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Kitchen and Cooking Tips

5 Ways to Repurpose Those Leftovers!

The way the holidays fall out this year, every other day seems to be either Shabbat or a holiday, which means, of course, lots of cooking . . .

At this point, you may well be feeling all cooked out. But with Shabbat coming up, followed by Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah and then another Shabbat, you probably still have lots of meals to serve; many people to feed. You might also have some leftovers sitting around that no one wants to look at . . .

So this week I’m sharing some easy ways to stretch and repurpose your leftovers into new, delicious dishes that you can serve proudly.

1. Fluffy Vegetable-Laden Frittata

Frittata is traditionally dairy, but you can make it pareve to accommodate your leftovers. You can use cut-up chicken, shredded meat, sliced cold cuts, flaked salmon, etc. Add in some roasted vegetables, or sauté some quick-cook veggies (like tomatoes, mushrooms or green beans), serve with toast or rice cakes, and you have a full meal.

Crack and beat 6–8 eggs in a bowl, with salt and pepper. Add in your protein and vegetables. Heat a frying pan over medium heat with 1–2 tablespoons of oil. Pour the mixture into a frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes until the egg mixture starts to set around the edges. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake at 350° F until the frittata is just set.

Remove, let sit for a minute or two, then slice and serve.

2. Brown Rice with Chicken and Mushrooms

Got some chicken, meat or turkey sitting in your fridge? A hot pot or fresh, fluffy rice can give new life to your bits ’n’ pieces. Cook up some short-grain brown rice (or the rice of your choice). Sautée an onion, some mushrooms (and/or any other vegetables of your choosing—such as carrots, celery or peppers) and your diced chicken or meat. Mix everything together and serve hot.

3. Pomegranate Green Bean Chicken Salad

Dice up your leftover schnitzel or grilled chicken and mix with green beans and dressing.

4. Bourekas with Mushroom Sauce

Puff pastry might not be healthy (okay, it definitely isn’t healthy), but it’s a great way to refresh your leftovers. Mashed potatoes or sautéed vegetables work well. So does shredded brisket or other meat. Some people even mash and use the vegetables from their chicken soup. Fill and seal the puff pastry, brush with egg or oil, and bake at 400° F until golden (usually 20–30 minutes). Serve plain or with mushroom sauce.

5. Salad, Salad, Salad!

Salads are another good way to give your leftovers new life. Chicken, meat, turkey, salmon, tuna . . . pick one and throw it in. Mix in a good dressing and serve immediately. Use one of these recipes, or put together the veggies and dressing of your choice.

Tu B’Shevat Dessert Table

Editor’s Note: Please meet Marlene Mamiye of The Jewish Hostess. Marlene has put together a fantastic Tu B’Shevat spread, photographed by Morris Antebi. Truly a feast for the eyes! Thank you, Marlene!

For me, the holiday of Tu B’Shevat always summoned to mind a couple of boring dried fruits on a paper plate given to us as ten-year-old kids in school. It wasn’t really very exciting, and I particularly remember almost breaking a baby tooth as we tried to bite the dried black, hard-as-a-rock carob buxer strip that was touted as a special new fruit by our teachers.

But more recently, as one of the producers of The Sephardic Heritage Museum film project, I had the honor of interviewing over 300 community members, many of whom remember celebrating the exciting holiday of Tu B’Shevat way back in Syria.

I was fascinated to learn that our pandemonium-like holiday of Purim involved for them a mere passing around of Syrian pastries like samboosak and graybeh to their neighbors, but Tu B’Shevat, or “Id Il Jar” (pronounced Eed El Jar—the Holiday of Trees), was the one holiday which children and parents alike truly looked forward to.

Each year, about a month before the holiday, the mothers started sewing velvet drawstring bags which would soon contain exotic fruits that the children had never seen before.

We take our pineapples, watermelons and mangoes for granted nowadays, but I doubt that there were carts in the souk in Aleppo offering these wonderful sweet treats. In fact, I discovered that it would take the adults weeks to seek out and save these fruits to excite the children and keep the memories of the Tu B’Shevat holiday alive.

Upon speaking to one of my Tu B’Shevat bakers, I was surprised to hear that she and her husband have a Tu B’Shevat dessert “Seder” table every year on the eve of the holiday. Her husband reads from a special Tu B’Shevat book, points out the new fruits to his children, and recites the blessings. He tells some Tu B’Shevat stories, and the kids show off the holiday art creations they made at school. As a special treat, my friend and her husband share a pomegranate martini.

Another friend told me about her childhood in Mexico. They’d run into the house on Tu B’Shevat, holding paper bags, excited for the new dried fruits their parents (who were originally from Aleppo) had bought. The parents would call, “Who sees Id Il Jar?” And when the children answered, “We see him!” their parents filled their bags with sweet treats. Inspired by her story, I decided to recreate my own rendition of the bags, below.

Did you ever stop to think that we are similar to the trees? We aim to grow strong, establish rock-solid roots, and bear beautiful fruits that we are proud of—our children, chessed, mitzvot, and our work.

My sister-in-law constantly tells me that I am truly an old soul, and a gnawing ache in my heart propels me to believe that she is right. As The Jewish Hostess, I have planted myself into the awesome job of treasuring the old customs while adding a splash of modern hues and excitement to our holiday ambiance.

We All Make Mistakes!

Today we’ll chat about the darker side of cooking—kitchen disasters!

I’ve had them, you’ve had them, pretty much anyone who’s ever cooked has had them.

