Leftovers Aren’t So Bad…

One of our staple dishes I resort to whenever we have leftovers is fried rice. It’s a dish that we make to use up leftover veggies and meats we have on hand… and the rice we use is always cold. That’s key for perfect fried rice, just like what you’d get at Chinese restaurants and how my parents made theirs for their catering business. Here’s my recipe for fried rice:

1 cup leftover meats – pork, chicken, beef, seafood
1-2 eggs
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 onion finely diced
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped vegetables (fresh or frozen)
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons light or dark soy sauce
1-2 cups prepared rice, cold (or day old)

In a hot skillet or wok, heat oil.
Add garlic and onions & stir.
Add leftover meats of your choice, chopped up in bite sized pieces.
Stir fry meats until you get them a bit crispy.
Push the meats aside and crack eggs into the pan.
Scramble the eggs into the pan until cooked.
Add cold rice over the eggs & meat into the pan, making sure to crumble it in your fingers. (Dumping a large chunk of rice is not going to work here. You need to crumble it so it separates nicely).
Add salt, pepper, onion & garlic powders and soy sauce; toss.
Allow the rice to heat up and absorb the spices and soy sauce, tossing to help it along.
Add the fresh or frozen veggies and toss into the rice.
Continue cooking it all on high heat until rice is heated through and veggies are cooked.

I used leftover grilled chicken and some frozen veggies for lunch and served this with some homemade eggrolls – which I’ll be dedicating a whole post to in a couple of week. I’m teaching an eggroll class so I’ll save the details and recipes on making eggrolls then!

Freezer Meals: The Recipes

In my initial freezer cooking post, I didn’t include the recipes since I was still recovering from the day of cooking. But here are the recipes for some of the dishes I made, including the Chicken Pot Pie & the Southwestern Turkey Chili:

Chicken Pot Pie

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
frozen mixed vegetables, kept frozen
1-2 cups cooked chicken
prepared pie crust

In a dutch oven, saute onions and garlic in oil.
When onions soften, add the butter.
Once butter melts down, add the flour and stir, cooking for about 1 minute.
Slowly add the heavy cream and stir.
Once you have a roux and cream is all mixed in, add the broth.
Simmer until it thickens.
Add frozen veggies and chicken, seasoning to taste.
You can also add your choice of dried herbs like basil, rosemary, oregano, etc.
Place mixture in a disposable loaf pan.
Mixture should be luke warm and once cooled completely, cut prepared pie crust to fit the top of the loaf pan, to sit above the filling.
Cover with foil and place in heavy duty freezer bag.

To cook, preheat oven to 350.
Place thawed pot pie on a baking sheet uncovered and bake for 45-50 min.

Southwestern Chicken Chili

Chili is a great dish to freeze and is great during these cold winter months too. I made a southwestern chili and once it cooled, I ladled it into quart size freezer bags. The bags hold a perfect serving amount for 2 people and I like how I can freeze them flat like a book – maximizing the space in my freezer!

(you could even make this in a crock pot, cool then place in heavy duty freezer bags)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey breast
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree
1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth
2 tablespoons dark chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
flour as needed

In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.
Add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.
Add ground turkey and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up large chunks, until turkey is browned. Do not drain fat.
Add tomatoes, tomato puree, kidney beans and corn. Stir in broth.
Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne.
Bring to simmer, then reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or scalding.
If the chili is too thick, add additional broth. If it is thin, stir 1/4 cup masa flour into an equal amount of water, then stir into the chili. Cook 5 minutes.
If the chili is still thin, repeat with an additional 1/4 cup masa flour.
Taste the chili and adjust the seasonings and spices to taste.

Only in Chicago…

After my Celebrate Chicago dinner for my cooking group gals, I had some left over Italian Beef. It was nice soup weather today with Chicago’s gray cloudy sky and cool air so I transformed my italian beef leftovers into a hearty soup.
For those outside of Chicago, an italian beef sandwich consists of thin slices of beef served inside italian bread or some other crusty bread (often soaked), which has been cut lengthwise and into individual portions. Even though it is served on Italian bread sliced lengthwise, this is the only thing it has in common with sub sandwiches. Italian beef is made using cuts of beef from the sirloin butt or the top/bottom round. It’s wet roasted in a broth with garlic, oregano and spices until medium rare or medium. The roast is then cooled, then sliced very thinly (“shaved”) using a deli slicer, and then served dripping wet after a reintroduction to its reheated beef cooking broth, topped off with sauteed green bell peppers, or hot Chicago-style ” giardiniera” peppers (mix of Serrano peppers, carrot, cauliflower, celery, olives, and oil/spices).With my leftovers, I made my experimental italian beef soup which turned out wonderfully!

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped white onions
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 -2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2-3 cups italian beef broth
1 lb Cooked Italian beef
1 cup sliced cremini mushroom
1/4 cup caramelized onions
3-4 springs of fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup half & half
2 teaspoons water + 2 teaspoons cornstarch (slurry)
1 1/2 cups cooked dry pasta (cavatappi)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

In a pot, saute chopped onions and minced garlic in olive oil.
Sprinkle the flour over the onion/garlic mixture and stir to create a roux.
Slowly add broth to the pot and stir to thicken slightly.
Add the cooked italian beef, mushrooms and caramelized onions.
Add the fresh thyme leaves.
Bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta into the pot; stir.
Remove from heat.
Add the half & half, slurry & frozen mixed vegetables.
Serve with your choice of bread or crackers.

I served my hearty soup with melba toast squares.