Leftover Recipes Become the Cook’s Best Friend

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Lori Dunn
As a side or main dish, Risotto Primavera with Ham adds a new twist to dinner.

No matter how much you plan, there are inevitably leftovers, and a need for leftover recipes. While some foods such as spaghetti sauce and chili always taste best after sitting a day or two, that’s not the case with most meals. That’s why I always plan for leftovers to provide fast fixings for tasty new meals.

Turkey and Pineapple Tart
Mashed Potato Pancakes
Chicken Enchiladas Verde Casserole
Ham and Spinach Frittata
Roast Beef & Mushroom Wraps
Risotto Primavera with Ham

For example, leftover meat and vegetables can be quickly transformed into a steaming pot pie. All you need is a pastry crust (homemade or packaged) or a tasty topping of biscuits or leftover mashed potatoes for a quick and hearty meal. Add leftover pasta or rice and shredded cheese along with canned sauce, or add a can of creamed soup to leftover meat and veggies for a quick and easy casserole. Use the same meat and veggies to make a quick, simmering pot of stew, a meat and veggie pizza or specialty omelet.

By combining leftovers with fresh foods and other staple ingredients you have on hand, you can mix it up with a number of different dishes. Too much macaroni and cheese? Use the leftovers to add substance to soup, as a tasty topping for a casserole, or combine with scrambled eggs for an on-the-go breakfast burrito. Leftovers of cooked oatmeal taste even better the second time around when added to homemade breads, pancake or muffin batter, cookies or cakes.

Instead of tossing out the crushed and crumbled remains of cereal as you near the bottom of the box, crush the leftover bits and use as a coating for oven-fried chicken, a topping for casseroles, or an added crunchiness in meatloaf. Stale bread can be used to make croutons, French toast or even bread pudding. And leftover potatoes easily can be reused in a variety of ways from breakfast to dessert. Transform mashed potatoes into a breakfast pancake, turn baked potatoes into a ham hash for lunch, or repurpose leftover scalloped potatoes in a dinner pot pie.

By combining leftovers with different foods, you can create a cornucopia of delicious dishes. And with a little imagination, you can reinvent the same leftover food in myriad menu ideas so your taste buds never get bored!

Leftover Food Safety Tips

  • Always wash your hands before handling food.
  • Refrigerate or freeze unused food within two hours of cooking.
  • Cool leftovers before putting in the refrigerator or freezer. Place leftovers in small, shallow containers to help the food cool down quickly.
  • Speed up cooling times by cutting large portions into smaller ones.
  • Never store stuffing in cooked poultry. Remove and repackage in small containers.
  • Make it easy to reuse your leftovers by storing them in your refrigerator in clean, see-through containers in plain sight and within easy reach.
  • Play it safe and always use leftovers within three to four days of refrigeration. And remember, “When in doubt, throw it out!”

A food writer and recipe developer, Kris Wetherbee grew up on leftovers, and she has since refined them to taste like original creations. Today, she relies on leftovers for those hectic days that keep her working into the evening hours.

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