Gourmet Veggie Mama

Tag Archives: Leftovers

Leftover Extravaganza

“Tis the season. You know, the season of lots and lots of leftovers. Do you have them? At this point, they are just hanging out in the fridge, begging to be used ASAP or tossed. Here are a few tasty ideas that will hopefully help keep you from feeding a post-feast feast to your compost pile.

  • Sweet potato waffles. We added a nice hefty scoop of leftover sweet potato casserole (topping and all) to our favorite waffle batter.
    sweet potato waffles

    Breakfast time!

    Not only were they excellent,  the leftover waffles freeze well so that you have quick breakfast for mornings to come!

  • Bon Appétit’s Thanksgiving leftovers slideshow has a bunch of excellent-sounding recipes, including pumpkin flan (a great use for that partial can of pumpkin you have in the fridge).
  • Brussels sprouts pizza. Yeah, seriously. We had this for dinner the other night and it was so good. We already had some leftover grilled pizza crusts in the freezer, so it was quick and easy to throw together (the hubby finished them off on the grill).
    brussels sprouts pizza

    Eat your veggies!

    My vegetarian version included halved roasted Brussels sprouts, mozzarella and manchego cheeses, sautéed spinach and a sprinkle of fleur de sel and crushed red pepper. The hubby’s version included Brussels sprouts, bacon and mozzarella. Both were delicious (or at least so I hear).

  • Cranberry brie bites. I stumbled across these on Rufus’ Guide to Food and Spirits, and I must have them now. What an awesome use of leftover cranberry sauce (which is plentiful in my fridge right now).
  • Mashed potato cakes. Obvs. I wrote about this one yesterday, and it was tasty.
  • Stuffing stuffed mushrooms? Yes please!
  • Last but not least, here are a bunch of ideas for all that leftover turkey from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and A is for Austin.

Thankful… and a use for all those leftover mashed potatoes!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, laughter and delicious food! I was going to write a big Thanksgiving post this year, but, when it came down to it, I was just too busy cooking and enjoying time with my family to do it. No apologies here — that’s what this holiday is all about isn’t it? I was just too busy being thankful and enjoying the things I have to be thankful for to sit down and write about it.

thanksgiving meal


But I certainly am thankful. There is so much I am thankful for, it’s hard to know where to begin, but the thing I keep coming back to is that I am thankful for where I am. I wouldn’t have chosen the road that led me here, particularly, but here I am! Don’t get me wrong… I am still traveling that road, and I am not sure where it’s leading, but now I know it’s the journey, not the destination. I am comfortable with a little uncertainty, which is something I have ever really been able to embrace before now. I went from high school to college to law school to law firm without ever not knowing what the next step was… and then I had to take a huge step into the unknown. It was terrifying at the time, but it turned out to be so right. I just had to close my eyes and jump, without knowing where or when I would land. I am still falling, but my parachute is open, and I’m enjoying the ride.

I went to prenatal yoga weekly when I was pregnant with Nora. During savasana the instructor would always tell us to think about something for which we were truly grateful. What would always come to mind, immediately, was “this time.” I was (and am) grateful to be a position to step back and explore, to find my passion, to take care of my child full-time. I appreciate that’s a choice that many people don’t have, just from the pressures of day-to-day living, and I’m so glad that my crooked path led me to this place.

You know the question career counselors ask: What would you do if you were independently wealthy? It’s supposed to lead you to your perfect career. It seems like it should be easy an easy question, but I never had a great answer for it. I spent a couple of years putzing around (okay, there was some parenting involved, too) before I finally got relaxed and clear and wound-down enough to see it: I like to write. I like to cook. I like my family. So, I write about cooking and my family. This blog, which I started as just a fun thing to do, to keep my mind entertained while spending the lion’s share of my time as a mommy and homemaker.* As it turns out, this is it — the thing I would do if I didn’t have to work. So I’ve started picking up freelance writing assignments here and there, and doing some editing. Nora gets to go to preschool a couple of days a week (which she loves), and I get a little time away to flex my brain muscles. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m certainly not getting paid much, but maybe someday!

