Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Got Leftovers? Frugal Cooking

When I was a professional chef, oft times there'd be leftover cooked meats and vegetables. These had to be remade into a new line item, "day's special," within 3 days. In homesteading or homemaking, it's no different. No mouthful is wasted. Just like in business, waste equals loss time and money. You took the time to grow your own vegetables with the optimal (and sometimes, sub optimal results). Still, every mouthful used counts against hunger, right?

My take on leftovers is this. If the dish has enough left over to serve again as a meal then do so once. Everything still leftover after that is judged whether or not it will make another meal or more. If this is the case, it is divided up into meal sized portions and frozen. I don't can what has been cooked twice. If there is less than a meal portion, the leftover is remade into something else. Sometimes, there is just the need to clean out the refrigerator which is usually my case.

With egg production and sales ramping up, our refrigerator is slap full of eggs. At least one designated shelf is. Our refrigerator is set up with four shelves and fresh compartments at the bottom. The top shelf is drinks (sodas, ice tea, milk, and items too large to fit anywhere else). The next shelf is leftovers. The third shelf is eggs (6 flats of 30 plus 6 dozen cartons of eggs). All are spoken for and waiting on delivery. We are collecting over a dozen eggs a day and have two brooding hens sitting on a dozen eggs. The last shelf is pans of meat for the week. The bottom compartments is sandwich meats/cheeses and fresh vegetables. I imagine yours is set up something similarly (maybe not with the all the eggs).😉

When the leftover shelf is full of leftover in food containers, it's time to clean the refrigerator. It takes about a week to get full even with putting items in the freezer and using them. The coolers come out and the refrigerator is emptied, and then broken down and cleaned top to bottom. What can I say, old chef's training dies hard.

I take an inventory of what is leftover and make a meal out of it. Less than a single servings of vegetables are put in the "soup" container in my freezer. It's a recycled gallon mayonnaise jar from our grocery store deli. When one gallon is full, I'll make a pot of soup.  Or, when two gallons are full, I'll can the soup. Every mouthful counts.

Today was "clean out the frig day." I'm looking at the less than 1/4 lb of each of raw ground beef and deer sausage, onion small onion with green leaves on the top, 1 forlorn clove of garlic that was turning brown, 3 cayenne peppers I had picked earlier, less than a cup of rice, 3 homemade flour tortillas, a meal's worth of corn, a 1/2"x 4" block of cheddar cheese, and a rib of limp celery.

A menu began forming in my mind. Tonight, I'd go south of the border to Mexico. Well, sort of. Call it a American/Caribbean version of their dishes. What changes a meat laced side dish into an entrée? The amount of meat used, of course. I had almost 1/2 a pound which is more than enough for two adults.

Dirty Rice, Leftover Style
Makes 3 servings

What you'll need
1/2 lb ground meat or any combination
1 small onion, diced green and all
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped*
1 rib of celery, chopped leaves and all
1 cayenne pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1 tsp Cajun spice blend*
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup rice, cooked
                                                             1/2 cup beef broth
                                                             Salt to taste

* Notes- I omitted the bell pepper because Mel doesn't like them.
*Are you still buying the salt laden Cajun seasoning? Why? You probably have all the ingredients to make it in your spice rack already. Hold on, I can fix this for you.

Cajun Seasoning Blend
Makes 1 cup

What you'll need
2 TBS paprika- sweet, smoky, or common
2 TBS garlic powder
2 TBS dried oregano
2 TBS onion powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
About 1 TBS oil or fat from meat

  • Place all ingredients in coffee grinder and pulse until mixture is coarse ground as shown in the picture. Store in air tight container.

Putting it all together

  • Brown ground meat in a medium saucepan.
  •  Drain off remaining fat, leaving 1 TBS of fat in the meat. *
  • Add onions, celery, garlic, pepper, and seasonings to the pot.
  • Cook until the onions are translucent. Add beef broth.
  • Be sure to scrape the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the rice. Stir well. Bring back to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and let steam for 10 minutes.
  • Serve.

The leftover tortillas and the little bit of cheese made quesadillas. Three-quarters of one made an excellent serving size. I reheated the corn with some butter. I had dinner whipped up lickity-split and who would know except you that it was made from leftovers or the condition some of the vegetables were in? It was delicious and my refrigerator is clean too.

Wow😲 this makes close to 100 recipes, cooking stories, how to cooking/culinary back to basics skills, and tips/notes I've posted in here! I still have so much more to share.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo


  1. Actually, I never thought to organize my fridge like that! Well, I never thought to organize it at all, lol. I don't have all the eggs, but I have plenty of half-gallons of fresh milk, waiting to be made into cheese. But I like the concept of how you're doing it. I've only got three shelves, plus two skimpy little drawers on the bottom. I could probably remove those if I could gain a little space. Something to think about.

    So when are you going to put all your recipes, cooking stories, how to cooking/culinary back to basics skills, and tips/notes into a book?

    1. It's coming along slowly but surely. It's all most done finally. Putting together a cookbook is tough balancing various menus. Getting the pictures is the worst part.

  2. I love this post. I have a gallon baggie I keep in the freezer for small amounts of leftovers for soup. Friends think it's weird. I believe in waste not want not. Your recipes sound fantastic too!

    1. Martha, Welcome! Here too. Little baggies get swallowed up in my chest freezer though. Even gallon bas do to. I was going to get my chicken feet for bone broth and I almost had to empty the freezer to find them. It's like saving veggie scraps in your freezer for soups.


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