Good Friday to all! I am feeling great today after some less-than-ideal sleeping this past week and a wonderful morning of sleeping in ’til the last second before starting work! What a difference it made…. (about as much of a difference that putting my contacts in this morning would have made in accomplishing my to-do list –or typing for that matter–in a much more effective manner).
Today is Food-Filled Friday. I love that. It means I can let my food-filled mind go crazy. So, in the words from the Food Network show Iron Chef, “with an open mind and an empty stomach”… let’s get started. 🙂
On that same note, I love cooking shows. I will actually choose them over a variety of other kinds of television a good portion of the time and over a full-length film 99% of the time.
Specifically, in the show Chopped, four cooks are offered their mystery baskets of ingredient. In them, there are an assortment of seemingly strange and definitely not traditionally combined ingredients that each cook must combine to make a cohesive meal course.
After a mere 20 minutes to both prep and cook their course, they get judged, someone gets “chopped”, and the contest now moves onto the entree stage, which is also followed the championship dessert round. The winner takes home $10,000.
The more I’ve watched this show the more I find myself creating mental courses with the ingredients they’re offered. I’ve learned about jack fruit, soft-shelled crab, dates, miso soup, and all sorts of meats, vegetables, and products. I’ve got a good handle on some general food rules including…
- Apples go super-well with pork
- Cheese should never be associated with fish
- The palate of the mouth is not only looking for a wealth and variety of flavors but a combination of textures as well
- We first eat with our eyes, then our mouths
- Complicated is not necessarily better.
- Avoid over-dressing a salad.
- Avoid using raw onions if you’re cooking on Chopped
More important than some of those random things I’ve just listed, I’ve learned that it doesn’t take a culinary degree to make a great cook; it just takes a passion for food and cooking and a willingness to learn.
I’m planning dinner for tonight, and sometimes, I get a little bored with typical dinner menus with meat and potatoes and veggies. Or… as is my case today, I’m going shopping this evening after Adam’s eaten dinner, so my supplies are running low. Looking through my pantry and considering an option, I totally thought to myself, “Ooh, I can make waffles with a homemade blackberry compote.” What?? How do I even know what that is? I’m happy to say my days of watching cooking shows have taught me something I didn’t even realize I was taking away.
(Sidenote: Although I have everything for the compote, I don’t have the components for homemade whipped cream – and don’t have any premade – so dinner will be something a little more traditional. Rats…)
Today was also leftover-for-lunch days. We have a variety of leftovers in our fridge, and yes–you know me well–I’m not going to let them go to waste. However, sometimes just re-heating yesterday’s dinner doesn’t do the trick. Reheated pork can turn to rubber, warmed up venison is like eating a piece of leather, and second-day gluten-free pasta…well, yeah, not a favorite.
Today, I had some pork loin from a dinner this past week. However, I was quite against just reheating it and serving it with rice or mashed potatoes…. (That would be a creativity score of -6 on my scale of 1 to 10). So… with a little ingenuity, I made a grilled pork loin sandwich complete with caramelized onion, a slice of swiss cheese, and homemade barbecue sauce.
Success? Oh, my word. After Adam ate the huge sandwich which was just exploding with flavor, he was wanting another and confirming that this meal was truly a success.
I love being creative and stepping out to make something new and exciting! Oh… and I never knew how easy it was to make my own barbecue sauce!! Wow! Combine some ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, red pepper, and mustard, and you have a barbecue sauce to rival all the store-bought brands!
So, here we are. I’ve written about using leftovers before (like here and here), but how in the world do I come up with ideas??
Three ways I find ideas for using up leftovers:
1. Google it! I know…genius. However, typing in “leftover pork loin” really does bring up some good options.
2. Pretend it’s a fresh ingredient. Sometimes, I look up recipes and ignore that fact that I cooked my meat yesterday. Then, when I find an idea, I modify it to work for my pre-cooked meat.
3. Use it as something else. Remember my shredded beef enchiladas from a while back? I used a recipe that I normally make with chicken and incorporated beef into the casserole instead.
What are some of your leftover tricks?