By Brandie Valenzuela
As a young child, there was never leftovers in our home. We were
lucky if there was enough to fill all of the tummies at our table. So, when I
married, I vowed to always cook enough to fill the bellies of my family and
guests. I am sure those bellies have been full over the years, but my fridge has
also been full -- full of leftovers because I tend to always cook too much.
When you frequently have leftovers in your refrigerator, you
have three options. One choice is to learn to not cook too much food so you
won't have the leftovers. The second choice is to continue to have leftovers,
but regularly throw them out because no one wants to eat them. A third option is
to find ways to creatively use up those leftovers in other meals. For the past
14 years of my marriage I have went with option three. I cook extra food fairly
regularly and have learned how to use up all of the excess.
Here are some ideas:
COOKED RICE: If you have enough leftover rice, you can make a
wonderful rice pudding or fried rice. If you have a small amount, mix it into
ground beef for your next meatloaf or into your meatballs. You can also add it
to canned soup, such as cream of tomato, or mix it into a salad.
PASTA: Heat leftover pasta in a pan with some butter or
margarine and parmesan cheese...delicious side dish!
MEATLOAF: Crumbled meatloaf can be used in any meal calling for
cooked ground beef, such as tacos.
BAKED BEANS: This summer I made a large batch of homemade baked
beans for a family get-together, and I had quite a bit of leftovers. To makeover
the baked beans, I put them in the crockpot with 1 lb. of cooked ground beef, a
large can of crushed tomatoes, and chili seasoning to make chili.
BREAD: If your bread is getting a little stale, consider letting
it dry out to make your own breadcrumbs. Another option is to make french toast
with day-old bread. Just follow your usual recipe, and then place the french
toast on a cookie sheet and "flash freeze" in your freezer. When frozen, remove
and place in a freezer-suitable container for easy breakfast any morning.
HAMBURGER/HOTDOG BUNS: Do you have just one or two buns left in
the package? Freeze them each time you do, and when you have several saved up,
make cheesy toast with them. Just remove them from the freezer, let them thaw
slightly (no need to be fully thawed), separate the top from the bottom, spread
with soft margarine or butter and top with parmesan cheese. Broil until lightly
brown in your broiler.
ROAST: Leftover roast can be used in a variety of ways, but my
favorite way is to cook it in a crockpot with seasonings until you are able to
shred it. I then use it to make shredded beef tacos.
STEAK: Much like the roast above, I enjoy using leftover steak
by slicing it very thin, cooking it in a pan with sliced green bell pepper and
onion, adding some fajita seasoning and making fajitas.
BAKED POTATOES: Never waste your extra baked potatoes! If you
only have one or two, they are excellent cut up and fried in a pan. If you have
several extras, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp. Place the
potato pulp in a bowl and add any of the following until light and fluffy:
milk, margarine/butter, shredded cheese, cheddar cheese soup, chives, bacon,
sour cream. Place the mixture back into the potatoes shells and top with
additional shredded cheese, if desired. Place in oven until hot for yummy twice
baked potatoes. If you prefer, freeze your twice baked potatoes in the freezer
for a meal another day.
Still want another option? Leftover baked potatoes are perfect
for making Baked Potato Soup:
Optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon,
Saute' onions in butter and add flour, stirring constantly. Add water and
chicken stock and keep at medium heat. Set aside. To onions mixture add potato
flakes, milk, and heavy cream; let simmer. Cut baked potatoes into bite sized
chunks, add to soup and heat until all ingredients are heated. Add salt and
pepper as desired. Serve topped with cheese and bacon, if desired.
MASHED POTATOES: Mashed potatoes can easily be madeover. Here is
a page full of dessert recipes that use leftover mashed potatoes:
TURKEY OR CHICKEN: Leftover turkey and chicken is one of the
most versatile leftovers. By using just meat (removing bone and skin), you can
make sandwiches with the meat sliced, chicken or turkey salad sandwiches, or
even make enchiladas or tacos. I have also made a delicious turkey/chicken
noodle soup by boiling the bones that still have some meat left on them. I
carefully remove all of the bones, and then add carrots, onion, peas, and potato
and cook until tender. Add egg noodles and cook until done.
STALE CEREAL: Just about any cereal, even Capt. Crunch, can be
used to coat chicken. Just crush the cereal well, dip your chicken pieces in an
egg wash, and roll in the crushed cereal. Bake according to your favorite oven
baked chicken recipe.
HAM: About once or twice a year, our family enjoys a nice ham
for dinner. We always have leftovers, most of which get used on sandwiches, but
I always save some of the ham for a casserole and/or my
Split Pea Soup: