Leftovers are the WORST–at least that’s what I used to think! Leftovers and I became friends when I had to start buying my own food and cooking for myself. What caused this 180° turn around? Realizing that leftovers offer pre-cooked quick ingredient add ins to create entirely new, DELICIOUS dishes changed my mind!
For example, leftover peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache from a birthday cake I made just became peanut butter and chocolate ganache sandwich cookies in less than a half an hour!
Head over my leftovers recipe index for ideas on how to use up your leftovers! But first, some leftover transformation tips:
TIPS TO TRANSFORM LEFTOVERS
1. Plan ahead
I find that a number of dishes like soups, stews, quinoa salads, lasagna, rice dishes, etc actually taste better the second day. Plan to make extra of these and store in single serving containers for a quick lunch. Alternatively, freeze leftovers for a later meal.
2. It doesn’t have to be a perfect match
Substitute ingredients for things you already have that are really similar. You have leftover cream cheese frosting and the recipe calls for cream cheese? Omit the sugar in your recipe and you’re probably all set.
3. Take advantage of being a “meat and potatoes” kinda person
Meat and potatoes offer a gazillion options for reuse in new recipes the next day. Mashed potatoes make a perfect topping for Shepard’s pie or simply pan fry them to make potato pancakes. Leftover roasted, baked, or even lightly fried potatoes can be used in a hash the next day. Leftover meat can be used in fried rice, stir fry, sandwiches, enchiladas, salads, omelets, casseroles…the list goes on and on. You can find specific recipe ideas here.
4. “Everything but the kitchen sink recipes”= Whatever you have in your fridge
When a recipe calls for a variety of different vegetables or meats it is almost always okay to omit things you don’t like or have and/or substitute for things you do have.
5. Use the oven or stovetop instead of the microwave
Half the battle with leftovers is texture. Reheating leftovers with the microwave is quick and easy but sometimes the final product has a mushy, gross texture. An oven or stovetop will allow the food to heat, but not get mushy. Other times, reheating causes food to dry out. If this is the case, try adding extra stock or fat (don’t go crazy with the oil por favor!) while reheating. If you are using the microwave, try not to over-reheat by opting for a shorter cook period and by frequently checking to see if the dish is properly reheated. This is easier when reheating individual portions. The other half of the battle is taste, which brings us to my final tip:
6. When something is bland the second time around, add some flavor!
If the dish tends to become bland when it is reheated, add some more of the seasoning that you originally used when making the dish. Just salt and pepper can go a long way.