Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Recycling Your Leftovers

Ugh, another weekend of wedding planning. I was hoping to keep things simple and elegant. The Chef's list keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  I'm thinking of great locations for a simple outdoor ceremony with only family while he is talking with friends about renting out entire restaurants and bands and cash vars and all of that business. Sheesh!! I think we have the first ever Groomzilla going on! If you have ever had to plan a wedding, you know what a nightmare it can be. For example, I have decided that instead of a multi-tiered cake that costs hundreds of dollars and will be hanging out in my kitchen for weeks after, we're going to order gourmet cupcakes. Yes, I know, I'm a baker, I can easily make my own but what bride wants to make her own cake? I've played that game once before, when my oldest daughter was planning her wedding and we decided to do the majority of the food ourselves. No big deal at all, just required some planning and delegating, but then we got the brilliant idea that Mom the Baker, the same person as Mother of the Bride would bake the cake too. Bad bad bad idea. We ended up ordering the cake.

After a day of planning and researching and pricing and calling around, The Chef and I were ready for dinner. I made one of my favorite Sunday dinners, heck any day dinner for that matter- roast chicken. Some lovely fingerling potatoes were also roasted in the chicken drippings and a fresh green salad went alongside and I was left with most of a chicken to pick and use for another dish, and as I sat there picking chicken off the bones, ignoring the pleading stares and chops-licking of two cats and a dog, I got to thinking about leftovers. Leftovers often get a bad rap. Many people don't want to eat a repeat of the same exact meal so all too often those dishes of perfectly good food are ignored, shoved in the back of the fridge, only to be reborn as a penicillin farm in a bowl. 

What are you supposed to do with your leftovers if you don't want to eat the same thing the next day? Recycle them of course! It just takes a little imagination and a well stocked pantry of basics to pull of some serious leftover revision. For me it starts with a good selection of grains and pastas. If I have a good solid grain or two I can stretch the last of a roast pork, chicken or beef into a great second day dinner or, even better, a lovely lunch for a couple days.

So my story leads us back to Trader Joe's. I swear, it's purely coincidence! I just find so many delicious things there and have to share my ideas with you so..... bear with me here. This recipes used the Harvest Grains Blend. This stuff caught my eye every single time I went in the store and I resisted buying it for the longest time. I seriously have enough grains in the pantry to survive a year. I just couldn't help myself on this last shopping trip. The mixture is gorgeous. Big pieces of Israeli couscous combined with veggie orzo in different colors, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa combine to make a colorful, texture-filled dish. It's easy to prepare- just add to boiling water and simmer ten minutes. No draining. No fuss. You can use it in all kinds of dishes and it was so pretty I thought it would make a lovely salad. I just happened to have roasted a chicken for dinner and had the leftover chicken to pick and use so....... it was recycled into a tasty salad for lunch during the week. What else got recycled? The last cup or so of a bag of frozen mixed vegetables that was hanging out in the freezer and a half a red onion that was leftover from a salad. The simple dressing combined oil and vinegar with a spicy sweet honey mustard I was given by a friend and voila! Here is how I made it-

Leftover Chicken Couscous Salad

2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 package Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend*
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2/3 cup oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup prepared honey mustard
salt and pepper

*I used this specific brand. If you can't find it, you can sub orzo, farro, rice or your favorite grains. You want 4-6 cups cooked product.

In a large saucepan heat water and butter to boiling per the directions on the package. When water has reached a full boil, add the bag of Harvest Grains Blend and stir. Return to boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff. Allow to cool slightly.

In a jar or large mixing cup combine the oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Shake or whisk to blend.

In a large bowl toss together the grain mix, the chicken, vegetables. Pour the dressing over and toss to coat. Cover and chill.

This salad makes a great lunch salad for taking to work or for picnics. I used the remaining chicken leftover from a roast chicken but you can purchase cooked chicken or cook up a couple chicken breasts or thighs to cube. Grilled chicken would bring a great flavor twist and so would barbequed chicken, with bits and spots of charred sweet barbeque sauce- oh yum! I think I better get another package of this grain mix and make it again !!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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