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20 Creative Ways to Save with Leftovers

Written by Lauren Strouse, Fairfield Office Assistant: I grew up learning to cook in a household where leftovers were part of the menu plan in order to stretch the family food dollar. My mother didn’t waste food. As a young parent, I did the same thing, both to save money as well as time.  Reconfiguring ingredients that are already cooked can save you a lot of time on a busy weeknight. leftoversHere are some ways to save money by turning the food you have on hand into brand new dishes.

  • Use leftover roasted chicken to make chicken and noodle casserole, chicken a la king, chicken soup, or enchiladas.
  • Roast pork, beef or ham can be used in sandwiches, stews, soup, or to stuff a pita.
  • Combine leftover shredded or cubed roast beef with golden mushroom soup, sautéed onions and mushrooms and a little wine or water to make a sauce for egg noodles; add a little sour cream and you almost have stroganoff.
  • Remember hash? Add cubed leftover beef to cubed or sliced sautéed potatoes and onion.
  • Cubed ham can go into pasta and rice dishes, omelets and sandwiches or pair with potatoes.
  • Leftover rice or other grains like barley or faro can be combined with fresh or frozen vegetables and a little cubed pork, ham, or chicken to make fried rice.
  • Create a southwestern style casserole with leftover rice mixed with cream of chicken soup, canned green chilies, a bit of sour cream, grated jack cheese, beans (black, kidney or pinto), leftover chicken, plus seasonings like cumin and chili powder.
  • Combine rice with ground beef or turkey, a little soy sauce, cream of celery soup, celery, onion, green beans or pea pods, and water chestnuts, for mock chow mein. Top with some crispy noodles for crunch.
  • Leftover fresh or frozen vegetables can go into soups or stews and pasta dishes.
  • Cooked asparagus, artichoke hearts, zucchini, fennel, greens like spinach, and mushrooms are great in frittatas and omelets.
  • Toss leftover spinach and other greens straight into pasta sauces, bean and grain dishes to increase the nutritional value.
  • Leftover broccoli and cauliflower can be cooked with a little onion, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and served over spaghetti.  The trick is to reheat the veggies gently so you don’t overcook them.
  • Turn leftover vegetables into soup with sautéed onion and garlic. Cover with chicken broth, add whatever seasonings strike your fancy, cook until soft, puree, and thin if needed with milk (fat free evaporated is great for this and shelf stable).
  • Find yourself with half a loaf of bakery bread? Make a sweet or savory bread pudding or a strata. Layer the bread with leftover meat, veggies and cheese, soak it with an egg/milk mixture, then bake. The sweet version incorporates dried or fresh fruits like apples and cherries or even pumpkin.
  • Turn leftover bread into bread crumbs and keep them in your freezer to use in meatloaf or meatballs, or when a bread crumb mixture is called for in a recipe.
  • Do you have pound cake or angel food cake getting stale? Cube the cake and layer it in parfait or dessert glasses with vanilla pudding and fresh fruit like berries or bananas. Add some almonds or other nuts for crunch along with whipped cream on top.
  • Add leftover beef stew to a deep baking dish, make or buy pie crust, top the stew with pie crust, bake, and you have beef pot pie.
  • Make an easy shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes.  Cook ground meat with onion, a little garlic and add veggies like peas, carrots or green beans. Spread the potatoes on top and bake until the potatoes are golden and the pie is bubbling.
  • Mix leftover mashed potatoes with an egg and a bit of flour, shape into patties and fry to make mashed potato pancakes. Add shredded salmon or chicken and a bit of onion for potato croquettes.
  • Leftover polenta can be cut and fried or layered in a baking dish with tomato sauce, cheese, sliced cooked vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, spinach or chard, onions and mushrooms and then baked to create a kind of lasagna (just be very light handed with the sauce).

Save yourself some money and learn to utilize your leftovers. Let your creative juices flow and create delicious “planned over” dishes for your family.

“Hungry” Plays a Role in Education

Guest post by Food Bank volunteer Leslie Mladinich: When I think of hunger having a voice, I think of TV commercials showing starving children in faraway lands and a celebrity asking for a monthly pledge to feed that child.

But the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s educational play, Hungry, showed me that hunger does have a real voice, and it’s speaking right here in our own community.

Hunger is an actual character who acts as the conscience of Eric, a middle school student who struggles with not having enough food to eat when his father is out of work. The play wraps up its 4-week tour today at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, with more than 4,000 students learning about hunger through this innovative tool each Fall. (Information about booking future performances can be found at the end of the article).

