budget talk

Leftovers…they’re not so bad after all

I might be in the minority here, but I love leftovers. I love the challenge of finding ways to use remnants from previous meals to create new ones. And for me, leftovers are almost like eating a free meal. And with food prices on the rise, who could ask for more.

How many times have you checked your refrigerator and found a cup of green beans in one dish, maybe carrots in another? When I find leftover vegetables on the shelf, the first thing that comes to mind is soup. Some of the best testing soups I’ve ever made started out as a bowl of leftover veggies. Minestrone, cheese and potato…even tomato soup made from pureed leftover canned or fresh tomatoes.

The possibilities are endless with regards to leftover fruits, smoothies, toppings for oatmeal or waffles. And how about trying some fruit based desserts like cobblers and crumbles?

Cheese and Dairy Products
I have a whole list of ways I use leftover cheese. If I’m making mashed potatoes I usually will add some shredded cheese to give it some pizzazz. And here’s one of my favorite comfort foods that my grandmother often made, especially if I was feeling under the weather, and that’s cheesy scrambled eggs. She’d add about half a cup of shredded cheese to the beaten eggs, cook them, sprinkle another half cup of cheese on top and serve the eggs on toast. Some people have told me that they often use leftover cream cheese in scrambled eggs too.
I sometimes grate leftover pieces of cheese and stir it into soups, but here’s something even fancier. Heat a skillet and grate the cheese directly onto it. Timing is essential because you want it just to melt and turn a light golden brown color and not burn. You can place it on top of a bowl of tomato soup and it looks like a gourmet dish.

One way to use up leftover sour cream is to add it to stews and soups, especially ones that are spicy hot. The combination is great. You get a little heat and then the sour cream cools things down.

Cottage cheese I often turn into a fruit dip by adding chopped pineapple, mandarin oranges and toasted coconut.

Breads, Chips and Crackers
I don’t know why but I seldom open a bag of chips or crackers without finding some crumbs at the bottom. Lots of people toss them, but they make the ideal crunchy topping for grilled vegetables and dishes like macaroni and cheese. You can even use them instead of plain breadcrumbs for breading fish and chicken. And I don’t think I’ve thrown away bread for years. I use it for crostini or brushetta, which is also another way to use up cheese and tomatoes too.

And I never let things like chili go to waste. I often use it for a filling for baked potatoes and yes, I even used it as a filling in omelets and on top of pizza.

Baked Beans
Once again, leftover baked beans make the ideal filling for baked potatoes. And one time I was making a pizza and discovered I didn’t have any pizza sauce. I did have some leftover baked beans so I mashed them with a fork, adding some salsa and made the base for a Mexican pizza which I topped with chopped green peppers and cheese.

Vegetable Peelings
Okay, vegetable peelings might not fit into the category of leftovers, but I never throw them away. I keep a container in the freezer and put everything in there. When I have some extra time, I add the contents of the container to a stock pot, top it with water and seasonings to make homemade stock.

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