* It’s interesting trying to come up with a neutral term for that occupation.

So, basically, I am thankful I’m now at a place where I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Not that I’m there yet — it’s the journey — but I feel like that was really the hard part.

Anyway, that’s enough introspection for one day. Let’s get down to business. Thanksgiving is over, and that means leftovers! I don’t know about you, but I ended up with lots of delicious mashed potatoes left over (I always make more than necessary because I love them so much). I recently discovered a brilliant (in a “why have I never thought of that?” kind of way) use for leftover mashed potatoes: Mashed potato cakes! They made a great dinner last night.

mashed potato cakes


Even Nora loved them, although she was a bit disappointed that we weren’t really having “cakes” for dinner.

Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese**
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • chopped fresh parsley or chives for serving (optional)
  • sour cream for serving (optional)
  1. Roll a nice spoonful of the mashed potatoes into a ball using your hands. Roll in a shallow dish with the eggs, and then in another shallow dish to coat with the panko.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the coated potato balls in the skillet and gently flatten them with a spatula. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 3-5 minutes. Flip over and cook until golden brown and crispy on the other side.
  3. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve sprinkled with the parsley or chives and a dollop of sour cream on the side.
** Optional. Otherwise, just use more panko... but the parmesan is tasty.


Hatch green chile and corn relish

Monday night is usually the hubby’s night to cook. When he suggested grilled cheese with some kind of Hatch green chile relish, I thought it sounded interesting, if a little weird. Well, guess what? It was actually awesome.


The relish was easy to make, especially since the corn had already been grilled and sliced from the cob, and goat cheese was the perfect flavor complement in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Relish that taste.

The relish only got better after sitting in the fridge for a few days, which meant that it also made for a great second-night dinner, and even a third-day lunch — score! We made quesadillas (Hatch green chile queso quesadilla for the big people, and cheddar for the little one) and topped them with a dollop of sour cream and healthy portion of the relish.


This relish takes advantage of two things that are in high season right now: sweet corn and Hatch green chiles. If I can find the time, I’ll be making some and canning it for Christmas gifts this year… plus some extra to keep, of course!

Hatch Green Chile and Corn Relish
Adapted from a Blue Mesa Grill recipe

3 cups corn, grilled or roasted and cut from the cob
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped Hatch green chiles (from about 8 roasted, peeled, and seeded chiles)
scant 1/4 cup olive oil
scant 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well and chill for several hours to let the flavors blend.

Homemade ricotta… and a great summer pasta to boot!

I made ricotta! I’ve wanted to try it for ages, and it really was as easy as people say it is.

Easy and delicious.

It’s also at least twice as good as store-bought ricotta. It actually has flavor — imagine that! The texture is so much lighter and fluffier, too. I used this tutorial, which is a great intro for a cheesemaking novice. I think ricotta may be a stepping stone drug, since I totally want to try something else now. Maybe mozzarella?

In any case, I had to make something that would showcase my beautiful homemade ricotta, and the weather is just plain too hot for lasagna, so I threw together a lovely summer pasta with some of our Sun Gold tomatoes, olives, and parsley from the garden. Simple and delicious!

Yes, please.

It was also fabulous for lunch the next day. Nora gobbled down about as much of it as I did. Everything except the olives, that is; apparently they weren’t to her liking. That’s okay, she has years to cultivate a taste for them!

Rotini with Ricotta, Tomatoes, and Olives

1 lb rotini or other small pasta
1 recipe homemade ricotta
3 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbs Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
zest of one lemon

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the ricotta, olive oil, garlic, parsley and olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Orecchiette with tomato salsa cruda

Tuesdays are a bit hectic around here. The hubby gets home from work, we feed Nora her dinner, and then I’m off to core class at Rogue while the hubby gives her a bath and puts her to bed. When I get home, I’m usually tired and famished, so something quick and easy for dinner is a must.

