4 Moms: Cooking with leftovers {linky}

4moms35kids 4 Moms
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:

  1. Exploring before you shop so you can plan some meals around what you already have in the fridge, not just the pantry.
  2. Exploring before you make lunch, and serve a smorgasbord of leftovers.
  3. 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:

  1. Framework
  2. Sauce
  3. Meat
  4. Add-Ons
  5. Toppings

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:

What about you?  How do you use up your leftovers?  Link up with us!

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  1. Enjoyed this post and all the comments! Leftovers are my favorite meal starters–we had leftover stew just today by cleaning out the fridge and using what was there.

  2. Eggs and pizza. There are very few leftovers I’ve come across that can’t be tossed into one or both of these. Separately. Eggs on pizza sounds as off as sugar on grits.

  3. Mother Lydia says:

    My husband seems to be a genius at turning our leftovers into food. often the rest of vegetables, etc gets put into a soup! We keep “Better than Bouillon” around as a base for soups and he just makes it work with the stuff that is left.

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t like sweet potatoes so has no ideas 🙁 So I’m trying to figure that one out with 5-6 sweet potatoes I’ve got right now.

  4. I actually plan my whole menu around using leftovers. If I have a beef roast on for one night, I buy a coupla soup bones and make soup for the next day, using leftover roast for the meat part. Usually if I am roasting a whole chicken, I simmer the carcass and make soup or stew/biscuits. Or I chop the meat and make chicken/potato hash for breakfast. Simply dice as many potatoes you would need to feed your family. finely chop an onion. Mix with chopped chicken. Add salt, sage(for a sausage taste), black pepper, parsely, garlic etc. Fry on a well-buttered griddle, til potatoes are cooked. should be browned and a bit crisp. Serve with hot chicken gravy over top and fried eggs, and toast or biscuits.
    and what is all the yuck about grits and sugar?? I cook them in milk and we eat them with butter and brown sugar. Yum.
    As far as leftovers go, we can’t afford not to use what’s leftover!

  5. Jean Anderson says:

    I make extra mashed potato on purpose for the next day, to use on top of mince (ground beef) for a pie, or for potato straws to go with soup:
    1-2 cups mashed potato, 1 cup flour, 1tsp Baking Powder, 1 cup grated cheese. Mix well to firm dough (add more flour if sticky, a bit of milk if too dry). Roll out 1/4 inch thick, cut into shapes, (i use a drinking glass for a cutter) bake about 10 mins in hot oven (until golden) – great with soup.
    I also keep a plastic container in the freezer and after meals I put leftover rice, peas, carrots, corn kernels, broccoli, pasta etc into it, (sometimes off the kids’ plates). When it is full I make white sauce (roux) and mix it all up with some leftover meat or a bit of fish or a chicken breast (chopped up) plus a bit of cheese, for a leftovers pie, breadcrumbs and cheese on top. The kids love it!

  6. It looks like your Linky isn’t working, Kim. Or maybe it’s my computer – if so, never mind. 🙂 Anyway, love your leftover ideas!!

  7. I’m about to get out my blender and use it to create a delicious cream soup out of several leftover meals that have now turned to mush. Leftovers do not have to consist of a huge caldron of water and “bits” with sheep’s eyes floating in it. However, I do find soups are a wonderful disguiser of left overs. Served with a fresh plate of cheese quesedillas, or over rice , or with summer sausage and crackers , or just in a bowl with a spoon with maybe a little parmesan or sour cream on top, leftovers are actually fun to use creatively.
    One word of caution: try to make your soup with leftovers last for just one meal. Sometimes these creations can’t stand to be leftovers squared. Don’t put too much expense into these soups. Just put a lot of tastiness! Vinegar and soy sauce are wonderful boosters!

  8. Hello Kim!
    First I wanted to thank you for sharing your husband with us at the Christian Heritage Discipleship & Homeschooling Conference last weekend! I know as a (now retired) Navy Wife, having the hubby gone can be really hard. It never failed… the moment he left that is when “something” would happen that was w-a-y out of the ordinary!

    I have been terrible with leftovers in the past. But making crepes can make leftovers something seeming special! And cooking crepes is laughably easy yet they look so elegant! And I don’t know why, but the linky thing-ie doesn’t seem to work for me today on your page. It does on SmockityFrocks though. So I linked to my post in this comment.

    Pot pies are another favorite way to use leftovers. After Thanksgiving I make “Gobbler Cobbler”!

    Oh, and don’t hate me, this northern girl who likes grits. When I make fish we like to eat… cheese grits. But with all the GMO corn, we have not eaten grits for a long time. And won’t until I can find organic ones!
    Blessings, ~Mr.s R

    • Mrs. R,
      What do you put in your crepes? We’ve been thinking of trying them, but have no idea what to stuff them with.
      Oh, and don’t worry about the grits. Cheesy grits are thoroughly Southern. Just don’t put sugar in them. 😉
      The linky should be working now – thanks for letting me know about the problem.

  9. I’m a GA girl, raised on cheesy grits… I lived in New England for 5 years. Someone took great pleasure in telling me that Yes! a local restaurant did in fact serve grits. I was excited!… til they told me they were called Pesto Grits… Do Wha!? Now that just ain’t right! 😉

  10. People put sugar on grits? My world just turned upside down. Say it ain’t so! Yuck!

    • Cindy,
      With butter and sugar, they taste a lot like Cream Of Wheat – only corn, of course. Not bad. Just not grits.

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