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Take command of your leftovers

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By Cheryle Jones Syracuse
Family and Consumer Science Staff
NC Cooperative Extension
Brunswick County Center
It’s amazing how some household tips and recommendations never get old. I’ve been sorting through old files and found a newspaper article I wrote for Cooperative Extension back in 1983. It’s called the “Ten Commandments for Using Leftovers.” The note in that article says they had been developed years earlier (I would suspect by Extension homemakers). The ideas written in the Olde English-style are still practical 29 years later.
Everyone is plagued with leftovers. What to do with them is an uninteresting, money-saving, creative and often catastrophic adventure. So, here are rules to follow (for the second time or even third) around, although I’ve added a few updated notes:
1. If thou has not more than a bite or two left, thou shalt throw it away. Thou wilt eventually, so why not now. This gives thee a clean conscience and more room in thy refrigerator.
Microwaves have changed this rule a little; small dabs of leftovers can now be easily reheated for lunch or snack. Also, if you read my recent column about soups, you noted the idea of freezing little bits of meats and vegetables to use as a soup base, if you remember to use them.
2. Combine leftover poultry like turkey and chicken in a cold salad, add to creamed white sauce to serve over rice or toast. Thou shalt be creative!
Does anyone really make a white sauce anymore? Why do it when you have condensed soups? If you learned to make a white sauce from scratch, it could save you time, money along with fat and salt in your diet. Add a few spices and herbs and you’ve got a great meal. The rule for being creative still stands.
3. Leftover fish or seafood (shrimp, sole, lobster, catfish, salmon, tuna or cod) may be combined with cooked or fresh vegetables for salads or casseroles. Remember to add a bit of grated lemon peel or juice to freshen and accent their flavors. With all the commercially made salad dressing we have on the market these days, you could make a fabulous salad by combining leftover seafood, pasta and a few vegetables.
4. Unused freshly cut lemons, oranges or limes shall be kept fresh by placing them in a tightly covered jar with 1/2-inch of water. Parsley can also be kept bright and fresh this way.
5. Thou shalt not try to keep leftovers at room temperature. There is no need to “cool” leftovers before putting them in the refrigerator. This rule has not changed in all these years. Food should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Get it in the fridge as soon as possible. For large pots of food, put them in an ice bath or smaller, shallow containers to speed the cooling.
6. Thou shalt not try to save food that in any way looks strange, has mold, or is tainted by odor. Take not this chance. Remember: When in doubt, throw it out. Enough said.
7. If thou didst not like the leftover thou didst prepare, don’t make it again. ’Tis a waste of thine own energy, as well as cooking and refrigeration energy. Amen.
8. If thou dost have leftover cake or cookie crumbles, thou shalt layer them with an instant pudding mix and fresh fruit for an elegant English trifle. Fruits are nutritious and naturally sweet. Get real. Does anyone really have leftover cake or cookies?
9. Thou shalt use leftover cooked oatmeal or cornmeal mush browned in margarine and served with maple syrup, topped with fruit. Thou shalt be frugal but elegant with leftovers. With the invention of instant oatmeal, this may be a leftover of the past, but there is no excuse for not trying to dress up your leftovers.
10. Thou shalt safe save bits of leftover cheese wrapped in plastic film with a slice of lemon to keep moist, ready to add special flavor to an otherwise plain meal. Resealable bags have made a big difference here, too. Leftovers will keep fresh longer when completely covered. Most leftovers will keep three to four days in the refrigerator. Cooked ground meats and those with broth and gravies should be eaten sooner. If you can’t eat within that time, pop them in the freezer. For best quality, frozen leftovers should be eaten within three months.
And if thou shalt do all these things, may all the rest of they days be frugal and fruitful and filled with joy and happiness forever. Some things never change.