.  They're cooking for one or two, and really it's hard to make a "meal" for one or two.  Meals are generally made of larger quantities of food.

Jeff likes to make fun of me, because I always cook way more food than we need.  Now, part of that is that I like to cook so I tend to make more components than we really need, and part of that is I don't always read my recipe carefully enough to see how many servings it is.  AND part of it is that I'm lazy, and if one day's cooking is going to feed me for two days, I'm all for it.

But part of it is also that some food comes in natural quantities.  If I want to make a roast chicken, I have to roast a chicken.  Yes, I could make bakes chicken pieces, but that isn't a "roast chicken."  If I want a real roast chicken, I need to roast a whole chicken.  If I want to make beef stew, I'm going to need to use at least a 3 lb beef roast.  To make it any smaller means it isn't going to cook properly, unless you have a crazy assortment of different sized pans which, let's face it, you're not going to get if you don't already cook for yourself.  Which was the problem we started with.

So if you're really cooking for yourself, you're going to make too much food.

And then comes the next complaint:  I hate leftovers.  They're boring.  They never heat up right.  Blah, blah, blah.

And then the final complaint: It's too expensive.

Well, yeah.  If you're making food for 4, feeding 2, and leaving what's left in your fridge until it's turned into a science experiment, it's going to get spendy pretty quick.  I mean, you're paying DOUBLE what you should be.

And I totally understand the not wanting to eat leftovers.  I like variety too.  I do tend to take a lot of leftovers for lunch - because when I'm at work I don't expect that great of lunch anyway.  I guarantee my leftovers heated up in a work microwave are better than a frozen dinner heated up in the same work microwave.

But I digress.

The problem with leftovers is they're the same thing over and over again.  I don't want to eat the same thing two nights in a row.  As a general rule I DON'T eat the same thing two nights in a row.  Sometimes, if the food holds well, I'll skip a day (make the food Monday, eat something else Tuesday, eat leftovers Wednesday), which works, but still wouldn't be my preference.

My preference would be to turn the leftovers into a totally different meal.

I actually really enjoy leftovers.  They're an opportunity to experiment.  I often feel like I'm on an episode of Chopped in my kitchen.  "And the basket (AKA my fridge) contains:

  • Half a leftover pot roast
  • Feta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • Some old mushrooms

Or super fun.  One of my favorite ways of using up leftovers in a frittata.  If they feed it to us at brunch, it has to be good, right?  And, you should know that the frittata (or quiche, or omelet special) that you're eating at your favorite brunch place is just the leftovers from last night's dinner service.  One example of this is my previously posted spaghetti fritatta.  The other awesome thing about fritatta is that they can be frozen.  I actually did this with the aforementioned spaghetti fritatta.  Again, talking about needing to make too much food... Jeff and I can eat about half of a fritatta.  The other half, I froze.  Freezing eggs works quite well.  Cut the fritatta into single serving sizes, wrap each serving individually in plastic wrap (tightly) and then aluminum foil.  Then put the whole thing into a freezer bag.  Once you're ready to eat, take the completely frozen fritatta, unwrap, and place directly onto a cookie pan and into a 350 degree oven.  It will need to bake for about 20-40 minutes, depending on how thick it is.  And it's not leftovers if you're eating it a month later, right?

Another way I like to use my leftovers is in a pizza.  A pizza does not need to be pepperoni or sausage.  In fact, it doesn't even need tomato sauce.  Really.  I promise.  You can trust me; I'm a quarter Italian.

I have been known to make my own pizza dough, but it's never turned out quite right.  And I've found that I can purchase uncooked, frozen pizza dough from my local bakery for almost nothing.  Less than a dollar.  Thaw, roll up, and top with anything.

This pizza was actually made with Thanksgiving leftovers.  I like to roll out the pizza dough (use cornmeal to keep it from sticking) and bake it for a little bit first.  Just enough for it to be stiff - not enough for it to be crispy - about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Once the dough is partially cooked, I top it with whatever I have on hand.  In this case, I used some pesto (which I made from basil from my garden and froze), some thinly sliced steamed sweet potatoes (don't boil sweet potatoes - steam them.  Boiling them tends to make them mushy and less sweet), and shredded leftover turkey.  A little bit of mozzarella cheese over the top, pop it back into the oven until everything is heated through, the crust is crispy, and the cheese is melted.

Voila!  Pizza.  Not leftovers; a full new meal.  Less than a dollar spent to eat up food that was already in the fridge and probably was going to be thrown out.

So think about this, when you are sent home packing tons of Christmas leftovers.  Or, more realistically, when you're looking at those leftovers in the back of your fridge and thinking "oh my god, if I eat that for one more meal I will puke."  The food is still good, but if you don't eat it today it probably won't be tomorrow.  Don't choke it down.  Don't throw it out.  Mix it into eggs and make a fritatta.  Throw it on top of some dough and turn it into a pizza.  You spent all your money on presents anyway; put your leftovers to good use!

Leftover Pizza
  •  1 ball pre-made pizza dough, thawed
  • Cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato, quartered and thinly sliced (or any kind of vegetables)
  • 1/4 cup shredded turkey (or any kind of meat)
  • 1/4 cup pre-made pesto (or tomato sauce)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any kind of cheese)
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle a small amount of cornmeal onto a workstation, and roll out your dough.  You don't need to roll out pizza dough to thin - make it easy on yourself and make a thick crust!  Once you've got your dough to the size you want, put it on a pizza stone (again, sprinkle on a small amount of cornmeal first), and place it in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, checking occasionally.  You want to pull the dough out when the bottom is just starting to brown.  The top should still be pale.

Meanwhile, slice up your sweet potato and steam over a small amount of boiling water until tender.  I don't have a fancy steamer, and just use a wire strainer placed over (but not touching) a pot of boiling water.  (It can touch the pot.  It just shouldn't touch the water...).

Once the pizza dough is partially cooked, remove from the oven.  At this point, I like to flip it over so the just barely browned side is up.  This way, the size touching the pizza stone (which was the top but is now the bottom) will continue to brown, and the top is still a little crispy.  Spread the pesto across the top of the crust, then top with the meat and vegetables.  Finally, sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pizza and place back in the oven.  Continue to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the bottom of the crust is crispy, the meat is heated through, and the cheese is melty.

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