Sometimes I outsource the cooking to the hubby, and takeout is always an option, but when you have so many beautiful tomatoes staring you in the face just begging to be used, well, that pretty much makes the decision for you.

Well, alright then.

I ran across a recipe for pasta with  sauce of fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic in Sunset magazine recently, and bookmarked it knowing it would come in handy. The sauce doesn’t require any cooking, so that was a bonus on a day when the temperature climbed above 100. Yeah, whew.

No cook = cooler kitchen

When all was said and done, I used a couple of farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes, a half quart of our very own Sun Gold tomatoes,* and plenty of basil from our garden to make a delicious, easy, quick meal, with plenty of leftovers for all three of us for lunch today.

* Told you they were flourishing!

Nora’s stamp of approval.

I didn’t even bother reheating the pasta — just left it on the counter for a few minutes to warm up before lunch and served it as a pasta salad. It was fabulous both warm and cold. Who could say no to that?

Orecchiette with Tomato Salsa Cruda
Adapted from a recipe published in Sunset, June 2012

1 1/2 lbs mixed tomatoes, including some cherry tomatoes**
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 lb orecchiette or seashell pasta
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves

Core and chop the tomatoes, and halve the cherry tomatoes. Place in a large bowl with the olive oil, garlic, and salt, and mix well. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and toss with the tomato mixture, along with the cheese and all but 1 Tbs of the basil. Add a splash of the pasta water if the sauce needs to be thinned a bit.

Serve garnished with the reserved basil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel or additional kosher salt and pepper, if desired.

** I used a couple of lovely ripe heirlooms from the farmer’s market, plus about a half quart of Sun Gold tomatoes, but any combination would be great. Whatever is freshest is likely to be best!

Roasted tomatillo sauce with green tomatoes

We got tomatillos in our CSA box last week, and that means it’s enchilada time!


I totally winged it on the sauce, and it came out great. Even more so, since it turned out that what I thought at first glace were lemon cucumbers in the box turned out to be green tomatoes! I saved the bulk of them to fry (of course!), but I threw a few in the sauce for good measure. It really balanced it out well.

I have always been pretty picky about tomatillo sauce, since it has the potential to be too acidic and assertive for my taste, but, with a little tweaking on the seasoning, this really did the trick. I used it as a sauce for a pan of cheese enchiladas, accented with some caramelized onions left over from grilled pizzas, but it would be great as just a salsa to enjoy with chips — take your pick!

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce with Green Tomatoes

1 lb tomatillos
2-3 small green tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 serrano pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
2/3 cup vegetable stock
juice of one lime

Toss the tomatillos with a little olive oil, and roast them in their husks on the grill over medium high heat, using a vegetable grate. When the husks are crispy and a little scorched, they are done. Set aside to cool.

Remove the husks from the cooled tomatillos. Place the tomatillos in a blender with the other ingredients and purée. Adjust lime juice and salt to taste.

Kale salad with ricotta salata, pine nuts, and quinoa

With the end of kale season nearing, and temperatures rising,  I decided to try a kale salad with the big bunch of curly kale that showed up in our CSA box this week. There are legions of kale salad recipes out there, but nothing quite struck my fancy until I stumbled upon this recipe on Epicurious.

This simple salad is perfect for showcasing the kale, and besides, I’ve loved ricotta salata ever since I discovered it. It’s a delightfully salty cheese with a great, fresh flavor — perfect for crumbling over salads or pasta.I added some quinoa and toasted pine nuts to make it a bit more substantial, and called it a meal.


It was perfect for one of those hot evenings, when it was just asking too much to turn on the stove. Even better, the salad keeps well in the fridge, and it made for a delicious lunch the next day.

Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts, and Quinoa
Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet, January 2007

1 bunch kale, stems and center ribs removed
2 shallots, finely chopped
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 1/2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata (about 2 oz)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups prepared quinoa (from 1/2 cup dry)

Cut the kale crosswise into thin slices. Whisk together the shallot, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Toss the kale, ricotta salata, and pine nuts in a large bowl with the dressing, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the salad on a bed of quinoa.

Chiles rellenos

I’ve never made “real” chiles rellenos before (just a casserole), so, with us back in Tex-Mex country, I figured it was time to give it a try. After scouring the internets for a good, but reasonably easy, recipe, I settled on this one. However, I only had one egg left, and the batter called for four — oops! So, I modified it a bit. Turns out, it was no big deal.

These sound kind of difficult, with the roasting, peeling, stuffing, and frying, but (besides being extremely messy) they really don’t take much skill to make. Plus, they turned out delicious!

It's a fiesta!

I topped the rellenos with sour cream and a blender salsa that took literally 5 minutes to throw together, tops, but tasted great. Paired with quick sides of canned black beans and brown rice cooked with a can of tomatoes and green chiles, the meal was definitely a hit. Even the hubby, with his still-rebounding post-surgery appetite, went back for seconds. Success!

As a bonus, I repurposed the leftovers as black bean, cheese, and veggie quesadillas for Nora, served with a side of the rice. She chowed down.

Nom nom nom.

I love making leftovers into a new meal — makes me feel twice as productive!

Chiles Rellenos
Based on this recipe from Macheesmo

6 poblano peppers
10 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 bunch of spinach, stemmed and loosely chopped
1 1/4 cups flour*
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup beer**
1 cup oil for frying

Roast the peppers on a cookie sheet in a 450 oven, turning to brown evenly, until well-blistered, 20-25 minutes. Remove the peppers to a paper bag and allow to steam for 10 minutes. Peel when cool enough to handle, and the cut a slit down the side of each to remove the seeds.

Mix the cheese and spinach together in a bowl and stuff each of the peppers with the mixture. They should be full, but you should still be able to pull the sides of the pepper together to close it when you dip it into the batter.

Beat the egg with the flour, beer, and salt, adding the beer and flour gradually until you get the right consistency. You want it thick enough to stick to the peppers, but not gloppy.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan. The oil should be at least 1/3-inch deep. Test the oil’s heat by dripping a little of the batter into it. If it bubbles up and fries, then it’s ready.

Working in batches, dip the stuffed peppers one by one into the batter, holding them closed, and place seam side down in the oil. Cook for about 4 minutes a side, or until golden brown, and remove to paper towels to drain. Serve topped with the salsa (recipe below) and sour cream and enjoy!

* You’ll have to eyeball the amounts of flour and beer until the batter gets to the right consistency. 

** Drink the rest while you cook. Duh.

5-Minute Blender Salsa

1 14-oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1 jalapeno, stem end cut off
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 scallions, root end cut off
a nice handful of cilantro

Add all ingredients to blender. Blend well. Voila!

Wild Mushroom Risotto

The better half used to hate mushrooms. Hate them. For years, he disdainfully referred to them as “fungi” (which, yes, they are) and turned up his nose at any dish that had even the faintest trace of mushroom in it.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, he decided that he was going to try mushrooms again. And guess what — he liked them! I think it took a while for him to really get a taste for them, but as long as they weren’t the gross, slimy canned kind,* he was good.

* Which are pretty gross even if you do like mushrooms.

This opened up a whole new culinary world for me. I’m a big mushroom fan. I like them on pizzas, I like them sautéed, on the grill, in pasta, you name it. But, I hadn’t cooked with them in ages, since I usually cook for the two of us, and mushrooms were off-limits. So I started experimenting, adding mushrooms here and there.

