Category Archives: Main Courses

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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Use those Thanksgiving leftovers-and a great soup recipe

The day after Thanksgiving brings the same conundrum every year: what to do with all the leftovers.

My family goes overboard and we have enough food to last five or six days. In the past, I have embraced this tradition, but this year I am trying to shy away from the onslaught of calories and carbs that continues after Turkey Day. I’ve shed nearly 15 pounds since July and my goal is not to gain any weight through the holidays. So this soup recipe is a lower carb option- although I have plenty of suggestions on how to use leftovers for people who are not watching their weight.

First, let’s get to the suggestions.

Last year, my good friend and I had a “leftover” party the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Three friends brought leftovers and dishes we had repurposed using leftovers (like casseroles and soup).  We drank wine, talked and then split up the dishes which was great because we all had new food.  Even though I went home with more dressing, it wasn’t my traditional dressing recipe so it broke up the monotony of the meal. I highly recommend it.

One dish my family always makes too much of is mashed potatoes. If you can’t use all the potatoes now, freeze them. When you warm the potatoes up, you will need to revive them with a little milk and butter. The best way to defrost mashed potatoes is in the refrigerator overnight.

Mashed potatoes are also an excellent thickening agent in soups. You can take a classic soup that calls for sliced potatoes- like potato leek soup, or sausage kale potato soup—and use mashed potatoes instead. The texture is different but the flavor is great.

I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes in dishes that usually use rice. For example, instead of serving gumbo or chili on rice, we’ve served it on mashed potatoes which mellows out any heat.

You can use mashed potatoes to make potato bread or as a binding agent in recipes.

Shepherd’s pie is one of the classic ways to use a lot of mashed potatoes.  I make an incredibly easy version: First, I sauté 1 pound of ground beef and mix it with a can of Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce. Then I layer the meat in a 9- inch by 9-inch baking dish, top it with green beans, peas, mashed potatoes, about 1 cup of shredded cheese and bake it at 400 degrees until the cheese melts (about 20 minutes). This dish is comforting, delicious and a good way to use up leftover green beans and peas, too.

If you have leftover dressing use it to make a crust on a casserole; sprinkle it on top of stuffed mushrooms before you bake those; or if the dressing is dry enough, you can put it in the food processor and transform it into breadcrumbs to use in meatloaf or meatballs. You can also use dressing in an overnight sausage breakfast casserole supplementing some of the bread in the recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for 6 cups of sliced bread, use 2 cups of dressing and 4 cups of bread and proceed as usual.

Leftover cranberry sauce makes a great glaze for pork chops. I mix 1 ½ cups of cranberry sauce with ½ cup of orange juice and 2 garlic cloves and then use that as a simmering sauce for pork chops (after first browning the chops).

Other ways to use cranberry sauce is to stir it into plain yogurt or smoothies. Mix cranberry sauce and cream cheese and stuff that into refrigerated crescent rolls before you roll them up and bake them. When the rolls are done, sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar. You can serve a smear of cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich or a ham sandwich with extra sharp cheddar cheese.

The turkey is the easiest thing to use because you can substitute turkey for chicken in many recipes and then you can always make a variety of turkey soups.  Soups and casseroles are particularly good uses of turkey is the bird has dried out.

Now for my lower carb recipes: I made an incredibly easy Sausage, Artichoke and Turkey Soup in the slow cooker that has tomatoes, artichokes and oregano. It’s delicious .Give it a try.

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Sausage Artichoke and Turkey Soup

Serves 5-6

1 pound hot Italian sausage (or sage if you don’t like spicy things)

1 extra large white onion

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (15-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained

1 (6-ounce) jar of artichoke hearts in oil, drained

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in its liquid

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups chopped leftover turkey

In a skillet, sauté onion and sausage together at the same time. Add the oregano and Italian seasoning when the mixture has cooked about halfway.

When the sausage is done, transfer the meat mixture (and the rendered fat) to a slow cooker and add all the other ingredients except the turkey. Set the slow cooker on the 4 hour setting and after 3 hours, add turkey. Cook one more hour, stir and serve.

 

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Leftover Turkey Asian-Style Chopped Peanut Wraps (Low Carb)

Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful day devoted to gratitude, food, love, family and friends. I hope it’s a lovely day for you.

Tomorrow or tree days from now, when you’re faced with a refrigerator full of leftovers and are tired of Thanksgiving food, make this easy, healthy recipe. It only takes 15 minutes is low carb and full of protein and nutrients.

It is a great way to use leftover turkey and it tastes nothing like a traditional turkey meal so you won’t feel like you’re eating leftovers.

Leftover Turkey Asian-Style Chopped Peanut Wraps (Low Carb)

2 cups chopped leftover turkey breast

4 tablespoons peanut butter powder

1 tablespoon peanut butter

½ teaspoon sesame oil

1/3 cup water (add a little more if sauce is too thick)

2 ½ tablespoons Veri Veri Teriyaki Soy Vay sauce

½ teaspoon lime juice

½ red bell pepper, diced

1/3 cup diced cucumber

2 green onions, diced

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/3 cup salted peanuts

1 head iceberg lettuce

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring peanut butter powder, peanut butter, sesame oil, water and Veri Veri Teriyaki Soy Vay Sauce to the point where the mixture is dissolved and smooth.

While that is going on, chop all the remaining ingredients.

When the sauce is dissolved and smooth, toss in turkey, red bell pepper, cucumber, onion, and cilantro. Toss to coat the ingredients.

Spread in iceberg lettuce leaves and sprinkle with peanuts before serving.

 

Lower Carb Amazing Red Sauce over Spaghetti Squash

The sauce is so delectable and rich, you will not miss the pasta. You will shed about 30 carbs per cup from this dish though.

