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Ideas for creative use of pre-planned leftovers

Hi everyone,

Do you deliberately cook extra to in order to re-purpose it for subsequent meals ?

I've started doing this to save time but I am running out of inspiration, so I would love to know what others do.

I sometimes make a double batch of spag bol, put the extra in a baking dish, next night I make bechamel, pour half over the spag and top with cheese (sometimes I'll tuck in ricotta &/or a little frozen spinach first), the remaining bechamel with cheese melted in goes over that night's veggies. The third night the spag goes into the oven, and that's dinner done!

Roast lamb leg - leftovers used in a wrap with salad, tomatoes, hummus etc. Or made into a curry, often in the slowcooker and with chick-peas.

I make a double batch of stewed beef and onions in the pressure cooker, take out half when the meat's tender, and chuck potatoes and veggies into the pot for beef stew the first night. The stewed beef gets repurposed by adding
- chilli, canned beans, tomato paste = chilli
- fried onions, mushrooms &/or roasted capsicum, sour-cream = pasta sauce
- tomato paste, garlic, canned tomatoes = pasta sauce
- pastry = pies
- cooked carrots, peas (sometimes celery, turnip), covered with mashed potato, baked in oven = shepperds pie

I know it's not gourmet stuff, but in the mid-week rush all you want to do is get dinner on the table that everyone will enjoy! I would love other ideas - and thanks to The Dairy Queen for the inspiration to start this thread.

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  1. Great thread idea. I sometimes make a double batch of something, but not often. If I do, it has to immediately go into the downstairs freezer ... leftovers around here tend to go to my daughter and husband's lunches. But one idea is putting them into a frittata. I look forward to hearing of ways to use them that mean I don't have to hide things!

    1 Reply
    1. re: LulusMom

      Thanks LulusMom! I'm not good at the freezer thing, my freezer's a bit like a black hole in space - things often get sucked in and only come out when they look tired and taste funny so it goes in the compost. And when I'm tired and rushing, defrosting something big is all too hard.

      That's why I'm hoping for more ideas where, at the end of a long day, half the work is done, and the meal is fresh and easy, and if it's quick that's an added bonus.

    2. "Pre-Planned Left Overs"?

      OMG! Here I was thinking all these years that my wife bought leftovers.

      1 Reply
      1. re: G8trDoc

        LOL G8trDoc, it's the left-over leftovers that you really have to worry about!

      2. Another devotee of leg of lamb the first night and lamb curry the second.
        I often do a larger pork loin than we need so there will be old pork sandwiches. On day three the last bit is minced along with a litte leftover flank or round steak for a Bolognese like sauce I love to make. We always make extra steamed broccoli or asparagus to snack on. Extra potatoes often end up in a torta, often enough I now plan on it.

        4 Replies
        1. re: tim irvine

          I think one of the major problems I have is that I pretty much don't eat red meat, so there are never any roasts (aside from roast chicken). I imagine they give great amounts of leftovers. Seafood just doesn't have the same ... appeal a day or two later.

          1. re: LulusMom

            There are certain things I prefer not to eat leftover, seafood is one of them.

            1. re: rasputina

              Seafood is kind of ick reheated but if you can use it cold, it's not so bad. Poached salmon is good cold, leftover tuna and shrimp can be made into tuna/shrimp salad or just eaten over a bed of greens, etc.

              1. re: biondanonima

                The only way I use up leftover seafood is to make a fish/shrimp cake in the same way you'd make a crab cake.

        2. I love this idea for a thread! I like to roast 2 chickens on weekends and then use the leftovers in pasta, enchiladas, quesadillas, quinoa hotdish (http://www.twincities.com/ci_11528141 ), chicken salad. But, I'd really love to be more creative with my chicken leftovers.


          3 Replies
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            We do this too, we always cook two chickens when we are making whole ones. So many wonderful things to make with them and the carcasses go immediately into the stock pot and the stock is canned the next day.

            1. re: rasputina

              You can the stock? As in waterbath or pressure can it? Very ambitious!


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Pressure can, it can't be safely water bath canned. It's actually easy to do.

          2. I always cook twice as much rice as I need for dinner one night. In the next few days I use it to make fried rice (along with any leftover meat or fish). Or I just reheat it in the microwave to serve with stir fry or pulao or beans or whatever saucy thing I am in the mood for. Although it doesn't take that long to make rice, it certainly takes no longer to make 2 cups rather than 1 cup.

