There is always, without fail, too much food at our family shindigs.
The Labor Day cookout is an important American ritual, and ingrained in the American psyche is the need to over-cook.
And as glutinous as we all think it is…
we all do it.
So, here are a few ideas (using the regular picnic staples), plus some great recipes to keep those leftovers from the trashcan…
- Hamburgers: once they’ve cooled they tend to dry out, so when reclaiming them for another meal, think sauce. Break them up and use them in Sloppy Joes, spaghetti, tacos/taco salad (crumble them in a pan, add a little bit of water to moisten, taco seasoning and voila), crumble them and season in a pan with onions, garlic and green peppers and top baked potatoes, crumble them into a pot of chili, and when all else fails, freeze them until you can figure out what to do with them!
- Hot Dogs: cold shriveled hot dogs don’t look the most appetizing, so mask them in a kid-friendly dish – Beanie-Weanies are always a hit, pigs in a blanket, or cut up in some good ole mac and cheese.
- Brats: Let’s be honest, brats are good anytime. However, if you find yourself (strangely) with an overabundance, once of our favorite ways to reuse them is to throw them into a veggie skillet (cut into bite-sized chunks, saute with onions, green peppers, summer squash and any other veggies or your choice. Top with cheddar cheese and serve alongside roasted potatoes – amazing!)
- Steaks: Again, we typically don’t have many leftover steaks at our house, but steak is great chopped on top of a baked potato, thrown into a stir fry, diced into veggie soup, or handed to your hubby to chew cold. He will. Guys do that kind of thing.
- Chicken: Really, you can do anything with chicken! Our favorites are soups, stirfry, chicken salad and tacos.
- Coleslaw: save it to stuff your tacos for a zesty twist, use it as the base for stuffing pita pockets, then add lettuce, tomatoes and avocados for a light lunch
- Potato Salad: Quite frankly, potato salad is a winner all by itself! I don’t usually find a way to repurpose it because my kids and hubby eat it by the spoonful from the fridge!
- Fruit Salad: Turn leftover fruits and juices into smoothies, yogurt toppings for an easy breakfast or lunch, top it with vanilla pudding for a light dessert, or stick them with a tooth pick and freeze them on a cookie sheet for mini popsicles.
- Salad: Salads are great as leftovers, but make sure to drain any moisture before you store them. I stick mine in a colander over the sink to dry for about an hour before storing, in case the tomatoes were too juicy or the leaves were wet. Once it’s mostly drained, store it in an airtight container but use within about 24 hours for best flavor. Salad is great for topping sandwiches, wraps, pitas, or stuffing omelettes.
- Corn on the cob: Leftover corn can be cut from the cob and frozen for soups, stir fries, casseroles, etc. It’s also great in my favorite southern delicacy: Fried Corn (recipe below)
- Watermelon: Don’t throw away those last few pieces! Watermelon is mostly juice and makes great popsicles (just poke them with a stick and freeze individual pieces) or blend the chunks into your next smoothie.
- Deviled Eggs: Again, deviled eggs are another family icon, so there are rarely leftovers of these. However on the one or two occasions when this has happened, deviled eggs can easily become egg salad (with a little bit of messy chopping) for an easy lunch or light dinner.
What are your favorite picnic recipes? Trying anything new this Labor Day?
Fried corn is a Southern staple and, quite honestly, there is a science behind it.
The cast iron skillet.
Please, for the love of sweet tea and bacon, do not try to make Fried Corn in a regular old pan. Break out your grandma’s cast iron for this one…it’ll be worth it.
- Corn cut from the cob (fresh is optimal, but using leftovers is also an acceptable method!)
- bacon grease
- copious amounts of pepper
- more bacon grease
As you may have noticed, there is another art to Southern cooking, and that is the lack of written proportions in Southern recipes; you simply add something until it tastes good, then you stop. And then you add more pepper and bacon grease.
Fried Corn is a fool-proof way to use up leftover corn; simply use a sharp knife and cut it from the cob, then chill in the fridge until cooled through. Heat your cast iron on high, add the bacon grease, and when it starts to sizzle, add in your chilled corn. Fry the corn until slightly charred/brown on the edges of the kernels. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Then add some more. Serve with bacon. (that’s another Southern rule)
(note: you can also fry the corn in a high-heat oil. Grape seed is a good alternative as it has a very light flavor. However, if you do this, pinky-promise not to tell my Southern relatives that I recommended grape seed oil as an alternative to bacon grease. I will be disowned.)
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