This week, the 4 of us are talking about cooking with leftovers. Alternatively, some of might be confessing that our cooking with leftovers mostly amounts to cooking with eggs laid by chickens who enjoy our leftovers. Would that count? I’m speaking hypothetically, of course, but you might also like to know that feeding forgotten leftovers to the chickens is a great way to soothe the conscience of a frugal housewife who feels like a failure when she fails to use leftovers in time.
But I always use my leftovers. And I never exaggerate. And my kids always obey. Shall I go on?
Using leftovers is a lot like shopping from your pantry. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is simply remembering to use what’s there. Do that by:
- Exploring before you shop so you can plan some meals around what you already have in the fridge, not just the pantry.
- Exploring before you make lunch, and serve a smorgasbord of leftovers.
- Exploring before you proceed with tonight’s dinner plan, and be flexible if you find something you can or should use.
Some leftovers are easier to use than others. Rice can become a delicious rice pudding for dessert tonight or breakfast tomorrow. If you are Southern, your leftover breakfast grits can be sliced and fried in butter. Top with butter, salt and pepper for a savory side dish with supper, or top with butter and syrup for tomorrow’s breakfast. If you are not Southern, you probably wouldn’t know a grit if it bit you – or else you put sugar in your grits, bless your heart. That’s ok. Some of my kids put sugar in their grits, too. We just call them Yankee grits.
Cooked grains like rice, oatmeal, and grits can be added to breads: muffins, pancakes, banana bread, even yeast breads. Kitchen Scrap Cookies are fun and versatile. You can google recipes using cooked grains, or you can experiment on your children. Either way works. If you experiment, start with a proven recipe and add just a cup of cooked grains. If that works well, try adding more next time. Expect the results to be denser and more moist than usual.
When it comes to non-breakfast foods, casseroles are the standard answer. That may sound boring, but the possibilities are limitless! Frugal Hacks had a 5 part series on creating casseroles that appeal to your family and use what you have on hand. Each includes one or more recipes to get you started:
Leftover meats can also be chopped and seasoned for use in Mexican or Italian recipes like tacos, chimichangas, lasagne, spaghetti, alfredo, etc. Cooked veggies are a no-brainer in soups, stews, fried rice, and many other recipes that call for vegetables in any form.
I think a key is to consider the leftover as an ingredient: if you have cooked broccoli, look for recipes that call for broccoli in any form. There’s a good chance that you can tweak the recipe slightly and use what you have on hand.
Allrecipes is my favorite source for recipes. One feature that I love and use often is the ingredient search. Just fill in the ingredients you want to include and hit the search button. This is a great way to use up several leftovers at once or find new combinations for what you have on hand.
Here’s what the other 3 moms say:
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