My friends are always calling me with their food questions. I love that they think I am an expert, so I always try to give the best advice possible… even if I have to make it up! The questions I get most often involve leftovers. What to do with them? How to dress them up? Are they still safe to eat? So, I am going to give you a few suggestions along those lines!
We’ll start with “Are those safe to eat?”
If it smells funny, NO! They are not safe to eat! Seriously, though, you have to be careful with your leftovers. Safe leftovers start with a refrigerator that is cool enough. A thermometer is a must. You should have one for your fridge and a separate thermometer to check food temperatures. You can get these at most grocery stores in the gadget aisle. Be sure that your fridge holds temperature at 42 degrees or lower. Also, be sure that food has not been left out for more than 3-4 hours at room temperature. Cold food should be served at 42 degrees and hot food should be served above 145 degrees. When re-heating leftovers, be sure that you heat food above 165 degrees to ensure that you have killed potential bacteria.
How to Dress Them Up
The best thing about leftovers is the chance to be creative with them. Leftover pasta is the most fun! For example: macaroni and cheese takes on a whole new twist when you cook bacon, crumble it and stir it in to the macaroni and cheese before re-heating it. Sprinkle some shredded smoky cheddar on top and stick it under the broiler to brown. Now, when you serve it up with a fresh salad and some garlic bread, it is a main course.
Leftover fajita meat is delicious as a Mexican pizza. Take a pre-made pizza crust and spread it with your favorite salsa instead of tomato sauce. Layer the fajita meat, chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapenos (if you dare) and shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. Pop it in the oven until the cheese is melted and the edges are crispy. Serve it with sour cream and sliced avocado.
Leftover rice has a huge variety of possibilities. Finely chop any leftover veggies from the night before. Put a little oil in the bottom of a sauté pan and start heating it. Add minced garlic and minced onion. Cook them until soft and then add the rice. Stir fry the rice until it starts to brown. Add any chopped veggies that you like and continue to cook, stirring frequently until it is all heated through. For an Asian flavor, add 2-3 T teriyaki or soy sauce, 1 t ground ginger and a little coconut milk (1/4 – 1/2 Cup depending on how much rice you have). For a Mexican flavor, add 1 T ground cumin, 1 t crushed red pepper, 2 T taco seasoning, and a little chicken broth (1/4 – 1/2 Cup depending on how much rice you have). This makes an excellent main dish on its own. Or, add some sliced grilled chicken or a fried egg on top for a boost of protein.
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