            My husband adores hash, so if we have baked potatoes I always cook a few extra, then I can cut them up in a dice, fry them up in a skillet, and add whatever leftover protein I have like corned beef or roast beef or grilled salmon or chicken and make a meal. A few eggs if we are shy on leftover protein. I usually also bury whatever we have leftover in the way of vegies as well.

            Can't have too much roast chicken. It can go in salad or hash or noodle casserole or rice casserole or tortilla casserole or a million other choices.

            I also try to double any vegetable (which I tend to serve plain) to use in fritatta or casseroles.

            The danger with cooking "extra" is to make sure it doesn't get eaten up by my husband the first night. He has a big appetite, especially for steamed vegetables, so I try to leave the planned leftovers in the kitchen so I really have them left!

            1. The more food I cook the bigger hy DH's midnight snack is. I've given up

              11 Replies
              1. re: dianne0712

                I hear you. My husband raids the fridge for whatever there is. Forget planning on lunches for my daughter, let alone a second meal. It is very difficult, which is why I'm looking for tips.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Then cook more at one time. For it to truly work you have to make more than can be eaten in one or two midnight raids.

                  1. re: rasputina

                    Also, I'm realizing I need to tell my husband that I have plans for these particular chicken leftovers so he knows that he has to look to something else for his snacking...


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      We settled on a simple signal for 'this is reserved': a rubber band. I re-use a lot of throwaway plastic containers for foods and I just wrap a rubber band around these after filling. Husband knows that those may be going to work with me, cooling before freezing, marinating, resting between recipe stages, sprouting/composting experiments, etc.

                      It only took one iteration of "Oh, my. That was homemade cat food, you know" before he learned the system.

                    2. re: rasputina

                      You haven't seen my husband eat, for all that he's still slim. I onc esaw him eat an entire pot of spaghetti sauce with accompanying pasta piled high. He eats what is generally listed as serving 4-6 by himself. He's very expensive. I wasn't there, but apparently he also once ate an entire turkey by himself. Not even enough left for a sandwich.

                    3. re: LulusMom

                      Can you put Lulu's lunch together after dinner and have the carrier in the fridge? I'm picturing the sheepish embarrassment of a grown man caught at midnight with a My Little Pony (or modern equivalent) lunch box on his lap!

                      I've had good luck with a piece of masking tape inscribed "NO!" with a red sharpie placed on the container.

                      With another ex a modified menu posted on the fridge worked. I simply listed key ingredients reserved for upcoming meals. If they were devoured anyway then a dinner out was the price.

                      1. re: meatn3

                        I do do the thing of putting Lulu's lunch together, but I usually don't serve for lunch the next day what we had for dinner the night before (I'm a little OCD about things like this). Don't want her getting bored. It's the whole concept of having enough leftovers to make a full meal of that really seems to boggle my brain. Aside from large chicken thigh braises, I'm thinking that this whole business works a lot better with big cuts of meat - roast beef, ham, etc. which may be why it hasn't worked so well for me. I think I will just have to be vigilant and make double batches of stews, soups, etc. and immediately after dinner freeze them.

                        This afternoon is a perfect example. I made Lulu a turkey burger, making an extra one for her dinner when we have date night. He walks in the door and said "what smells so good, I could really go for that!" and when I mentioned what it was for, he sort of raised his eyebrows like a villain in a 20s movie and made as if to go after that spare burger. Fork prongs came into it on my side ... burger seems safe. For now. This all despite the fact that Lulu and I also spent the morning making strawberry cheesecake bars and having one waiting for him.

                        Love the NO! and the "that's the price of dinner" ideas, I must say.

                        1. re: meatn3

                          Sure the "My Little Pony" lunchbox should work...unless her husband is a Brony....


                          Seriously, I use duct tape to signify when leftovers have been repacked into lunch portions. Most of us like leftovers for lunch so more often than not, there are duct taped containers stacked in the fridge.

                          1. re: tcamp

                            Thanks to this thread, after plating the green bean and parmesan salad that went with dinner tonight I immediately stuck it in the fridge instead of leaving it out (a sure invitation to "go help yourselves to more"). Both of them were disappointed. I pointed out to Lulu that it meant she'd get it in her lunchbox, and this helped her a little, but there was definite cloud over the table.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Generally my DH's response is "Are you telling me I can't eat the food in my own refrigerator?"