So although I only post picture-perfect recipes, don’t let that fool you. I’ve cooked my fair share of monstrosities, and cleaned up my fair share of explosions.

About two years ago, I made cookies that looked, smelled and tasted so bad, I dubbed them “vomit cookies.”

More recently, I tried to make a tomato-free, faux marinara sauce. I spent several hours and lots of ingredients but the end result was simply not salvageable. It looked like borscht, smelled like hand cream and had the texture of grainy farina. FAIL.

As you can see, it looks quite bizarre.

Last year, I went through a candy making phase. I nailed the sponge candy, but came up short on several other types. If you’ve ever worked with hot sugar, or candy, you’ll know how hard it is to clean once it’s cooled. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way when I spent two hours scrubbing streaks and puddles of hardened fire-engine red candy off the counters, floors and stovetop!

And a month ago my tempered chocolate experiment exploded and hardened as it hit the floor, walls and cabinet. Slightly easier to clean than the candy, but it definitely took some serious elbow grease. (Not to mention, that was the last of the chocolate…)

Now, let’s talk about breads. Six or seven years ago, I worked as the baking instructor at an overnight camp. My room was called the “bake shop” – it was un-air-conditioned, crowded, home to a wasp nest (!) and the hot water was off more than it was on… you get the picture.

My primary job was baking with the children, of course. But each Friday I was expected to bake 30 challahs for the Friday night meal (and give my regular classes!). That’s five batches of dough, without an electric mixer. I used to line up five bowls on the table and walk up and down adding the ingredients to each bowl and mixing and kneading each batch. Then I’d put them out in the sun to rise, bring them in and start the braiding and baking. With only two working ovens, that took quite a while.

One week, I decided to be clever and prepare some of the dough the night before, which would give me a head start come Friday morning. I figured I could braid and bake the pre-made dough while the Friday dough was rising. So I made three batches of dough, tipped them into large aluminum foil pans and covered each one loosely with saran wrap. I stuck them in the fridge, turned off the light, locked up and left for the night, feeling very smug and proud of my brilliant idea.

Friday morning, as soon as I opened up, I noticed the fridge door was open… I was horrified! And puzzled. Was it possible I’d forgotten to close the door? Had someone else come in at night, used the room and left the fridge open?

But as I looked closer, I realized the dough had risen in the fridge, and it had risen so much it had spilled out of the pans and literally pushed the door open. Sounds unbelievable, but it really happened. My small fridge was no match for three big batches of dough. True story!

My second bread disaster was less dramatic, but equally disappointing. I’d been researching and playing around with assorted gluten free recipes. Then I discovered a quinoa bread recipe, made with whole quinoa (which I had) rather than quinoa flour (which I didn’t have). The accompanying picture looked delicious and I got to work making the dough.

It ended up being quite an expensive recipe, with lots of seeds and nuts in the dough. But I was excited! This bread would even be protein dense from the quinoa, and the bread in the picture looked soooo good! Healthy and nutty and perfect for avocado toast.

Sadly, my bread came out dark grey and so dense it bounced. Literally. It tasted terrible, too.

Well, I went back to recheck the recipe and see where I’d gone wrong. But I hadn’t. I’d follow the directions to a tee and hadn’t substituted any of the ingredients.

Mysterious, eh?

Suddenly, I started to have my suspicions about the picture. I did a reverse image search, and discovered that the picture had been lifted from a completely different website and a completely different recipe! It was being used a)without permission, b)for a completely different recipe. Oh dear.

So, why am I sharing all these stories? Because it happens to all of us. Something burns, something spills, a recipe comes out completely inedible… but it’s ok. It’s normal. The only people who never have kitchen disasters, are people who don’t cook. So don’t be disheartened. Take a picture, pass it around, have a good laugh, and move on to the next (hopefully successful and delicious) recipe.

Cost-Efficient Ideas for Hosting Large Meals

In general, meat goes a lot farther than chicken, even though the meat itself may cost more. When meat is sliced and in a sauce, people take just what they will eat. When chicken pieces are served, people take a piece, whether or not they will eat an entire piece.

If making chicken, buy legs and separate the drumsticks, this way you can serve more and there are smaller pieces so people won’t take more than they will eat.

Make filling side dishes such as pasta salad, rice or potato salad. Both pasta salad and rice are quick to make, and all three are quite inexpensive. Add red, green and yellow peppers to the pasta salad for a colorful addition to the table. Egg salad is also a fairly easy and inexpensive side dish that is filling and popular.

Avoid expensive salads such as guacamole or even big salads if you use the prewashed lettuce as it adds up!

When making quiches or kugels, substitute zucchini for broccoli as it usually tastes just as good and is much cheaper!

Serve chicken soup with a lot of vegetables and matzah balls. Soup is always filling and with matzah balls and veggies, you don’t need to serve the chicken. Remove the chicken and use it in a chicken salad for another side dish.

Make sure to serve a lot of challah (or bread loaves during a weekday meal.) People love bread and it is incredibly filling! Make sure to have olive oil and garlic, chumus, or something to dip the bread in.

Rather than buying expensive soda, make a few different juices from concentrate as well as ice tea mixes or lemonade. Always serve water as well as many people simply prefer this.

Do not serve people their meals directly, but rather put out the food on platters on the table for people to take for themselves. This way everyone takes the amount they want, exactly what they like and less food gets thrown away!

Make sure to cook food that is freezable, reheatable and tastes good as leftovers, so in case you are a typical Jewish mother and overcook, it won’t go to waste!!!