Ugh. Leftovers

Leftovers are the WORST–at least that’s what I used to think!  Leftovers and I became friends when I had to start buying my own food and cooking for myself.  What caused this 180° turn around?  Realizing that leftovers offer pre-cooked quick ingredient add ins to create entirely new, DELICIOUS dishes changed my mind!

For example, leftover peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache from a birthday cake I made just became peanut butter and chocolate ganache sandwich cookies in less than a half an hour!

Head over my leftovers recipe index for ideas on how to use up your leftovers!  But first, some leftover transformation tips:

TIPS TO TRANSFORM LEFTOVERS

1. Plan ahead
I find that a number of dishes like soups, stews, quinoa salads, lasagna, rice dishes, etc actually taste better the second day.  Plan to make extra of these and store in single serving containers for a quick lunch.  Alternatively, freeze leftovers for a later meal.

2. It doesn’t have to be a perfect match
Substitute ingredients for things you already have that are really similar. You have leftover cream cheese frosting and the recipe calls for cream cheese?  Omit the sugar in your recipe and you’re probably all set.

IMG_1898
Meat & Potatoes: leftover MVPs

3. Take advantage of being a “meat and potatoes” kinda person
Meat and potatoes offer a gazillion options for reuse in new recipes the next day. Mashed potatoes make a perfect topping for Shepard’s pie or simply pan fry them to make potato pancakes.  Leftover roasted, baked, or even lightly fried potatoes can be used in a hash the next day.  Leftover meat can be used in fried rice, stir fry, sandwiches, enchiladas, salads, omelets, casseroles…the list goes on and on.  You can find specific recipe ideas here.

4. “Everything but the kitchen sink recipes”= Whatever you have in your fridge
When a recipe calls for a variety of different vegetables or meats it is almost always okay to omit things you don’t like or have and/or substitute for things you do have.

Southwest Quinoa Salad
Kitchen sink recipes = just put in whatever you’ve got

5. Use the oven or stovetop instead of the microwave
Half the battle with leftovers is texture.  Reheating leftovers with the microwave is quick and easy but sometimes the final product has a mushy, gross texture.  An oven or stovetop will allow the food to heat, but not get mushy.  Other times, reheating causes food to dry out.  If this is the case, try adding extra stock or fat (don’t go crazy with the oil por favor!) while reheating.  If you are using the microwave, try not to over-reheat by opting for a shorter cook period and by frequently checking to see if the dish is properly reheated.  This is easier when reheating individual portions.  The other half of the battle is taste, which brings us to my final tip:

6. When something is bland the second time around, add some flavor!
If the dish tends to become bland when it is reheated, add some more of the seasoning that you originally used when making the dish.  Just salt and pepper can go a long way.

 

 

peanut butter jelly time

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}photo 3 (3)Peanut butter and jelly isn’t just a classic combination; it’s a comfort combo and perfect for all of the snowy cold weather we’ve been having lately.  Everyone has their own way of making a PB&J, some people are more of PB fan than the J.  Others want more J.  The best thing about these cookies is that you can decide your PB-to-J ratio.  Not a J fan, don’t put the jelly glaze on (they’re still fantastic, soft, peanut butter cookies).  Like a lot of jelly?  Load the cookie up!

photo 2 (3)photo 3 (2)photo 1 (3)
If you’re making these for a crowd, make some cookies with a lot of jelly and some with only a drizzle.  I used raspberry preserves to make the glaze today, but if grape, or maybe strawberry, is your jam (ha!) then use that instead.

So, this cookie is super easy to put together. However, you’ve got some options when making these.  Personal preference: do you like crunchy or smooth peanut butter (or as my nephew insists on having, “that peanut butter with no peanuts!”).  You can use either kind here.  I opted for creamy peanut butter (because that was what I had).  These would be fantastic with almond butter, or use sun butter if there is a peanut allergy concern.

I said above that this makes a really soft peanut butter cookie–which was a partial lie because the cookie is actually pretty flexible with baking times.  If you like a crisp, crunchy cookie, just leave the cookies in the oven a little longer.  I personally usually enjoy soft, chewy cookies better than the crisp, crunchy ones–and this recipe, thanks to the cream cheese, has the ability to be really soft, AND stay soft.  I’ve found that other peanut butter cookies, quickly loose their softness after a day or so.  These don’t–although, full disclosure: I’ve never actually had much experience with them really staying around for long!

photo 1 (4)The size of the cookie that you make is also up to you, giant cookies need to bake longer (15-17 min for soft, chewy giant cookies, a few min longer for a crisp cookie) than tablespoon-sized cookies (10-ish minutes, and more like 12-13 minutes for a crisper cookie).  You’ll know the cookies are done (for a soft, chewy one) when just the bottoms and the edges of the cookies are starting to brown.  Don’t take the cookies out of the oven, however, until they start to crack on the top.  These cracks on top provide perfect crevices for the jelly glaze to get stuck.