                    4. I only do it with basics.

                      So I'll make a whole family pack of chicken breasts for example and just serve them roasted with side dishes the first night, sliced chicken or chicken salad for sandwiches next day, sir fry, tortilla soup, burritos, tacos. Basically do similar with pork shoulder or chuck roast except it's usually bbq beef or pulled pork sandwiches or burritos or tacos with the leftovers. Same with brisket, sandwiches of tacos.

                      I cook extra rice if I'm making stir fry and then have fried rice the next day. When we make tandoori chicken I have leftovers to put in curries or pilafs for extra flavor. Carnitas are made into tacos the next day.

                      For brisket, leg of lamb or chuck we portion out some before cooking and grind it to later use in meatballs, meatloaf or burgers.

                      We also just make dishes we like in large enough quantity to last a few days just to eat reheated and served the same as they were first made. Like goulash, chili or soups. I don't bulk make lasagne, enchiladas ect as I'm picky and prefer them freshly baked. Same with pasta dishes that are served hot.

                      1. Of course it's not just home kitchens that do this...

                        1. Steaks are always oversized..sliced steak sandwiches or steak and mushroom pie the next day. Roasted potatoes for 3-4 when there is only 2 of us eating. Tomorrow's breakfast has them chopped finer and fried with onions and sometimes lil bit of meat.

                          Spag sauce and beef stew.........always extra to freeze and re-heat........usually better the 2nd time around

                          1. I always roast 2 small (3 lb) chickens instead of one. Same time/temp for the oven, twice the goods for same effort.

                            Pot pie, tarragon chicken salad, chinese chicken and eggplant salad. Also meat for future enchiladas and chicken soup, which can get popped into the freezer until I'm ready to employ.

                            Then I also have two carcasses to add to the "stock bag" in the freezer.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                              caviar, how do you make the chinese chicken and eggplant salad? I have leftover chicken breast from a roaster, and several eggplants from my garden that need to be used up.

                                1. re: jmcarthur8

                                  Hi! Sorry for the delay, I was off playing for the weekend! These are the proportions I use, I adjust up or down depending on what I've got:

                                  Mix together: 1 Tbs soy sauce, 2 Tbs molasses, 2 tsp sesame oil, baste onto:
                                  I whole chicken, about 4 lbs, and roast. I do the 475 for 15 min, then 375 until done.

                                  1.5 lbs of eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch rounds, brushed with peanut oil, roast with the chicken for about 10 minutes.

                                  Dressing: whiz this in your blender
                                  1.5 Tbs ginger
                                  3 cloves garlic
                                  1 serrano pepper
                                  1/4 cup rice vinegar
                                  5 Tbs soy
                                  1 Tbs sesame oil
                                  3 Tbs peanut oil

                                  Chop/pull the chicken into 1-2 inch pieces, combine with the eggplant, the dressing, top before service with 1 cup of loosely chopped cilantro, 6 chopped scallions, and 2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds.

                              1. 1) Baked Ham dinner with mac & cheese or baked sweet potatoes and something green.
                                2) Ham bone stripped of meat, and boiled with aromatics and trimmings for stock
                                3) Cold ham sandwiches on rye for a few lunches.
                                4) Ham noodle casserole with the odd chunks.
                                5) Stock used for "Delicious Ham and Potato Soup", along with meat picked off the bone after simmering:

                                6) and finally, the best of the best - ham salad made with the bits and pieces at the end.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: jmcarthur8

                                  Ham salad?? Would you mind sharing how you make it? TIA!

                                  1. re: CarrieSeas

                                    Carrie, gladly!
                                    Into the food processor, toss the chunks of ham (gristle trimmed out) and some chunks of onion. The proportions would be about 1/2 small onion for say, 3 cups of ham. Pulse to fairly fine chopped bits, but not too fine. You don't want to make a paste.
                                    Next add some mayo (Duke's if possible), a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard, one or two tablespoons of sweet pickle relish, and a couple good grinds of fresh pepper into the food processor. One or two quick pulses should do it, no more. If it needs more mixing, dump it into a bowl and mix there, instead of processing too much. The texture should be similar to tuna salad, but less wet.
                                    Sometimes I add shredded sharp cheddar, but usually I just use the above ingredients.
                                    Let the ham salad sit for a few hours or even overnight before serving in sandwiches or on Ritz crackers. The flavor really does mature as it sits. Do not take the entire bowl in front of the TV with you (and a sleeve of crackers) or you will find that there is none left for tomorrow's lunch.

