5 Quick Fixes to Salvage a Good Meal

by Tisha Tolar on 6 November 2009 18 comments
Photo: CheaterChef

We've all likely burned a pot of something in our lifetime, but sometimes a ruined dinner may not be so ruined after all. Learn a few tricks of the trade and save yourself some time and money. As more and more families go back to basics and choose to stay home to eat, there is a big interest in the recipe industry and cooking shows. Catching a few episodes of these shows or investing in a new cookbook can certainly help to keep meals at home fresh and interesting. If you make a mistake during your experimentation, don't throw out the food. Use these 5 quick fixes to salvage a good meal.

Soup's too salty?

If you are making homemade soup and get a little excited about the salt, your dinner fare is certainly not ruined. Throw in a peeled, raw potato and let it cook in the soup for 20 minutes. The starch in the potato will absorb the excess salt. Remove the potato and use it to make homemade french fries or mash it up.

Pasta's hardly al dente?

Overcooking your pasta noodles is quite easy to do, especially when you have other things going on around the kitchen. Fear not. Simply run the pasta through cold water to halt the cooking process. Add tomato sauce and reheat. The acid in the sauce will help bring back a firm noodle.

Burned expensive steak?

Meat costs a fortune these days. In the pursuit of making sure meat is cooked fully, we may find that our steak gets a bit too well-done, especially for the kids. Simply slice it up and use it in other ways such as fajitas and stir-fry recipes.

Veggies gone limp?

It happens a lot — you buy fresh vegetables with the best of intentions and promptly forget about them after you've stocked the refrigerator. Limp vegetables can be brought back to life by adding them to a bowl of cold water (no ice) for a few minutes. Rewrap the vegetables in a clean, damp towel and return to the refrigerator.

Fruit going bad?

Wasting fruit is common because if not stored properly, fruit can go bad rather quickly. If you find fruit is always rotten before you get to eat it, make a mental note to stop buying so much fruit at one time or only purchase one or two kinds of fruit in small quantities when you do your shopping. It's better to run out than to throw out. If the fruit that you have isn't passing muster for eating, find some recipes for fruit smoothies and get to blending.

Rolls are stale?

There is nothing like fresh, steaming rolls for dinner but the next day, the fresh and steaming part seems to have left in its place hard, unappetizing pieces of bread. Next time, don't ditch the rolls. Instead, sprinkle them with some water, wrap them in foil and put them in the oven for about 10 minutes. They will be soft and piping hot for another dinner.

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Guest's picture
Karen

The potato-to-rescue-a-salty-soup thing is just an old wives' tale. It has been debunked a bazillion times; see here for example: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentI...
All the potato does is absorb some salty broth -- the remaining broth is still just as salty as it was.

Guest's picture
Guest

agreed-- I'd just add more water or veggies to the soup.

Guest's picture
Jenny

To keep celery fresh in the fridge longer, wrap it in aluminum foil. I've tried this, and it stays crunchy for almost 2 weeks, and good enough to use in cooked dishes for over a month. I haven't tried this with any other veggies, but I'll have to do some experimenting.

Guest's picture

I will definitely try the trick with celery. I've recently had two bunches of celery go soft on me and I can only use so much in soup. Thanks!

Guest's picture
Molly

Another use for older fruit is smoothies and baked goods - past ripe bananas are the best.

Guest's picture

Hubby & I have discovered that if you MICROWAVE stiff French bread briefly that it heats and softens it.

And if you want to make soup less salty - add vegetables, which would require salting - & it will be less salty - you are just trying to stretch the broth to restore normal balance between broth & salt - so also add more unsalty liquid - water and/or wine.

Guest's picture

i don`t know why i felt attracted to this article.. maybe because i`m on a diet and i saw a picture of food. :) anyhow.. the salt thing is relative. take me for example.. i can add as much salt as i want to the soup. and i still think it`s not enough.. but my girlfriend barely eats any salt.

Guest's picture
Guest

I wrap celery (like Jenny above) and green onions and cucumbers in foil to keep it fresher longer in the refrigerator. Works great.

Guest's picture
Allie

For fruit that's past its prime, you can also make butters, jams, jellies, preserves and pastes in addition to smoothies. Or freeze it for use later in baking projects.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the tips.
It's so easy to throw out food or think that you're a failure because you've let something slip. These 'get out of jail' tips are great for when you find yourself in a spot!!

Guest's picture

Another excellent use for stale bread/rolls is to make bread crumbs. Simply slice, toast the bread in the oven, and blend. It will keep for up to three months in the freezer :)

Guest's picture
croatian1

I have been married for 26 years now, and knew nothing about cooking when we were first married. Both my mom and mom in-law taught me this one. It has worked every time. I have even done this in chili and sloppy joes. So, give it a try all you will be wasting is a potato if it does not work for you. BUT, I know it will!!

Guest's picture
Guest

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentI... This was a blind test. Your tastebuds are probably fooled because you expect the potato to work - a sort of placebo effect.

Sugar to balance it out helps (or Splenda if you're concerned about sugar and calories), though.

Guest's picture
croatian1

Guest, again, I will beg to differ a potato to reduce the saltiness of a dish does work. You can show me untold studies, I base things on if they work for me, not studies. Try it, it is not all in my head either!

As far as sugar that is an acid reducer. When I can my homemade spaghetti sauce I add a pinch of sugar to each batch to reduce some of the acidity. This does not work for say cream sauces or soups, it would only add a sweetness to the finished product.

Tisha Tolar's picture

I am really glad I did this article because your additional tips are awesome! I am always looking for ways to salvage food. My daughter loves fresh veggies and fruit but it is so hard to keep for long and too expensive to waste or keep buying.

One thing I started doing that I am so glad I started it - chopping onions and green peppers and freezing them. Now I use them in so many things because they are handy. My daughter will eat them frozen as a snack because they are not as strong in flavor.  Not sure what else freezes well - shredded cheese is another one - but would love to know what you guys think!

Tisha Tolar

http://www.genxthenovel.com

http://www.trifectallc.com

 

Guest's picture
Devo K

Thanks for participating in the November KCC! Please don't forget to spread the word and post a link to it in your blog. Happy Thanksgiving!

Guest's picture
belly danc3r

can salvage a whole stale bread loaf (those artisan ones that can be rock hard after one to several days) by rinsing the whole thing under the faucet and sticking it into a toaster oven. love my toaster oven, for sure!!

Guest's picture
belly danc3r

stale bread can also be turned into bread pudding, probably how it was invented anyway.
or french toast.
here is a brazilian version:
http://www.chow.com/recipes/10859-rabanada-brazilian-style-french-toast