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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Creative Cooking - Revamping Leftovers

This is a guest post by my friend, Estelle Clements.  Thanks, Estelle!!

Wait, was that LEFT-OVERS??

Not every household has this kind of exchange, but it is an all too familiar exchange in many homes across the country.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“A-GAIN? Uuuuuugh”

Can you do anything else with leftovers other than reheating them? YES, YOU CAN!

Here are some ideas of basic meals which can be morphed into something entirely different. More times than not, that leftover food can be just the ingredient you need to go proceed with a menu instead of having to run to the store real quick. I do not have recipes in this article, but hopefully you can be inspired to find a recipe you enjoy and make this yours.

It was a tasty meatloaf, but your family is growing tired of it. Meat loaf is one of those meals that get better the longer it sits.Growing up, leftover meatloaves meant meatloaf sandwiches the next day. 

Depending on the flavor of the meatloaf, it can be chopped into another meal. If the meatloaf contains Italian seasonings and a tomato sauce, you can make quick spaghetti sauce with it.

If the meatloaf contains Tex-Mex seasoning and maybe a salsa topping, it can be chopped into taco/burrito/enchilada meat.

If the meatloaf contains a more BBQ flavor, that can be your base for sloppy joes.

For a kid-friendly little snack, why not chop them into little cubes, and let them dunk the cubes into various savory dips like marinara, Alfredo, BBQ, or even mustard?

This is a meal that rarely lasts into leftovers at my house, but I have had it happen. Most times, I leave the noodles separate from my sauces, as I tend to make disproportionate ratios between the pasta and the sauce.

If you have more pasta noodles (spaghetti/fettuccine) than sauce, you have got a great opportunity to add the noodles to an Asian-inspired dish like lo mein or other stir-fry. You can also make Asian noodle-bowls or even cold noodle salads.

Pre-cooked pasta is also easily dumped into or served with a soup such as chicken noodle or a minestrone soup.

Speaking of pasta in soup, I have been known to make spaghetti soup simply by chopping the spaghetti and/or meatballs into bite-sized pieces, adding chicken/beef broth and more tomato product, and bumping up the Italian seasoning a little bit. Serve with Italian or French bread, and you have got an Italian lunch or light supper.

If you have more sauce than you do pasta noodles, you have got a great start for a new soup base or dip for more bread!

If you mixed your pasta and sauce together for storage, you can find directions to make spaghetti pie, a classic re-use for spaghetti in some Italian homes.

You can get a lot of bang for your buck when you cook a roast, especially beef or pork roasts. Personally, I do not care for much more than salt, pepper, garlic and onion seasoning the meat. This allows for more freedom to experiment with flavors beyond the original meal.

Roasts can easily transform into your Tex-Mex meat for tacos, burritos and enchiladas.

Chop your roasts into BBQ sauce and put into a slow cooker, and you have got wonderful fillings for sandwiches.

Roast beef that has been sliced, and then chopped into bite-sized squares, can enable you to make beef stew, beef stroganoff, and shepherd’s pie. 

Diced roast beef, especially with diced potatoes, makes an excellent beef hash.

Pork roasts are versatile in Tex-Mex cooking, as well. Season with Tex-Mex seasoning, shred the meat, and you have got filling for tacos, burritos and enchiladas.

Pork roast can lend itself to sweeter tastes in BBQ sauces, enhance fruits.

Pork roast can easily be substituted for poultry in virtually every menu.

These are just a couple of main meals that can get tiresome as plain leftovers but, with a little ingenuity and a little inspiration, hopefully this will spark your imagination to think beyond reheating leftovers.


  1. I just made chicken pot pie last night from leftovers of chicken and dumplings. My dumplings had disintegrated anyway. I just thickened the sauce and added more veggies and potatoes. Then of course pie crust. Yummy!

    1. Love it! I am such a tightwad, that I refuse to let stuff go to waste. I have even taken breaded chicken breast chunks, pulled the breading off, and used it to make soup. I did it because the breading didn't taste good, but the chicken itself was fine. LOL!

  2. Something that crossed my mind after the fact is that left over roast can also be the meat starter in beef chili. Frankly, so can leftover meatloaf. :) Can you tell we waste very little?? ;)