Leftover Magic

Leftovers are a fact of life for most people; particularly when a household consists of one or two people, at least one of whom likes to cook. Therefore, the dilemma often becomes, “what are we going to do with the rest of the _____________?” I grew up in a house with 2 middle-aged parents who were both children of the Great Depression; therefore, nothing was ever wasted, and foods were refrigerated and put back in the oven to reheat [and reheat again], which was not exactly palatable. Even in my own home, with a quality microwave oven, a lot of leftover food does not do well being reheated in its originally-served form.

Therefore, I’ve learned to repurpose and transform leftovers into something new, often using the qualities they’ve acquired while being stored in the refrigerator to my advantage.
For example:

  • leftover meat can simmer in broth in a slow cooker all day and take on new moisture and flavor or be baked with moist ingredients in a casserole, frittata, or stir-fry dish
  • leftover bones from meat in a previous recipe can make a wonderful new soup or stew
  • leftover starchy items like rice, pasta, and dressing are perfect bases for a casserole, just needing additions like meat, vegetables, and/or cheese, and a moisture component; rice also becomes fried rice or rice pudding!
  • leftover vegetables can be added to either of the above [for soups, add at the end of cooking; for casseroles and frittatas, add with the other ingredients]
  • leftover soups and sauces can be transformed by adding extra ingredients or incorporating them into a new dish (such as serving as the moisture in a casserole)
  • leftover spreads can be used as binder and/or flavor in a sandwich
  • leftover desserts can be reborn into a new dessert — crushed cookies can become a pie crust, cake can become a bread pudding, etc.

I was inspired to write this post while compiling the ingredients for a soup for dinner. I took leftover pork, simmered it in vegetable broth with extra garlic and chili garlic paste, shredded it, added some leftover creamy soup, and finished by adding uncooked rice about half an hour before serving. It was delicious, and gave some tough meat and over-pureed soup a wonderful new life.

Here are some previously blogged recipes using these same principles:

I hope this post inspires you to start thinking creatively about your leftovers!

[Tiny humerous addendum: as a fan of the film The Martian, my hubby has paraphrased one of Matt Damon’s most famous lines to refer to my leftover skills…..”you’re gonna have to Soup-Diva the sh*t out of that.”]