A Feast of Leftovers…

Just a few more days until the holiday season is officially over but the food is winding down. Looking back over this holiday season there is one thing I wanted to talk about that that is the issue of leftovers. Somewhere along the way we all decided that “leftovers” is a bad word. Why is that? Some of my best meals have been leftovers. During Thanksgiving I posted about doing away with this notion of leftovers and think of is more as do-overs. Whatever you call it though this was the time of year where we are all faced with lots of leftovers and the equally big question, what do I do with them all? 

First off lets talk about reheating leftovers. This is where most things go horribly awry. I guess before we can talk about reheating we need to go back to packaging leftovers. Breaking down the big dishes into meaningful portions is important but what is a meaningful portion? This is yet another reason why a kitchen scale is so important. Do you know what a meaningful portion is? Every new meal I make at least one plate or bowl gets weighed when I am plating it. This way I know that 6-ounces of soup is a single serving, 4 to 6-ounces of meat, 3 to 4-ounces of sides depending on the number of sizes. I also know not to feel overly full no meal should be more than 12 to 14-ounces. I also make these notes on all my recipes so I know how many servings of soup I’ll have to work with.

Now when I go to package leftovers I know to make 12-ounce containers of soup. That way for dinner I just need to pull out one container and I know it’s exactly what I need. If you make your containers a either an individual serving or enough for one nights leftover meal for the whole family people will be more willing to eat them. Being able to just pull out what you need makes it a lot easier to make quick work of assembling leftovers. If I had to reheat all the soup every night because I didn’t know how much I would need that could take a long time and be discouraging causing me to just skip it.

OK, so now we know a little more about packaging your leftovers. Now it’s time to warm them up. Since its just my husband and I most meals are easiest to plate and then reheat each individual plate. If you were doing it for more than two people you might want to reheat each component and then plate so everyone can sit and eat hot food together. The next issue is how to reheat your food. There are two tools that make this work flawlessly every time. A microwave with power levels and a toaster oven. Depending on what you’re trying to reheat will determine what to do. I find anything that has bread or crust is best in the toaster oven. However, things you don’t want to dry out too much should go in the microwave.

The first trick with reheating in the microwave is that most things do better at a reduced power level for a longer time. Think of cooking not everything does well on the highest hottest temperature. Most things do better if you gently warm them. The other vital part to reheating in the microwave is a microwave cover. This will trap a lot of steam in with the food helping it stay moist. The lower levels of heat also will minimize the spurting and splashing of sauces getting too hot. It will take some playing around but you can get great results from a microwave if you lover the power and use a longer time.

The last issue is plating. Most people, when they eat leftovers, either eat right out of the container or just dump it onto a plate or bowl. There’s absolutely no reason not to plate leftovers. Remember almost everyone eats with their eyes as well as their other senses. Making food look good is important! Plus this gives you opportunity to work on your plating skills and try different arrangements for the same dish. Who knows, maybe you’ll come up with something you really like that you never thought of doing before. A good example of this is with my Christmas dinner.

Dinners with roasts, cooked veggies, and stuffings do exceptionally well with gravies. However you either run out, didn’t make any or want a healthier option. One idea is to put a puréed soup in the bottom of a pasta bowl as a “sauce” and then plate your dinner. So here you see I have my sunchoke soup as the base, drizzled with pumpkin seed oil, then a pile of bite sized pieces of goose, a pile of roasted veg, and a pile of stuffing. This then all get reheated together and made for a terrific dinner and best of all it only dirtied one plate!

So the next time you have a lot of leftovers think about how their stored. Make it easy for someone to grab the part they want without having to haul it all out. Think of how it’s reheated. Remember to lower those power levels. Then lastly think about how it’s being serves as we eat with our eyes too! Enjoy!

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