                                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                                        Thank you so much, jmcarthur8! This sounds really good; I especially like the Dijon mustard addition. I'll take your advice about not taking the bowl and crackers in while watching TV, lol. With the holidays just around the corner, your ham salad recipe will be a nice addition to our appetizer table, can't wait to try it!

                                        Thanks again! :)

                                        1. re: jmcarthur8

                                          What a great idea!! Nothing like a leg of ham, but those raggy bits at the end always stumped me -always tastiest nearest the bone but difficult to serve appealingly, so thanks JM, I'm adding this one to the must try list.

                                    1. Here are two. 1) You mentioned repurposing the roast leg of lamb. My English stepfather, born around 1900, said that in his childhood every Sunday they had a "roast joint" then on Monday night the same joint was returned to the table with the cut places (where meat had been eaten on Sunday) filled in with mashed potatoes and browned in the oven so that it looked like a new roast. Kind of clever; I've never tried it. 2) What I do a lot is make up a package of stuffing mix, adding sauteed onion and extra sage, cover it with leftover roast chicken, and pour a can of chicken gravy over all of it. Can be heated in oven then or frozen for future reference--this is a wonderful thing to find in the freezer.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Querencia

                                        I'm not sure I have ever seen canned chicken gravy! What brand do you recommend?

                                        1. re: laredo

                                          It's all together on the same shelf, beef, chicken, turkey etc--comes in cans and jars---brands are Campbell's, Boston Market, Heinz---if I am going to use just part of it I like the jar because it refrigerates neatly. BTW in the coming Thanksgiving season canned gravies will be on sale---good time to stock up. Never as good as homemade but there is such a thing as convenience. Can also be used to extend leftover homemade gravy.

                                      2. Gorgeous swordfish was a terrific deal at a local Market Basket this past week, and I bought more than my guests and I could possibly finish in our grilled fish tacos. Last night I made fish cakes from part of the leftovers with some sauteed celery, onion and garlic, an egg and some breadcrumbs and fresh thyme. A little panko on the outside and a quick fry to crisp them up. Tasty with a nice caper-dill mayo sauce on the side. I still have a sizeable piece left, so I think I'll make a tuna-like salad for sandwiches, maybe adding a little of the leftover dill sauce.

                                        Of course, this worked because I managed miraculously not to overcook the fish like I usually do!

                                        Next time I think I'll intentionally grill up a little extra for leftovers, even though I'm not usually a fan of cold seafood.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: bear

                                          We often have a smidge of Swordfish left over that gets made up like Tuna......or with Tuna........for Sandwiches.........a little diced onion and lemon juice helps it along.

                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                            Thanks! I was out of lemon for the fish cakes last night and had to use red wine vinegar in the sauce. I'll pick up some lemons to perk it up.

                                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                              I'm just one person....unless I'm entertaining....but I always grill extra fish. Sometimes I add it to salads or make a sandwich the next day, by my favorite leftover meal is fish tacos. Do it with swordfish, salmon, tuna.....whatever I have left. Always good.

                                          2. For small amounts of leftover meats and veggies, I'll chop them up, add some type of cheese or sauce, and use a package of crescent roll dough (seal the seams) to make 'hot pockets'. Great for lunch and for using up the tiny amount that you always end up throwing away.

                                            I'll also take the small amounts occasionally and scramble them with eggs for breakfast for DH - off limits for me, allergic to eggs.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: jw615

                                              Fun idea. Any particular brand of crescent dough you prefer or do they all work about the same?


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                They generally work all the same to me - I use the pillsbury if they have it at the discount grocery, otherwise I have no problem with the cheap Aldi brand.

                                                I usually sprinkle with sesame seeds to make them pretty. Occasionally I'll mix up an herb butter and brush it on when they come out of the oven.

                                            2. I can't wait to use the Term 're-purpose' with my husband. I got a big kick out of that:-)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: miss_belle

                                                My step father absolutely went crazy when his mother called things "planned-overs." So of course for fun we'd tell him that was what was for dinner.

                                              2. I made this the other night with leftover pot roast and it was very good. The roast was cooked with onion, celery and tomato and I roughly pureed the vegetables and broth with a stick blender.

                                                We ate about a third that night and froze the rest in two containers.

                                                For the first leftover meal I reconstituted some dried wild mushrooms and sauteed them with a little onion and garlic. Added the thawed meat and sauce and heated through, served over wide egg noodles and put a dollop of sour cream on top. Kind of Stroganof like.

