LEFTOVER MAGIC – I’ll show you how to create new meals from old leftovers!
Leftover Magic will save your sanity, pocketbook and palette! Learning how to create new meals from old leftovers is the big-fat secret!
Cooking at home on a regular basis means leftovers for most people. Unless you’re one of those incredible individuals that can actually cook the amount of food they need for one meal.
I, am not one of them. It’s especially hard for a former professional caterer used to cooking for the masses. But, I’m getting better at it though, we’re empty nesters after all!
GET INSPIRED BY WHAT YOU HAVE ON HAND
By adding some new ingredients from your pantry or refrigerator staples to leftovers, you can make a completely new meal that even YOU won’t recognize is made from leftovers!
Here’s a great process of how to create new meals from old leftovers:
- Start by rooting around your refrigerator and pull out all the “tidbits” that have accumulated from past meals.
- CHANGE YOUR MINDSET – What you’re looking at aren’t “leftovers”, they’re “ingredients” for new meals!
- You don’t have to use all your leftovers in one meal. In other words, everything doesn’t have to end up in a casserole dish.
- Don’t just think, “entree”, consider uses for side dishes, salads, soups and desserts too.
- Are there any obvious combinations that jump out at you? (hamburgers, undressed salad, cheese sauce – add taco seasoning, raw onion, salsa, sour cream and corn tortillas for tostadas)
- Can some of the ingredients be combined into a “filling”? Others into a sauce or soup? What kinds of “wrappers” or “containers” do you have on hand? You can see where I’m going here – wontons (fried or for soup), burritos, etc.
- Ask Mr. Google for – “recipes that use (blank)” and see what pops up. Sometimes your answer or inspiration can be found right on the screen.
PUTTANESCA PASTA PIE IN A PARMESAN-CHIVE CRUST
One item I didn’t put on the above list, is taking inspiration from a dish you ate in a restaurant. Or a recipe you’ve seen on Pinterest or a website that’s stuck in your mind. That’s exactly the way to start on how to make new meals from old leftovers.
I wanted to give you an example of how you can use leftover components to create something completely different and delicious.
Now granted, your leftovers aren’t always going to be very “glamorous”, and most days they’ll be quite ordinary. But when combined, they can become something extraordinary!
That’s exactly what happened when I found myself with these leftovers:
- Parmesan-Chive Pie Crust Dough (left over from my Mother’s Day Latticed Top Spring Tart recipe- you’ll see that in a post soon)
- Bowtie pasta in a Ground-Turkey Red Sauce
- Anchovy fillets, olives and raw green onion “brushes” from an antipasto platter
I had enjoyed a marvelous meal in Venice, Italy last year that featured what the waiter translated to be a “pasta pie”.
It had a thick crust that reached three inches tall and was filled with pasta, meat sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese. Now I found myself looking at my potential “ingredients” and instantly remembered that incredible meal.
HOW DID THEY MAKE IT?
It was easy to see that using a spring form pan would achieve the tall crust needed to hold the pasta. Next, should the crust be par-baked before filling with the pasta. Yes, I thought. It could get soggy and not come out crisp on the bottom otherwise. Crust, check.
Now I still had the combined pasta and meat sauce along with the leftover antipasto items to use up. By simply adding some roasted garlic, sliced green onion, anchovy fillets, oregano and olives to the pasta, I had a quick Puttanesca pasta. And that’s exactly how PUTTANESCA PASTA PIE WITH PARMESAN-CHIVE CRUST was born!
I’ve shown you exactly how the process goes, from taking inventory of your potential “ingredients”, to combining them into fabulous new dishes. You can see that combining leftovers from several different meals in a new and creative way, can net delicious results!
Rounded out with a simple arugula salad and glass of Merlot, it made for a wonderful reminder of a moonlit night in Venice.
HOW TO CREATE NEW MEALS WITH OLD LEFTOVERS
Don’t lose your leftovers – store them in see-through containers (glass is great) or zip-lock bags. If you can find them, you might actually use them!
Why not invest in a nice set of glass refrigerator containers to store your leftovers? You can find simple clear containers or really stylish colored sets online.
Using this type of leftover storage makes me feel organized and keeps the refrigerator from turning into a wasteland of mish-mashed containers. “Seeing” what I’ve got in there also helps me get inspired on just how to get rid of them in a delicious way.
