Tips for Utilizing Leftovers

1. Make soup: Meat, beans, vegetables, fish, pasta, rice, potatoes, anything actually, can be turned into a good soup. If you have leftover vegetables, puree them with garlic, onions, black pepper, and herbs of your choosing, and add a fat free, no salt broth of your choosing to the consistency you like. Warm, and serve with assorted garnishes of choice like shredded low fat cheese or crushed croutons or chopped chives or sliced turkey bacon. Your guests will never know you were using leftovers.

If you have a little of this and a little of that leftover from a variety of meals, chop everything into bite size pieces and throw it all into a slow cooker. Don’t worry that you’re mixing a Mexican dish with an Italian one. Add a can of no salt, no sugar diced tomatoes and broth of your choosing with dried herbs and black pepper, and let it cook all day. You’ll be surprised at how tasty the soup is. If you don’t have quite enough leftovers, you can always add some thawed, frozen vegetables or a can of no salt, no sugar beans. Your soup will be a minestrone of sorts which your guests will thoroughly enjoy.

2. Make egg dishes: If you have a small amount of leftovers, you can chop your leftovers, place them into a greased pan, mix eggs with some “milk”, herbs, onions, and black pepper, pour over the chopped leftovers, and bake for a straightforward egg bake. For an egg bake, your eggs to leftover ratio is such that you have more eggs than leftovers.

If you have a large amount of leftovers, you can make a timbale or souffle. A timbale is similar to an egg bake because you use beaten eggs and milk, but your ratio of eggs to leftovers is such that you have more leftovers than egg mixture. Instead of pouring the mixture over your leftovers, you want to puree the leftovers and mix your egg mixture into your leftovers before spreading the mixture into a greased pan.

For a souffle, you separate the eggs, mixing the egg yolks into the pureed leftovers.  You then whip the egg whites until they are stiff and gently fold them into the leftovers before putting them in a pan to cook. I’ll be doing a post on souffles soon since people seem to think they’re difficult when they’re really not, and they’re wonderful to serve for company.

3.  Make enchiladas: Just about any type of meat, bean, fish, quinoa, or vegetable can become a filling for enchiladas. Simply finely chop your leftovers, add cumin and cilantro and salsa, add your type of “cheese” and scoop the mixture into your favorite wrap, whether it’s a corn, whole wheat, gluten free spinach or other type of tortilla. I make an enchilada sauce by combining tomato soup, salsa, garlic and cumin which I pour over the top of the enchiladas and then cover with “cheese”. One of my kids favorites is when I use leftover quinoa mixed with leftover black beans and vegetables.

4.  Make pasta salad: Any leftover meats, beans and vegetables go well with pasta. Just decide whether you want a cold salad or a warm one. If going with cold, make a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, onions, black pepper, and ground mustard where the lemon juice is half your amount of olive oil and the rest is to your taste preference. Mix your leftover with your pasta of choice and blend well with the marinade. The salad should be in the fridge for at least an hour or two for the flavors to meld, but then let it sit for 30 minutes to come to room temperature for serving.

If making a hot pasta salad, decide on the type of sauce you’d like. A white sauce? A tomato sauce? A pesto sauce? A cheesy sauce? It depends on the type of leftovers you have. If it’s just vegetables leftover, any type will go well. Anything with ground meat or beef or pasta tends to go well with a tomato sauce. Chicken and turkey or ham goes well with a white or cheese sauce. Make your chosen sauce, mix your leftovers with your pasta and the sauce and pop the entree into the oven to warm, usually about thirty minutes.

5.  Make rice dishes: Leftover meat, vegetables, fish and beans are great with rice. If you have meat like sausage, chicken, seafood and vegetables leftover, make a jambalaya or paella.  Both are simply rice, broth, tomatoes and spices mixed with meats, seafood and vegetables, so they’re a great way to utilize leftovers.

You can also make a stir fried rice. Take whatever leftovers you have, chop them into bite size pieces, and stir fry them in a little sesame oil just until warm. Add them to cooked rice and stir fry a little more with garlic, soy sauce to taste and onions.

Or you can make a rice casserole. Two types I like to make are a rice parmagiana where I mix the leftover meats and vegetables with rice and beaten eggs and layer the rice mixture alternately with slices of tomatoes and mozzarella “cheese” and bake in a greased pan until golden brown and crispy around the edges, about thirty minutes.

The other way is to make a nice “cheesy” white sauce or a curried white sauce which I mix into rice and the leftover meat or seafood and vegetables and bake in the oven until warm. The curried rice dish is always especially well-liked.

The final way to utilize leftover rice and meat or seafood and vegetables is to make rice muffins. Mix everything up with herbs and black pepper. Beat some eggs and mix them into the rice and leftover mixture, and evenly distribute them among greased muffin tins.  Bake until warm and browned.

6. Make pies: Pot pies and shepherd’s pies are great ways to revamp leftovers. Chop leftover meats and vegetables into bite size pieces. For a pot pie, heat two tbsp of olive oil and stir in 1/4 cup of chosen flour.  Slowly add 2 cups of a chosen broth, and stir until the broth thickens. Add herbs and black pepper and pour over the leftover meat and vegetables. Spread into a pan and top with a biscuit or crust recipe of your choosing. and bake until the biscuits or crust are golden and the pot pie is bubbly.

For a shepherd’s pie, chop the leftovers into bite size pieces and mix them with your favorite tomato soup. Spread into a greased pan and top with mashed potatoes (shepherd’s pie is great to make when you already have leftover mashed potatoes) and a layer of cheddar “cheese”.  Bake until warm and bubbly.

7. Make chili: Throw all the leftover meat and vegetables and beans into a slow cooker. Add tomatoes and chili peppers or spices and garlic and onions and more beans if needed, and just let it simmer all day.

8. Stuff something: If you puree leftover meats and vegetables and beans and add “cheese” and sauteed bread crumbs of your choosing, along with herbs, garlic, and onions, you have a wonderful filling for stuffing mushrooms or eggplants or zucchinis or peppers or squash or anything else you can stuff.

9. Make “cakes”: Finely chopped leftovers mixed with bread crumbs, spices, and beat eggs can be made into seafood or meat and vegetable cakes. Let the mixture meld in the fridge for half an hour, and then form into little patties which you can bake in the oven or fry on the stove top.

10. Make mac and cheese: When all else fails, make your favorite baked macaroni and cheese but add chopped up leftover meat and vegetables before baking. It adds a little something to your mac and cheese as well as extending the amount to accommodate a lot of guests.


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