Archive for the ‘Using Up Leftovers’ Category

If you stock homemade granola in your kitchen, and you have small children with incredibly variable appetites, you are likely to have come across the leftover granola issue. After the cost of the high quality ingredients, and the time of mixing and baking each batch, to throw away even just a half cup of it just about kills me.

So, I save up the leftovers in a pint jar in the freezer. When it’s full, I make these puppies, and redeem my children’s otherwise wasteful habits.

This recipe is from an old post, full of all kinds of jumble. But since I myself have G**gle searched “apronstringz leftover granola muffins” at least half a dozen times since publishing it, it occurred to me today that maybe I had better give it it’s very own brand new post. They are really good!

Cinnamon Crumble Muffins (wink)

makes one dozen very tall muffins

  • 1 pint jar (2 cups) leftover granola and milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil (don’t be afraid of olive oil for baking btw, it works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose (plus 1/2 cup or more if necessary)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins (optional)

for the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats

Butter your muffin tin generously. I never used to use butter to grease pans, but have since realized that it does a much better job than oil and makes a delicious crust to boot.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat all the wet ingredients together, whisk the dry ingredients together, then fold the dry into the wet. Add the extra 1/2 cup or more of white flour until you have a thick batter. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon like soft ice cream. Fill the muffin cups to the brim, and then even a teeny bit more. This recipe fit (barely) into my tin, which I think has 1/2 cup sized cups.

Dump all the crumble ingredient together in the empty batter bowl and mash/stir until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle onto muffins. It will seem like way too much, but keep trying to pack it on there. As the muffins bake and expand, the tops will suck up the crumble and it will be perfect! Pat the tops so that the crumble stays put. If you really can’t fit all the crumble on, save it in your freezer for your next batch o’ muffs.

Pop into the oven. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350. Starting at a high heat like this helps make your muffins nicely domed. Bake another- oh hell I don’t know, I never time ’em- 10 minutes? They’re done when the tops feel springy, stick a butter knife in if you’re not sure, there should be sticky crumbs but no batter clinging.

Cool on a wire rack, where the 3YO can’t reach if you want to have any crumble left for anyone else.

Post Script: Add chocolate chips to the batter, and top with frosting and sprinkles for some big mama points!


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I know you have a glut of crudely dyed eggs in your fridge. I know you’re wondering how you are going to get them all eaten before they go bad.

Here’s one idea. I did this with the ones that got cracked during the dying process. Considering we have a 4yo and a 2yo, there were quite a few.

First make a batch of butter pie dough, here’s my recipe. The key to flaky, whole wheat, all butter crust is keep it cold (cold! cold! cold! cold!) The butter should feel solid and only slightly yielding while you are working it in, like stiff clay.

While the pie dough chills, peel your eggs and crush with a fork (I used 5 eggs and made 6 very overstuffed pockets.) Stir in some grated cheese, chopped garden spinach or arugula and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I also threw in some leftover cooked potatoes. Obviously, this recipe is quite flexible. Just use already cooked or very quick cooking items, and nothing juicy or wet.

Now, roll out your chilled dough into a rough rectangle. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how big you want the pockets. Put a scoop of filling on each square of dough. If you’re new to filled dough pockets, use half as much filling as I did on each square, these were really challenging to seal.

Now carefully lift up, fold and pinch the edges together to seal. This is a bit trickier than it sounds, particularly if you’ve done as I did, not as I said, and way over-stuff them. But since these have no saucy element, it’s okay if the edges don’t seal 100%.

Bake in a preheated 400 F oven 15-25 minutes until nicely golden brown. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before you try to eat them, 20 before serving to children– they stay pretty burny inside.

These freeze beautifully. Reheat in the toaster oven.

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I never get too far away from this subject in my mind, apparently: the challenge of putting good food on the table day after day, after day, after day.

Though I have waxed poetic in the past, today’s revisit is purely practical.

Pasta. With lentils. Damn is that some fine food! Every time I eat beans and noodles together I promise myself I will remember how good the combination is. And every time, two days out, I forget again and think “Pasta? With beans? Wouldn’t that be weird?”

