Meal Plan and Turkey Club Pasta

This week’s menu is all about repurposing food. It’s easy to get sick of  the same old leftovers, so why not turn them into something new. The meal plan is as follows:

Monday: Turkey Club Pasta (see recipe below) w/meat from last night’s turkey

Tuesday: We have a dinner party tomorrow night. No meal needed

Wednesday: Honey & Spice Baked Chicken, stuffing and green beans

Thursday: Shepard’s pie w/ leftover potatoes from Sunday’s turkey dinner

Friday: Client Christmas Party

Saturday: School Christmas Party

Sunday: Chicken Chimichangas w/leftover chicken from Wednesday

This is going to be a very busy week so I wanted to make the cooking simple.

For more meal planning ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at Orgjunkie.com

Last night’s turkey came out great. I don’t know what I was thinking when I purchased a ten pound turkey. Oh yeah. I was thinking ‘It’s three dollars. You’ll eat it.’ One of my favorite sandwiches is a turkey club from Nat Hayden’s in Windsor, CT. In the winter, I love comforting pasta dishes, plus I had all this turkey left over. I wanted a recipe that combined my favorite flavors from the sandwich into a hearty casserole. It was delicious. This would also be good with chicken but the turkey and bacon together in a swiss cheese sauce was a home run.

Turkey Club Pasta

1 lb of rotini pasta
8 to 10 slices of bacon
1/3 cup of flour
3 cups of milk
1 cup of half and half or another cup of milk
8 oz of shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cup of parmesean cheese
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and add salt to the water. Cook rotini until al dente. You want to take it off the stove a few minutes before you think it’s done because it will continue to cook when you bake it. Rinse pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process.

While pasta is cooking, cut bacon into thin pieces. I used my kitchen scissors for this and it worked very well. Add bacon to a large frying pan or pot and cook on medium to medium high heat until crispy. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon, putting on paper towels to drain. Reserve four tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, removing the rest.

Reduce heat to medium or medium low. Add flour to drippings and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until well incorporated. Slowly whisk in milk and half and half. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly until thick and creamy. Stir in mustard, garlic powder, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Add cheeses and stir until melted. Finally, return the bacon to the pan and add the turkey.

Pour the pasta into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour sauce mixture over the pasta and smooth with a spoon. The sauce will fill the tube pasta, no need to stir. Bake the dish for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through and the top begins to brown. Serve with a simple green salad or vegetable.

Using it up

In an effort to avoid food waste this week, I decided to get creative in the kitchen.

Wednesday night, we had roast chicken for dinner. It was a lovely chicken and at only 69 cents a pound, a very good deal. Last night, I decided we needed to clean out the fridge a bit. I called my husband and asked him to get some enchilada sauce on the way home.

After a long afternoon teaching the children, I was energized to get into the kitchen to see what would go into the enchiladas. I had some onions so I cut up half a large onion and threw it in the wok with some oil. Next, I picked the chicken clean and tossed that in. Back to the fridge. I found a quarter wheel of white cheddar that a friend gave me which was on it’s last legs and a block of orange cheddar.  I shredded up the white cheddar and added it to the pan. Then I added some of the enchilada sauce. The cheese and sauce melted together wonderfully, but I wasn’t happy with the heartiness of the filling. I ran down to the pantry in the basement and found a can of red beans. Rinsed and in they went as well. The filling was fantastic.

I got out a 9 by 13 pan and covered the bottom with enchilada sauce. I was a bit frustrated with my flour tortillas because they were all stuck together. Thankfully, Jeff took on that job. I filled the tortillas and squished them together in the pan, seam side down. There was a bit of filling left so I just poured it over the top and then covered with more enchilada sauce. I like to pour the sauce down the center so that the edges get crispy. I shredded the orange cheddar and sprinkled it on top. 30 minutes at 400 degrees and poof! Awesomely wonderful enchiladas. I was really pleased with how they turned out.

So go check out what’s in your fridge and pantry and get creative. You’ll be amazed what might be in store for dinner.

Reinventing your leftovers

Has this ever happened to you?

You make dinner and you’ve got leftovers: maybe a few pork chops or pieces of chicken and some leftover veggies. It’s not enough to serve again, as is and who wants to bring a pork chop to work for lunch? Sometimes you have got to think outside the box with your leftovers. Here are a few tips I use to get through those leftovers:

pork chops, chicken or leftover beef: I think stir fry. Slice up that meat, add a ton of veggies and a bit of soy sauce or teriyaki. You might want to add some garlic or ginger (fresh or from the spice rack). Cook up some rice and you’ve got a really quick dinner. You do not need a lot of meat in a stir fry if you have a lot of other things going on. I’ll also use leftover meat in a build-your-own casserole. If I have leftover steak, I usually make beef stroganoff with mushrooms. Add a lot of mushrooms and you really don’t need much meat at all.

meatloaf: There are a few things I do with leftover meatloaf. I will either cube it up and make Shepard’s pie (my recipe is on the recipes page) or I’ll ground it up with my hand blender and use it in spaghetti sauce. Sounds a little strange, I know but it totally works.

hamburgers: sometimes when you have a cookout, you have extra hamburgers. Use them like leftover meatloaf or crumble it up and use for a pizza topping or anything else you might put ground beef in.

mashed potatoes: depending on how much you have, you could make potato pancakes or use to top Shepard’s pie or hamburger pie. You can also use them to thicken cream soups, like potato corn chowder.

leftover veggies: depending on the type of vegetable, there are a ton of different uses. Make a stir fry or fried rice. Use as pizza toppings. Make soup. Add to salads. Use in a casserole, like the build-your-own casserole on the recipe page.

bread: Make your own croutons or bread crumbs. I usually take the bread heels and place them in a plastic bag in the freezer. As I accumulate more, I just keep adding them to the bag. When I need bread crumbs, I take out a few slices and place them in the food processor. You can add herbs if you like or Parmesan cheese. After I grind them up, I like to add a little melted butter or a bit of olive oil so they crisp up really nice on top of whatever dish I’m using them for. I also use bread in my meatballs, instead of bread crumbs. I soak the bread in a bit of milk and then add to my meatball mixture. So good.

stale crackers: crush them up and use them as a topping instead of bread crumbs.

So I hope next time you have leftover bits of food, you’ll think of the possibilities rather than just some boring repeat.