I don’t foresee Scott and I getting divorced, but if we do, I can anticipate the cause of our demise – leftovers.
Admittedly, I am slightly completely neurotic about leftovers. It must be the influence of my Great Depression-era grandparents because I just can’t stand to waste money throwing away food. Each Sunday I meticulously plan our weekly menu, ensuring we use up any leftover food that may have accumulated. Rarely do I veer from the grocery list. I know exactly how many servings each recipe makes. If anyone gets seconds (usually me), I always make sure there’s enough for lunch the next day. It’s my little system.
Now, Scott, he loves leftovers too, specifically the eating part. The problem comes each morning when he always grabs the wrong container to take to work. Like the time I packed the salad dressing and toppings separate from the lettuce, and he grabbed two containers of toppings leaving me with two containers of naked lettuce. I may be a dietitian, but I am not okay with naked lettuce for lunch.
As long as my husband doesn’t get in the way of my plans, I’m pretty good at using up every bit of food I purchase. Here’s 20 of my favorite tips:
1. If you have a little leftover salad, toss in a cooked whole grain, like quinoa and stuff it into a pepper or tomato.
2. Serve leftover roasted or grilled fish over stone-ground grits for breakfast. Add stewed tomatoes and you’ve got my absolute favorite Southern breakfast!
3. Make leftovers soup. Just heat up leftover beans, vegetables, grains, meat or poultry with broth to stretch it another meal!
4. They really need to sell herbs in 2 tablespoon packages. Until that day comes, I find most herbs can be frozen, especially less delicate herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano.
5. After roasting a whole chicken, freeze the bones with a little bit of meat left on them. When you have two or three, make chicken broth. You can also do this with shrimp, crab and lobster shells.
6. Let’s say you overindulge on pasta, something that occurs frequently in our house, and you’re left with only one serving, when you need lunch for two. Make a pasta fritata! Just add 4 beaten eggs, fresh herbs and cook in olive oil in an oven safe skillet. Finish cooking it under the broiler.
7. Stretch leftover brown rice into another meal by making healthy fried rice. Saute garlic, onion and carrots in canola oil then add cold, cooked brown rice. Season with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Turn it into a complete meal with beaten egg or crumbled tofu and more veggies, like chopped bok choy, broccoli or peppers. This works with quinoa too!
8. When summer (or the CSA) brings a bounty of fresh fruit, sometimes I’ll make chutney to preserve it, but I always end up with more than I know what to do with. If you run into the same problem, try mixing it with olive oil and vinegar to make a slightly sweet salad dressing, spreading it on a turkey or chicken sandwich or serve it over baked brie – just don’t forget to invite me over. P.S. this also works for leftover cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.
8. Serve leftover meat sauce or chili stuffed into a baked potato.
9. Use leftover diced chicken to stuff a spaghetti squash. Simply bake or microwave the squash until tender and cut it in half. Remove the seeds then flake the squash strands with a fork. Toss with diced chicken, a can of tomatoes, olives, Italian seasoning and a little feta cheese.
10. Why buttermilk is only sold half gallon containers when I just need 1/4 cup? It’s beyond me. Luckily, I found freezing buttermilk works remarkably well. Just whisk it after defrosting to recombine and it works as good as fresh! I do this with coconut milk too, although after learning how to make coconut milk whipped cream, we never have any leftover.
11. Recipe calls for egg whites or egg yolks? Don’t throw away the other half – freeze them!
12. Zest a lemon before juicing it and freeze the zest for later or oven-dry it.
13. Is your fruit getting a little overripe? This always happens to me with peaches, which seem to go from rock solid to mush in a matter of hours. Cut off any icky parts, dice them and throw it in the freezer for smoothies or to bake into a healthy fruit cobbler.
14. Combine leftover chili with cooked, diced potatoes and wrap in a whole grain tortilla with salsa and avocado to make a filling burrito.
15. Save leftover vegetable scraps to make a stock. Wash and freeze the leftover roots, leaves, peel and ends of vegetables like celery, carrot, onion, potatoes, garlic, squash and mushrooms. When you have a good bit saved, bring it to a boil with parsley and black peppercorns then simmer for an hour or so.
16. I use leftover ricotta cheese to make a healthy, cheesecake-like dessert. Mix it with dark cocoa powder and honey to make chocolate mousse. Or, stir in cinnamon and honey and serve with whole grain graham crackers.
17. If a recipe calls for part of a pepper, dice and freeze the rest. Peppers freeze remarkably well. This works for chilis too.
18. Leftover collards? Bring them to a boil with vegetable broth, onion, garlic and chili flakes. Add black-eyed peas and diced ham to make New Years Eve soup, or add a poached egg before serving, a little trick I learned from the Lee Bros.
19. Heartier herbs are easy to freeze, but when you’ve got a bounty of delicate herbs, like parsley or cilantro, make pesto!
20. I make my own salad dressing, but usually I only need enough for four salads and the dressing recipe makes way more than I need. The next night, I’ll roast vegetables and drizzle then with dressing for a quick, unique side dish.
When I made these ratatouille stuffed potatoes, I was left with tons of leftover vegetable filling and potato flesh. Luckily, I knew exactly what to do with it. Make bubble and squeak! Bubble and squeak is a traditional British breakfast dish designed to use up leftovers from last night’s dinner. It consists of a pan fried potato cake made with leftover mashed potatoes and vegetables, usually cabbage, peas, carrots and Brussels sprouts. I thought it would be fun to put a twist on it. Actually, we liked the leftovers better than the first dish!
- 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large eggplant, diced ½-inch cubes
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced ½ inch cubes
- 14 ounces canned diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
- Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Bake until tender and skins are slightly crispy, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
- When the potatoes have cooled so they don’t leave third degree burns on your hand, cut each potato in half and scoop out some of the center to make a boat. Reserve the potato flesh for bubble and squeak. Return the potato shells to the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake until crisp at 475, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 425 degrees.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant and cook until it begins to soften, 7-10 minutes. Add bell peppers and cook, stirring, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, basil and vinegar and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the eggplant is soft, about 5-10 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Spoon some filling into each potato shell. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the parmesan melts and browns slightly.
- leftover potato flesh from stuffed potatoes
- leftover vegetable filling from stuffed potatoes
- 5 eggs
- 2 ounces goat cheese,
- crumbled salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Place the leftover potato flesh in a large bowl. Mash until mostly smooth with a few chunks. Add leftover vegetable filling, 1 egg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Gently stir in the crumbled goat cheese. Form into 4 patties.
- Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the patties, press down with the back of a spatula to flatten slightly and cook until browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Gently flip (easier said then done) and cook another 7-10 minutes until browned on the other side. If it falls apart during flipping like all but one of mine did, then just mush it back together and keep going.
- While the patties are cooking, poach 4 eggs.
- When the patties are finished cooking, serve them topped with a poached egg sprinkled with salt and pepper along with a lightly dressed side salad.