Cooking down the fridge and pantry and how to use holiday leftovers

So I didn’t find the time I thought I would have with 2 weeks off! That’s the way things go. Happy New year to everyone!

With all of our holiday visitors I stocked our fridge and freezer and cooked for 7 days straight! Now its time to empty out the fridge and clean out the pantry and see how long I can go without grocery shopping (except for essentials like milk and other fresh items as needed.)

Great thing to do with leftovers from a crowd is to make mac-n-cheese. I had a bunch of cold cuts and sliced cheese and had all the makings for spinach and artichoke dip on hand (in case we needed more food), so I decided to make a spinach and artichoke mac-n-cheese. I based it off of the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for spinach dip that I use and used the abundance of sliced swiss, colby and havarti that I had in the fridge along with some whole wheat pasta. Delicious!!! Make a basic cheese sauce (1/3 cup of better, 1/3 cup of flour, 2-3 cups of milk). Here is the link for how to make this sauce. I then added worchestershire sauce, a little lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, 8 oz of cream cheese, about 2 cups of shredded cheese, 1 jar artichokes – chopped, and thawed 10 oz package of spinach. Mix with pasta and top with panko breadcrumbs and cook for about 40 minutes at 375.

With the leftover mashed potatoes (or extra potatoes you didn’t cook) you can make shepherds pie. I usually keep ground beef or turkey in the freezer, so made this with the leftover peas from dinner as well. Put a layer of mashed potatoes at the bottom of the pan. Cook the ground beef with onions, salt, pepper and coriander or use a packet of onion soup mix for 1 -2lbs of beef. I used the soup mix because I ran out of onions and had that from dip I made. Once beef is cooked, add 2 Tbsp of sour cream and mix well. Place layer of ground beef on top of potatoes then layer with peas and repeat. I had my 3 year old layer the peas on top to help. Put a last layer of potatoes on the top then cook for about 30 -45 minutes (depending on your oven) at 375 degrees.

Another item you may have are leftover roast or ham. You can easily use these as a filling for quesadillas, tacos or enchiladas or add into this delicious soup recipe that I use from Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites from Southern Living. Take 5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed, 1 medium onion chopped, 28 oz of chicken broth, 12 oz of diced ham (or beef), 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, 2tsp bottle minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of salt and 3/4 tsp pepper and add all these into the slow cooker and cooked on high for 1 hour and then reduce to Low and cook for 6 hours. (I also cook it on the stove in about and hour or when the potatoes are tender). Process half of the soup mixture in a food processor (or use a hand held immersion blender) and then pour it back into the pot. Add 2 cups of cream (I used fat free half and half) and 2 cups of cheddar (or you can also use your leftover cheese from a cheese plate).

If you are like me and live in the Pacific NW, salmon is very often a part of a holiday meal. I use leftovers for making a fritata the next morning. To about 5 beaten eggs add in some leftover mashed potatoes and shred some of the cheese from the cheese plate you put out the night before and you have an easy, delicious meal! You can add in the leftover salmon or ham or bacon or just leave as potato and cheese. Bake for about 20-30 minutes (until edges are brown and eggs are cooked in the center) at 375. Here is a picture of the bacon wrapped salmon I made at Christmas (maple smoked bacon, wrapped around salmon which as been seasoned with thyme, rosemary, lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar, wrapped in foil and baked for 30 min at 375 – 3lbs of salmon).

If you have leftover squash – make soup with it. I made butternut squash soup from the leftover squash at Christmas dinner and a bag of squash I happened to have in the freezer.

To be able to use all the random pantry, fridge and freezer items I accumulated over the holidays, I created an inventory and a meal plan. My hope is the meal plan will last us for the next 2 weeks and will use up all the items in my fridge/freezer. It took a while to get organized. I first inventoried all the food + condiments we have (and finally threw out some old spices! If I haven’t used the garam masala in 3 years, I’m probably not going to use it now). Then looking at my inventory, I created meals. I made it through 2 weeks and then lost steam. This is a great way to save money (New year’s resolution # 1) and get organized with a fresh start. A week into it, we have stayed on track!

Happy New Year and happy cooking!

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