My favorite leftovers!

We try hard to reduce waste in the kitchen, and planning for use of “leftovers” goes a long way to help!

It can be a challenge to repurpose those leftovers hiding in the refrigerator. One can toss the remnants of yesterday’s casserole in soups, vegetables and grains in frittatas and omelets, and lots of leftovers are delicious tucked in a wrap. Chili on Tuesday finds its way in a burrito on Wednesday and as a garnish on green beans on Friday. Ratatouille can become the filling for a wrap the next day, or a sauce for pastas a couple of nights later. Stir-fried vegetables make a wonderful salad the next day, by themselves or added to a grain or pasta and livened up with a tangy vinaigrette. Tonight’s extra baked potato will be home fries in the morning, and we often plan it that way.

A whole new dish

      My favorite way to use leftovers is by transforming them into a totally different dish rather than just reheating the fish and rice and broccoli from the night before. I often make extra for the purpose of a whole new dish. I rarely make just enough rice for the two of us, and the “leftovers” are deliberate always get used in some different way, saving me time later on. Of course, the concept isn’t new. Cooks would transform leftover New England Boiled Dinner into Red Flannel Hash the next day, just to keep things interesting.

You can tuck just about any leftover in a quiche, even leftover spaghetti!

You can tuck just about any leftover in a quiche, even spaghetti!

Working my way to a clean refrigerator

      During the holiday season, we end up with lots of leftovers; I’m still working on New Years here, and I’ve tucked a few treasures in the freezer to use later, perhaps on a snow day.

      There are still some leftovers that are perfectly wonderful as is the next day (sesame noodles) and I don’t tire of eating them, but the following are some of the redesigned meals I’ve really enjoyed, just for variety.

Buttered Lobster Baguette

Lobster baguette

      I sent my husband to the fish market for two Maine lobsters for us to celebrate a Christmas Day meal with just the two of us. He came back with 2 ½ lb. lobsters! That’s big. Really big.

      I couldn’t finish one of my claws and the tail, so I saved it for us for breakfast the next day. This is so simple; I hardly consider it a recipe. You can also use scallops, crab, or any firm fish cut into little cubes. A day-old baguette is great, just toast it up, or substitute another firm bread or even an English muffin.

      Heat ¼ cup butter or vegan butter in a saucepan. While the butter is melting, chop up one large lobster tail, or two normal sized ones. Sprinkle in a bit of fresh or dried tarragon, and just warm the lobster through, you don’t want to cook it any more. Serve over buttered baguettes, and top with an over-easy or poached egg. That’s it! Nothing else required.

      I will make this again with lobster cooked just for this purpose.

Last Night’s Dinner Fritters

      This recipe was literally what we had left over from a meal the night before. I mixed everything together the next morning, added an egg and a bit of flour, and made little fritters. You can use any fish, any cooked grain, any veggie. What did you have for dinner last night?

      In a large bowl, combine about 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice, about 1 cup cooked broccoli, minced up, about ½ lb. cooked cod, chopped up, and 1 or 2 scallions, minced. Beat an egg and add that along with about 2 tbsp. flour, or what it takes to bring everything together, and some salt and pepper, and any other herbs that strike your fancy.

      Heat a bit of oil in a cast-iron or other sturdy frying pan and form the fritters using a standard ice-cream scoop. Press the mixture into the scoop, release it to the pan, then press lightly. Cook until brown on one side, just a few minutes, turn, and brown the second side. Place on a wire rack to cool a bit and immediately salt.

      Serve as is, or with sriracha mayonnaise. I added the dregs of a bottle of capers and some of the brine to mine this time around.

Pasta and Pea Salad with Asparagus

      Leftover pasta just begs to be turned into a salad! Sometimes, I make twice as much pasta as I need for dinner so that I have the pasta for a salad later in the week. Planned leftovers mean you save time and energy!

      I happen to love peas in a pasta salad, and a nice tangy vinaigrette. You can use any vinegar you like, any leftover cooked veggies you like, and any pasta! Think broccoli, peas, carrots, green beans, Brussels sprouts. When in season locally, I toss in some fresh asparagus when sautéing the onion.

      Place a quart of leftover pasta, any type, in a large bowl for easy mixing. Sauté an onion with four chopped anchovies, and when just about cooked, add a small bunch of fresh asparagus, cut up. Cook the asparagus just until tender and place in the bowl with the pasta along with a thawed box of frozen peas and some chopped parsley.

