If your refrigerator is like mine, it harbors an odd assortment of leftovers and jars of almost-gone food. So can you do with these items? Try these suggestions on for size:
Salad dressing. It's a rare refrigerator that doesn't have an assortment of almost-empty salad dressing bottles. With any oil and vinegar dressings like Caesar, Italian or other vinaigrettes, mix them together to marinade beef, pork or chicken. The oil adds flavor, the vinegar (or other acid like lemon juice) tenderizes. You'll need enough to coat the meat or poultry, then cover and refrigerator it for at least an hour before roasting, grilling or baking.
Applesauce. That last bit of applesauce will make a wonderful coleslaw dressing. Make sure you have about 1/2 cup applesauce left and then add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/3 teaspoon celery salt, 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Apply the lid, shake well and toss with 4 cups shredded cabbage or packaged coleslaw mix. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld. Yield: 8 servings.
Cooked rice. Turn that rice into a wonderful quiche crust. Mix together 2 cups white or brown leftover cooked rice, one beaten egg and one teaspoon soy sauce. Spread evenly to cover a well-buttered quiche or pie pan. Bake crust at 350 F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Place any kind of fresh or frozen vegetables (broccoli is a good choice) or meat in bottom of crust. Mix together 4 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half, salt and pepper to taste and a dash of nutmeg. Pour over vegetables. Top with 1 cup grated cheese (Swiss, cheddar, Jack or any combination). Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near center of pie comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving. You can practically clean out the refrigerator into your quiche pan. Just remember to add the cheese last to make a beautiful mellow, brown crust on the top.
Mashed potatoes. Leftover mashed potatoes make a great topper for most any casserole. Shepherd's pie is a great example: Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, and saute 1 pound ground or shredded turkey, 1/4 cup minced celery and 1/2 cup chopped onion until brown. Add 3/4 cup beef or chicken broth, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the peas. Pour mixture into an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Spread the leftover mashed potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with a little paprika for color (optional). Bake for 30 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.
Buttermilk. That 1/2 cup of buttermilk won't last forever. Before it goes bad, use it to make fabulous oven-fried fish. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray. In a flat dish or pan mix together 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, stirring with a fork until blended. Pour the buttermilk into a shallow bowl. Cut fish fillets to equal four servings (catfish is perfect for this recipe) into portion-sized pieces. Dip each piece in the buttermilk and then in the cornmeal mixture, making sure to dip both sides of each piece. Place on the sprayed foil. Drizzle olive oil over the fillets or spray with olive oil-flavored cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.