Ever wonder what to do with that slightly wrinkled bell pepper sitting in your produce drawer, or that Tupperware of cooked rice? Have you ever felt an overpowering sense of humdrum eating, heated up leftovers? One’s first instinct is to simply throw it away for the sake of saving precious energy thinking about what to do with it next. What you are experiencing is a condition I like to call "Leftovers Syndrome," a sense of not knowing how to prepare or utilize leftover foods.
Extreme cases happen around Thanksgiving.
Do not be alarmed. I am here to alleviate some of your problems, as November 23 just happens to be National Leftovers Day! This unofficial holiday has been designated to be the day after Thanksgiving. Rightly so, it has become the day of creative ingenuity and boundless possibilities. Your friends at the Culinary Literacy Center have a few ideas that we would like to share with you.
Probably the biggest food group in this category, they are not the most sought after option on the table (which they should be, but I digress). Soup is usually the number one answer of transforming them into a new dish. I have a family tradition of making Thanksgiving soup every year, and even make my own stock. Any scraps from produce preparation can be used to make a vegetable stock. Let it simmer for hours, drain, and use or cool immediately.
Leftover rice can be a wonderful asset to any meal, but it can also be a giant question mark. My rule of thumb is that leftover rice is just begging to be made into fried rice. When you combine leftover vegetables, meat, herbs, spices, soy sauce, and crack an egg—voilà, you have a new dish! To be even more creative, I made fried rice stuffed bell peppers. I had some leftover green bell peppers and decided to kick it up a notch.
Mac & Cheese
I would personally eat mac & cheese any day of the week. I would also gladly eat it in its entirety. However, it doesn’t hurt to repurpose it occasionally. I am a firm believer of turning most leftovers into sandwiches. Parents out there: kids love sandwiches—grilled cheeses to be exact. Do grilled mac & cheese sandwiches sound great? I think so. I had left over sourdough bread and I buttered some slices, added cheddar cheese, a spoonful of mac and cheese, more cheddar, and top with the other bread slice butter-side up. Heat a pan over medium heat, cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Boom!
Beans & Legumes
Beans or other legumes are not the cool kids of the party, but they are the ones you should pay attention to. These protein-packed ingredients can make fabulous meals. My favorite is turning them into variations of hummus. You could also include them in a weeknight pasta dinner. Big tubular pasta, like rigatoni, is the perfect bed for sautéed greens, a quick butter and wine sauce, those leftover beans, and parmesan cheese.
Stuffing (or Dressing)
Everyone enjoys the carb sidedish made entirely of bread. Growing up we called it dressing, not stuffing, but it can be used similarly. The best way to use leftover stuffing is to make it into waffles. If you have a waffle maker at home, this can be your next culinary achivement. After combinging eggs and a little stock to the leftover stuffing, you can pack the mixture into your greased waffle maker and let it cook. For dressing eaters, it is the same process. However, be careful not to incorporate too much liquid in the mixture since it tends to have a higher moisture content than normal stuffing.
Turn that cranberry sauce, jelly, or whatever you call it into a wonderful sandwich spread. Mix cranberry sauce with some mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip!) and you've got yourself a new and improved sandwich spread. Better yet, you could turn the cranberry sauce into muffins!
The juggernaut of the table, this bird is my favorite ingredient to work with. From turkey salad, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey poutine, or even turkey fried rice, this bird can be transformed numerous ways. My favorite is making a turkey and vegetable frittata. Nothing is better than making a wonderful brunch after Thanksgiving.
Don't forget about the unltimate Thanksgiving sandwich, piled high with turkey, stuffing (or dressing), and a wondefrul cranberry mayo!
H a p p y H o l i d a y s !