Leftovers – the fiscally smart choice

Sam and I have become big fans of leftovers for lunches. It almost sounds like an awareness program, and maybe it should be. All too often we’re guilty of food waste. For years I was one of those people who almost always refused to eat leftovers, especially meat. Occasionally Sam would offer to eat them, however it always seemed that within a week I was pulling multiple containers of science projects out of the fridge to make room for their replacements. In truth, we were lazy and poor consumers who were being irresponsible with the bounty that we’d been blessed with. For us it was always more appealing to stop at a fast food restaurant and pick up a value meal instead of reheating last nights dinner.

Even today, there are many times when I look over the supper dishes and see two bites of mashed potatoes, a spoonful of green beans, three slices of tomato, and a tiny piece of meat left, my first response is to just chuck it in the bin since there’s really isn’t that much left. But lately, Sam and I have tried to make the effort to become more responsible consumers, which means utilizing our leftovers, no matter how much or little. And, because its just the two of us, I try not to make recipes that yield more than 6 servings. Occasionally there are recipes that make larger portions, and before the food ever hits the table I make sure to divide the meal up into freezer containers and store them for quick meals to be eaten in a few weeks time when I don’t feel like cooking.

In these tough economic times, many people are looking for ways to make their money stretch, and I can assure you that eating leftovers is a great way to save $15-$35 a week (depending on your poison). Yeah, it gets old eating the same food two meals in a row, but having the extra cash in your pocket sure is nice.

Okay, I’ll step down from my soapbox and get on with the real reason for this post. Last night’s dinner. The meal in and of itself wasn’t fancy, but it sure was tasty, and thanks to my keen planning, Sam will be dining on a hot and spicy lunch of Inferno Chicken today, which I’m pretty sure we will be having again. Please, don’t scoff at the name either. It really is that hot and spicy. Let me assure you that it was so hot for me that my ears were tingling as I was eating it, and I’m feelin’ the burn even still today, if you catch my drift.

Now this is one of those recipes that I just made up as I was going along…which is not unusual for me. I love reading cookbooks, but I really hate cooking straight from a recipe. In fact, my cooking philosophy is that a recipe is merely a suggested list of ingredients; an idea for a dish; but not anything that’s set in stone. Cooking should be an organic process – one where you feel free to experiment with new flavors, new ingredients, new techniques; and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a chef, and I’ve certainly offered up some pretty awful dishes in my day, but the more I continue to experiment, and the more I understand how flavors usually work together I now feel more free to cook from the hip instead of from a book.

Inferno Chicken is one of those organic creations that just seemed to come together perfectly. A few weeks back, Sam and I made a huge batch of hot pepper jelly with peppers from our garden. And I want you to know this jelly was hot, hot, HOT. I mean, wicked hot! We made both a red pepper and a green pepper batch, each using jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne’s, serrano’s, and bell peppers. The red pepper batch is more sweet and fruity while the green pepper batch is very green and fresh tasting, however both are equally as hot. And, since we have tons of the stuff I’m trying to find unique ways to use it since we really don’t know many people in the South who like spicy foods.

So, if you’re one of the millions of folks who do like hot and spicy foods, I encourage you to give this dish a whirl, but make sure you have plenty of liquid refreshment on hand, because you’re gonna need it. And keep in mind, this dish is going to only be as hot and spicy as the pepper jelly you’re using and the level of heat of the hot peppers. Since my pepper jelly was flaming hot to begin with and my jalapenos are Biker Billies my chicken was smoldering.

Inferno Chicken

1 cup of hot pepper jelly
1/4 cup of butter or margarine
3 fresh jalapeno or habanero peppers, roughly chopped
1 – 2 pounds of chicken pieces – your choice
2 tablespoons corn starch

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small sauce pan, heat pepper jelly, butter, and jalapeno to a gentle boil. You just want to thin out the jelly and soften the peppers.

3. Wash and pat dry chicken pieces. Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and spoon enough jelly mixture into the bottom of the pan to give it a thin coating. Place the chicken pieces in the pan and pour the remainder of the jelly mixture over the chicken, making sure to evenly coat all the chicken.

4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

5. Remove pan from oven, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and drain most of the cooking liquid off of the chicken and back into the small sauce pan you used to make the jelly mixture.

6. Place chicken back in the oven to continue to cook and brown up. While the chicken is finishing up, bring the jelly mixture you strained off the chicken back up to a rolling boil.

7. Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup water and stir until completely dissolved. Pour cornstarch mixture into jelly and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute to achieve full thickness.

8. Remove chicken from the oven (once it’s completely cooked) serve with a few spoon fulls of ‘glaze’.

Enjoy the burn!


One thought on “Leftovers – the fiscally smart choice

  1. Niecey

    We do leftovers for lunch here. We fight over them actually. hehe. I liked that you said “chuck it in the bin”. Nice bit of Scottish there.

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