I have been a bit under the weather. So, needless to say, I didn't feel like cooking a full from-scratch meal. So, I did what any smart Mom would do, I improvised.
When I cook, I usually have leftovers. I love to eat leftovers for lunch the next day, but I'm the only one. My husband hates leftovers (unless it's meatballs - super Italian guy that he is). So, I always have food in the fridge and I hate to waste it. Nothing drives me crazier than having to throw out food! So, I try to use it up in a way that makes it feel like a whole new dish. I change the flavor profile of cooked meat by adding different seasonings or sauces. I throw leftover grilled veggies into pasta so it's a new dish, not just grilled veggies again. Trick the mind (and the family) into thinking it's a totally new meal.
Here are a few of my tricks for making leftovers into something new:
We eat a lot of chicken. I like to roast a whole chicken in the oven when it's cool outside and I grill chicken all the time. So I always have leftover chicken. What I like to do is shred up or dice up the leftover chicken and put it in zip bags or containers in portions. Then it's ready to throw into a recipe.
My kids' favorite thing that I do with shredded chicken is quesadillas. If they only knew how easy it is. Just get some tortillas (flour or corn - whatever size you want) Spread some of the shredded chicken on half the tortilla. Sprinkle some taco seasoning over it (or just use chili powder, cumin, anything you have to spice it up). Then add a little bit of salsa (too much will make it soggy) and a bit of shredded cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, etc). Then, fold the tortilla over the filling. Heat a skillet (cast iron if you've got it) to medium-high heat, put the folded quesadilla into the skillet and let it crisp up on the bottom (it doesn't take long). Then flip it over and let the other side crisp up. Once it is crisp on both sides and the cheese is melted, it's done. Cut it into wedges and serve it up with some sour cream and salsa for dipping. So easy!
What you can do with diced up leftover chicken is make an easy pasta dish. Cook up some pasta. In a big skillet, heat some chopped onion and garlic in a little oil. Then add in a can of diced tomatoes and the diced chicken. Let it simmer, then throw in the cooked pasta and stir. Top with a little grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil, if you have it. Quick and easy!
When I have any vegetables left over, I put them into a freezer bag. Keep the bag in the freezer and just keep adding to it every time you have leftover veggies. Corn, carrots, peas, green beans, whatever. Then, when the bag is full, you have a great base for a vegetable soup. Thaw it out, pour it into a big pot, add some chicken or beef broth and maybe a can of stewed tomatoes. Season to taste. Simmer till warm. If you have leftover steak or roast, chop that up and throw it in, too.
If you grill veggies (zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions), you can cut up the leftovers and add them to some cooked rice or pasta and throw in some Italian dressing (warm it up first) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Makes a quick side dish.
LEFTOVER SPAGHETTI SAUCE
Like I said before, my husband is Italian, so I make a lot of "sauce" or "gravy" (depends on who you ask; that's a discussion for another time). I always have leftover sauce. So I like to make easy homemade pizzas or calzones. You can buy refrigerated pizza dough (Pillsbury) or you can buy the boxed mix and make it yourself in 5 minutes. You don't even half to use pizza dough. Make French Bread Pizza. Another great way to use up leftover or day old bread. My kids like Bagel Pizzas. Basically, anything you have that you can spread sauce on. Anything you have on hand can be used as toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage) or just go with sauce and cheese.
Last night I made calzones. I used a boxed mix to make the dough. Added leftover meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Folded it over and pressed the seams. Cut slits to vent and cooked it at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.
I also made calzones and french bread pizza using leftover spinach and artichoke dip topped with shredded mozarella. Yum!
So, don't waste anymore leftover food. Get creative and use them in a new way!