photo 2 (4)While the cookies bake you want to have done two things: mix up the glaze (powdered sugar+jam+milk) and set up your decorating/cooling station with a sheet of newspaper or wax paper (something you can throw away) underneath a wire cooling rack.  When the cookies come out of the oven transfer them to the cooling rack that is on top of something to catch the stray jelly glaze and immediately spoon on/drizzle on the jelly glaze.  If you don’t have something to catch the excess jelly glaze, you’ll have a sticky mess.  The cookie will absorb some of the glaze and just be super delicious, which won’t happen as well if you wait until the cookies are completely cool.  Here is where you can play with your PB-to-J ratio.  You can also make them into thumb print cookies by pushing your thumb/backside of a spoon into the cookie while its still warm and fill with the jelly glaze/or just plain jam.  I like some jam in every bite, however so I opted for the spoon over method.  The glaze works well drizzling with a fork or whisk.  It is a glaze (considerably more liquid than an icing) so the ziplock pastry bag method doesn’t give you a huge amount of control, but more than just a fork would, if you are so inclined.  Enjoy with a big glass of milk and a buddy!photo 4 (3)

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies Recipe

  • Servings: 2.5 dozen cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

photo 4 (3)photo 4 (2)photo 3 (3)Peanut Butter Cookies:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (Gluten Free) Oat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Jelly Glaze:

  • ¼ cup your favorite flavor fruit preserves
  • 2 tablespoons milk or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (a little more or less depending on how sweet your jelly is)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream together the peanut butter and cream cheese.
  3. Add the sugars, egg, and vanilla extract.
  4. Sift together the oat and almond flours, baking powder, and salt.   Then add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredient mixture and mix until blended.
  5. Roll the dough into tablespoon sized balls and place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat…or make big cookies with roughly 3 tablespoons worth of dough.
  6. Bake for 10ish minutes (or 15-17 minutes for the big cookie size) at 350 degrees.  You just want the cookies to be browned basically only on the bottoms and maybe a little on the edges. When there are cracks all over the tops of the cookies they are probably done. While the cookies are baking, make the jelly glaze by beating together the powdered sugar, jelly, and milk. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven spread/drizzle them with the glaze.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: Carrot Cake

{skip the foreplay and go to the recipe}

Let’s start at the very beginning:
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
{When you bake you begin with mom loves me}

While Julie Andrews regrettably omitted this last line to the initial stanza of her song–an exclusion which might have had something to do with the movie already being almost 3 hours long–it is exactly how I started to bake.

Eleven years whimsical bakehouseold, I picked up  The Whimsical Bakehouse–Fun-To-Make Cakes That Taste as Good as They Look by Liv Hansen and Kaye Hansen at our local library because the cake on the front of the book was bright and colorful and I knew that my mom could show me how to make it.  Turns out, my mom didn’t have any idea how to decorate a cake like that, but she was willing to help me try.

My mom always says that year was the year in which I really got interested in baking.  That year a shoulder injury sidelined–or poolsided–me from swimming.  Unable to participate in any other sport, I turned to the kitchen.  While it makes no sense from a weight management perspective to replace physical activity with dessert creation and consumption, my gravitation toward the kitchen will make perfect sense to any swimmer.   For those who have not swam competitively,  the swimmer lifestyle can be generalized by a lot of time in the pool and a lot of time eating.  I surmise now that I probably turned to baking back then because it was a comfortable extension of something I had a lot of experience doing: eating.  Plus it was fun, delicious, and my mom always helped me with the dishes….injured shoulder, remember?

So we baked (and my mom cleaned up after) almost all of the cake recipes in the cookbook, but there was one recipe that we wrote down and continued to make long after the cookbook was returned to the library.  This is that recipe.  Well, sort of.  One of this cake’s best attributes is the ease at which it accepts gluten-free flours.  Seriously, though, this is one gluten-free recipe that can’t be screwed up.  It is just that good.  This carrot cake is sweet and spiced and everything nice.  It manages to be light while still carrying substance.  The creamy tang of the cream cheese frosting perfectly compliments the soft, rich cake.  And, with a vegetable in its name, the cake practically demands guilt-free indulgence.

cropped-img_1808-e1414553645679.jpgBaked as written by the mother and daughter Hansen duo or adapted to the gluten free version my mom and I bake now, this cake is a tried and true crowd pleaser:

Carrot Cake

  • Servings: depends how much you like it
  • Difficulty: easy, honest.
  • Print

Ingredients:
For the cake:
4 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups oil (I’ve successfully used canola, vegetable, and melted coconut oil before)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups gluten-free flour mixture with a gum in it (or use 1 cup oat flour, 1/2 brown rice flour, 1/4 cup sweet sorghum flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, and 2 teaspoons xanthum gum)
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
For the cream cheese frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (use real butter, don’t use margarine)
9 oz cream cheese (yes, opening the new package for just that one extra ounce is worth it)
6 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Grease (spray) two 9 by 3 inch round pans.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Beat the eggs, oil, and sugar for a few minutes (or if you know what “light and fluffy” looks like, beat until light and fluffy”) Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet batter at a low speed. When the mixture is 75% incorporated and carrots, walnuts, and raisins and mix until smooth.
Divide batter between pans. (We always used three 8 by 2 inch pans because we didn’t have the two 9 by 3 inch round pans the Whimsical Bakehouse called for. I think that this is actually a strength of our version of the recipe because the extra layer means more of that cream cheese frosting in every bite!) Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until tester in center comes out clean. Don’t worry about over cooking the cake. I promise it won’t come out dry, but if you take it out too early, getting it out of the pans will become a nightmare. Similarly, it is important to cool the cakes on a wire rack until they are cool (about 20 minutes) or it will be extremely difficult to get the cakes out in one piece.
While the cake cools, in a mixer bowl at medium high-speed beat butter until creamy. Then add and cream the cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract all at once and beat at a low speed until the frosting is smooth. Increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating for another minute or so until the frosting is thick but light.