Upgrade Your Leftovers

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I am so bad at eating leftovers.  In fact, I try really hard to make just enough food for a meal, so leftovers are impossible.  Inevitably, though, leftovers make their way into my fridge a few times a week.  Since nothing bugs me more than throwing food in the garbage, I have been trying to become better at eating leftovers before they become covered in mold and earn a trip to the trash bin.  Here are a few of the best tips I’ve come up with:

1. Re-purpose.

Once I stopped viewing leftovers as the same meal twice and started viewing the container of last night’s dinners as pre-seasoned and pre-prepped ingredients for a new meal, I started to appreciate leftovers more.  The best and easiest way to use leftovers is to turn them into an entirely new meal.  It may not be possible 100% of the time, but more times than not you can turn last night’s culinary masterpiece into a completely new masterpiece tonight.

Proteins: proteins are one of the easiest leftovers to deal with.  Extra steak, chicken pork or fish can easily be transformed into a salad, stew, burrito, quesadillas, scrambled into eggs or even turned into a sandwich.

I opted to tuck mine into ooey, gooey, cheesy quesadillas.

Take night’s leftover steak and  tuck it into ooey, gooey, cheesy quesadillas.

Vegetables: vegetables are also pretty easy to repurpose.  I like to take extra steamed veggies and turn them into a stir-fry or a quiche.  Last night’s vegetables also go great tossed with pasta or used to upgrade your baked potato.

Sensational Salmon Stir Fry with Soba Noodles.

Use your leftover veggies to make a delicious stir-fry – you’d never know you used leftovers!.

2. If you can’t repurpose, add a fresh ingredient or herb.

Some foods are inherently difficult to repurpose into a entirely different entree, such as pastas.  However, you can still upgrade your pasta and make a delicious second meal, by adding a fresh ingredient or two.  If you have extra fettuccine alfredo, you can mix it up by adding in some chicken and a fresh vegetable, like broccoli.  The base remains the same, but the flavor profile has changed.  Same goes for pizza, but honestly, who has an issue with leftover pizza?  But, if you do, add a fresh vegetable or meat topping and perhaps a sprinkling of a different type of cheese such as cheddar or Parmesan.

Creamy Alfredo Bow Tie and Peas.

Add some chicken, fresh vegetables and herbs to last night’s fettuccine alfredo to give it a whole new taste!

3. Re-heat properly – no microwave!

Yes, I know the microwave is faster but really, nothing that comes out of the microwave tastes better than when it is cooked in the oven or on the stove-top.  To maximize the flavor and palatability of your leftovers, skip the microwave.  Pretty much any leftover can be gently re-heated at 350 degrees for 10 – 20 minutes, until it is warm throughout.  If you’re not a fan of eating leftover pizza cold, toss it in the frying pan to get a crisp crust.  Or heat in the oven on a sheet-pan.  Vegetables are best when quickly re-heated in a frying pan over high heat, so they don’t cook too long and become soggy.  Pastas are best re-heated on the stove, over medium heat.  Add a little stock, cream or extra sauce to bring them back to life.

I will make this chicken until the day I die.  Perfect balance of sweet, salty and heat.  It's perfect.

The key to good leftovers is re-heating properly, which means, no microwave!  Use the oven, grill or stove-top!

Using these simple tips will give your leftovers a new lease on life and help you get the most out grocery budget!

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