"In all of living have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured!"
~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Friday, September 13, 2013

3 Minimal-Effort Dinners to Use Up Leftovers

I haven't felt like being super gourmet with dinners this past week and a half, so I've been playing "what can I toss together quickly that uses up the stuff in my fridge?", and making up random meals and recipes a bit more often than usual. It's kind of a hit-or-miss process (especially with my picky-eater husband and my delicate stomach), but we had 3 big "wins" recently, so I figure I better document my recipes so I have them handy for next time!

Any time the first words out of my husband's mouth after tasting dinner are "We are definitely making this again!", you know it's a keeper :) Extra bonus, all 3 meals are dairy-free!!

Unfortunately I don't have pictures of any of them because they were just quickly assembled last-minute dinners that we ended up loving way more than anticipated! We'll for sure be making them again sometime, so I might be updating this post with pictures soon. In the meantime, feel free to use your imagination :)

Homemade Teriyaki Marinade with stuff you've already got in your kitchen:

Most of the "real" recipes call for rice vinegar, sesame oil, some kind of Japanese wine, fresh ginger root, and a bunch of other things that I'm sure take it to a whole new level of awesomeness and authenticity, but I don't have any of that stuff in my house regularly! So I kind of mish-mashed the general idea of several recipes with what ingredients I had, and what sounded (and smelled) about right, and we ended up loving the results!

Heads up, this recipe only makes enough for 3 or 4 servings, so you might want to double it. 

The Marinade:

- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (yes, it makes a big difference!)
- 2 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. oil
- 1 1/2 cloves minced or finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 3 Tbs. granulated sugar (white)
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

- 1 lb. chicken or pork, thawed and cut into strips or chunks

(This is just what I happened to have so it's what I used. It would also be great with water chestnuts and red and/or green bell peppers. Or a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies from the store, to make it even quicker!)
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 1 cup carrots cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup celery cut into disks

Mix together all ingredients of the marinade and pour over 1 lb. chicken or pork cut into strips or chunks. Let marinate in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. (if you don't have that long, just put it in the fridge until the veggies are ready to go.)

You could also put the meat and marinade in a ziplock bag and freeze it for an even quicker dinner later :)

Prepare your veggies of choice while you wait for the chicken to marinate.

Pour meat and marinade into a skillet (we don't have a wok) and cook on medium until the meat is cooked nearly through. Add veggies of choice for the last few minutes of cooking.

Serve over white rice.

Simple Lemon-Pepper Pasta with Broccoli

This one was truly a grab and dump experiment using leftovers in the fridge, so I'm not sure on measurements. 

Toss leftover fettuccine (or any other pasta) with 1 Tbs oil (give or take, depending on how much pasta. You don't want it slimy, just enough so it's not sticky and so the breadcrumbs and seasonings will stick.)

Add to the pasta and toss:
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbs. dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
- a dash of pepper
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Season pre-cooked chicken (I cooked too much earlier and had some ready in the fridge) with pepper, garlic salt, and fresh squeezed lemon juice, and add to the pasta mixture.

Serve with steamed broccoli.

Italian Yum

I definitely don't have measurements on this one. You know what proportions you like though :)

- 1 lb. raw chicken
- lettuce
- tomatoes
- cucumber
- Italian cheese blend or Parmesan (optional)
- Italian dressing
- tortillas and/or French bread (from a grocery store bakery or wherever)

Cut 1 lb. raw chicken into chunks and marinate in about 1/2 cup Italian dressing (enough to cover the chicken) for 30-60 minutes. (I used Wishbone's Bruschetta Italian dressing and it turned out great! Any kind of Italian will work though.)

While chicken is marinating, wash and chop up lettuce (we like Romaine), tomatoes, and cucumbers.

After marinating, cook chicken in a skillet on medium (or in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour if you have time).

Heat tomatoes in a skillet with a dash of Italian dressing until they are just starting to get soft. (Just about a minute or two, any longer and they'll get soggy and mushy)

Top chicken with cheese if desired, and serve chicken and tomatoes warm over lettuce and cucumbers as a salad with chunks of fresh French bread and extra Italian dressing, or serve in a tortilla as a wrap.

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