Thursday, August 6, 2009

Loving Leftovers

My husband has taught me so much about food, not the least of that is that you can love it and enjoy it and not control it (or let it control you!). However ones of his biggest accomplishments in converting a once terribly picky (I wouldn't even eat white rice) into a full fledged (but maybe still timid) foodie is teaching me to eat, and love leftovers. Seriously leftovers.

I was born in the 70's raised by parents who loved to cook, but also loved to try every need gadget, packaged product, etc. So in my mind leftovers were two things, casseroles and yuck. I have vivid taste memories (you know the kinds where you can actually recall it in your mouth!) of spongy squishy macaroni from the microwave...oh I am gagging thinking about it!

When my husband and I got married (okay slightly before we got married - but that is another post) we lived in a glorified studio. It was a one room apartment with a bedroom and the kitchen consisted of a counter a sink and a stove. There was no room for a microwave. Our second apartment was bigger, but we were loathe to give up what little counter space we had. So for 10 years I have had no microwave. In fact the only reason we have one know is because it came with our house.

No microwave means that you get creative with leftovers. I HATE throwing food out, but not as much as I hated leftovers. So we have learned to plan our meals better, buying and making only what we need and can/will eat or planning our menus with the intent to use the leftovers in another meal. We have gotten quiet good at it and now we fight over what the leftovers will be, especially if its chicken! You can save so much money by buying whole chickens. Really! Dominick's has had their fryers on sale for weeks for $0.99/lb which means you can get a whole chicken for $3-4. Compared to boneless/skinless chicken breasts at $1.99/lb (on sale). I have learned that whole chickens are seriously the easiest thing to cook. In the winter I roast them. Oil, salt, pepper...in the oven. It's summer know so we take a pair of kitchen shears, split it open (okay hubby does this because I still actually hate separating and touching raw chicken) and grill it.

So this week I had a 5# chicken, it cost us $5 and we will get 3 dinners out of it. 3! We will feed a family of 4, 3 times, 12+ servings with $5 of meat, that is a great deal in these belt tightening times. So the first meal is grilled chicken. We eat one breast, the wings and usually one leg, maybe 2. Then we rock paper scissors over the leftovers (how we solve all disputes!) and I win! tonight we are using the leftovers for my favorite ENCHILADAS! Which will make enough for two dinners or a dinner and lunch. It's great!

So here is our super easy leftover chicken enchilada recipe. It's adapted from Jessica Alba's Chicken Enchilada Recipe that was in Self Magazine sometime in the last 3 years.
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Leftover Chicken Enchiladas
Serves ~4

leftover chicken- at least half a bird, removed from bone and shredded (you can also use 4 breasts poached if you are starting from scratch)
1 jar 12oz Salsa
1.5-2 cups of shredded cheese, either a Mexican blend, or a mixture of cheddar and Monterrey jack
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 2.25 oz can slice black olives, drained
1 large (28oz) or 2 small (16oz) cans of enchilada sauce (green and/or red)
Mexican hot sauce
cayenne pepper
cooking spray
8 (6in) corn tortillas

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix salsa and chicken in large bowl
  3. In a separate bowl combine cheese, cilantro, and olives.
  4. In a large pot over medium heat combine enchilada sauce and add Mexican hot sauce and cayenne to taste (because of my sensitive to heat taste buds and the kids, we usually just use the sauce and add nothing else) stir until simmering. Set aside.
  5. Coat an 11x13 pan with non stick spray. Either microwave tortillas for 20 sec or wrap them in foil and put in the oven for a few minutes as it's warming up.
  6. To assemble, place small handfuls of cheese mixture and chicken in the center of each tortillas, roll up and place in pan seam side down. Sprinkle remaining cheese mixture over completed enchilada. Ladle on sauce (which is also great on tortillas chips!) then add a sprinkling of cheese on top (~ 1/4 cup).
  7. Bake for 20 minutes (cheese should be bubbly) and serve with remaining sauce on the side.


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