Thursday, January 2, 2014

Phenomenal Tip: What To Do With Holiday Left-Overs

Now that the holiday festivities are done, do you also find your kitchen brimming with left-overs? There are party left-overs and heaps of foodie gifts.  What do you do with them?  

I usually look at this as an opportunity... an opportunity to escape from cooking.  Hahaha! I often prepare so much food (on purpose) on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve... to have leftovers! Isang pahirapan lang, and I escape from kitchen duty for about 1-2 days. #lazycook

Here's how I keep party left-oversI portion them out freezer-safe containers, in quantities good enough for my family of five. I put effort in organizing the storage of our excess holiday food, because I know I will appreciate it a few days or even weeks down the line. Not only will my husband be thanking me for being cost-effective, I will also be benefiting from the food-storage planning that I made. I don’t know about you, but I have always avoided cooking for a few days after preparing all the food for Christmas Eve and New year’s Eve. Is there such a thing as getting umay from doing too much cooking? Holiday left-overs are there to MY rescue!

My parents-in-law host the Christmas party for their side of the family every year. They have this first week of December, and their party signifies the start of the holidays for us. This year, my sister-in-law wisely planned ahead and brought re-usable food storage containers. All their guests usually look forward to bringing home a portion of their favorite food – and I am no exception!:)

Other than party food leftover, our family usually get a lot of scrumptious home-baked goods (Because nothing says EXTRA-SPECIAL more than home-made goodies!) and other foodie treats from friends, and we LOVE receiving them! But we often get them at the same time, which is a week or two before Christmas. I want to share with you what I did to help reduce our food waste and prevent my family from over-indulging.

1. Serve right away.
We got this Japanese cheesecake covered with cream and fresh fruits.  We did not really have a problem with storage, because it was so good my family of five finished the entire cake in two days!  Yeah, I know it's a fail... while there was zero food waste, we over-indulged here!:) But no regrets!

2. Share them!  
This year, we got this ginormous tub of gabi ice-cream which came all the way from Orani, Bataan.  Because it came in a gallon size, it is obviously meant to be shared - with a whole LOT of people!
Because we couldn't finish it on our own, I brought it with me to two holiday dinner parties where the unique flavor was appreciated by our friends.

3. Save them for Christmas and New Year festivities. 
We got a lot of our favorite sweets, and I got a two handfuls and placed them in a bowl on our dining table to welcome the New Year.  It has been our tradition to welcome the New Year with our dining table laden with sweets of all kinds and a big basketful of an assortment of round fruits. 

As soon as my husband received this stuffed chicken from a colleague, I wrapped it tightly with foil and kept it in the freezer.  I thawed it, and prepared it in time to include it for our Christmas Eve Dinner.

Here are the Top Three foodie gifts we love to receive and how I store them for future use:

One of the gifts we often receive and most appreciate is home-made sweet ham. As soon as we get one, I slice it up and store it in several batches. One of our favorite breakfast food is ham and pandesal with hot choco. We love it so much that a few days before December ends, we order some more to keep our personal supply of ham deep into the first few weeks of the new year.

When I store ham, I look at it as ingredients. I slice, dice, and cube them up and store in small freezer bags to keep ready for sandwiches, soups, omelettes, etc. I have used this system for several years now, and this has saved me from when I am too lazy to prepare anything for lunch other than a ham and cheese omelette.

The key here is to store them in different cuts and in small batches. If you are looking for ways to cook with left over ham, you can get some ideas here.

We got this jarful of cookies from a friend who is a very gifted home-maker.  It was finished a few days before Christmas, so no need to store. But she also gave us my favorite date and walnut bars, which I carefully wrapped in foil and cling wrap.  I get one bar a day as an after-dinner treat... yes I love it soo much that I don't share!:) It's hidden far away from tiny hands. hee-hee-hee! 
Cupcakes, cakes and cookies are welcomed with both arms open by everyone in our home, but the problem is when we get them all at the same time, or just several days apart. Sweets store well in the freezer, if they are wrapped properly.  I wrap the sweets tightly with foil and then with plastic or clingwrap, and I defrost in the refrigerator a day before serving. I have saved both time and money several Christmases now because of this. It saves me time from preparing dessert, and also saves me money from buying/ordering items to add to our family’s dessert selection during our Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve dinners.

Like us, I am sure you also get baskets and boxes of fresh fruits.  While we enjoy them as is or as smoothies, there are always a few that are left to rot if left on the kitchen counter. So what I do is I freeze what I can - while I still can. Fruits can easily turn rotten in just a matter of days. When I get a large quantity as gifts, I immediately clean one half (if necessary, I also peel and cut it up into smaller pieces) and store in the freezer because they keep longer this way.  I have already mentioned it here that our smoothies are made with frozen fruits to help with the texture of the smoothie. You can view how I make my smoothie here. On the other hand, the other half of the fruits I keep on the kitchen counter to serve to my family.
We received a lot of fruit baskets, but this particular box was sent over by my Mother-in-Law on the morning of New Year's Eve.  Yearly, she thoughfully sends over a basket of round fruits to add to my New Year's table.
We were grateful to be gifted with three containers of these New Zealand strawberries.  I promptly cleaned them all, and served half of the quantity to my family in the next three days.    The remaining half of the berries I kept in the freezer.  I thawed some and served it when I made Cooke Butter French toast here.
This is how I made sure that my family enjoyed those food gifts the past holiday season without the danger of over-indulging.  How about you?  What do you do with your holiday leftovers?