Until now, though, I have approached any mushroom-based dish with some trepidation. Given his 180-degree reversal on this subject, I worried that the hubby’s mushroom aversion would be re-triggered by a mushroom overload, and we’d be right back where we started. When I saw Savory Simple‘s delicious wild mushroom risotto recipe, though, I knew I’d have to try it, even if it was described as “extreme” mushroom risotto.

With the hubby’s blessing (really, I asked him like five times to be sure), I forged ahead, toning down the mushroom craziness to some extent, and I am happy to report that, although plenty mushroom-y, it was a hit with both of us!

Mushroom-y goodness.

Nora tried some leftovers, too, and she loved it (especially in croquette form**).

** As I mentioned in my last risotto post, you can make croquettes with leftover risotto for a second meal. Delicious!

So, I think this mushroom thing is here to stay. Hurrah!

Wild Mushroom Risotto
Based on this recipe

3/4 cup dried gourmet mushrooms
6 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
dash of truffle oil
cream, if desired

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water until tender. Reserve about a cup of the liquid. Bring broth to boil in large saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to low.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms, stirring to coat with butter. Sauté a few minutes more. Add rice and stir for a couple of minutes to toast. Add wine and deglaze pan. One the wine has been absorbed, add the reserved mushroom liquid (I eyeballed it, but probably used about 2/3 cup) and simmer again until absorbed. Add the reconstituted mushrooms.

Add about a cup of hot broth and simmer until absorbed. Add warm broth cup by cup, allowing to simmer until absorbed each time, until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy and slightly soupy, stirring occasionally. This should take 20-25 minutes, and you may not use all the broth.

Stir in parmesan cheese, a dash of truffle oil, and a touch of cream, if you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer risotto to serving bowls. Sprinkle with a bit more parmesan and serve.

Lentil soup

Lentils are a real staple of a vegetarian diet, but they can be pretty boring. Thankfully, I’ve spent some time perfecting my lentil soup recipe, which is perfect for a gloomy fall or winter day. It also incorporates several veggies that are easy to come by in the fall and winter.

Taste the rainbow.

Yes, those are both orange and yellow carrots — makes me nostalgic for our CSA, which just ended its season last week.

This is a meal you can start early in the day, let simmer on the stove, and even mellow in the fridge for a bit before you heat it back up for dinner. It’s almost always better on the second day, so leftovers are a must. Serve it with a nice, thick slice of beer bread, and it’s great comfort food.


It also freezes well, so I always make a big batch. Hurray for an easy dinner some night down the road!

I love making beer bread with this meal, and it’s so easy it’s almost an afterthought. These recipes definitely go hand-in-hand.

Lentil Soup

1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
4 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp ground cumin
a handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped
a handful of fresh marjoram, leaves picked and chopped
2 bay leaves
8 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped*
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp tomato paste**
8 cups vegetable broth
1 lb Du Puy lentils
2 Tbsp red wine
freshly grated parmesan cheese
olive oil for drizzling

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, 1 tsp salt and several good grinds of black pepper. Cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the celery and carrots. Cook for another 10 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the diced tomatoes. Add the tomato paste, broth, and lentils to the pot. Bring to boil over high heat, covered, and then turn the heat off and let it sit for 20 minutes (this helps them cook more evenly).

Bring heat back on and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes more. Turn off the heat and add the wine.

Serve sprinkled with a bit of parmesan cheese and drizzed with a touch of olive oil.

* I’m not a big fan of celery (although I do like the flavor in soups), so I chop it finely to avoid getting a bite with a big chunk of celery. Modify to your taste!

** Did you know tomato paste comes in tubes you can just keep in your fridge? I didn’t until fairly recently. So convenient.

Beer Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 12-ounce beer***

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a loaf pan. Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in beer and mix well. Place the dough in the pan and bake for 1 hour. Let cool, remove from pan and eat. Voila!

*** I like to use Shiner Bock, since it gives the bread a great flavor and we usually have it around anyway, but you can use any beer. Just go for a darker brew, since it will give the bread a nice flavor.

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