Don’t waste food: 3 of my favourite ways to love leftovers

Yellow Bell Pepper Between 2 Red Bell Pepper
Picture courtesy of https://www.pexels.com

‘Leftovers’: Their mention is often unwelcome in the home, not least for the unlucky cook who has to tackle those bits and pieces before they finally expire in the fridge. Having said that, I really try to avoid throwing food out, whether leftovers from a meal, or food that was left uneaten in the fridge till no longer edible. In fact it’s not difficult to turn leftovers around so that they become more than second rate, uninspiring make-do’s. And it’s not an unfashionable or outdated thing. Huffpost ran an article a few years back titled “Repurposing Food, Otherwise Known as Leftovers” and then there is this 2016 article from National Geographic titled “5 Cool Ways Food is getting Upcycled“. I currently do most of the cooking at home for myself and my husband, and truly, very little food goes to waste in our house, especially if you consider that we keep a compost heap in our garden which happily takes care of anything too yucky to eat.

 

 

In fact I realise I must have a bit of a Thing for leftovers because scrolling through my previous posts, I find that I have included the term in 7, yes seven of my  previous posts. You can link to all of them Here. And see below for some suggestions for leftover Chili con Carne (well… Chili non Carne in our home; as I don’t eat meat so I replace the minced meat with lentils or soy mince). Here are 3 of my favourites:

Stuffed Peppers:

(adapted from www.crumbblog.com)

  • Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bring a large pot of water to boil, and throw some ice cubes into a bowl of cold water.
  • Prepare your peppers (green, red or yellow): slice the top off each pepper and remove any seeds or ribs left inside. Make sure that the peppers can stand up straight.
  • Cook the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and transfer them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Arrange the peppers cut side up in a baking dish, and set aside.
  • Next, add the filling. Take spoonfuls of your leftover Chili (I use about two-thirds cooked chili-non-carne to one-third cooked rice) and scoop into the peppers, making sure not to pack too tightly.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle the tops with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and continue baking for 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve right away

 

‘Mexican Style’ Cottage Pie:

  • Boil, steam or bake some potatoes for mash. I like to mix it up here: I often include sweet potatoes and butternut with the potatoes, depending on what I happen to have at home.
  • Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  • Mash your potatoes as you normally would, including milk and butter if desired, till light and fluffy.
  • Place your leftover Chili into an ovenproof dish, cover with a thick layer of mash, and bake for 25-30 minutes till done.
  • If desired, sprinkle to the top with a mixture of grated cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven for another 5 minutes or so.

 

Make a ‘Meal Jar’:

  • Fill a glass honey jar about two-thirds with leftover Chili. Top up till almost full (always leave a slight gap) with any cooked grain, such as rice or couscous. This is sufficient for one light meal portion. You can even leave the grains out before freezing, and add that later when you are ready to eat.
  • Place in the  freezer till ready to use. You can either take it out the night before, or else pop it into your lunch box from the freezer, ready to take to work, and heat up later. Note: place contents in a microwaveable or ovenproof dish before heating.
  • This is a great way to eat healthy and affordable while at work (have you seen the price of takeaways these days??… convenient yes, but often way more than I am willing to pay, and definitely not always quality food)

 

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Frozen Meal Jar: Chili non carne and rice

To finish off, read this: https://food52.com/blog/12973-how-we-and-dan-barber-cook-with-trash

…..Then eat it 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of the To-Do list

 

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Winter in my garden: Origanum gone frosty

 

I find there is something immensely satisfying about crossing off completed tasks on a to-do list. Whether it’s something big like finally completing a passport renewal, or making that difficult call to someone I’ve been avoiding, or else a small matter like clearing out a shelf in the garden shed, that sense of personal satisfaction is always there. My feeling on completion can vary from a simple pat on the back to one of immense relief and even of validation and accomplishment, especially for one of those really frustrating, painful or time-consuming tasks that we sometimes have to face.

 

 

I have learnt to acknowledge that allowing myself to fall behind on my task lists is just not good for me. I end up dealing with some level of discomfort, whether its mild irritation at myself or (on a bad day) questioning my ability to deal with even simple things decisively and without procrastination. The Free Dictionary.com defines procrastination as “to postpone or delay needlessly” and more specifically “To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness”. (Obviously not a good thing… 😦 )

 

Completing my listed tasks and ticking them off allows me to clear the way forward, from where I can (guilt-free) move on and give my attention to things that I would rather be doing. My task lists can be a great way for me to feel that I have structure in my daily life, but on the flip side they can also become a kind of mental and emotional clutter if I fail to give them attention (aka procrastinate)

 

I have learnt to not underestimate the importance to complete the tasks on my to-do lists. I have realised that they may symbolise something more significant than simple ‘tasks’. I know that I end up feeling anxious and disorganised if I have too many ‘things on my plate’ no matter how small and simple these might seem at a glance. Completing my listed tasks and ticking them off feels like a way for me to clear a way forward for myself, from where I can (guilt-free) move on and give my attention to things that I would rather be doing. My task lists can be a great way for me to feel that I have clarity and definition in my daily life, but on the flip side they can also become a kind of mental and emotional clutter if I fail to give them attention (aka procrastinate)

 

Something as simple as completing tasks on a list can represent something powerful, such as the acknowledging and respecting of the commitments you set for yourself,  respecting your time and respecting yourself in general. Respecting the fact that your preferred way to spend your precious time and energy is on the things that you really  value and probably include quality time with the people that you care about.

