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Leftovers Are Not All Bad

When I was younger, I used to dislike leftovers.  I was young.  I liked variety.  I didn’t like tired, reheated, old food.  New things were more exciting than old things.  Of course, when I was young, I really didn’t have to cook much.

Now that I am older, I still like a lot of variety, but my dislike for leftovers has gone by the wayside since I’ve had to cook my own meals.  Now, I purposely make LOTS of food so that I will have leftovers and not have to cook more than I have to.  It isn’t because I do not like to cook.  I do.  I really do.  I just really prefer to cook when I want to cook and not when I Have to cook.  See the difference?

Cooking way more food than we can eat enables me to save some for a day when I don’t want to cook.  Not only does this save us money, but, if I freeze stuff, it means I can have the variety I like without the work that it would be to make a new meal every night.  So, I have made my peace with leftovers.  At least in the food department.

I am having mixed success dealing with leftovers in the crafty part of my life.  I’ve been knitting for almost 10 years.  There have been a lot of finished projects in that time and each one of them has resulted in leftovers.  My leftover yarn from my finished projects can fill two large sized paper grocery bags.  I have tried various things to use them up, but have largely come up empty.  I think my main trouble here is that I like starting new projects and a new project with leftover yarn just doesn’t seem truly “new” to me.  I am not sure what the solution here is, but I am sure the guilt of that leftover yarn will continue to haunt me.

Meanwhile, in quilting and sewing, I have the benefit of starting over, more or less, since I gave away all my fabric a long time ago and am now acquiring a new, fresh stash.  I have a resolve to “do something” about the scraps “as I go along” so as not to get myself into a state of  “leftover guilt.”  So far, I have a little success.

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Here is my Hopscotch quilt top, pieced from leftover strips from my Dad’s quilt.  There was quite a lot leftover and I am happy with the size of the quilt.   The great thing about this quilt is that it is what I will call a “secondary project.”  Secondary projects are projects that are made without a specific intent or desire to use.  This is not meant for a particular person.  It is not something I really love and want to use.  But, it will be perfect for practicing my free motion quilting.  If I think it is really hideous when I am done, it will be okay, because it was never something I invested a lot of emotional energy into.  I actually find that really freeing in a project–the emotional detachment will make it easy to experiment with and maybe it will be able to teach me something.

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However, secondary (or leftover) projects do have a tendency to be pushed aside in favor of other projects, so it may be awhile before you see this one again.  It’s just like that pork stew that I made a couple months ago and is just sitting in the freezer, waiting for its day.  It could be eaten tomorrow, if I am having a bad day, or it could be a month from now.  Likewise, I could miraculously get a five hour chunk of time tomorrow to get this quilt basted and start free motion quilting (practically impossible) or it can wait until I am done with another project that is more urgent.  Who knows?  It doesn’t matter, the leftovers will be there waiting for me when I am ready.  That’s the great thing about leftovers.

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Leftovers Made New

If you roasted a turkey for Thanksgiving, chances are, you have a ton of leftovers.  We always do and as much as we try to eat through it all, there’s always more turkey left after all the side dishes have been eaten up.  There’s lots of recipes out there for using up leftover turkey, but some of them require more ingredients or work than I want to invest.  One day a few weeks ago, we roasted a couple of chickens.  About a week later, I came up with this really easy recipe for leftover chicken pot pie.

What makes it so easy?

It’s your leftover gravy!  That gravy is like liquid gold–especially if you made it in the pan that your chicken/turkey was roasted in.  If you don’t have any leftover gravy, then you’ll have to make a gravy to make your pie.  It’s pretty easy to do, but it does add an extra step.

I used a pie crust that I had on hand from the freezer, but you could also use leftover biscuits–just add them about halfway through the baking time.    If I have a lot of leftover turkey, I freeze the meat already cut up or shredded in quart-sized freezer bags.  Then, I can make this anytime!  I have also had success in making the filling for the pie and freezing it.  Then, later, all you have to do is thaw and assemble.  Easy!

Leftover Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie

You could use frozen veggies for this pie to make it even easier.  I would still suggest sauteeing an onion first, then continuing with the recipe using 2-3 cups of frozen veggies in place of the fresh ones.

1 onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 celery sticks, sliced

3-4 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken or turkey

2 cups chicken or turkey gravy

1 cup frozen peas

½ tsp dried thyme

6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped, optional, but really yummy!

pie dough

Sautee vegetables in a dutch oven with 1 tablespoon of oil or chicken/turkey fat or bacon.

Add chicken and thyme and heat until just hot.

Add gravy and heat until hot. If it is too thick, add a little water. If you think that there is not enough sauce, add more gravy or broth, but be careful.  You do not want it to be too watery.  It should still be the consistency of gravy.  Be sure to taste this.  Sometimes, gravy is salty.  If this is the case, you may want to start by making a half recipe of the roux (see below) and adding gravy to it to taste.

Stir in the frozen peas and transfer the mixture to a baking dish-a 13 by 9 inch is fine.  I used an oval dish that’s just a little smaller than that.  You just want something that will hold about 3 quarts.

Roll out your pie dough and put on top.  Cut a few vent holes in the top.  Or, halfway through the baking time, place some extra biscuits on top of the sauce.

Bake 400 degrees until bubbly and crust is brown, 30-40 minutes.  Serves 4-6.

Easy Roux/gravy

If you like your pot pies creamy, substitute half of the broth for milk.  If making this for the pot pie, you can saute your veggies first, transfer them to a bowl, and then make the roux in the same pot.  See?  I’m all about saving time and dishes!

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1.5-2 cups broth, chicken, turkey, or whatever you like

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the flour and whisk until there are no lumps.  Continue to whisk until it is golden brown.

Slowly add the broth a little at a time while you are whisking.  Stop adding broth when your mixture is as thick as you want it to be.  If you have gravy to add, add it after you have finished adding your broth.

At this point, you can add all your veggies and meat and make your pot pie.