Writing movie reviews isn’t really my thing, but it seems appropriate today to mention one of my all-time favorite movies, Ground Hog’s Day. It’s a great movie on several levels: great acting, great comedy, great premise, and interesting life philosophy thrown in for flavor.  I guess it’s the philosophy that speaks to me most—that doing it over and over will finally result in getting it right.

None of us will really get a second shot at our daily lives, but when it comes to eating, we do it over a lot.  And if we’re talking leftovers, it rarely comes out better the second time.  However, we are all faced with leftovers and unless you have no guilt about tossing all uneaten food you have to figure out some good ways to serve them.

When I was growing up, my mother fixed a Sunday night leftover buffet.  She just reheated everything leftover from the week and put it out on the counter to help yourself.  Those were the days before the microwave, so it took a lot of saucepans and bake ware to accomplish this and there were a stack of dishes afterward (I know, I washed them).

Psychologically, I rebel.  Food just doesn’t seem as good reheated and served a second time.  So I went on a hunt to find a way to re-cycle food and make it even better—well, at least as good.

First stop, my cookbook collection and I found three that deal with this subject exclusively:  the oldest, Magic with Leftovers by Lousene Rousseau Brunner was published in 1965; Miriam B. Loo’s, Never Say Leftovers was written in 1982 and The Leftover Gourmet by Patricia Rosier and Jessica L. Weiss was published in 1991.  I picked a philosophical tidbit as well as a representative recipe from each one.

Magic With Leftovers states, “A little ingenuity goes a long way in making cooking with leftovers interesting, challenging and economical…the thrifty cook never throws away leftovers.  A tablespoon of many vegetables can be added to vegetable or cream soups.  A strip of bacon can be crumbled into a one-egg muffin.”

Stuffed Green Peppers

1 ½ cups chopped leftover beef or lamb
2 large green peppers or 4 small ones
2 Tbsp bacon fat
2 Tbsp. chopped celery
2 Tbsp chopped onion
Three-fourths cup cooked tomato with juice or juice alone
1 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Split peppers lengthwise, remove seeds and membrane, and parboil 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water.  Drain and turn carefully upside down to drain further.

Heat bacon fat in skillet and sauté celery and onion until yellow.  Add meat, tomato or juice, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Lay pepper halves right side up in greased shallow casserole or pie plate and fill solidly with mixture.  Sprinkle tops with additional bread crumbs, dot with butter, add about 2 tablespoons water to casserole and bake 25-30 minutes in a hot oven (400 deg).  Serves 4

Never Say Leftovers is full of tips that apply to the use of leftovers such as:

  1. Add leftover fish to shrimp cocktail sauce and use as a dip.
  2. Combine juices from cans of fruit with orange juice, club soda, and any flavor sherbet for a refreshing drink.
  3. Leftover mashed potatoes make a nice addition to the meal when shaped into patties, dusted with flour for easier handling and sautéed in butter.

Mashed Potato Puff

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
One-third cup milk
2 eggs, well beaten
½ cup grated Cheddar cheese
One-third cup chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
One-fourth cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 deg.  Butter an 8-inch pie plate and set aside.  Combine potatoes, milk, and eggs.  Blend well.  Fold in Cheddar cheese, onion, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place in pie plate.  Top with Parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes or until golden.  Serves 4

From The Leftover Gourmet, “The aid of the blender, food processor, freezer, microwave oven and other kitchen tools now widely available, made it easy to reprocess foods and give them totally new identities.”

Hot Chicken/Turkey Timbale

1 cup warm chicken stock
½ cup light cream
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. dried tarragon
½ cup Swiss cheese, grated
1-1/2 cups cooked chicken or turkey, cut in large chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ingredients in a food processor and process for 10 to 20 seconds.  Spoon the mixture into 6 buttered ramekins and set them in a pot of hot water.  Bake at 350 deg. For 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove timbales from the oven and let stand for a few minutes to set.  Run a knife around the edge and unmold.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts.  This makes a great luncheon dish served with soft warm rolls and a salad.

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