When you can see what’s in your refrigerator, you’re much less likely to let them go to waste. It’s just a fact of life. That’s exactly what you were thinking when you threw out those mushy tomatoes and slimy romaine last night, isn’t it? That’s too bad too, because you could have had gazpacho three nights ago!
NO, I’M NOT SOME “CRAZY LADY”, JUST PURPOSEFUL! MAKE SOME “LEFTOVERS” ON PURPOSE.
When you’re making your weekly menu plan (you do that, right? No? We’ll talk another day…) you can deliberately schedule cooking extra vegetables, grains or protein.
These “planned leftovers” can jumpstart a soup, entree salad or pasta dish for later in the week.
Do that two days in a row and you’ve got your base “ingredients” ready to combine on day three! Don’t forget to add a few pantry or refrigerator staples to build the final flavor profile of your finished creation.
You’ll be amazed at what a time saver this tip can be when done on a regular basis.
SCHEDULE A WEEKLY “SMÖRGASBORD” NIGHT
Personally, I grew up loving “leftover night” each week. Mom would lay out a buffet of the leftovers she had accumulated over 3-4 days worth of meals. No changes or upgrades to speak of, just really good food, warmed up and appreciated a “second time around”.
My favorite part of those meals was that you could “pick and choose” what you wanted on your plate. Not that I was a terribly picky eater growing up, but I had my moments. Plus, I had my favorites which were welcomed, despite having been consumed just a day or two before.
KEEPING THESE ITEMS IN YOUR PANTRY OR FREEZER MAKE CREATING NEW MEALS FROM OLD LEFTOVERS SIMPLE
- Flour and corn tortillas
- Frozen pie crusts or boxed pie crust mix
- Bottled sauces
- Wonton skins and egg roll wrappers
- Frozen puff pastry sheets
- Sesame, poppy and caraway seeds
- Frozen phyllo dough
- Dijon mustard
- Biscuit mix (like Bisquick)
LEFTOVER MAGIC – How to Create New Meals from Old Leftovers
RICE AND PASTA
- Use pasta or rice in soups to make them more substantial to serve as an entree.
- Make an entree salad using rice or pasta as the base.
- Stuffed Rice Balls or Arancini are fabulous and quick to make with leftover rice and meats.
- After cooling, portion leftover rice into serving sizes and freeze for quick use in weeknight rice bowls.
- Prepare Fried Rice with leftover rice, vegies and top with a fried egg.
- Turn leftover sauced pasta into a “baked pasta” casserole with dollops of herbed-ricotta cheese tucked inside.
- Fried Rice Balls are a wonderful appetizer that use leftover rice and vegies to make a bite-sized treat.
- Add vegies and a vinaigrette to rice for a lovely lunch or dinner Rice Salad.
- Don’t forget the old standard, your favorite Rice Pudding recipe!
MEATS, POULTRY AND SEAFOOD
- Leftover ham or chicken make perfect croquettes, which can be sauced with something leftover too!
- Dice cooked shrimp, celery and red onion. Combine with cream cheese, fresh lemon juice, hot sauce and S/P for a fabulous Shrimp Spread on crackers.
- Make stock from ham bones, turkey or chicken carcasses. Freeze in meal-sized portions for quick weekday use. (soup/gravies/sauces)
- Cooked steak, chicken or pork can be sliced and added to a stir-fry at the end of the cooking time to heat through before serving.
- Shred cooked chicken for Taco Tuesday, or use in a Mexican casserole with refried beans, tortilla chips and salsa.
- Leftover roast beef and gravy can be made into Cornish pasties with gravy. A real childhood favorite of mine!
- Cooked salmon, red onion, dill, sour cream, capers, breadcrumbs and a little mayo make flavorful Salmon Patties and Hollandaise.
- Almost any type of leftover meat can be used to fill empanadas. Add some vegies to make them a full meal.
- Pull some frozen phyllo dough from the freezer and make a savory strudel with leftover meats and vegetables.
VEGETABLES, FRUITS AND HERBS
- Turn an excess of herbs or bitter greens into a pesto by adding garlic, nuts, lemon and olive oil.
- Roasted vegetables can be turned into a quick Italian relish by adding tomatoes, herbs, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lightly warmed, it’s fabulous over rice, pasta or on toasts as an appetizer.
