Making the Most of Leftovers


It’s difficult to make good use of leftovers. Even though you have good intentions when you put away those foil wrapped plates or containers of food, more often than not, they are left to languish in the back of the fridge until they complete their journey into the garbage can. Even the name “leftover” sounds less than appealing. But in truth, leftovers are a great way to stretch your food budget and make a light cooking night once or twice a week. Here are some tips for making new meals using leftovers.

Meal Planning

Planning your meals each week ensures that you will make good use of leftovers because they become part of the menu. For example, if you make a batch of chili for dinner, a day or two later, you can make loaded baked potatoes with chili, cheese and sour cream to serve alongside of a fresh salad. If you roast a chicken for dinner you can shred leftover meat to make enchiladas or quesadillas. All you have to do is think ahead and you’ll have ideas for leftovers of any kind. Plus, because a good portion of the meal is already cooked, new meals with leftovers have a ‘heat and serve’ quality that saves time.

Stay Within Ethnicities

Making new meals using leftovers is much easier if you stay within a specific ethnicity. For instance, making a variation of Mexican food using the same seasoned meat is much easier than trying to use taco meat in spaghetti. If you’re not sure about your plans for leftovers, try to use basic seasonings for the protein and leave the intense, specific flavors for a sauce or side dish. You’ll have more options for the next meal.

Casseroles are Harder to Repurpose

If you make a casserole where the ingredients are all assembled then cooked together, you’ll be very limited in terms of meals you can make with the leftovers other than simply reheating and eating. This is, however, another time saving leftover tactic. If you’re making a casserole, double the recipe and freeze one half for a meal within the next month.

An Easy Leftover Makeover

Here’s a versatile leftover dish that works with just about anything. Throw together batch of fried rice. Add canola or vegetable oil to a frying pan or wok over medium/high heat. You can use any type of meat:  ham, pork chops, cubed chicken, leftover steak – even breakfast sausage or bacon works well. Toss in any vegetables -- leftover carrots, green beans or peas are great. Add cooked rice and a splash of soy sauce. Make a well in the center and scramble an egg (or scramble separately in another sauté pan) and mix the egg crumbles throughout. Top with chopped scallions and a few chopped peanuts.

Grab Bag

Turn leftovers into a fun, end-of-the-week buffet. Make every Friday a “grab bag” for dinner: spread out the leftovers from the previous four nights’ dinners and let everyone build their own plate with whatever suits them. Be sure to include a fresh green salad as the perfect accompaniment to every meal.



Spicing Up Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving Leftovers

You've just enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. As you open the fridge the next day, you're overwhelmed with leftovers: roast turkey slices, sweet potato casserole, bowls of cranberry sauce, and rolls of fresh bread. It seems like there's enough food for your family for the next week. So how do you create new dishes out of leftover food?

Thanksgiving Sandwich

Many families make rolls of fresh bread for Thanksgiving, which can quickly go stale in a day. We recommend using the bread first so it doesn't go to waste.

  • Slice a roll in half. Spread some cranberry sauce, turkey slices, and stuffing on the roll. A little cheese can also work, too.
  • You can experiment with what goes into the sandwich. You can also put leftover sweet potato or green beans in there, too.

Thanksgiving Casserole

You can add many of your Thanksgiving leftovers to this casserole that puts a fresh twist on the holiday feast. You'll need leftover roast turkey, a cup of frozen green beans, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cheese- all items that you've either cooked recently for Thanksgiving dinner or have around the house.

  • Spread leftover stuffing on the bottom of a baking pan.
  • Layer turkey, green beans, and half a cup of mayonnaise over the stuffing.
  • Combine a cup of cheese with some leftover mashed potatoes in a separate bowl, then layer over the existing mixture in the pan.
  • Cook at 375 F for 30-40 minutes until done.

Turkey and Potato Pot Pies

You've probably got a significant amount of turkey left over, and maybe some mashed potatoes as well. Here's a delicious pot pie recipe using those leftovers.

  • In a skillet, cook four slices of bacon until crispy. Remove and set aside.
  • In the skillet, cook four cups of sliced mushrooms and three cups of leeks for about 12 minutes, seasoned with thyme, salt, and pepper.
  • Add three tablespoons of flour over the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add two cups of chicken broth and simmer for 4 minutes.
  • Add three cups of turkey and the bacon, then cook for a minute.
  • Pour the mixture into eight ramekins for individual pot pies, then spread mashed potatoes over each ramekin.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • You can also add a golden touch to the potatoes on top by putting them in the broiler for a few minutes after the ramekins have finished baking.

Thanksgiving Salad

Leftovers are also ideal for sprinkling on top of salads. If you have leftover green beans, cranberry sauce, or turkey, you can create a delicious salad from your holiday feast.

  • You can turn cranberry sauce into a dressing by blending it up and adding a little olive oil.
  • Chop turkey up into tiny bits and layer on top of a salad.
  • If you have cheese left over from appetizer dishes, you can also cut it up into small pieces for a good salad accompaniment.
  • Green beans also work very well in salads.

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