It's not leftovers, it's homemade convenience food
Tips for using leftover turkey, potatoes, pumpkin and vegetables in tasty ways
I'm a firm believer in the beauty of leftovers.
Like made-from-scratch convenience food, I plan for them year round, to get a head start on future dinners. It makes sense: while you're in the kitchen, when you have the oven going, it's generally the same amount of work to cook extra while you're at it.
There are some ingredients I find particularly useful — a bigger pot of rice to turn into fried rice the next night, two chickens roasting in the oven at the same time, or a larger sheet of roasted root vegetables while I'm at it.
Of course, leftovers of all kinds can be turned into soup — and if you're not sure how to build it, just toss all kinds of cooked veggies, even mashed potatoes, into a pot with some stock and puree the lot.
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But there are dishes around the world that came to be in order to use up leftovers: fried rice is one of my go-to meals, and it's best made with leftover rice, as the cold grains are separate and won't clump up in the skillet like a pot of freshly cooked rice would.
You could toss anything in: chopped cooked veggies, roasted turkey or other meat, with a drizzle of sesame oil, some soy sauce, and perhaps a chopped green onion or an egg, cracked into the pan and scrambled in.
Similarly, cooked vegetables of all kinds could be chopped and tossed into a frittata, or sandwiched into quesadillas or used to fill dumplings.
Those dumplings could be perogies (turkey dinner perogies with mashed potatoes and chopped vegetables, moistened with gravy!), potstickers (chopped Brussels sprouts with your ground pork!) or ravioli (roasted squash and ricotta, boiled and served with browned butter and sage!).
If you have canned pumpkin, or roasted squash or root vegetables, they can be used in muffins, quick breads, cakes and cookies. And a not-too-sweet Bundt cake can take care of all of the above. Cakes freeze really well, so you could bake a wintry cake to put into the freezer for later in the season, or to take out at Christmas.
Pumpkin puree can be used in place of the applesauce in a carrot cake, and cooked squash and root vegetables can be mashed and used in place of some of the freshly grated carrots. Or you could make a dark, sticky gingerbread with the last of the can of pumpkin puree — and don't worry if what you have left in the can isn't exactly what the recipe calls for.
Pumpkin Ale Gingerbread Cake
A moist gingerbread cake freezes well, so you could make it now and tuck it away in the freezer to pull out for the holidays. Don't worry if you have a little more or less than a cup of pumpkin puree to use.
- 1 cup ale or stout
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
Cream Cheese Frosting (optional):
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 1-2 cups icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cream or milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a Bundt pan really well with nonstick spray, or grease it with butter or shortening.
In a medium saucepan (you need room for the mixture to foam up), bring the ale and molasses to a boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Set aside until the foam subsides and the mixture cools slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil, pumpkin puree and ginger. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.
Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and whisk just until combined. Add half the molasses mixture, then another third of the dry ingredients, the rest of the molasses mixture and the rest of the dry ingredients, stirring after each addition just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is cracked and springy to the touch, or a bamboo skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a wire rack while still warm. Cool completely before spreading with cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy. Gradually add the icing sugar, milk and vanilla, beating until the mixture is creamy and has a frosting consistency.
Roasted Squash and Ricotta Ravioli with Browned Butter
You can wing it with ravioli filling. The combination of squash and ricotta is delicious, but you could just use squash, and the ratio of squash to ricotta doesn't need to be precise. I usually aim for about half and half, sweetened with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Use leftover roasted squash of any kind.
To roast winter squash whole, poke it a few times with a knife and set it directly on the oven rack to roast for about an hour (more if it's a particularly large squash) until soft. Cool and store in the fridge until you're ready for it, then scoop out and discard the seeds, and scoop or chop the flesh.
- wonton or gyoza wrappers
- roasted squash
- maple syrup, to taste
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- butter, for serving
- fresh sage, for serving (optional)
Mash your roasted squash and stir in some spoonfuls of ricotta, aiming for about half of each. Drizzle with maple syrup (about one tablespoon per cup of squash) and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the ravioli, place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of a wonton or gyoza wrapper, dip your finger in water and run it along two edges, then fold over and press to seal, squeezing out any air bubbles (which will make them float in the water as they cook).
If you like, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to freezer bags. To cook, drop into boiling water without crowding the pot, and cook for three to five minutes, until they float to the surface and the edges are tender.
Heat a large chunk of butter in a skillet and cook, swirling the pan, until it turns golden and smells nutty. If you like, toss in a few sage leaves (whole or chopped).
Drain the ravioli and drizzle with butter, or toss them in the butter in the skillet before serving.
Makes as many as you like.
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