                                                1. I roasted several vegetables at once to minimize running the oven in the heat; carrots, celery root, turnip, parsnips and potatoes. I froze them in a 2 quart freezer bag. So far, I added a handful to a soup. The roasted potatoes will be cut up further & added to a frittata.

                                                  1. We do quite a bit of roasting, braising and stewing, so yes 'leftovers' are always part of the plan.


                                                    Sunday's roast chicken becomes Monday's chicken sandwiches and Tuesday's chicken enhiladas, or pasta sauce, or pad thai, etc. Then on Wednesday the chicken gets stocked and some of the stock becomes risotto. The rest of the stock becomes the base of a lamb stew on Thursday, and that lamb meat gets sutffed into ravioli on Friday. On Saturday the extra sauce for the ravioli joins the last of the stew and becomes the braising liquid for pork shoulder, which is then going to be the meat for Sunday's tacos. And on and on.

                                                    So there's this kind of sequencing that we've developed, kind of like rolling a rock down a hill, if that makes sense. Less thinking of it as 'leftovers' and more like an essential ingredient in tomorrow's meals and beyond.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jonoropeza

                                                      How many of you are there? I can't imagine a roast chicken making up that many meals here.

                                                    2. I get bored/claustrophobic if I really 'meal plan,' but ingredients work well for me. Shredded meat can go on a quesadilla, taco, potato, etc, and cooked rice and noodles can always be thrown in a stir fry or heated up in sauce. If I make a batch of tomato sauce, I'll cook zucchini and beef in some of it another day. I usually saute a giant batch of garlic, too. Most people wouldn't dream of it, but it saves a lot of time as I like everything really well sauteed. I do try to wash and cut up produce all at once too.

                                                      1. I make big pots of a couple of grains on the weekends and then use them for pilfs and grain salads and soups all week. Ditto pots of beans.

                                                        1. Here's a link to another thread on repurposing leftovers that might be of interest http://www.chow.com/digest/111967/the...


                                                          1. I make a huge casserole. Well, I double what would normally fill a 9 x13 pyrex casserole dish. I think it goes in a 10 x 15. Then I put it in large single serving plastic containers. then when somebody wants one, they just grab one and nuke it. I just made one and put 7 containers in the fridge.

                                                            If I put it in a bigger container, someone (looks askance at adult son ... aka "garbage gut") would just eat it.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              I have done that with moussaka, creating 12 portions to be wrapped individually in Saran, tucked into a sandwich bag, and frozen.

                                                            2. Hi Chookums, I thought you might be interested in this book "Cooking for the Week: Leisurely Weekend Cooking for Easy Weeknight Meals" I just posted about in Breadcrumb's Cookbook a Week Challenge thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8699...

                                                              Also, one of the authors wrote this article you might find interesting "Grill Once, Eat Twice, Double Duty Dinners" http://dianemorgancooks.com/?post_typ...


                                                              1. For me the question of whether a frozen leftover gets used is answered by whether I have frozen the item in an immediately usable form, eg ready to go into oven or microwave---so I set up my leftover or planned-overs that way. Examples: 1) Leftover poultry---make up stuffing, with plenty of onions and sage, lay chicken or turkey on top, pour over a jar of chicken gravy, freeze. 2) Sliced leftover beef in leftover gravy. 3) When I make meatloaf, make double and freeze half in a baking dish. Then the next time I make mashed potatoes, make extra and add a layer to the frozen meat, thus making a shepherd's pie ready to put in the oven. 4) Leftover pasta and sauce: layer in baking dish with ricotta beaten with an egg, to make Fake Lasagna.

                                                                When I have extra milk I make cheese sauce (make a white sauce with 1 stick butter to 1/2 cup flour and 4 cups milk then add a bag of shredded cheddar) and freeze it in 8-oz margarine tubs. It is great with leftover cooked broccoli or cabbage or makes almost instant potatoes au gratin with leftover potatoes. Can also be used for various hot broiled sandwiches. Versatile.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                  Terrific ideas!

                                                                  I inventoried and rearranged my freezer contents recently. I had a few containers of leftover cooked meats which I've repeatedly looked at and felt uninspired. The leftovers I have frozen in a ready to heat/eat form get rotated through regularly.

                                                                  I (duh) had never really made the association as clearly has you have re: immediately useable forms! Thanks for helping me rethink things.