The shift in the weather last week from “vaguely summerlike” to “dead of winter” put me into a bit of a cooking frenzy. Cozy weather does that to me. I suddenly want to bake bread, whip up batches of cookies and simmer soups all day long. The problem is I tend to overestimate how much my family will eat, and my fridge fills up with leftovers.
For me, the trick is to disguise yesterday’s leftovers as today’s fresh meal. If we had grilled chicken and veggies on Monday night, I can’t pop open the Tupperware on Tuesday, reheat it as is and expect the starving masses to come running. Instead, I try to turn it into something else entirely.
One of my favorite ways to deal with leftovers is to bake them into a sandwich. Sound weird? It’s not. It’s delicious, and my family falls for it every time.
I begin with homemade French bread dough because that’s how I roll, but store-bought dough would work as well. For the record, this dough is insanely simple to make, so if you have an hour on your hands, you should definitely give it a try. Once the dough is made, you roll it out and start piling on the fillings.
This is the fun part. Look through your fridge for leftovers. Whatever it is, I guarantee that if you add cheese and sauce, you will have a winning combination. This past week, what I had to work with was chili, marinated balsamic chicken breast and shredded chicken.
In the end, sandwich No. 1 consisted of chili, crushed corn chips, pickled jalapenos and cheddar cheese. Sandwich No. 2 included sliced balsamic chicken breast, sweet peppers, pesto and Swiss cheese. And sandwich No. 3 was filled with shredded chicken, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese.
Other favorites include marinara sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese; deli meat, mustard and Swiss cheese; and plain old ranch dressing and cheddar cheese.
Do you see a pattern here? Add cheese. Then close up those sandwiches, bake to perfection and enjoy the heavenly scent that fills your kitchen. Your stomach – and your cleared-out fridge – will thank you.
To make two large sandwiches, prepare bread dough or thaw store-bought dough.
1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 ¼ cup hot water (as hot as you can get it out of the tap)
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ - 3 cups flour
Leftovers and cheese for filling
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add ingredients through vegetable oil. Let sit for a couple minutes until the yeast starts to look a little foamy. Add 1 cup of flour and mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes.
Gradually add the rest of the flour, mixing on low speed until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn off mixer and let rest in the bowl for 10 minutes. Mix again on low for 1 minute, then let rest for 10 minutes. Do this a couple more times, and then turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle. Transfer rolled-out dough to the baking sheet. Add fillings of choice, leaving a 1-inch border along the edges of the dough. Gently lift the edges up and over the filling and pinch the dough to seal it closed.
Place baking sheet in the oven, or you can cover the sandwiches with a clean dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sandwiches are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 10-20 minutes so the fillings set up a bit. Slice into 2-inch servings and enjoy!
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals. Her view of family life is firmly rooted in Spokane Valley. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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