These are primarily ideas for small bits of left overs that may be not enough, for instance, for a casserole or left overs on their own. If you’re looking for great ways to use left over Turkey or Ham, some simply good and others marvelously gourmet, see 12 Days of Turkey & 12 days of Ham. Some of my recipes are tagged for Left Overs (meaning they make left overs, or planned left overs for another meal) or they use left overs.
A general note on stretching left overs: I tend to serve a lot of left overs in something, under something or over something:
- Take bits and pieces of things and put them in won ton wrappers, egg roll wrappers, puff pastry or pie dough, sometimes with cheese, if appropriate, and fry or bake them. Try them in traditional shapes or make little (or large) turn overs. Almost every culture has some sort of stuffed wonderment!
- Make little cups of Won Ton or egg roll wrappers, filo dough, pie dough, bread or puff pastry by spritzing a muffin cup (mini or large) with cooking spray, filling with the dough, spritzing with spray and baking them off. Fill them with your favorite gravy and meat type mixtures, or use BBQ and cheese like below:
- Don’t forget, left overs can often be served over bread, corn bread, toast, biscuits, pop-overs, rice, potatoes or noodles.
- Left overs can be topped with something: pie dough, puff pastry, corn bread, mashed potatoes.
- Imaginative Pizzas are a great use for left overs. Double pizza dough and freeze, so a pizza crust is alwasy on hand. Here’s two recipes for a BBQ turkey (or chicken) Pizza and a Chicken or Turkey and Artichoke Pizza. Both use left overs.
- Left overs can be rolled in tortillas: think, wraps, tacos, rollups or tostadas, fried or baked, or even microwaved.
- Masa dough can be made into several different fun left over stretchers: little cups, turnovers, fat little gorditas or tamales.
- Crepes can be stuffed with all manner of things, savory as well as sweet, and served plain or covered in a cheese sauce and broiled till bubbly.
- Arepas are wonderful little South American breads that can be filled or stuffed with all kinds of things. Pupusas from Salvadorian countries can serve the same purpose.
- There are Stromboli from Italy as well as Calzones – since the fillings need to be precooked, they are an ideal use for many left over meats.
- Indian Fry Bread is often served with a taco type meat, but would lend well to many other savory left overs.
- Many cultures have basic recipes for breads or flat breads; think of them in new ways – can they be stuffed, filled, made into cups or rolled up with non-traditional ingredients?
- Hand pies are making a resurgence: savory or sweet. In the frozen north, here, we make pasties, little pie turnovers filled with various meats and traditionally turnips or rutatbagas. They can, of course, be filled with all manner of fillings and are a great way to clean out the fridge. These, of course, are not to be confused with pasties used in Burlesque dancing!
- Indian cultures have Samosas, lovely little pockets of goodness…simply fill them up with flavored up left overs.
- I could go on and on!
Bones or Shells - Save by type in a ziploc in the freezer until there is enough to make soup or broth. Try roasting them first for a better flavor.
Left Over Gravy - Serve over any bread or biscuit, or perhaps even a popover. Thin it down and add to a like flavored broth for a soup…say beef gravy with beef stock and barley for beef and barley soup. Use it in pot pies. Use in shepherd pies. Layer it in a casserole with the left over meat and mashed potatoes, and stuffing, if you have it.
Lunch Meats - Add to chef’s salad, omelets, frittatas and quiches. Pinwheel roll-ups: take a tortilla, spread with cream cheese, layer with lunch meats, roll up and slice diagonally. Add to a cream sauce and serve over toast, biscuits or pop-overs. See different types, below, as well.
Fish & Shellfish -
- Make into cakes or balls by adding a bit of well seasoned white sauce, finely diced vegetables and bread or cracker crumbs, dip in eggs and then flour or crumbs and pan fry or deep fry. Some people use mayo instead of the white sauce.
- Larger quantities can be baked in a loaf: add a few crushed saltines, a bit of milk and a beaten egg, salt, pepper, dash of hot sauce, put in a small buttered casserole or even custard cups and bake till cooked through and browned on the top.
- Salmon or tuna, especially, can be made into a salad by mixing with mayo, adding a dash of lemon, and some finely diced celery, onion, chives or peas for color. Flavor with garlic or dill. Add to cooked pasta shells or macaroni, or use as a sandwich or cracker spread.
- Many fish can be made into dips or spreads with a combination of mayo and cream cheese, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a sprinkle of onion powder, onion juice or finely chopped onion. May be improved with a dash of hot sauce. If you want to make a warm dip or spread, use creamed cheese thinned with a bit of sour cream. I found people who don’t generally care for fish will gobble these up. Works especially well with smoked salmon or crab.
- Bacon - Garnish a salad, especially spinach. Garnish deviled eggs or egg salad. Crumble over a pizza. German potato salad is flavored with bacon and uses the drippings, this method also works for cabbage or spinach salad. Garnish potato soup. Garnish any potatoes, especially twice baked – either white or sweet potatoes. Garnish corn casseroles or creamed corn. When you fry bacon, make it in a cast iron skillet and then cook cornbread. Top a meat loaf. Make a B.L.T. Add to Mac and Cheese. Use a bit to flavor a stew, any type of pork or sausage dish, or even pot roast. Fry it up and use it to saute your onions for corn or potato chowder, then crumble the bits over the top when you serve. You can freeze, either raw or cooked. You’ll need to crisp it in the oven if it’s been frozen cooked. See also drippings as many recipes rely on bacon flavor by sauteing the vegetables in bacon drippings.
