Leftovers used to make me gag. Unfortunately, I was too cheap to eat out frequently, and too lazy to cook a completely new meal every night. This caused internal conflicts. I had to find creative ways to enjoy eating at home more often. Here are some ideas I experimented with that finally convinced my taste buds to get on board.
Tortillas: I buy whole wheat tortillas for a healthier choice. They are leftover friendly in two ways:
Burrito (Pronounced: Bur-re-HEAT-o): Re-heat a leftover rice dish, beans, meat, chicken, pork, or stew. Dampen a tortilla with a little water on your finger tips. Slip the tortilla between a folded, clean dish towel and heat if for 45 seconds in the microwave. Spoon leftovers into the center of the tortilla and add whatever vegetables you have (chopped onion, green peppers, broccoli, tomatoes). Be sure to check the door of your refrigerator and add great flavors like olives, banana peppers, or pepperoncini. If you don’t have salsa, use drained canned tomatoes and Tabasco sauce or jalapenos. Add some cheese, roll ‘er up and enjoy!
Tortizza (Pronounced: Tor-TEET-sa): Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For sauce you can use tomato paste, plain tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce or fresh tomatoes. Add dried Italian seasoning, thyme, garlic powder and whatever you have in the fridge (ham, turkey, beef, fresh spinach, mushrooms – canned or fresh –, chopped onion, green peppers, fresh garlic). Any cheese will do (mozzarella, feta, cheddar, parmesan, havarti). Drizzle a little olive oil on top and a sprinkle fresh ground pepper. Cook for 12 minutes.
Two For One Soup: Soups are a great place to throw leftovers as well. And here is an way to get two dinners out of one pot. Make a chicken vegetable soup, enough to feed your family for two nights. The first night, serve it as is.
The second night, as you reheat it on the stove, add a can of coconut milk, a can of bamboo shoots, fresh green or red peppers, red curry and crushed red pepper flakes. Make a fresh pot of rice to serve on the side and you have a totally different meal for very little additional effort. And you can just wash the pot once – after the second night’s dinner. The coconut milk is high in fat but girl, is it good!
Salad: Throw leftover chopped vegetables together with a little vinegar and oil to make a salad out of it. No leafy greens required. For a cheap and delicious salad dressing on any salad mince a clove of garlic and mix it with lime or lemon juice, olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper. If you have fresh or dried herbs mix those in.
Grow Legal Herbs: Grow your own herbs. They add fresh flavor to otherwise ho-hum dishes. Amazingly, the herbs I bought at Lowe’s have survived for months! (I have a black thumb). I paid $30 for two basil plants, one oregano plant, one thyme plant, potting soil and a planter. In contrast, in the produce section of the grocery store one tiny container of basil – four big leaves – costs $3. I use my home grown herbs in pesto, pizzas, burritos, rice, soups, vegetables, salad dressings, you name it. What a savings!
The key is to introduce strong flavors like salsa, tomato paste, onions, garlic, Tabasco sauce, coconut milk, and curry to disguise the leftover-ness of your leftovers. Also, add fresh ingredients like herbs and vegetables to your leftovers to take your taste buds in new directions. Be brave enough to experiment and you will save money and lick the plate!
Image courtesy of LynnInSingapore