What to do with your leftovers instead of throwing them away

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 27, 2013

SALISBURY — The party’s over. You can breathe a sigh of relief. But, now it’s time to figure out what to do with the leftovers. You’re probably wondering what to do with all that food. That is where I come in. I am here to give you a wealth of possibilities, ideas and ways to turn leftovers into planned-overs.
Strategy 1 — Think of the leftover food as an ingredient, not the same food a second time around. Tonight’s roasted chicken can be reinvented into tomorrow’s chicken quesadillas.
Strategy 2 — Make a soup or stew. There are many different soups or stews that would be wonderful if paired with the right ingredients. A few soup recipes for leftover turkey or chicken can be found at: http://food.unl.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=ae01ee1a-4f71-47df-afa1-d7383aa7996b&groupId=4089458&.pdf
Strategy 3 — Take the leftover ingredients and create a casserole. Casseroles are considered a comfort food, often consisting of both meat and vegetables and referred to as the “one-dish wonder.” Casseroles are forgiving, so if your measurements are off, it does not mean it is ruined.
Strategy 4 — Freeze. Freezing foods allow you to have prepared meals that you can pull out on a busy weeknight. Making an extra entrée or side dish is a great way to save time and money.
Regardless of what you choose to do with your leftovers, be sure to store them safely:
• Refrigerate to 40 degrees as soon as possible or within two hours.
• Reheat to 165 degrees.
• Eat leftovers within three to five days.
• Bring leftover sauces, soups and gravies to a boil before serving.
For this and more food safety information, visit this link: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/leftovers-and-food-safety
For more information, contact Toi N. Degree, Family & Consumer Education Agent at the Rowan County Cooperative Extension office 704-216-8970.
If you are like me, I seem to get more fresh herbs than I need. I always second guess myself and get too much. For some who do the same thing, they either leave the leftovers in the fridge to rot, or the leftovers go straight into the trash. To me, that is wasting money whether you grew the herbs yourself or bought them from the store. The thing about fresh herbs is that they are very versatile and can be frozen or dried and used later.
If you want to freeze the herbs, try chopping the herbs in tablespoon sized portions. Place the herbs in an ice cube tray. Fill the remainder of the area in water, and use the herbs whenever you like. Once frozen, I suggest removing and placing them in a labeled freezer bag, so you know what kind of herb you have. Another way to freeze the herbs is by placing them on a cookie sheet. Once they are frozen, place them in a labeled freezer bag, and keep in the freezer. If you want to create a portion size for these, you can do that as well. Frozen herbs work great in stews and soups and since they are pre-portioned, you know exactly how much you have.
There are multiple methods for drying herbs, but I will only mention a few of them in this article. One of the simplest ways to dry herbs is by hanging them. All you need is a bundle of clean, dry herbs. Tie the ends with some string or twine, and hang them upside down in a place that is airy and dry but out of the direct sunlight. Do not tie the bundles too tight, so you can have proper air flow to dry out the herbs.
If you have herbs with seeds or small leaves, place the herbs in a paper bag with punched out holes, and hang the herbs in the bag upside down. Another alternative to hanging is placing the herbs on a tight mesh screen to dry. The last method I will mention is fairly easy and involves using a dehydrator to dry your herbs.
If you use a dehydrator, make sure you read the directions, since drying times and temperatures will vary slightly between dehydrators. A word of advice: If you are using a dehydrator with very fragrant herbs (i.e.-basil), place in an area you will not mind the smells. Otherwise, you may be overpowered by their scent.
For more information on preserving your herbs after your party, visit this link: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8111
If you would like additional information on growing, preserving or ideas to use your leftovers, contact your local Cooperative Extension agents at 704-216-8970.