I have a problem to which you may relate... I ALWAYS make way too much food for dinner. When I cook dinner, I make enough to feed a small army. The next day, I peer into the refrigerator to see what leftovers I have. Sometimes, I can reheat everything from the night before and we can simply have what I call a "déjà vu" meal. Most of the time, I am faced with odd amounts of the different dishes. I may have a little meat, one or two helpings of vegetables, and a giant container of leftover rice. Does this happen to you? What do you do?
Repurposing Food Isn't Just About Frugality!
It is true, I hate food waste and I hate wasting money. I am the person who saves all of my vegetable scraps in my freezer to make vegetable or chicken broth.
However, my disdain for wasting food and money is not why I am writing this post. It has to do with food integrity. I hate coming across an old Tupperware of something amazing that I made for my family weeks ago. You know this feeling, don't you? You reach into the back of the fridge, behind the gargantuan jar of pickles you accidentally bought on Walmart online, thinking it was a normal, human-sized jar (oh, wait - was that just me?). Then, you pull out the "mystery box." When you pry the box open, your eyes immediately begin to sting and your nose wrinkles. Whatever you are holding is not and has not been actual food for quite some time. The garbage can is the only thing that can stomach this culinary tragedy. It breaks my heart every time this happens to me.
You may be reading this because you like saving money and creating less waste. You may relate to the sadness felt after discovering something disgusting that was once beautiful food. Regardless of your reason for reading this post, I am here for you. My solution to this problem is to make something new with leftovers. This is not a ground-breaking revelation. However, most people I approached about this issue said they want to be creative with leftovers but don't know how. Here are my 3 favorite things to do with leftovers. What are yours?
Tacos - A Solution for Leftover Meat
I always have a supply of flour or corn tortillas on hand or in the freezer. So, when I am faced with meat leftovers, tacos are a great solution! You can take steak, chicken, shrimp, pork, or fish leftovers and create Taco Night with ease! Here are some common fridge or pantry items that can transform leftover meat and tortillas into a five-star meal!
Vegetables/Herbs: Tomatoes, onions, avocados, jalapenos, lettuce or salad mix, cilantro
Condiments: Sour cream, guacamole, salsa
Cheese: Most shredded cheese will work here (cheddar, pepper jack). Bonus points if you have queso fresco or cotija cheese!
Tacos are a great way to make a small amount of leftover meat last longer. Another great thing to do with leftover taco meat is make breakfast tacos. If you swap leftover taco meat for the Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles, you will have one fine breakfast taco.
Salads - A Roasted Vegetable's Dream
My standby weeknight dinner equation is a protein, a roasted vegetable, and a starch (rice, pasta). Often, I have just one or two helpings of the roasted vegetable left over. I usually snacked on these saved vegetables at work the next day. One day I thought, "How can I bring these roasted vegetables to my dinner table again?" Our family's weekly Roasted Vegetable Salad was born.
On Monday through Wednesday, I cook my standard protein/roasted vegetable/starch dinner. On Thursday, I take the leftover roasted vegetables and toss them into salad greens or arugula. I sprinkle with a little crumbled goat cheese (or bleu cheese, or feta cheese... whatever is in the fridge). Then, I whip up an easy and delicious Honey Mustard Vinaigrette or Balsamic Vinaigrette and dinner is done! I have done this with so many different roasted vegetables: carrots, parsnips, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, okra, edamame, sweet potatoes, zucchini... the list goes on. It is easy, healthy, and allows the roasted vegetables to have their second act.
Fried Rice - Better With Leftover Rice
I LOVE making fried rice! Fried rice is even better with day-old rice. The rice dries out and firms up a bit, resulting in a very pleasant texture. Not only is this a recipe that addresses leftover rice, it can also be made with leftover meat and roasted vegetables!
To whip up a fried rice dish with leftover rice, I saute a clove of garlic and half of a small chopped onion in olive oil. Then, I heat the meat and vegetables up with the garlic and onion. I scrape the mixture to one side of the pan. I scramble two eggs in the empty half of the pan. Then, I incorporate them with the vegetables and meat once they are slightly firm. I give everything a toss and add the leftover rice. I douse the mixture with soy sauce and a dash of rice wine vinegar. Finally, I stir and toss until everything is hot and ready to enjoy!
I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to take ordinary leftovers and create extraordinary entrees. What are your favorite things to do with leftovers? Be sure to leave me your comments!