Last night’s incarnation involved leftover penne mixed with leftover lentil soup thawed from frozen two days ago (complete with potatoes and carrots) mixed with one leftover hamburger patty, crumbled up. Sounding crazy? Wait, there’s more! The soup was very thick, so I added a puck of frozen chopped tomatoes and a healthy glug of olive oil to the skillet. I had a small handful of peas from the garden too. I heated it all up over high heat so that the pasta got that little bit of a fried texture and all the flavors thoroughly infused.

How can something so humble, concocted of such seemingly random and incongruous items, taste so delicious! Leftovers or no, I encourage you to try lentils with pasta soon.

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I go to the farmer’s market every week, mostly for milk and meat. Because I like to make outings efficient, we often go somewhere else after the market, so I have a giant insulated cooler bag that I put all my groceries in to keep things cool for the few hours until we get home. Since I always buy frozen meat, it works pretty nicely. Except for the weeks when I buy a whole chicken and goat meat, and then take a long outing. Everything stays perfectly cold, that’s not the problem, but if we’re out very long the chicken and the goat are partly thawed by the time we get home and I don’t want to put either back into the freezer (freeze thaw freeze thaw=decreased quality). So I leave them both in the fridge and tell myself I will use them both before they go bad.

I do use them both before they get bad, but in case you have not had the good fortune to discover this, goat meat doesn’t age well. Even after just a few days in the fridge it starts to taste…. like a goat. This has happened a few times now. Am I going to learn a lesson here folks? Ever? Just put the burger back in the freezer, stupid, it will be fine. Better a little dry than tasting like a sweaty goat’s ass.

Last night I opened the package of goat burger which had been in the fridge for 4 days to make dinner. Oof. Dang. Well, there’s always spices, right? Lots of garlic, black pepper, thyme, a little sage. I fried it all up, added a pile of homegrown savoy cabbage and brown rice. Dinner! It smelled perfectly promising to me.

My Man took one sniff and said, non-commitaly, “What kind of meat is this?” I know I’ve left it in the fridge too long when he asks what kind of meat it is. Fresh goat meat has no goat smell or flavor at all, just a nice rich real meat flavor. But even I had trouble finishing my meat last night. It was the aftertaste that got you. A little too suggestive of it’s origin.

There I was, with a big pile of meat that nobody except the 4yo wanted to eat (she loved it!) At $8/lb, I was not going to throw it to the chickens. So I followed the lead of traditional food cultures around the world and spiced the shit out of that funky meat. I simmered it in enchilada sauce for 40 minutes. Then I layered it with beans, cheese and tortillas. Voila! Goat, rearranged.


Even if you don’t ever have the musky meat problem, this is a great way to make enchiladas. You can use any kind of leftover cooked meat– roast chicken, pot roast, burger, or fresh meat too of course. If you get stew chunks (usually a good price) you can simmer them in thinned down enchilada sauce for a couple of hours to get some super tender, rockin’ flavored meat. But I find these enchiladas an especially good way to use up the not-quite-full-meal’s-worth of meat we often have leftover.

My enchilada recipe is really more of a style. I don’t know how traditional it is, and I don’t care, it’s very easy. I always use canned sauce, I just have not mastered a homemade sauce that tastes right. I only make these once every few months anyway.

Enchilada Stack Up

Put whatever meat you have in a pot, cover with sauce, then add a little water if you are planning to cook it a long time, or no water if you are just doing a quick cook. Simmer for 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your meat.

Here’s the only real key (and the only real work) to these enchiladas: the tortillas must be fried. Use a good half inch of high temp oil, and fry each tortilla for 15-20 seconds on each side. They don’t need to brown, and you don’t want them to get crispy. Just lusciously soft and oily. Drain well over the pan before stacking on a rack. You will want 3-4 tortillas per person, or 9-12 total for a family of four (I used 11). Just to make sure we’re on the same page, they must be corn tortillas, flour tortillas just dissolve into grossness.