- Ham - When it’s not enough for a casserole, add to scrambled eggs or sprinkle over an egg bake. Whir it in a blender with butter, allspice and pepper for a dab of “deviled ham.”
- Roast or chops – Use in pork fried rice.
- Sausage - Crumble, heat add a bit of butter and make a white sauce. Season and pour over biscuits. Add to pizzas or omelets. Mix with cheese and a bit of milk for a queso dip. Put in scrambled eggs.
- Chicken Wings - make a pizza using bleu cheese dressing (or ranch) instead of sauce, add the chicken wing meat, or chopped chicken wings if they are boneless, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake as usual.
- Fried Chicken - Cut into bits and serve with gravy or syrup over waffles. Try throwing a piece into your homemade chicken broth when you make it; it does amazing things to the flavor. I usually save the wings (no ever seems to want to eat them at our house) just for this purpose – put them in a ziploc and into the freezer.
- Chicken or Turkey – Pot pies, chicken or turkey a la king, turn overs.
Meats - Pork or beef, heat till warm and soft in a saucepan, shred and add bbq sauce for a sandwich filling. See planned left overs for ideas using larger quantities.
- Barbecue - Pulled pork or other bbq meat makes marvelous won tons, tamales or taco filling. Try it as the meat for a pizza. My son’s favorite? Put a won ton wrappers in mini muffin tins. Brush or spray with oil. Bake a few minutes till crisp, remove from oven and add a bit of almost any kind of shredded barbecue meat. Top with cheese and bake till warmed through and cheese is melted. Make Brunswick stew. Make barbecue pizza – really good with jack cheese.
- Bologna - Few slices left over after sandwiches? Put a new spin on it with fried bologna sandwich. Make a few slashes in the outside edges of the bologna so it won’t curl so much, fry in a bit of butter and make sandwich as normal.
- Chili - Mexican Hamburger: Make hamburgers, cook, place inside a tortilla, top with cheese, fold over and add chili (green is best for this) and more cheese to the top and broil till bubbly and melted. Cheesaritos: Roll some chili in a tortilla with some cheese and microwave. Chili Dogs, see left over hot dogs. To stretch your meal, serve over rice or spaghetti for a Cincinnati twist. Mix with velveeta and use for a dip. Mix with real cheese and use for a dip. Mix with sour cream and use for a dip…you get the picture! Add to Macaroni & Cheese for Chili Mac.
- Corned Beef - Reuben sandwiches, corned beef hash, or even a reuben dip by mixing with a little cream cheese – add sauerkraut if you have it. You may need to thin with a little milk. Heat and serve with rye crackers or toast.
- Hot Dogs - Don’t throw out. Warm, slice the long way and place on a toasted bun, cover with warmed chile, canned is fine, sprinkle with cheese and broil for the best chili dogs. Slice the long way and fry with a bit of butter for a better left over taste if you want to reheat and serve plain. Cut into pieces and heat with bbq sauce mixed with a bit of jelly or jam for a quick snack. And by all means, do the best you can to avoid slicing and adding into boxed macaroni and cheese…
- Meatloaf - Sliced meatloaf makes wonderful sandwiches. Try cutting into thick slices, covering with a quick sauce of ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar, and place under broiler to reheat. Cut into slices, dip in egg and breadcrumbs and fry – thank you Paula Deen for that idea! Crumble up to use in stuffed peppers.
- Pot Roast - Just have a smidge? Make Beef Barley soup or a sandwich. A little bit more? Sherpherd’s pie using sautéed mushrooms, pearl onions, the pot roast gravy and mashed potatoes. (Ok, so it’s beefherder’s pie, also known as ‘cottage’ pie), try cutting pot roast into chunks, putting into the gravy to serve over bread, mashed potatoes or noodles.
- Sloppy Joes - Spread on open buns, top with cheese and broil. If you have a larger quantity, put in the bottom of a casserole, top with cornbread mix or homemade cornbread and bake. Mix with cheese and a bit of milk for a queso dip. Put in the bottom of little wonton shells that have been prebaked in mini muffin tins, top with cheese and pop in the oven till warm and melted. Make won ton with them.
- Steak: Slice thinly across the grain and use in a salad, make a sandwich. If you have an extra steak, rather than cook it (thinking what will I do with just one?) consider setting it aside and making Cornish Pasties for the family.
- Stew - Make a Shepherd’s pie topped with mashed potatoes, top with biscuits for a pot pie, make a pasty or turnover – wrap in 1/2 moons of pie dough or square of puff pastry , crimp, wash and bake.
- Taco Meat - Use in a burrito for a different spin, perhaps mixed with refried beans to stretch it. Mix with cheese and use as a queso dip. Add a little salsa, layer over refried beans on a pizza dough, top with cheese. Fry up a tortilla, spread with taco meat and cheese for a quick appetizer. Throw in your chili. Try the “won ton” trick listed above. Roll in a corn tortilla and fry for a new spin.
What are your favorite ways of dressing up your left overs? I’d love to hear how you make use of your left over Beef, Chicken or Pork!