Kitchen Tips: Transforming Leftovers Like a “Kitchen Ninja”

There is nothing worse than coming home from work or school and having to scrounge around for something to eat, especially if you are exhausted from a long day and have dietary restrictions (by choice or by default.) I don’t think there is a person on this planet who can say that he/she doesn’t appreciate coming home to dinner on the table. For me, it’s always a treat to have other people cook for me, partially because I usually end up cooking or going out most of the time.

Not too long ago, dinner was made for me when I got home using a recipe for Butternut Squash Barley Risotto found in October’s edition of Good Housekeeping. Risotto can be time consuming and tedious for those who don’t like to cook or aren’t as familiar with the techniques. While I would hesitate to call the recipe a true “risotto,” it was definitely a creative, quick and easy alternative, and pretty tasty.

Because there were a lot of leftovers from considerably scaling up the recipe, I had an ah-ha moment and decided to re-purpose the risotto into other dishes. Maybe it was the energy drink I stopped for after work that had me feeling overly ambitious, but in either case, here’s how it all worked out.

Original Dish: Butternut Squash Barley Risotto. Surprisingly, this is a vegetarian recipe, if using vegetable broth. To make this into a vegan recipe, use olive oil instead of butter and omit Parmesan cheese.

Variation #1: On top of the risotto, I added leftover thai red curry. Normally I would serve the curry over rice or noodles, but the barley added body and substance as the noodles or rice would normally and the curry livened up the plain barley.

The thai red curry was leftover from the previous night and was made using a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables, a package of seitan (a vegetarian/vegan “meat” option) cut up into bite sized pieces and a bottle of thai red curry sauce. A similar recipe, using a different sauce, was described in a FFoF post a while ago. The stir-fry might have been a vegan or vegetarian recipe, but I am not sure exactly what was included in the bottled thai red curry sauce, so I can’t say for sure.

Variation #2: 2 cups of the risotto was set aside to be used in an impromptu beef barley soup. I called it the “three B’s” (beef, butternut, barley) soup. Even though I don’t eat meat, it smelled really good and I’m told it was seasoned pretty well, too. There was plenty left over to freeze in 3-4 plastic pint containers, labeled with the contents and date for easy access.

Variation #3: GH also had a recipe for fried risotto fritters or cakes in the same magazine issue. I reserved some of the mixture, but found that the fritters didn’t hold up well when fried, so I decided to scrap the recipe.

Butternut squash and carrots were another “surplus” that I transformed into a delicious puree, most of which was placed into quart-sized plastic bags and frozen. Three ideas for this puree include:

Variation #1: A quick soup made by defrosting the puree and thinning with vegetable stock in a saucepan, cooking until hot and finishing with heavy cream (omitting if vegan) or just a drizzle of a flavored olive oil, like mushroom and sage.

Variation #2: A side dish, similar to mashed potatoes but healthier. I used some one night alongside of sautéed Quorn soy “chik’n” breasts with dijon mustard sauce and green beans.

Variation #3: A quick sauce for gnocchi, topped with some flavorful Parmesan cheese and herbs.

What ingredients do you like to transform in your kitchen?

One thought on “Kitchen Tips: Transforming Leftovers Like a “Kitchen Ninja””

  1. You are so creative with food! I never have the energy to cook anything fancy, especially since I live alone, so there’s no one around to enjoy these things except me. Le sigh.

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