Leftovers Rock!

You read that right. Leftovers rock. I know some of you reading this are thinking YUCK, because you deem leftovers only good for compost heaps or family dogs. Sorry…you’re wrong.

I am a master at creating dishes from leftovers. The hard part is making the new dish not resemble the previous one. That’s how you trick your family into enjoying and even welcoming a meal of leftovers. Let’s face it. If you served chili or meatloaf two days in a row, you’d hear heavy sighs and the sound of a plate being pushed away.

However! You can take the chili and turn it into something completely different. If you want to become a leftover master, you really must plan ahead. For instance, when you fix cornbread, freeze the leftovers. Assuming you’ve done that, take the cornbread, slice it and line the bottom of a baking pan. Top the cornbread with the chili and some shredded cheese, then bake until it’s hot and the cheese is melted. When you take it out of the oven, you can top with some Fritos. I also like to put shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes on top. The family will think you’ve created a wonderful chili pie and not realize they’re eating leftovers. Win, win!

BTW. If that cornbread accompanied some beans the day before, layer the cornbread, beans, chili, and cheese. Another variation that cleans out the fridge. I enjoy leftovers so much that some of my meal planning revolves around what I’ll make with the leftovers. That keeps me from growing penicillin in the fridge or having to do extensive meal planning. It all just seems to plan itself. No chili, but you fried too much hamburger meat when you made tacos? Substitute that meat for the chili and you’re home free.

I do like to watch the cooking channel, but some of their meals are stuff we’re not going to eat or too complicated. I have a 30-minute rule. With some exceptions, that’s how long I want to spend in the kitchen. I’ll obviously spend more time slaving over a hot stove at holidays, but a half hour is a good rule for everyday cooking. I discovered the joy of a frittata from TV. Like most things on there, it appeared complicated. It isn’t, if you just make it your way. And, seriously, there isn’t anything better for cleaning out the fridge.

Here’s my frittata method. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While it’s heating, grab about six eggs from the fridge. While you’re in there, look to see what leftovers you have. Corned beef hash, hamburgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, you name it. Whatever your family likes will work. Let’s assume it’s the mac and cheese. Warm that up in an oven-proof skillet. When it’s sufficiently heated through, beat the eggs with some salt, pepper, and a little milk. Dump it on top of the mac and cheese. I normally top it with some shredded cheese. Bake until the eggs are set. Doesn’t take too long. You can tell because the top of the dish will be dry.

Since I’ve discovered frittatas, I make them a lot. We do like breakfast for dinner, but more importantly, I usually have a clean refrigerator. Not much goes to the compost can if I can help it. I do sometimes start the process by frying chopped onions, celery, and maybe some garlic before I reheat the leftovers. Adds a nice zing to the dish. If you make corned beef hash, that’s exceptionally good in a frittata, as is stew, if you drain off the liquid first. In other words, whatever you have in the fridge.

You’ll be amazed at how good some stuff tastes when it’s in a frittata, and normally it’s a combination of stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily put together. But it works. Rice is a really nice addition. If it’s Spanish rice, leftover taco meat, and maybe some refried beans, you have a real winner. Just clean out that fridge and go for it. Let those creative juices flow. (Or bake.)

When it comes to home cooking, Ed is spoiled. If I were to serve him instant mashed potatoes, I’m pretty sure he’d be heading to the nearest divorce lawyer to make a preemptive strike. As it stands now, if he sees me making instant mashed potatoes, he knows dinner rolls are in his future and not a divorce. I’m horrible at making mashed potatoes from scratch and having exactly the right amount. If I’m made too much, as usual, I freeze the leftovers for my rolls.

They do have another use. Take the leftover mashed potatoes, add some flour, an egg, sliced green onions if you want, and maybe some cheese. Stir it up and take out a portion to make into a ball. Flatten and fry it up. Potato pancakes. Makes a great accompaniment to breakfast. Or a frittata.

We went to Longhorn Steakhouse for Ed’s birthday. I couldn’t resist trying their new steak, but the smallest size was 12 ounces. I normally get a 6 oz. steak because I’d rather have the salad than the steak, but this one came with grilled pineapple slices on top. The leftover steak went home with us, along with some of Ed’s that he couldn’t finish.

The next day…carne guisada tacos. Simple. Add some brown gravy, carne guisada seasoning, and chopped onions. Let simmer and lo and behold…tacos! There wasn’t enough meat left over to make a decent second meal of just steak but turned into tacos accompanied by rice and beans, we had more than enough to eat.

Creating new meals from leftovers is like a game to me. I love trying to figure out how I can change something into something completely different. That’s what God does with us, isn’t it? He takes all the nasty stuff out of our heart and replaces it with something completely different. So, the next time you think leftovers should go in the trash, look in the mirror. What you’ll see looking back is a new, improved version of you, made from the leftovers. Further proof that leftovers really do rock!

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2 thoughts on “Leftovers Rock!”

  1. Loved it. Turning leftover food into new dishes is brilliant. I often bring leftover food home from restaurants. I need to start calling you for suggestions on preparing a new dish the following day. Hope you and Ed are well. Love you both. Doug and Connie.

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