Hump Day Hacks

How to reuse olive brine, oil from sundried tomatoes and more (and transform it into fabulous fare)

The next time you eat the last olive out of the jar and go to wash the brine down the sink, stop! You are about to pour flavor down the drain.

My kitchen motto is “think before I toss.” I can’t stand wasting food so I am constantly looking for ways to reuse ingredients and save items people normally throw away- like brine or the oil in sundried tomatoes. Those ingredients are incredibly flavorful.

Olive brine is great in marinades (just use it instead of vinegar in your recipe); mix a tablespoon into mayonnaise when making potato salad; mix brine, olive oil and Italian seasoning and use it to marinate vegetables; add a dash to a dirty martini or Bloody Mary; or make my Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes.

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I don’t eat potatoes very often because once you add all the flavorings like butter or cream, they are so fattening. This is a fat free recipe that uses olive brine, rosemary and chives to flavor the potatoes. I came up with it this week and considering it is fat free, I think it’s great.

As for the oil in a jar of sundried tomatoes- that’s my favorite leftover ingredient. You can mix it with balsamic vinegar for an instant salad dressing; use it to dress orzo or other pasta; use it as the oil when you make goat cheese omelets;  use it instead of olive oil when you make croutons or crostini; or make my Warm Bruschetta. This is my favorite recipe and it’s ready in less than 5 minutes. I simply slice grape or cherry tomatoes, warm some of the oil in a pan, toss the tomatoes in with basil and cook for 1 minute. Salt to taste and serve.

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You can also save the oil from artichokes and use that in marinades or salad dressings.

Pickle brine is another item you can reuse. It’s good in marinades, but I often refill the jar with other items like cucumbers or carrots and reuse the brine. I have a recipe below for Spicy Dill Carrots which is simply carrots, onions and jalapenos in dill pickle brine.

Brine from hot peppers is good in marinades, barbecue sauces, or add a touch to deviled eggs (but use sparingly).

Beer is another item I can’t stand to waste. A couple of days ago, I tried a new beer and I hated it. There was no way I could drink it, so I put it in the fridge to use in the future. The next day I made Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken.  You can also make beer bread, beer cheese dip, or use leftover beer to boil brats (add onions to the beer and finish the brats on the grill).

There are so many items we throw away every day that we can reuse. I hope this inspires you to think before you toss. Enjoy.

Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes

1 pound microwave in a bag red potatoes

¼ cup olive brine

¼ cup chopped chives

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes according to package directions. While the potatoes cook, chop the chives and rosemary.

When the potatoes are ready, empty the bag into a serving bowl and smash them down.

Pour the brine over potatoes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then top with chives and rosemary. Toss and serve.

You can also substitute basil in this recipe if you don’t like rosemary.

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Warm Bruschetta

2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, assorted colors

1 ½ tablespoons oil left from the sundried tomato jar

10 basil leaves

Salt to taste

Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

This dish is delicious over couscous or with French bread, but I also like it alone as a side dish.

 

Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken

6 chicken thighs, legs, or breasts

1 tablespoon barbecue rub

1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1 teaspoon jerk seasoning

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Half an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 almost full bottle of beer

1 bottle of KC style barbecue sauce

White rice for serving

Lay chicken in a 13 by 11 inch pan. Sprinkle with all the seasoning. Slice the onion and garlic and sprinkle both over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Pour beer in the side of the pan being careful not to wash off the seasonings. Pour half the bottle of barbecue sauce over the chicken and then stir about a fourth of the bottle into the beer. You will use about ¾ a bottle.

Bake for 1 hour (check it after 50 minutes because cooking times vary depending on the size of the piece of meat and what you cook. Breasts cook faster than thighs).

Serve over rice and spoon the sauce over rice before serving.

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Spicy Dill Carrots

2 cups leftover juice from dill pickles

1 ¼ cups carrot slices (I buy the precut carrot chips)

2 jalapenos (or to taste), sliced in half

Half a red onion, thinly sliced.

When the jar of dill pickles is gone, simply fill it with carrots, jalapeno and onion. Refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Consume within 10 days.

If you add the jalapeno seeds, it will be significantly spicier.

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Hump Day Hack: Homemade croutons with leftover bread; cleaning the coffee grinder

It’s Wednesday, which is my Hump Day Hack day.

If you’re like me, you buy some lovely ciabatta or other artisan buns for a recipe and then end up with leftover bread. Well, transform it into EASY croutons. Ciabatta works best but French and Italian loaves are great, too.

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If you don’t have time this week, you can freeze the bread and then defrost it on the counter ad make croutons next week.

These croutons are great of gazpacho or even dipped in a Bloody Mary (Hey, if you can do it with milk and cookies as a kid, why not croutons and Bloody Marys when you grow up?)

You will need 1 ciabatta

1 tablespoon olive oil

¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Heavy dash of garlic salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice up 1 ciabatta or other bread into bite-size pieces.

Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to toss the bread to incorporate the oil. Then toss with Italian seasoning and a generous dash of garlic salt. Toss to coat.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until crisp.

These will keep a few days (depends how soon your bread will expire and if it has preservatives) but are best enjoyed fresh. They are amazing hot!

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Here’s another wonderful way to use artisan bread before it goes bad. You can use it to make dill toast for smoked fish, like smoked salmon or trout. It’s FABULOUS.

