5 Ways to Turn Leftovers Into A Whole New Meal

Even with Gatheredtable, and even with the best intentions to waste less food, sometimes you still end the week with a random assortment of food in the fridge. For me, figuring out what I can do with what’s left in the fridge is one of my favorite times in the kitchen – it’s like a treasure hunt and a puzzle all rolled into one. I tend to reserve Fridays or Saturdays for this type of kitchen adventure after the rest of my cooking for the week is done.

The key to re-purposing leftovers like this is to pair flavors together. See my post on pairing flavors for more info. Make sure that you would want to combine the flavors of each leftover item before pairing them together in one of these recipes. Also remember that you can always add a little more seasoning, but you can’t take it out. Start conservatively and add more to taste.

For those who consider themselves too inexperienced or not confident enough to just wing it, fear not! You can do it, I promise. But if you need a little help getting started I’ve compiled some of my favorite base recipes.

“Anything Goes” Leftover Quesadillas
These are one of the easiest and most foolproof of the leftover “non-recipes.” I seem to always have some kind of tortilla left over. My favorite thing about these is that each quesadilla can be a little different so each person can really make it their own. I’ve used everything from just caramelized onions and brie to roasted potatoes and cauliflower, kale, black beans, and cheddar cheese. I like to top them with a little greek yogurt (or sour cream) as well.
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“Anything Goes” Leftover Soup
In general, soup is my favorite go to for using up leftovers. While not quite as foolproof as quesadillas, it’s still extremely easy and the results are often something I like more than when I follow a soup recipe. The key to soup is to think about textures and flavors that go well together. Stick with flavors and items that sound good combined outside of soup (fish in beef broth, not my favorite).

“Anything Goes” Leftover Frittata
After soups, frittatas are my second go to, I love to make them Sunday morning for breakfast (usually as I plan out my menu and shopping list for the next week — then I can incorporate anything that didn’t go into my frittata into my menu for next week). Many recipes call for you to start the frittata on the stovetop and then transfer it to a 400 degree oven to finish. I prefer to reduce the heat on my stovetop, cover, and let cook until set without putting it in the oven.

“Anything Goes” Leftover Salad
As we start to move toward warmer weather I find myself turning my leftovers into salads more and more often. I love to just fill a big bowl with leafy greens and then top it with almost anything I have left: pasta, rice, roasted veggies, shredded meat or beans, and then add any type of cheese or nut. As with the rest of these recipes pretty much everything is optional, really even the greens, just use whatever combination strikes your fancy. If you want to really go wild, check out our post about making your own dressing.


“Anything Goes” Leftover Fried Rice
On weeks when I’m making rice as a side earlier in the week I love to make enough extra so that I know I can turn it into fried rice later in the week. While the sauce (soy, hoisin, tamari, or teriyaki) is very flexible I prefer not to leave it out. If you have ginger, definitely use it in this! (I always keep some in the freezer.)

Go ahead, experiment, have fun! And please tell us if you find a great combination you love!

Happy Cooking,

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