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Doing Leftovers Right

Let’s be real for a second.  How many of your evening meals are lazily referred to as leftovers?  And then… you sigh.  Perhaps frown.  Why such the bad rap?  I LOVE LEFTOVERS. 

Leftovers by design are functional, convenient, efficient, and inexpensive.  (If you are like some members of my family who cannot even consider something food, let alone eat it past its original served hour, then this post may not resonate with you. For all of you other people out there, kindly read on.)

I believe there are three short rules for leftovers success.  Just three.  We have too many rules as it is.  Let’s keep this simple. 

How to do leftovers right:

1.  Do not call them leftovers. 

This is so silly yet true. The word “leftovers” has connotations of old, unappealing, and dried out food.  This may be especially unwelcoming for children who are natural born detectives and may be overly suspicious of a meal being served. Kids want to know what is for dinner and they want it to sound good!  (Can you blame them?)

2.  Change the meal, slightly. 

This is a big one. Unless you have made a lasagna or a comprehensive mixed dish like stew, you really should mix it up. Change something. Even if only the dipping sauce.  Some examples: 

  • Dice leftover roasted chicken, add steamed carrots and broccoli and serve with marinara sauce over pasta.  
  • Mix teriyaki sauce in with leftover salmon snd stir fry fresh vegetables to make an Asian stir fry.  
  • Pull pieces of chicken breast apart by hand, add some taco seasoning, and make a pulled chicken burritos and salad.  
  • Crack open canned garbanzo beans, left over edamame from take out, combine with leftover pasta and dress with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  
  • Options are almost endless.  

3.  Do not use the microwave 

This may require more cleaning up, but food does not last too well in the microwave.  Heat food with sauce on low to medium in a sauce pan. Place newly combined foods in a dish and stick in the oven to heat up.  Make sure to add some moisture, usually by way of sauce or seasoning, to keep food from drying out. 

Just three rules to try.  

Last night my husband offered to run to the market to get food for dinner.  Before he had time to go, I managed to prepare this meal in about eight minutes.  Tacos!   

I had all the needed ingredients to make tacos except for the corn tortillas, which I purchased earlier that day.  I lightly pan fried the corn tortillas,* filled them with ground turkey and beef (from a meal earlier in the week**) homemade guacamole, mild taco seasoning, and shredded cheese. (I usually add black beans but was in a rush.)   I placed a row of tacos in a baking pan and heated them up for about 15-20 minutes so they were warm enough for serving.  The tacos were plated*** with chopped up fresh peppers and carrots on the side.  Yeah – I never forget the vegetables and neither should you. 😊 


Leftovers in my house were a success. They will be for you too.  Really. 

~ Emma

Emma’s cooking hacks

* I like to lightly pan fry the tortillas to make them a little more stiff, otherwise they will flop and not hold well. Hard shells are good, although they break easily. Often times I use larger whole wheat tortillas for a full burrito, or wrap a hard shell with a soft one. 

** I’ve also used pulled chicken to achieve the same dish. Tofu, pork, beef, tempeh. Whatever works for you. 

*** Every time I serve burritos or tacos I wrap one side with tin foil for ease of lifting and limiting the spilling. This is a must-do for kids.  See below.