- Leftover cooked vegetables can be added to soups, casseroles or pasta dishes.
- Puree leftover broccoli, asparagus, squash or carrots, add cream or chicken broth and seasoning. You’ve got a lovely creamed vegie soup in just a few moments.
- Herb-infused vinegars and oils are easy to make and are great for adding an instant flavor boost to your meals. Simply drop the herbs in pretty bottles filled with good quality olive oil or vinegar. They’ll be ready to use in about 5 day’s time.
- Fruits that are staring the garbage can in the face? Cut up the fruit, add sugar and cook down into a lovely fruit sauce for ice cream and cakes. Don’t forget to add a touch of fresh lemon juice to brighten the sauce’s flavor and a little thickener.
- Fruits and vegetables can be processed into nutritious smoothies for quick breakfasts or snacks. Pineapple and spinach? Try some new combinations and discover how well fruits and vegies can go together!
LEGUMES AND GRAINS
- Make Cajun Rice & Beans from leftovers by adding the “holy trinity”, of celery, onion and peppers with a healthy dose of spicy seasoning.
- Weeknight dinner rice or grain bowls are quick and easy when using leftover quinoa, rice or Israili couscous
- Add sauteed vegies to grains for “stuffing” chicken breasts or flank steak roll.
- Leftover grains make fabulous pilafs with the addition of sauteed aromatic vegetables and seasonings
- Grain salads are a quick and delicious no-cook entree for a hot Summer night’s dinner.
- Leftover grains can be cooked into a porridge for breakfast, “congee” style.
- Beans can be mashed and seasoned for homemade “refried beans”.
- Vegetarian chili is fast and easy when using leftover beans and vegetables.
EGGS, CHEESE AND TOFU
- Leftover hard-cooked eggs from Easter? Eggs Ala Goldenrod! Bechamel sauce with sliced egg whites on toast, covered with sieved egg yolk. So simple, but oh so good.
- Use leftover egg yolks to make a flourless cake or hollandaise sauce
- Conversely, egg whites can quickly be turned into delicious macaroons and meringues
- Cheeses that are just about past their prime? Make a cheese sauce for tonight’s vegetables.
- Tofu that’s ready to be eaten or thrown out? Crumble it into a protein smoothie or some scrambled eggs with onions and peppers for a quick lunch.
- Leftover cheese platter? Process the combined cheeses with Worchestershire sauce, diced red onion, garlic powder and salt and pepper in your food processor. Form a ball or log and roll in nuts or herbs. Slather on crusty bread or crackers as an appetizer tonight!
- Use your blender to turn stale cookies or cake into “rum balls” by throwing in some Nutella, peanut butter or cream cheese and a shot of rum. Form into balls, roll in nuts, coconut or cocoa from a fast no-bake treat!
- Same tip as above, but use the crumbs to make a “graham” cracker crust substitute using the same proportion of butter to crumbs.
- Stale bread makes fabulous croutons when cubed, baked until slightly browned, then sauteed in butter and seasonings of your choice. Yum!
- Broken or stale crackers and chips can be crushed for “crumbing” baked pork chops or chicken.
- Day-old bread makes fantastic panini sandwiches, bread pudding or French toast
LEFTOVER MAGIC – Arugula & Ham – But Not Together!
I’m an avid gardener, but now that we live on the side of a mountain, it’s all about container gardening for me now. I sow lots of greens for our Summer salads, and I can end up with too much needing to be harvested all at once.
Especially the very prolific Arugula! What to do? Read this post and find out! Click here: But I Didn’t Know It Was A Weed! Arugula Pesto, the Clever Solution
If you’re looking for an amazingly delicious way to use up your Easter ham, I’ve got a fabulous appetizer recipe that just sings “Spring”!
Check out this Easter post to see my recipe for: SPRING VEGETABLE PLATTER WITH HAM BUTTER. It’s so different and delicious, you really should try it for your next Spring gathering!
LEFTOVER MAGIC – ARE YOU EXCITED?
Now that you know how to create new meals from old leftovers, you should be! No more wasted food, boring “day-later” meals or the “leftover quandary” for you my friends!
Why not tell us how you’re using your leftovers over at THE FAB LIFE FACEBOOK GROUP? We want pics too!
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