Leftovers can be a blessing and a curse. When it comes to practicality and convenience, there is nothing better than a single meal that can feed your family for two-three-four! more days.
As head chef of our family kitchen, there’s nothing more brilliant than a Sunday supper that yields lunches for the rest of the week. Unless, however, two-three-four! days of meatloaf is just too much. Or, one member of the family “just doesn’t do leftovers”. Or you can’t bear to see one more slab of said meatloaf. Or, or, or…
Creativity is key with leftovers. Let nothing go to waste in your house; rather, take on leftovers as a welcome challenge. It is my personal goal to make a different, new meal from the same base of leftovers until they’re gone.
Here are my Favorite Tools and Tips for Stretching Leftovers
Especially during the cold- and wet-weather months, soup is the ultimate leftover makeover. And it’s the easiest too.
Save the carcass of a roasted chicken, bones of a steak, or shells of seafood to make a simple stock the next day. Or, pour boxes of store-bought broth into a large pot over high heat. Stir in any roasted vegetables or slow-cooked greens from the night before. Add slices of lunch meat for extra protein or even hardboiled eggs.
Whisk together and swirl in finely grated cheese and eggs for a stracciatella-type soup. And play with hearty, carb-y adds like leftover potatoes cubed to bite-size, or rice for some more body, or tortellini for guaranteed comfort. Garnish each serving with bits and pieces of herbs and crunch from the bottoms of cracker boxes and bags of chips.
Pie crust surprise
Flaky, buttery, and always available in the frozen food section of your grocery, pie crust makes magic with savory and
For breakfast, bake a pie crust according to package directions and prep the leftovers to pile in: Whisk together a simple custard of eggs with heavy cream or whole milk and season with salt and pepper. Dice up roasted vegetables and if you didn’t serve a protein last night, just add sliced lunch meat. Pour all of the above into the crust and bake until the center is set. Serve each slice with a finishing drizzle of any leftover gravy or simple sauce.
For dinner, bake the pie crust according to package directions again. But this time, layer leftover ingredients right into the shell using eggs or cheese to bind them. I like to toss leftover spaghetti with sauce, a few eggs, ricotta, and parmesan cheese, top with grilled sausage or extra meatballs, and call it “Italian Pie.”
Leftover pot roast makes for yummy pie too. Just cube beef and veggies to the same size, toss with extra gravy, spoon into the crust, finish with mashed or fork-smashed potatoes and call it “Cottage Pie”. How ever you fill it, return the layered “pie” back into the oven to bake until everything is warmed throughout.
For snacks and desserts, spread the raw pie dough onto a floured counter and cut into rectangular pieces. Fill half of the rectangles in the centers with leftover pie filling, cake that has been mashed up with icing, or spoonsful of jelly from almost-empty jars. Brush the edges with water, top with a second rectangle of dough, and pinch close with the tines of a fork. Transfer the hand pies to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until the dough is golden brown and cooked completely.
Plus your potatoes
With leftovers in mind, make whole, fresh, classic Idaho potatoes and sweet potatoes a pantry staple.
Use them to transform leftovers into everyday breakfast or Sunday brunch in bed with the help of a box grater. Shred the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and add to a few pats of butter in a hot sauté pan. Layer with the meat and veggies from last night’s supper and finish with an egg fried sunny-side-up for a killer hash.
For lunch, rub their skins with olive oil, season with salt, and roast the potatoes in a hot oven. Remove when the skins are crispy and the centers are tender, halve horizontally, pinch the sides, and then smother in leftovers! My favorite way to fill a hot potato is with leftover chili, cheese, sour cream, and onions; my husband likes to stuff a roasted sweet potato with leftover BBQ pulled pork. Any type of saucy/bean-y/veggie/meaty leftovers taste better stacked on top a tater.
For dinner, turn leftovers into a homemade version of a gourmet poutine. Slice the potatoes into fresh fries and roast until crispy. Shred leftover meat onto a heaping serving of fries and top with grated cheese or cheese curds. Generously spoon leftover gravy on top of each portion – and be sure to offer wet wipes too.
With a couple key transformations in mind, you can easily remodel leftovers into super delicious blessings. In fact, as it turns out, comfort food is often made best with leftovers as the starting point. Even those cursed with a bad attitude about last night’s supper (wink) are won over when redesigns make the original meals unrecognizable.