Waste Not…The Frugal Skillet

When it comes to using up leftovers, several sources talked about saving bits of leftovers in a container in the freezer and when there is enough making a soup or stew with it. I tried this. What I learned was that some food flavors just flat don’t go with some other food flavors. Others I have talked to about this said that to them it tasted too “freezer-y”.

So I thought of another way. I developed a standard recipe to use up leftovers. I call it the Frugal Skillet. This is something to make as often as you have enough ingredients for it. Specific leftovers could be frozen in an airtight container for a few days until they are needed.

Start by sautéing whatever kind of onions you have on hand in 2 tsp. oil (or cooking in 2 tablespoons water if you prefer low-fat).

Add garlic if you like it.

Add any leftover or aging vegetables. I’ve used any fresh vegetables that aren’t getting any younger, the last spoon of whatever didn’t get eaten for supper last night, the few pieces left in the frozen package. I also keep fresh or frozen carrots and broccoli on hand to round this out and give it color.

A shake of black pepper

1 tsp. lemon juice

A clump of fresh parsley chopped up. (or a teaspoon or two of dried parsley)

Cook, covered, until the onions are as soft as you like them.

Add a handful of cut up leftover meat, poultry, fish, cheese or beans.

For a starch, add the last of last night’s cooked spaghetti, rice, corn, potatoes, lima beans, or some frozen peas.

Heat through and serve. When I was cooking for more than one person I ate this for lunch regularly and nearly eliminated wasting food. This removes any pressure at suppertime to eat up that last half-serving that you don’t really want.

It’s the onions, lemon juice and parsley that make this not just a bunch of leftovers. I grow parsley on my balcony because fresh just seems to taste so much better. Fresh parsley from the store will keep for 2–3 weeks with the stems in a cup of water in the refrigerator. I prefer fresh lemon juice too. One way to keep that on hand is to squeeze a whole lemon and freeze juice that you don’t need right away in an ice cube tray for future use. These lemon ice cubes are also handy for adding flavor to water or iced tea.

Variations: I made this once several years ago with a leftover fast food burger and fries. I left out the lemon juice, and the bun. I cut up the fries and the meat and cheese and tomato from the burger into a base of onions, parsley, green beans and broccoli. The cheese from the burger melted into a sauce. The dried up fries plumped up into nice bits of potato. This would also have been good with a bit of leftover tomato sauce and maybe some macaroni. Another time I made it with broccoli, the meat from 2 leftover soft tacos, and leftover KFC potato wedges cut up into it. It tasted great. Can you tell that was a month we ate out a lot?

And then there’s Joe’s Special Eggs, eggs scrambled with leftovers. This is good for using up leftover meat or fish or that last bit of cheese. Some vegetables, including mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and peppers, taste good in eggs. I usually add a green onion and sometimes some fresh basil from the container garden on the balcony. I tried cooked carrots and was surprised how good they are in eggs. Beans don’t necessarily go well in this dish. It can be good with a bit of rice, corn, quinoa or cooked potato.


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