      Make a vinaigrette by combining in a jar 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup of vinegar of choice, a tablespoon of Dijon, and salt and pepper. If you like less acid, reduce the amount of vinegar. Shake vigorously and pour over salad ingredients. Mix everything well and top with Parmesan or vegan Parmesan shards.

      If you eat dairy, you can substitute a cup of crème fraiche for the vinaigrette, adding the Dijon.

Pesto Marinated Roasted or Grilled Vegetables

      I often make extra roasted or grilled vegetables to marinate overnight and serve as is, or atop a bed of lettuce the next day, with an extra drizzle of dressing. So delicious. There might be zucchini, sweet and hot peppers, mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions or leeks, corn, or asparagus, whatever is in season and delicious. One vegetable, or a mix of them works here. You can also tuck these in a wrap with a little hummus!

      Just roast or grill the vegetables as you usually do, brushed with a little olive oil. After your meal, top the veggies with the following vinaigrette, and let rest overnight. The next day, the flavor of these vegetables is amazing!

      To make the vinaigrette, combine 2 tbsp. basil or other favorite pesto, 4 tbsp. fruity olive oil, 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon, 1 tsp. native honey, salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the ingredients to suit your own taste. You can also add a bit of hot sauce if you like.

Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!

Sunrise on New Year 2023.

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64 Comments Add yours

  1. gabychops says:

    I love to use any left vegetables and nothing is wasted.
    Thank you for the prompt!


    1. Thanks Joanna! It’s amazing what you can create quite by chance.

  2. gabychops says:

    You are absolutely right, Dorothy!


  3. Americaoncoffee says:

    Good day good day! Thank you for the new tips Dorothy. Famine will never come your way! 👍

    1. Thank you my friend!
      I have had some trouble posting to your site. Those WP gremlins are at work!

  4. Nancy says:

    Mmmm! Mmmm! Perfect creations with leftovers. Always an inspiration to us!
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks Nancy! That’s so kind to say! I get lots of inspiration for all of you as well!

  5. Jenna says:

    Lobster for breakfast, wow, only in New England!! I too love transforming leftovers into a completely different meal, and often it is a quiche, flatbread or pasta casserole…the joy of cooking!

    1. Thank you Jenna! We do love our lobster here!
      Pasta casseroles are pretty versatile! No waste!

  6. Great ideas for using leftovers!

    1. Thank you so much Marilyn! Gotta keep my thinking cap on!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great ideas for leftovers!

    1. Thank you! It’s fun to try and disguise what we had the night before because my husband does not like to eat the same thing twice in a row!

  8. C.A. Post says:

    Anita and I joke about how she never seems to get rid of all the leftovers. She just adds “a little” to make sure we have enough for the next meal, and I swear, I think I’m eating leftover lasagna pieces from six months ago! 😂
    Not really, her cooking is always delicious, but each meal does seem t leave a little something for “starter” for the next.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    1. LOL! Sounds like my mom’s soup! She would keep adding, and by the end of the week we often wondered just how long the bits had been around!

  9. Bernadette says:

    Thanks for reminding me how much I like fritters. Going to the fridge right now to hunt around. I was hoping you would join me in the cookbook club! I will be back in touch with the particulars.

    1. Great Bernie! Can’t wait for the club to start, it sounds like fun!
      Happy foraging!

  10. Ronit says:

    Great creative ideas. 🙂

    1. Thanks Ronit! I’m sure your leftovers are even more delicious and creative!

  11. kevin says:

    Happy New Year! , You must of read my mind, I’m just about to load up the oven, with what i call Frankin Pie which is chicken leftovers odd bits of bacon and leeks , and a mishmash of odd bits of pastry i had left in fridge, have plenty of roasters from Sunday, thats Tea as we call it, dinner or supper 👍

    1. I love the name! Frankin Pie, is perfect!
      Right now, I’m simmering a soup, and it would great to have some pastry bits to top it all off!

  12. terrie gura says:

    Your approach to leftovers is the same as my grandmother taught me so many years ago! Every once in a while, she just reheated what was left from the night before but, more often than not, she was “upcycling” the ingredients into something new! I love all these suggestions and inspirations, especially the roasted veggies, after they’ve mingled with vinaigrette in the fridge. YUM!

    1. Thanks Terrie! It really is upcycling what was left over from another meal. My mom used every scrap of everything, every heel of bread, drop of bacon fat, and all the bits and bobs from the refrigerator. More often than not, it all went in the soup pot!

  13. Fritters are such a good way to use up leftovers – thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    1. It was an idea that evolved. My husband spied the leftover rice and asked if I’d make rice cakes. I spied the rest of the dinner from the night before and decided to go a little bit further. Since I’d made just about every vegetable into a fritter, I knew it would work, but it was even better than I thought!

