Today is the one day of the year when we actually look forward to eating leftovers. Turkey and cranberry piled on yesterday's dinner rolls makes the perfect lunch. But after today the luster of the leftovers starts to wear off and the refrigerator full of Thanksgiving tidbits starts to feel intimidating.
This week we are here with some ideas for using up the leftovers whenever you find stockpiled food in the fridge.
Use the freezer. The easiest way to repurpose leftovers--especially casseroles, soups, and stews--is to pack them into single-serving (or single-meal) sized containers and pop them in the freezer for another day. Two weeks from now that soup or lasagna won't feel like leftovers. It will just be a quick and convenient meal on a busy day. Pull the food out of the freezer in the morning before leaving for school or work and let it defrost in the refrigerator during the day. Warm it in the oven or microwave when you get home and dinner is ready! Remember to use containers designed for freezer use and to remove all of the air (or as much as possible) from the container before freezing to prevent freezer burn. Leftovers will maintain their quality in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
Change up the protein. Did you eat chicken or tofu with that rice or pasta last night? Try using up your vegetable or grain leftovers with seafood tonight. Our friends at the National Fisheries Institute suggest:
- Add canned salmon or tuna and a little Greek yogurt to left over mac and cheese.
- Spread leftover spaghetti sauce on a pizza crust, top with crab meat, vegetables of your choice, and a little bit of cheese.
- Perk up leftover vegetable soup with some shrimp.
Wrap it up. Leftover fish, chicken, beans, vegetables, and grains make fantastic fillings for wraps and burritos. Keep whole grain tortillas on hand and wrap up leftovers with other ingredients like lettuce, tomato, hummus, guacamole, salsa, or mustard for an easy lunch or dinner.
Hash it out. Hash makes a great meal at any time of the day. It works easily for breakfast or brunch, and is also savory and hearty enough to be a satisfying dinner. Heat a skillet over medium heat with some olive or canola oil. Add a chopped onion and a minced garlic clove along with chopped leftover vegetables. If you don't have any starchy vegetables in your leftovers, you can add up to a can of drained and rinsed beans like chickpeas or white beans. Season with fresh or dried herbs and spices of your choosing (smoked paprika is an Oldways staff favorite). Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add a generous splash of vegetable or chicken stock for moisture. Crack one egg per person on top of the hash, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover the pan with a lid. Cook covered for another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the cover, and check the eggs to see how firm they are. If they are not cooked through, cover the skillet again and allow the eggs to cook until the whites are firm and the yolk is to your liking, up to another 5 minutes or so.
Simmer some soup. Leftover vegetables make a great base for pureed soups. Toss leftover vegetables into a stock pot or large sauce pan with some olive oil, chopped onion, and minced garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and the other vegetables are warmed through. Cover the vegetables with chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor in small batches and return to the pot (or use an immersion blender in the pot). Stir and warm until the soup is evenly heated. Season with fresh or dried herbs, spices, salt, and pepper to taste. A dollop of Greek yogurt can make a great garnish to provide extra creaminess. Make the soup even heartier by adding some beans, silken tofu, or a scoop of nut butter to the vegetables before pureeing.
Whether you are already back to work, getting a jump on your holiday shopping, or have the luxury of a relaxing long weekend, there are plenty of options for creating new meals from yesterday's leftovers.
Click on the titles or photos below to link to the recipes.