When your meat is ready, pour a little of the sauce off into a 7×9 inch baking dish. Layer 3-4 tortillas on the bottom. Check out that photo up there, there is actually four tortillas on top, I ripped one in half and set it ripped side to the edge of the pan. Can you see it under there? Makes for a more even distribution of corny-ness.

Now use a slotted spoon to dredge some meat out of the sauce. Spread half your meat out over the tortillas, add in some black beans if you have them, sprinkle your preferred quantity of cheese on top, then do the whole thing all over again for a total of two layers. Top with the last of the tortillas, then pour the remaining sauce from the meat pot over everything. Sprinkle with some more cheese, cover with foil or parchment, then into a 350F oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove cover and cook another 20 or so until bubbly and delicious looking.

Important! Serve with Mexican slaw– shredded cabbage and carrot with garlicky lime mayonnaise dressing– to cut the heavy protein-ness of this meal.

Maaaaa-aaa, maaaa-aaa.


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Am I a punk?

Hell no, not by any punk standard anyway. No tattoos, no piercings, I change my clothes almost every week, and I live in a house with just one family. My life looks purty damn square to the punk eye.

But, by housewife standards, I like to think I can edge into the punk category. Which is a relief to my mind.

I’ve been meaning to start a series of Punk Housewife Tips, and my most recent, most brilliant discovery yet simply begged me to finally get to it! Enter Tip #1: Turning stale homemade wheat bread into breakfast cereal!

Not sure what finally knocked it through my thick head, but at some point I realized that Grape Nuts (much loved by My Man, but rarely purchased ‘cuz I’m a DIYer doncha know, and we eat homemade granola round here) are just toasted wheat bread crumbs. It started as a suspicion that seemed to simple to be true. But then my suspicion turned into a hunch, and then my hunch turned into an experiment, and my experiment was a success!

I don’t know about you, but we actually don’t eat that much bread around here. Typical scenario: I make 2 loaves. We finish off half of the first loaf while it’s still hot, the other half over the next day or two. The second loaf, at three days old is starting to sound less desirable (homemade whole wheat doesn’t stand the test of time very well). We eat a slice here and there and a week later there’s 3/4 of a loaf going moldy. Sure I make french toast, bread pudding, stuffing, bread crumbs for gratins, breading, meatballs, etc, etc. But a good use for stale whole wheat bread is never amiss.

I’m still monkeying with the recipe, but here’s the basics:

Homemade Grape Nits

(that’s what we always called ’em)

Take your half-eaten stale loaf of homemade whole wheat bread, cut the mold off around the corners, and crumble it with your hands into a big bowl. If it’s a regular recipe whole wheat and truly stale, it should crumble easily. (If it’s a long rise type recipe, with a gluey-er structure, you might have to throw the slices into a food processor). Crumble the pieces very small, grape nut sized. For every 2 cups of crumbs mix in a spare 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon honey. This makes an authentically not sweet cereal. If you want it to be sweet, add another Tablespoon honey or sugar (I think the caramelly flavor of Rapadura sugar would be perfect, it sure makes good tasting granola). Stir thoroughly to ensure every crumb is moistened. Spread the Nits evenly onto a greased cookie sheet, not too thick in the event you are doing a large batch. Bake at 275 F for 20-60 minutes, however long it takes to turn a medium brown all over. If the edges are browning too fast, stir them toward the middle and spread the blondies to the edge.

The browning is important, don’t skimp. It took me years of granola making to discover just how important it is. Toasted grains have an entirely different flavor– richer, nuttier, caramelly, complex, more. When you throw sugar or honey into the mix, you’re making a little actual caramel, which also enhances the crunch. But do be careful, it goes from brown to black kind of fast, so watch closely toward the end.

When nicely browned turn the oven off, but leave the pan in to continue drying out. Allow to cool completely to room temperature, pour into a large jar or bag and keep well sealed so that the Nits stay crunchy.

Bonus Tip!!! Cut an old (clean) milk jug like so for a DIY granola/grape nit funnel! Otherwise your kitchen floor will feel like a pebbly beach. Trust me.

