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Waste Not, Want Not With These Leftover Food Ideas

Growing up in my family, I would often hear the saying “waste not, want not”.


This went for using all the bits of everything that was being cooked, but it also went to eating all the leftovers. That of course led to eating the same thing two or three days in a row. Where’s the fun in that? With all of us caring enough to stay inside these days there are inevitably plenty of leftovers to be had but the good news is, you don’t have to just reheat them in the microwave. Try thinking of leftovers as a “Chopped” challenge. What can you do to that leftover rice to make it something different than the night before? Below you will find a few ideas for how to reinvent what is in that Tupperware container. There are plenty more leftover food ideas where that came from. It just takes a little imagination.
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My favorite leftover food ideas!



Mashed Potatoes = Potato Soup


All it takes is cooking up some onions and/or garlic in some olive oil. Carrots and celery are nice too if you have them. Stir in the mashed potatoes and add some chicken or vegetable stock. Whisk to combine and bring the whole thing to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and puree the whole thing using a stick blender if desired to make it extra creamy.



Beef Stew = Open face shredded beef sandwiches


This is a no brainer. Using a slotted spoon, pull out the meat and veggies from the beef stew. Shred the meat with your fingers, mash up the veggies and combine them in a small pan. Begin to warm it over medium heat adding some of the liquid as needed. Spoon the warm mixture on a piece of toasted bread or roll and you are done. Open-faced pull beef sandwich. For an extra added touch, top the open-faced sandwich with some cheese and broil it until melted and gooey. Definitely a fork and knife situation.


ideas for leftover food



Pasta = Pasta Pizza


This is a Giada go to and definitely important to add to the rotation. Simply add some more cheese and an egg to whatever leftover pasta you have and mix it together really well. Heat a pan with a bit of olive oil in it over medium heat and add the pasta mixture. Press it into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown. Repeat on the other side, then slice and serve. Find the video here.


ideas for leftover food


Risotto = Risotto cakes/arancini


For these, scoop about a 1/4 cup of leftover risotto into your hand and form it into a patty. Bread the patty first in flour, then a beaten egg, followed by breadcrumbs. Fry the cakes in a good amount of oil until golden brown and warmed through. Season them with kosher salt and serve them with a salad or topped with a poached egg. There you have it, a complete meal. For arancini check out the recipe above.


ideas for leftover food


Roasted chicken = Tacos


Why roast one chicken when you can roast two and have leftovers to make tacos?! Shred the leftover meat and toss with a dash of cumin, a sprinkling of chili powder and just a touch of orange zest. Toss well to coat. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the chicken. Cook undisturbed for about 4 minutes or until the chicken is beginning to crisp in some spots. Stir and continue to cook until you have a few crispy bits and a few soft bits of chicken. Add in some chopped tomatoes if you have them and a squeeze of orange juice (or just a splash of water) and you are ready to assemble. Taco night is never a bad night.


ideas for leftover food


Roasted Veggies = Frittata


Have leftover veggies? Have some eggs and maybe some cheese? You have a frittata and a great anytime meal! Try one of these recipes here.


ideas for leftover food


Chili = Pizza topping


Leftover chili can totally work as a meat sauce on your pizza. Simply brush the pizza dough with some olive oil, sprinkle with a small amount of cheese and spoon little dollops of chili over the pizza. Top with more cheese, of course, and maybe some red bell peppers and onions if you have them. Bake like you bake any pizza, until golden brown and bubbly.

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