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Commissioned by the Food Bank, the play was written by award-winning playwright Patricia Loughrey to educate the community in a unique way. Throughout the plot, professional actors alternate in roles of students, teachers, a mother, father, fast food server, nutritionist, school nurse, and Food Bank employees to convey that hunger is a strong emotional and physiological force.

And it isn’t isolated to those faraway lands in television commercials.

But with his booming, abrasive rap, the character of Hunger is the loudest: he voices Eric’s dialogue in his head – broadcasting the physical pains, scattered concentration, and low energy that come with having to skip meals regularly.

Thinking back on my time in middle school, I could put myself in the shoes of Reena, a cliquey, insecure girl who doesn’t want to work with Eric, “that weird guy who sleeps all the time,” when they are assigned a joint class presentation on hunger. Eric is also hesitant to work with Reena, afraid she’ll discover his secret of having mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner and being constantly hungry. He doesn’t want her to know that along with falling asleep in class, hunger causes his stomach to hurt and his mind to obsess with embarrassment. When Reena gives Eric a bag of food she carries on the bus to his house, he throws it away because he’s ashamed of taking a handout.

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Eric and Reena tour their local Food Bank for research. For example, as Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director Larry Sly pointed out before the play, the Food Bank helps some 149,000 people each month and distributed approximately 16 million pounds of food last year which is enough food for 13 million meals. Startled by the statistics and not feeling so alone, Eric realizes it is okay for others to know his family is hungry and declares to Reena: “Why is it any different for you to help me with food than for me to help you with math?” Eric decides he is going to ask his parents to get help from the Food Bank because: “I’m sick of being hungry.”

Interest in the topic of hunger is rising and through the play, actors tell community members how they can help. They could donate their time and food. Sandra Scherer, Executive Director of the Monument Crisis Center in Concord, said the play hit on themes that she sees everyday from clients across the economic spectrum.

“Hunger hits across all of our communities,” she said.

The play Hungry makes it possible to humanize this.

For nearly 10 years, the Food Bank has been using theatre as an educational tool by sponsoring this free performance. Questions about sponsorship opportunities or booking “Hungry” performances should be directed to Patty McDowell at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543, extension 243. 

Who Needs Help?

The things I learn as I am out being the representative of the Food Bank can be overwhelming sometimes.  I had a woman at a presentation I made last week hand me her business card.  The card said she has a B.A. and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology.  But the handwritten message on the card said “Jobs at Food Bank?  I REALLY NEED A JOB! PLEASE CALL”.  I talked to her so I know what her skills are if a job should open up at the Food Bank. Unfortunately I am not her answer today.  She needs a job and is doing all she can to get the position she needs, but even with the skill she has she cannot get the job she needs right now.

I also got a note we received with a financial donation that said “Enclosed please find a check in the amount of $1000.  This is a donation to the Food Bank.  After spending five months unemployed, I made a pledge to myself to contribute to the Food Bank once I was employed again.  Happily this is now the case.  I hope you find this donation helpful.”

I don’t know if these people received food from the Food Bank, but they demonstrate that there is a real need in the community today.  People who used to donate to us have been unemployed for months.  People with advanced degrees are not able to find work.  Our community is in a very fragile place right now, and the Food Bank is doing all we can to provide food to those who need help.

For more way you can help, visit www.foodbankccs.org/givehelp.

Interact Club of MVHS Takes on a Food Drive

Guest post by Ambassador Aaron Yuen: The Interact Club of Monte Vista High School in Danville once again is sponsoring a food drive. Last year, the club collected 2,550 pounds of food, quite a huge accomplishment for a student organization which utilized only the lunch break to plan and launch the food drive.

To kick off the food drive this year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano was invited to give a talk to student members on Thursday, March 22. Having two graduates of MVHS in my family, I was delighted to take on the assignment wearing the MVHS colors of red and black and a Food Bank Ambassador badge at the same time.

The student members are very much into community service.  In addition to doing the food drive, the club is planning a car wash to raise funds to help fight teenage slavery trafficking.

Monte Vista received 15 barrels on Monday, April 16 and called to report that they are collecting food. They also mentioned they are not giving the barrels back until they are completely full.

Our future generation at work taking on current issues!

Admirable and inspirational indeed.

Food Bank Educates Students

“The Hungry play is top notch in every way — good acting, nicely and cleverly staged, and the message, which all kids need to hear, was clearly and age-appropriately stated through the story of the play. I’m a fan!”