      1. I am definitely going to try this :) much better than just reheating leftovers.

      2. It certainly stops the family with getting bored with a meal (although I doubt anyone ever got bored with lobster) but it does stretch a little leftover to a lot!

  14. NativeNM says:

    I’ve been trying to clean out the refrigerator as well. You gave me the best idea for those leftover uncooked veggies. I’m going with a quiche tonight! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I’ve truly stuffed just about everything possible in a quiche! It always works! Especially if you add some nice cheese.

  15. Using up leftovers can be a challenge but you have it down with these recipes.

    1. Once in a while it doesn’t work, but is usually still O.k., but most of the time, the mix-mash ends up delightful!

  16. Suzassippi says:

    Love the pasta pea salad and the fritters idea. Anything on a baguette gets my vote. Wonder how catfish would work? (I am in Mississippi after all.)

    1. I think catfish would be great on this Suz! Such a beautifully sweet fish with lovely texture.

      1. Suzassippi says:

        Believe it or not, I searched for catfish chowder after reading your comment on the corn soup recipe at Sheryl’s. It’s a thing!

  17. You and I are Yankees right to the core, but you are definitely the better cook. 🙂 I try to use all my leftovers, and if I can’t I think of the chickens and then the compost. Usually, I can recycle them somehow. 🙂 I remember my Grandmother making hash out of a variety of things. Good memories.

    1. Thank you Judy! You’re too kind.
      Your hash comment clicked with me. I forgot the New England Boiled Dinners my mom used to make, and the next day Red Flannel Hash!

  18. These look delicious! I hate to waste food.

    1. I’m really on a mission right now to redesign a leftover in any way I can so it looks like a whole new dish!

  19. Gail says:

    Never thought to serve lobster for breakfast. Now I want it!!!!! 🦞

    1. I know it sounds really decadent, but I think it might become a holiday tradition – as long as the husband does the lobster hunter/gathering!

      1. Gail says:

        I would. I was just telling my husband about it! (hint, hint) 🦞🦞🦞

  20. Angela says:

    I love making a completely new dish out of leftovers! Thanks for your ideas… I will have to try the fritters for sure!

    1. Thank you Angela! It certainly relieves leftover boredom eating the same thing!

  21. Great ideas. Happy new year!

  22. nancyc says:

    Yum! These are all great ideas for leftovers! I’ll have to try that with quiche sometime! 🙂 Happy New Year! 🙂

    1. I’ve tossed just about everything in a quiche Nancy!

  23. Christy B says:

    We’re going through the leftovers too! Great ideas here xx

    1. Thank you Christy! Here’s to a clean refrigerator!

  24. One, I’m starving, stuck in a car on the way to the lake. My mouth is watering and now I’m regretting cleaning out the refrigerator! You are amazingly creative! I would have never paired lobster and eggs! I’m inspired! Thank you, hugs, C

    1. The first time I had lobster and eggs was in Provincetown, RI. We were staying at a little B&B, doing reconnaissance, and for breakfast we were served soft French omelets filled with local lobster and crab. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven! You can be stingy with the lobster and stretch one to feed a lot!

  25. Oh stop! You are killing me with all your wonderful seafood dishes! Those eggs are perfectly cooked too.

    1. Thank you Diane! I’ve probably cooked hundreds of thousands of eggs at the inn in our 18 years, you need to get it right!

  26. To my way of thinking, recycling leftovers is one of the most important jobs for any home cook, and yet I feel like it’s often neglected in terms of what people like to write about. So thank you!

    1. You’re very welcome! I always think it’s best to cook once and eat twice with minimum effort and waste!

  27. I’m big on leftovers and it is so much fun to see your ideas. Thanks, Dorothy!!

    1. Thank you Mollie. I try to get as creative as possible with them because the husband doesn’t like eating the same thing twice!

  28. Great ideas for the leftovers! Starting your day with Buttered Lobster Baguette, yummy 😋

    1. Thanks Ribana! The lobster baguette was divine!

  29. Anonymous says:

    Everything looks so delicious and creative as always, Dorothy! Happy and delicious eating and cooking in 2023! 🙂 — Leah

    1. Thank you so much Leah! We love leftovers around here, especially if they are planned.

  30. miakouppa says:

    Love this post Dorothy! It’s so true what you say about leftovers – they are such a time saver and so great to have on hand. We love the ideas you have shared! xoxo Helen & Billie

    1. Thank you Helen and Billie! It’s like a little buried treasure in my freezer!

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