To do this, take your ciabatta or French bread and brush it with olive oil. Then sprinkle dried dill weed on the bread and a dash of salt. Bake it at 400 degrees for 5-10 minute, depending on how toasted you want it. I prefer it at about 6 minutes.

Then spread cream cheese or horseradish on the bread and top with smoked fish and capers. It’s simply delightful!

Panzanella is another use for old artisan bread. I like this recipe from Ina Garten: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/panzanella-recipe.html

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And here is my second tip of the day: If you ever need to clean out your coffee grinder, fill it with rice and pulse until the rice becomes a powder. Then toss the rice and wipe the inside of the grinder with a damp paper towel.

Why would you need to clean it? Well, sometimes you might want to use it to make bread crumbs or grind spices. There are a variety of reasons.

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Thanks for reading these Hump Day Hacks and Tips. If you have any additional suggestions, or requests, I am always listening. Thank you

Celery Leaves have many uses. And what do you do when you over salt soup? Hump Day Hacks and Tips

It’s Wednesday, which I am calling  “Hump Day Hacks and Tips!” I am excited about this new feature on my blog that will appear every Wednesday.

Sometimes I share content I find, sometimes I share my own. Today, I share my own and I have two tips for you.

My parents used to live in the Dominican Republic and when I visited them (back in college), I discovered the beauty of celery leaves.

Most American cooks cut the leaves off and toss them– I used to do that–  but it’s a mistake. First, I am advocate of using as much of every food as possible. And second, the leaves are intensely flavorful and nutritious.

Celery leaves are high in iron, magnesium, and vitamins A and C.

In the Dominican, they used the leaves in marinades and that is a wonderful use, especially with chicken.

But I have lots of other ideas, too.

Celery leaves are great in stocks and broth. Because I have a ton of rotisserie chicken carcasses each week, I make my own stock. But on that rare occasion that I don’t, I still drop celery leaves, onions and bay leaves in commercial stock and boil for 10 minutes before I use the stock. I adds a lot of flavor. The more celery leaves, the better.

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Slice the leaves and use as substitute for parsley.

Toss chopped leaves into a salad to impart a celery flavor. It’s excellent. You can also add some to tuna salad or chicken salad. It adds extra flavor and nutrition. Mayo helps mellow out the celery leaf flavor.

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The leaves are excellent in homemade beans, both in the cooking process and sliced on top as a garnish.

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You can use them to garnish risotto or in rice pilaf or quinoa salad.

Use the leaves and a few stalks to infuse vodka for a fantastic Bloody Mary. Let’s see, it’s Wednesday, so go home tonight and add the leaves and stalks to vodka and Sunday morning, strain the vodka and enjoy a flavorful Bloody Mary. You can also add jalapenos if you like it hot.

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And save back a stem with some leaves on the top to garnish that Bloody Mary with olives. A thincelery stalk with leaves on top makes a great olive skewer.

Ok, I hope you never throw away celery leaves. There are too many reasons not to.

My second tip is a lot quicker.

I was at a friend’s house about a month ago and she over-salted her soup. I told her next time she does that, to place a few small potatoes or slice up a large potato, and put it in the broth as it cooks and the potato will extract some of the salt. You should peel the potato before you add them.

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You don’t want to cook the potato through and you may have to repeat the process, but it will help reduce the salt. Just think about how much salt potatoes need. It’s a great solution for over-salted stock.

That’s it for today. Join me all week for rotisserie chicken recipes and Hump Day Hacks and Tips on Wednesday.

I will start adding a weekly travel feature, too. I am thinking about Travel Tuesday or Travel Thursday. I have visited 57 countries, every continent and 45 states, so I have LOTS of travel tips and advice.

Thank you for reading today.

Don’t waste valuable orange zest

I am not talking about rotisserie chicken today. Instead, I am talking about orange zest.

How many times a week do you eat an orange or send one to school with your child? Well, if you’re not zesting that orange first, you’re wasting valuable nutrients and flavor.

Orange zest contains antioxidants and is versatile in so many recipes. Here are a few ideas on how to use it:

I add it to extra virgin olive oil to make salad dressing; add it to salad (it’s particularly good on spinach and arugula); use it on salmon (lemon zest, too); put it on my oatmeal with some cinnamon and dried blueberries or cranberries and walnuts; sprinkle it on toast with strawberry or raspberry jam; use it to infuse water; add it to cookies or breads; stir it into couscous or quinoa; or even add it to a smothered pork chop with cranberry sauce (see recipe below).

You will get a little less than 1 tablespoon of zest per orange, depending on the size, and that contains 14 percent of your recommended vitamin C intake. So you are literally tossing nutrients if you don’t use that peel.

For best results, zest an orange before you slice it. If you’re not going to eat the orange for a few hours, then wrap the orange in plastic wrap to protect it or it will start drying out. On that note, the peel does protect it, so don’t go crazy and zest citrus that you don’t plan to consume today.

I have a three pound bag of oranges on my table right now and that’s a lot of potential zest, flavor, and Vitamin C.

You can also freeze zest, too. I put it in a plastic baggie and pop it in the freezer, but only if I have several oranges worth in the bag.

Ok, have I convinced you to start using that orange peel? I hope so.

Here’s a super easy recipe: Salt and pepper your pork chops. Then toss in flour, seared in hot oil on each side and then add 1 can whole cranberry sauce, 1 teaspoon orange zest, ½ cup orange juice, 1 chopped garlic clove and cover with a lid and simmer on the stove for 10-25 minutes, depending on how thick your pork chops are.