Cooking with Leftovers

When you plan ahead, not only do you save money, but you create magic in the kitchen

By FamilyTime


A few generations ago, home cooks hadn’t a clue what a "leftover" was. Anything that was not eaten at a particular meal was considered fodder for the next.

Stale bread was made into breadcrumbs or bread pudding; extra egg whites were whipped into meringue or baked into angel food cakes; chicken and turkey bones were cooked into broth; and Sunday’s roast was chopped up and made into meatloaf or hash.

Today, we like to cook dishes that feed just the number of people who are sitting down to eat — this way, no pesky leftovers. When we have leftovers, we tend to tuck them into containers, stick them in the ‘fridge and then toss them a few weeks later when we purge the refrigerator.

What a waste!

With just a little imagination and some effort, leftovers can become the home cook’s best friend. Not only will they save you money, but the dishes you create with them will make your family happy and may open their gastronomic minds.

Quick Ideas for Leftovers

Here are few ideas to get you started. The first trick is to remember the leftovers stored in the refrigerator. Now you can plan what to do with them -- don't be timid!

Leftover chicken or turkey: Cooked poultry is just waiting for great second and third meals. Try a mild white turkey chili -- the kids will love it.

You can make tasty little bundles of chicken curry wrapped in store-bought puff pastry.

Once most of the meat is gone, use the carcass to make stock for the best chicken- or turkey-noodle soup going.

Dice leftover chicken and turkey and toss it with mayo and celery for salad; mix it with pasta and cream-based soup for a casserole; add it to vegetable soup; top a simple green salad with leftover chicken or sliced turkey for a full meal. Both chicken and turkey also make tasty quesadillas and wraps.

Leftover steak and pork: Slice cooked steak and pork into thin strips and add them to a veggie stir fry. Toss the sliced pork with hot pasta and vegetables. Leftover ham is great in omelets and also when mixed with macaroni and cheese. Sliced steak can be used for fajitas, and also in salads and sandwiches.

Fish: Salmon, halibut, cod, or just about any fish makes a tasty fish salad when mixed with mayonnaise or plain yogurt, scallions, capers, and a little olive oil. Spread it on thin bread or crackers. Top greens with it. Add cooked fish to corn chowder or a light broth-based soup, or chop it with cooked potatoes and onions for fish hash.

Green vegetables: Cooked vegetables are great for tossing with hot pasta or rice for a filling side dish or meatless main course. Top the dish with shredded cheese and let it melt. They also can be added to broth to make soup, or to stews. Cold veggies such as asparagus, green beans, and peas are lovely served with vinaigrette as a cold salad. Cold, cooked vegetables such as peppers, onions, eggplant, and squash "make" many a sandwich with their flavor and moisture.

Potatoes: Cooked potatoes are amazingly versatile. Chop them and make hash browns; spread mashed potatoes over ground beef for a shepherd’s pie; or add roasted potatoes to pot pies. Do you have some cooked sweet potatoes? Talk about delicious potato pancakes! Toss cubed, cooked sweet potatoes with leftover brussels sprouts and perhaps a few pieces of bacon for a dynamite side dish.

Plan Ahead

With a little forethought and creativity, you and your family will enjoy many meals to come — whether they are the main event or a simple meal a day or two later that utilizes leftovers.