This is just one of the many positive comments we’ve received regarding the Food Bank’s FREE live performances of the play entitled, Hungry at middle schools throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties. Hungry, written by award-winning playwright, Patricia Loughrey debuted in 2004 and tours annually. In 2010, Hungry was performed in front of more than 6,000 students, teachers and parents and typically, schools follow up on the message of the play by organizing holiday food drives or including hunger as a topic in their social science studies. The Food Bank is currently scheduling morning performance dates for Fall 2011.

There is no cost to the school and the gymnasium or multipurpose room can serve as a venue for the play. The play runs about 40 minutes and should fit within a single class period. If you would like to preview that play, a DVD can be provided for you per your request.

Note to Businesses: Your sponsorship is a fantastic opportunity to promote your company, enhance your presence within the local community, and be recognized as a supporter of hunger education.

Please contact Patty McDowell (pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543 extension 243) for any questions you have or if you would like to preview the play, schedule a performance, or find out about sponsorship opportunities.

Mangos!

Millions of Mangos or so it seemed! Today we received mangos which we had never received before. So after seeing all of these mangos, I had to look on the internet to see what to do with one. We received these mangos from a produce distributor in Ventura. I am sure all of the California food banks have them right now so this is pretty exciting to have something new and exotic. Will the children eat them – I definitely think so.

So here is what you need to know: The mango is a comfort food. Mangos really can make you feel better! Beyond being delicious and rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, mangos contain an enzyme with stomach soothing properties and act as a digestive aid. Mangos are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of Potassium and contain beta carotene. Mangos are high in fiber, but low in calories (approx. 110 per average sized mango), fat (only 1 gram) and sodium.

That is all nice but how do you eat it? You can slice it and eat it or put it in a salad or a rice dish. You can put it in an omelet, add it to French toast or cereal. Add a mango to soup or pizza or just about any dish you can think of. The recipes are endless. So this seems to be the perfect fruit! Check out www.freshmangoes.com to see some great recipes and learn more about the mango. Our mangos are on their way to hundreds of children today. I hope they like them and learn how wonderful fruit can be.

Bad Apples Gone Good

When we buy fresh produce for those we help, we often find broken open apples that we can’t distribute to people. Based on health department regulations, we can’t distribute these bad apples but we also don’t want those we help to feel they deserve badly bruised or broken apples. So what do we do with these apples? Well, today I got to deliver a few small containers of bad apples to Loma Vista Farm in Vallejo (an educational farm not far from Six Flags Theme Park). My two favorite cows, Oreo and Keebler could hardly wait for me to hand them an apple. They open their mouths and I just put the apple inside – their tongues are really scratchy! After a few hand fed apples, I dumped the rest in their food bin. They are really happy cows right now. It is a great feeling to be helping the environment by reducing our garbage and helping this wonderful educational farm.

As I was starting to leave, one of our Food Bank trucks pulled up to the school down the street delivering the Farm 2 Kids produce. Rita, at Loma Vista Farm told me the children will come and visit the cows and chickens later today and notice that the farm animals have apples to eat. She uses this as an educational moment to explain to the children that farm animals also need fresh produce. So if Keebler and Oreo like apples, you children should too. She says it always works and the children come back the next week saying how much they now like apples and how much they appreciate the farm animals as they are pretty smart animals. I left with a smile on my face knowing our community partner Loma Vista Farms is helping spread the word of how good fresh produce is for all of us.

Oreo and Keebler

Oreo and Keebler (picture from the Loma Vista farms facebook page)

The Food Stamp Challenge comes to end for some, but not for the thousands of people who live with hunger every day.

The San Francisco Food Bank 2009 Hunger Challenge ran from September 20-26. For seven days, participants ate on $4 dollars a day, the budget of a food stamp recipient.

Read about CBS 5 Reporter Sue Kwon’s week on the Hunger Challenge. http://cbs5.com/consumer/hunger.challenge.food.2.1198974.html

No room for error living on $4 a day

A cup of coffee cost Sue Kwon a big part of her $4 food budget. See what she has to say here: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=55825@kpix.dayport.com

CBS 5 Reporter Takes $4-A-Day Hunger Challenge

The San Francisco Food Bank’s 2009 Hunger Challenge is this week – September 20-26. CBS 5 ConsumerWatch reporter Sue Kwon takes on the challenge and will file reports everyday this week documenting her experiment that we hope will put a spotlight on hunger.

Tuesday: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=55719@kpix.dayport.com

And Wednesday: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=55774@kpix.dayport.com

If you’re taking on the Hunger Challenge we would like to hear about it. If you are on food stamps and have budget stretching ideas or want to share your thoughts, please share them with CBS 5.