Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Make Leftovers Exciting and Our Weekly Menu

When I was growing up, my mom often used to say, “My favorite part of cooking are leftovers.” My mom is a very good cook, but she doesn’t enjoy cooking as much as tending to her garden, and pretty much every meal she cooked was seen again at least once (and often twice) in the form of leftovers. Leftovers saved time and money. Most times, she switched up the sides or “transformed” leftover pasta into a “pasta frittata” for example.

Leftovers have been “normal” to me, and I have never minded eating them. In fact, I usually eat leftovers from our dinners for lunch the next day, and I love it. The boys in our house are a different story. From an early age, the young adult would say, “What are we having for dinner? NOT LEFTOVERS!!!!” Hubby is okay with leftovers (he better be as I’m the one who cooks 99% of our meals… Smile), but he doesn’t get overly excited over them either…

Over the years, I have learned to make leftovers more interesting. Here are some of the things I do to mix things up:
  • Freeze leftovers and use them later (I just recently started doing this again, and I really like it. Everyone is much more excited about a dish when a little time has passed. In fact, the meal doesn’t seem like leftovers but like a brand new meal!)
  • Make a new, interesting “something” to go with the leftovers (For example, when we have leftover soup, I may make some garlic croutons on the second day. If we have leftover fish, I make all different sides. Sometimes, making a healthy dessert creates enough excitement to let everyone forget that we are eating leftovers.)
  • Change the leftovers so that they (almost) can’t be recognized (For example, use leftover grilled salmon to make salmon burgers, turn leftover roasted veggies into veggie soup, and use leftover chicken to make chicken salad sandwiches.)
Now on to our weekly meals. Last week, I had planned on making Gina’s butternut squash mac & cheese, but I never got around to it. So I’ll be making it this week. The reason I didn’t make the mac & cheese was that we had some leftovers, and hubby and I also went out one night to a lupus fundraiser. We enjoyed some very good beers and a monstrosity of nachos. Not surprisingly, we didn’t finish them, but what we had was more than enough. We haven’t eaten out a lot lately and have really never had nachos for dinner, so I’m okay with it this once…

Meal 1: Gina’s butternut squash mac & cheese & a salad
Meal 2: Tomato soup with Greek yogurt & garlic croutons. Our tomato plants as well as my mother-in-law’s plants are still very good to us! I feel so lucky! Makes up for all the strawberries the squirrels ate…
Meal 3: Grilled halibut and roasted veggies.
Meal 4: Chili (not sure about the sides yet)
Meal 5: Leftovers from earlier in the week. If there aren’t enough, I’ll defrost some soup.

Questions: Do you like leftovers? Yes, as I said above I love leftovers, and I could eat them every day “just as is.” But I have learned to be a bit more creative than that…. What are you most looking forward to eating this week? Everything sounds really good to me. I guess that’s the advantage when you plan the menu! Smile What’s your favorite vegetable at the moment? I still love the last of the tomatoes… They will be gone soooo soon!

Be well,


  1. I LOVE leftovers- maybe it's the cook who enjoys them because it means an already prepared meal (my husband doesn't get overly thrilled about them either) :)

  2. Growing up I always hated leftovers, and it wasn't until the past couple of years that I started eating them. My husband always takes leftovers for lunch at work, which is great because I hate to throw away food! I think I need to get more creative with them.

  3. I LOVE leftovers. I often purposefully make too much food so we will have leftovers. It's funny because Matthew never had them growing up for somer reason, so it's all new territory for him.
    I really can't wait to hear how that mac and cheese turns out tomorrow! I'll let you test it out before I go for it ;)
    Sounds like you guys are having a great "fall weekend." Love your sweater!

  4. I love this post, Andrea! I also grew up with a mom who loved using leftovers, and therefore taught me how to be useful in the kitchen, with leftovers. We actually have a store tour where I work with the theme, "Planned Overs", which takes people through the aisles and discusses how to turn one meal into three meals. It's fun! I love your tips, and they are very similar to the ones we use in the store tour.

  5. Love your leftover post! I do like leftovers, and like you, often eat them for lunch the next day. My kids like leftovers too. My husband will tolerate them, but prefers different emails each night. This is probably due to his father who refuses to eat leftovers of any kind. We were actually going to have leftover Greek/Persian food that we had at our friends restaurant Friday night, but ended up going out for Mexican food with some other friends instead. Tomorrow night = leftovers!!!

  6. Great post! Since it's just me I end up having a lot of leftovers. I don't really mind since I enjoy them. But after two days, it's nice to try something new.
    I am loving the sound of that mac and cheese! Can't wait to hear about it.

  7. I love left overs. We are just 2 people so I always have leftovers. I use them for lunches, so I at least get all new dinners. I also freeze things for later on so that way some time passes. If I know I can't get to it right away it will go in the freezer.

    Sorry there wasn't time to meet up, but maybe the next time I am in the area we will have more time.

  8. I love left overs, but Ben won't eat them, even when I try to make something new! A lot of the time I freeze things!

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  10. Oh I love leftovers! Also, I like to freeze everything, from soup to bulgogi (cooked or just marinated). I recently made kimchi fried rice with spicy pork bulgogi I had in the freezer. It was delicious. As a food blogger, sometimes I have to make the same dish several rounds to develop a recipe and presentable photos. So freezing helps. This week, I will be making some pizza and salads with heirloom tomatoes from my farmers' market. My tomato plants didn't do well this year.

  11. Anonymous10/10/2011

    I don't like leftovers in general, whenever I freeze some, I procrastinate to eat them afterwards. I think it has to do with personalities. Same as menu planning didn't work for me because if I know what's coming next... I just don't like it. I like spontaneity even if it involves a little more work.
    But I really like the idea that you have on creating another dish using leftovers. It saves time but it's a new dish! :)
    have a nice day Andrea.

  12. I cook extra most of the time just so we have leftovers.

    they make a great warm lunch the next day or a healthy night off from cooking!

    can't wait to check out your mac and cheese!
    Happy Monday

  13. My husband usually takes the leftovers to work for lunch the next day. I do freeze soups and stews into lunch size portions for my kids' lunches.

  14. Hi Andrea. I LOVE leftovers, either in their original form, or recycled into something completely different. And because we're only a family of two, we often have them. Have a great day!!!

  15. Mark rarely goes for leftovers. I hate it! But it does mean more for me! I made a dinner last night just to have leftovers for lunch today...we only ate a few bites last night. Kinda goofy, but I totally get where your mom is coming from! I saw a cute idea for leftover stuffing from put it in mushroom caps for stuffed mushrooms. I can't wait to do that!

    And favorite veggie right now...squash! I have butternut and acorn on hand :)

  16. I love leftovers, especially during weekday so I can take to work next day :-)
    Hope you have a great week and nice post Andrea :-)

  17. Leftovers are a staple at my house! Noah calls them "lunchovers". HAHA! 99% of the time my lunch is leftover from the night before. I like to transform them sometimes, too so nobody gets bored. Freezing for another time is great, too.

  18. I LOVE leftovers. Plus, quite a few things taste better the next day -- like soups, stews and braises. ;)