 

If you’re an avid list-maker like me, here are a few points that I try to abide by:

  • Remember that you don’t have to write down Every Single Little Thing. Try and get into the habit of doing things as they cross your mind. Example: dialing my dentist takes about the same time it takes me to write down “make dental appointment” for the umpteenth time! Sometimes it really is simpler and better to Just Do It.
  • If you are looking for inspiration for something like a home decorating task, you might find yourself week after week writing out “choose paint colours for kitchen wall”. Commit yourself now to starting a Pinterest board, and then go online and start pinning those pretty pictures Right Now as we speak, to get the ball rolling. Or if you prefer a hard copy, make sure that your next weekly shop includes stopping at the hardware store or the paint wholesaler where you can pick up a few paint swatches to bring home.
  • Are you including things on your list that you end up regretting later? Are you taking on someone else’s task, so that every time you see it pop up on your list you find yourself wondering why you agreed on in the first place? Remember to be careful of over-commitment, especially if it’s a favour for someone that you’re about to agree to.
  • Love your Lists♥! Or if not, at least do your best to honour them. Just take that first step.
  • Important to remember: 1-Its YOUR list, and 2-Your time is precious, and so is your Peace of Mind.

 

 

 

 

 

3 quick, easy & wholesome vegetarian meals (for when you’re too busy or tired to cook)

 

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In my garden: tomatoes on the move

 

In the song “Beautiful Boy ” John Lennon sings the line “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” This is annoyingly so when you suddenly hear Life calling you to the kitchen to cook a meal just as you are getting busy with something far more interesting, or are about to start on something that you have had parked on your to-do list for weeks. We all need to eat, and this generally involves some degree of preparation and cooking of food before one can sit down for a meal with yourself/ your spouse/ your children or whoever it is that you share your space with. 

 

I share my home with my husband and our cat (who I don’t cook for) and I don’t eat or cook red meat or poultry (my husband cooks those for himself when needs a break from my vegetarian and vegan offerings). Pulses such as beans and lentils are my main sources of protein, as well as some fish and free range eggs on occasion. I also try to stay as close to Zero Waste as possible, focusing on fresh and unpackaged raw ingredients, avoiding single use plastic packaging in particular. I wouldn’t call myself a passionate foodie (I don’t get excited about latest food and flavour trends or looking out for complex new recipes to try), but what I am passionate about is eating healthy wholesome foods, and staying away from unhealthy additives such as artificial flavourants and many preservatives. That, …and keeping it simple and convenient, which brings me to the whole point of this post: that there are plenty of other things I would rather be doing than cooking!

 

Simply put, life is busy enough without hours of my precious time spent in front of the stove, and I would rather reserve my time for the things I really enjoy doing (including crafting, vegetable gardening and blogging :)) and for the things I absolutely can’t avoid, like grocery shopping and Tax. I also happen to make most of my home cleaning and personal bath & body products, which saves me money and keeps our home (and bodies) almost chemical free. So for me, cooking needs to be quick, healthy and tasty, and if I want to try something more elaborate, or decide to try a vegan option for one of my homemade staples such as mayonnaise, I can choose to do so.

 

And here are three of my favourite quick and delicious, easy options for days when long cooking is just not on the menu:

 

1.CHICKPEA & LEEK SOUP….

From Jamie Oliver’s book The Naked Chef . This soup is really simple and delicious and can convert to vegan if you omit the parmesan, replacing it with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or a vegan cheese option:

 

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2.GARLICKY BUTTER BEAN DIP…..

  1. Use a stick or standing blender to whisk together 800 grams presoaked and precooked butter beans (or for convenience use canned butter beans which have been drained and well rinsed)
  2. Mix in 250 grams mayonnaise (vegan or egg based), 250 grams plain yoghurt, one or two crushed garlic cloves, and some finely chopped parsley or chives.
  3. Season with salt, ground black pepper and a sprinkle of ground cumin and paprika (optional)

 

  • Serve with crudites such as sliced carrot and celery, and your favourite breads: plain or toasted.
  • For a warming lunch or light supper, serve with a homemade soup (or shop bought for convenience) such as cream of tomato or minestrone.

 

3.LEMONY EGG IN A SPINACH-CHICKPEA NEST….

From Kitchen Treaty,  a delicious eggs, chickpeas and fresh spinach dish perfect for a weekend breakfast, or a light lunch or supper. Can be doubled up for two helpings.

 

Enjoy! ♥

 

 

 

 

 

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