If you’ve never tried it, spaghetti squash is a big yellow squash that you bake and when it’s done, you use a fork to shred the flesh and it turns into strings that resemble noodles. It’s a healthier, lower-carb option than past; a cup of spaghetti squash has less than 10 carbs compared to about 40 carbs in pasta.

My amazing red sauce was adapted from a recipe my dear friend Heather Landwer gave me a few years ago. I had my own red sauce recipe at the time, but it took about 5 hours to make and this one is just as good but takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes (most of that time is just simmering). It is an intense, thick red sauce and it pairs perfectly with spaghetti squash. I liked the combination so much, I will not use traditional pasta again with this dish.

Amazing Red Sauce over Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

1 (16-ounce) package Jimmy Dean Sage or Hot sausage

1 large white onion

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste (note, this is the big size)

1 tomato paste can filled with water

1 (15-ounce) can diced or stewed tomatoes

1 large garlic clove, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 large spaghetti squash

Olive oil and salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds and strings in the cavity. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt on the flesh. Pierce the flesh with a knife in several places. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

While the squash cooks, chop a large white onion. In a pot or pan with a tight lid, fry the sausage and onion together. When sausage is nearly cooked, add oregano, basil and sugar.

When it’s cooked through, drain the fat off the sausage and return the mixture to the pan. Add tomato paste, water, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and use a fork to shred the inside. Continue to shred until you have removed all the flesh away from the shell. Serve topped with red sauce.

Easy Acorn Squash Stuffed with Circle B Ranch Italian Sausage and Trio of Peppers

What a week. I had planned this for dinner Monday but didn’t get a chance to make it until lunch on Friday. This easy dish comes together in 20 minutes or less (that tells you how busy my week was when I couldn’t even fit this in).

I used sweet Italian sausage from Circle B Ranch, a small hog farm in Seymour, Mo., that is certified Humanely Raised and has great products. I’ve been to the farm and the hogs are healthy and roam freely.

For this dish, I simply microwaved the squash, sautéed all my other ingredients and then stuffed them into the cooked squash. I drizzled it all with 18-year-old balsamic vinegar. An excellent quality balsamic vinegar is a must in this dish which has a lot of sweet accents from the sausage and squash and the vinegar just pulls them all together.

Serves 2

1 acorn squash

1 Italian sausage links

1 small red onion

Half a red bell pepper

Half a green bell pepper

Half a yellow bell pepper

1 small garlic clove

Excellent quality aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Directions:

Cut acorn squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Stab the flesh several times with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place 1 teaspoon of butter or olive oil in the cavity of each half. Place in a microwave safe dish with 1/2 cup of water on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.

As that cooks, chop red onion, red, yellow and green bell peppers; and garlic.

In a nonstick pan, sauté the onion and sausage (remove the casing first) together until almost done. When the sausage is about a minute away from being cooked through, add the bell peppers and onions and cook 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

By now, the squash will be done. Carefully remove the plastic wrap and don’t put your hand in front of the steam.

Stuff filling into the cavity of each. Drizzle generously with balsamic vinegar and serve.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Curried Chickpeas (Quick and Economical)

If you want a delicious dinner for less than $5 per person (with leftovers), make this.

This meal comes together in about 15 minutes and cost me  $5 total to make (but I had all the spices, butter and salsa on hand already so I didn’t buy those).

It serves 2 and there’s plenty of curried chickpeas leftover for lunch the next day, Simply make some rice and serve the chickpeas over that or stuff them into a baked potato.

You can also buy two acorn squashes and stuff those and this will serve 4.

The nutty chickpeas, spicy curry, and crunchy green pepper and were a beautiful contrast to the sweet, tender acorn squash flesh.

It was cheap, quick, filling, delicious and healthy. This dish is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins C, A, and B.

I hope you enjoy it

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Curried Chickpeas (Quick and Economical)

Serves 2

1 acorn squash

2 tablespoons butter, plus 2 teaspoons

1 medium red onion

1 green bell pepper

1 ¼ teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas, drained

½ cup salsa

Cut acorn squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Stab the flesh several times with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place 1 teaspoon of butter in the cavity of each half. Place in a microwave safe bowl with 1/2 cup of water on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.

While that microwaves, chop onion and bell pepper and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add onion and cook 3 minutes. Then add green bell pepper and chickpeas and cook 4 minutes. Add salsa and heat through.

When squash is done, remove it carefully and peel back the plastic wrap carefully being sure not to put your hand in front of the steam.

Stuff each squash with curried chickpea mixture and serve.

Rotisserie Chicken and Bacon Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta

Friday nights call for pizza.

After a long week, a quick, satisfying pizza with a glass of wine is the perfect end to the week. And this pizza is fantastic. I use Naan, which is my favorite pizza dough, and then top it with tomato sauce, chicken, sundried tomatoes, cheese, bacon, and feta.

After it bakes, I sprinkle basil on top.

It’s quick, convenient and delicious. What more could you ask for as you end the work week? I hope you enjoy it.

Chicken, Bacon 2

Chicken, Bacon Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 4 as appetizer; 2 as main course

The sundried tomatoes and fresh basil really lift the flavor of this pizza; and of course, the bacon adds a lot, too. This pizza is easy, great for a quick dinner or a party.

1 ready-made Naan crust or pizza dough (Stonefire is my favorite brand)

Pizza sauce, desired amount

1 cup chopped, skinless rotisserie chicken

1/3 cup real bacon pieces (store bought is what I used)

1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes

1 1/3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or desired amount)

1/4 cup feta cheese

Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread pizza sauce over dough. Top with chicken, bacon, sundried tomatoes and cheeses.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove and garnish with slices of fresh basil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.