What to do with leftovers

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I don’t know about you guys but my husband and I seem to have an abundance of leftovers in the fridge the past few weeks.  I am always thinking up new ways to use them and thought you might be interested to hear some of my old favorites.  Of course we all know the obvious, reheat for lunch or dinner the next day.  These options are a little more than that….a chance for you re-purpose your leftovers into something new.

  • Stir-fry- During the summer we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to produce between what’s growing in the garden, our Full Circle bag and random farmer’s market finds.  When I see our produce (especially the veggie) drawer start to overflow, I know it’s time to make stir-fry.  I start by heating up sesame oil in a large pan and adding whatever meat we have on hand (typically pork tenderloin or chicken breast).  You could certainly use tofu instead.  Then I add my veggies in order of how long they need to cook.  This usually means I add the onions and mushrooms first, then the carrots, then broccoli, then squashes or leafy greens last.  I’ll also throw frozen peas in the mix if we have them.  Once everything is almost cooked to my liking, I throw in a little sauce.  My favorites are Huli Huli and Soy Vay.   Then I serve the stir-fry over rice or noodles.  Anything that’s left goes into Tupperware for lunch the next day. 🙂

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  • Baked potatoes- This is an good option for leftover meat.  It’s also incredibly simple.  We usually throw this on our weekly menu after we’ve made BBQ Pulled Pork, or tacos.  Bake your russet or sweet potato in an oven preheated to 400° for an hour to an hour and half, depending on size (it’s done when a fork can be easily poked into it). Top with your leftover meat or beans heated up and some sour cream, salsa, cream cheese and anything else you want to throw on there.  The perfect filling meal on a cool day.
  • Pasta dish- Pasta is a great vehicle for all kinds of leftover items.  I like to cook up leftover sausage with onion and other veggie stragglers and add some marinara sauce, cream or stock to make it all into a sauce to add to linguine or penne.  You can even use some leftover lettuce to serve a salad on the side!
  • Egg scramble- Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner, am I right!  I think I’ve mentioned omelets here before, but I’m a big fan of their less fussy cousin, the scramble.  Scrambles are great if you have smaller amounts of several things like a random cheese, a little bit of sausage or ham, or those diced onions you never used.  Start by cooking anything that has fat you want to cook out (sausage, etc.), then add your veggies.  Sauté the veggies until they have released some of their liquid and now add 2-6 beaten eggs.  If you have leftover whites you could also use those here. Cook this all together until the eggs are to your liking and cover with the cheese.  Turn off the heat and top with a lid until the cheese is melted.  Serve with a hunk of bread on the side, or some fruit.  You could also make a smoothie to use up some leftover fruit as a beverage pairing to this meal.

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  • Nachos/quesadillas- Whenever we make tacos or burritos, we end up with leftover tortillas and often taco meat (and sometimes the other fixins, cheese and the like). This is a great time to make nachos or quesadillas.  Your choice will depend on if you have tortillas or tortilla chips.  If you have chips and cheese you’re almost all the way to nachos.  Just lay the chips on a foil-lined cookie sheet, top with the cheese and taco meat (if desired).  If feeding a crowd, you can make several layers (a nacho mountain, if you will, he he).   Bake in a 400° oven until the cheese is melted.  You can also do this in a microwave. If you’ve got tortillas, quesadillas are your choice.  Fill tortillas with cheese and meat and/or beans if you have them.  Then fold each tortilla in half.  Cook in a nonstick pan coated with cooking spray or on the grill over medium heat.  Flip after a few minutes or when each side is golden brown.
  • Fried rice- Leftover rice was born for fried rice.  It actually works best, believe it or not.  This is also a great place to use up leftover pork or roasted chicken.  Start by cooking a few beaten eggs (if you have them).  Take those out of the pan, add some sesame oil and sauté some diced onion and leftover meat if you have it.  I’ll also add frozen peas or diced carrots.  Now add your rice and toss that all together.  Smooth the rice to the bottom of the pan and let it sit a few minutes to get it a little crispy.  Add sauce soy to taste and eat up!
  • Salads- This may be obvious, but I thought it was worthing mentioning salads since we’re in the season with all the fresh produce (not to mention the hot weather).  You can make a chef salad with chopped lunch meat, leftover shredded cheese, and hard boiled eggs.  You could also throw some beans on there for protein.  Then pile on any other raw veggies, toss with a vinaigrette and dinner is ready!  I also like this option for using up roasted chicken.

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I’m sure there are other options I forgot to include, but I hope this gives you some general options and guidance that you can use.  I think we all want to become better about food waste and this a way to do that.

What else do you do with your leftovers?  Is there something you always make extras of, just for the leftover?

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