Like the real thing, you can’t just pour the milk on and eat straight away or you’ll get a headache. You have to give the milk a few minutes to begin absorbing, but not too long, lest it become sodden. There’s a magical sweet spot there.

Now if I were a real punk, I wouldn’t have a food processor, and the oven in our anarchy squat house wouldn’t work because the gas was turned off. I would feed my leftover bread to my housemate’s stray looking pit bull instead. But that would all be a moot point since I’d be eating dumpstered fruit loops for breakfast anyway.

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Today is my birthday. After breakfast, we’re going to drive to get our four new chickens. The coop is (almost) all ready. What a great birthday present! Tomorrow morning– eggs maybe!

In the meantime, I’d better use up the Goat Man’s eggs (from the farmer’s market). As I tucked her in last night, the 3YO requested “that big deyishious pancake that’s as hot as a fire and has apples on top” for breakfast. First time she’s ever pre-requested breakfast, or any other meal, for that matter. Shows a certain ability to grasp the future.

I know there’s lots of recipes out there for what most people call Dutch babies, or puff pancakes. But they all seem unnecessarily complicated or ridiculously rich. This is my whole wheat tweak on my mom’s recipe. It’s super easy, and just a little rich. She always called them German pancakes, and topped them with cooked apples.

If you’ve never had these before, they puff up gorgeously in the oven, and then fall back down as they cool. So plan on bringing that big beauty straight to the table, scalding hot, with everything else read to go. And keep little fingers away. Seriously.

Fiery Deyicious German Pancakes

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup white all purpose
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Maple Apple Topping

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • a bunch of leftover, half-eaten apples, or 2 big virgins
  • maple syurp
  • cinnamon

Turn the oven to 375. Although the pancake itself is super easy, the order of doing all the other particulars is important, so that everything else is on the table and ready to go when the pancake comes out. Start by slicing up the apples. You can cook them while the cake’s in the oven, but get them sliced up now. I like to use all my kids’ half-eaten apples, which I keep in the fridge until I have a pile. Then I make this pancake, or this pie, or a big pot of applesauce.

Whisk together everything for the batter except the butter, or just throw into the blender and whiz away. Get out an 8 inch cast iron, oven proof skillet or pie pan and set the butter in it. When the oven reaches temperature, stick the pan in. As soon as the butter starts to spit (watch so it doesn’t burn), remove the pan and swirl to coat. Give the batter a stir in case it’s separated, then pour right into the hot pan, it will sizzle and make a big fuss. Pop it into the oven, and then DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN for at least 15 minutes.

Now get those apples cooking. Melt the butter in a large cast iron over medium-high heat, throw the apples in and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Cook five minutes or until about half done, then drizzle on maple syrup. It doesn’t take much, since the apples themselves are very sweet. I probably use 1/4 cup? Ish. Maybe less. Keep the heat high, keep stirring, and the syrup and apple juices will reduce into a lovely ambrosial goo. If the apples still aren’t softened enough, put a lid on and simmer on low until they are.

Meanwhile, if your oven has a window you can actually see through, turn the oven light on and let the kids watch– after ten minutes or so the pancake starts to puff. It puffs, and it puffs, and it puffs! It should look like a crazy crater. When it turns beautiful burnished brown on the upper edges and is set in the middle, it’s done.

Quick! Get everybody to the table, which you should have set while the pancake was baking and the apples were cooking! Present the glory! Cut while still “hot as a fire” and serve big wedges with apples piled on top.

Happy birthday to me!

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Forget the flowers. To get me weak in the knees, give me a luscious bunch of orange and fuschia chard.

Swiss chard (silverbeet for some of you) is good eating, don’t get me wrong. But damn is it fine to look at! Those Rubenesque stems in every color imaginable. Those enormous succulent dark green wrinkled velvet leaves. Oh my!

I like Orange Fantasia and Pink Lipstick. I mean, in varieties of chard. The only problem with chard is that the prettiest varieties are the ones with mammoth stems, and the 36-24-36 proportions that look so heady on the plant never seem quite right in the kitchen. So little leaf, so much stem. So few ideas how to use those stems…

And that chard, true to it’s lascivious proportions, keeps on putting out! Every trip to the garden lately finds me returning with a 10 pound bouquet.

Enter my latest, and possibly best to date, recipe brainchild. Unlike that last recipe for empanadas, this is easy! Quick! Nutritious! And extremely tasty! Dare I say, these muffins do a better housewife make….

Now, understand that I do not mean savory, cheesy chard muffins, which would be delicious in their own right. I mean sweet chard muffins. Like carrot cake or zucchini bread. I’m not the first person to think of vegetables going sweet, but I’ve never heard of a sweet greens recipes before. Have any of you?

I first got the fire under my kettle for Swiss chard muffins a few weeks ago. I don’t remember how or why, but suddenly I found myself thinking, ‘chard stems—rhubarb… chard greens—sorrel pudding (Icelandic)… zucchini bread… chard muffins!’ and I knew I had to try it.

I did almost chicken-out at the last minute and go the savory direction. But fortunately for all of us, and generations to come, I powered through the second-guessing and gave it a go. What’ve I got to lose anyway?

There is an ever so slightly mineral, beety flavor to these which could potentially put picky people off, but it’s very, very slight. I can almost guarantee that if you like zucchini bread you’ll like these. I personally found that the barely detectable mineral flavor gave the sweetness complexity.

If you wash your chard, be sure to dry it thoroughly before adding it, or it will make the batter too wet. You can use both stems and leaves, or just the stems. I’ve tried both and couldn’t really taste the difference. But if you have little people who might be offended by green specks, leave them out. Plus, isn’t it nice to have a way to use up all that extra stem?

Slice the stems very thinly, almost shredding them. If the ribs are very wide, cut in half lengthwise first.

This recipe makes one dozen. When I make muffins lately I like to bake off half in my little six cup tin in the toaster oven. Then I line another muffin tin with paper liners, fill and freeze the rest. Cook’s Illustrated turned me on to this. Muffin batter freezes great, and you can bake them off straight from the freezer! Who knew? Muffins, especially the whole grain variety, are so much better freshly baked. Now you don’t have to eat them any other way! The frozen muffins only take an extra 10 minutes or so to bake.

Unlike those pesky empanadas, this is a great recipe for cooks of any skill level!

CJ’s Best Brain Child

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup white all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking powder, baking soda, powdered ginger and cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and allspice*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups firmly-packed shredded chard stems and leaves, or just stems
  • 1/2-1 cup walnuts, optional of course
  • apx 2 Tablespoons water

*If you don’t have all those particular spices, use whatever you have. Or use pumpkin pie spice, which is really a great mix. As long as your spices are reasonably fresh (I mean, less than 2 years old) it’ll be good.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Starting out at a high heat helps make the lovely domed tops that whole grain muffins often lack.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Crack in the eggs, pour in the fats, chard and nuts, and gently fold/stir the lot together. An advantage of whole wheat pastry flour is you really don’t have to worry about overworking the batter.

When everything is mostly incorporated, drizzle on the water and keep folding until you have a very thick but workable batter. You might not need both tablespoons of water.

Scoop into well buttered or paper lined tins. Fill each cup completely, the old advice of 2/3 full might work for white flour muffins, but it doesn’t work for wheat.

Put into your preheated oven and leave for ten minutes or so until the edges have set, then lower the temperature to 375 F. Leave another 5-15 minutes. Muffins are done when you can press your finger lightly into the top and feel the spring back of a squishy muffin, instead of the give of puffed raw batter. If you aren’t certain, stick a butter knife into the center muffin. It should come out clean, wet crumbs maybe, but no batter clinging.

Allow muffins to rest in pan for ten minutes, then carefully remove to a rack to cool.

Or bounce hot muffins back and forth between your fingers, jumping up and down yipping like a coyote. If you want to make your kidlets laugh.

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