Scrumptious Leftovers

Does your family moan when you say "leftovers for dinner?" Would you like to hear applause for the scrumptious leftovers you serve? Here are ideas by the dozen that can work for you:

First, get out the week's leftovers cluttering your fridge, and study them. You ask, "how can they possibly become elegant, savory, lip-smacking servings my picky family will love?' So what do you have?

  • Challenge #1 -- A bit of beef pot roast, gravy that went with it, and a cupful of cooked green beans.

    What do you do? Add fresh potatoes, pared and diced in bite-size pieces; a medium onion, chopped; a fresh carrot or two (depending on size) cut into rounds. Cover the vegetables with water in a medium pot and cook until they are tender. Do not drain. Cut up the beef and add to the pot along with the gravy and green beans. If you have an extra jar of beef gravy, add it also.

    Cook over medium heat until the food is hot. If desired, thicken it with a tablespoon of cornstarch (or flour), mixed with some water in a jar (shake it vigorously to get out any lumps) and add it slowly to the pot as the broth simmers until you have the thickness you like. Want to really dress up your scrumptious beef stew? Pour into a baking dish, top it with some refrigerator biscuits and bake in the oven until the biscuits are done. Double scrumptious!

  • Challenge #2 -- Have some cooked noodles? -- a cupful of greens (spinach? kale?)

    What do you do? Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet, add the noodles and cook over medium heat turning from time to time until the noodles have a light crust; add your greens and a lightly beaten egg or two, season to taste, mix well, cover and watch carefully until everything is cooked. Scrumptious "fried noodles"!

  • Challenge #3 -- A cooked ear of corn, some leftover green peas, a lone serving of mushroom soup.

    What do you do? Cut the corn off the ear, combine with the peas and mushroom soup in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan. Add about half a cup of water and heat thoroughly. Mix in some instant potato flakes to thicken the hot liquid to the consistency you like. A scrumptious side dish!

  • Challenge #4 -- You have what? A whole lot of miscellaneous stuff - ? Good!

    What do you do? You have Smorgasbord! Heat up whatever can be served alone, such as macaroni and cheese (just add a little milk and maybe a little more cheese); a bowl of spicy cooked rice shouldn't need anything unless you'd like to add some crumbled bacon; that leftover chicken can be diced and heated in whatever cream soup you have on hand, to be ladled over those mashed potatoes.

    Make it a real feast with some sliced pickles, olives, applesauce, sliced tomatoes, or whatever you can add. Don't forget bread -- not just any bread, make it special such as some quick-bake cornbread, or hard rolls, refrigerator biscuits, or even toast cut into squares and served with a dipping sauce. Ahhh, Scrumptious Smorgasbord! -- with choices for everyone!

--- And here are some quick tricks to round out the dozen:

  • #5. A cream soup combined with diced cooked chicken or pork (or both), served over leftover rice or noodles.

  • #6. A can of diced tomatoes (or a can of tomato soup diluted with water as needed) added to leftover cooked hamburger, cooked macaroni, and a chopped onion. Cook together in a large skillet. When heated through and blended, top with slices of cheddar cheese, cover and simmer until cheese melts.

  • #7. In the microwave (or on the stove) cook a chopped onion in a bit of oil until softened, add leftover green peas, cooked noodles, some broth, tomato juice, or water to moisten, and cook until heated through. Top with cheese, cover and heat until cheese melts.

  • #8. Add slivered almonds to a bowl of cooked green beans and heat well.

  • #9. In a tablespoon of olive oil, saute a chopped medium onion, half a green pepper, and some mushrooms. Add a bowl of leftover plain beans. Heat well and serve.

  • #10. How to dress up leftover meatloaf: Slice it and top each slice with a slice of tomato and a slice of cheese. Heat under your broiler or in the microwave. Serve the meatloaf slices on a platter skewered with an olive on a toothpick.

  • #11. A leftover casserole might be dressed up with added ingredients such as a can of cream soup or diced tomatoes, leftover plain rice or noodles, and heated in the microwave or oven until a cheddar cheese topping melts.

  • #12. Combine leftover plain beans with an additional can (or cans) of contrasting beans, drained and rinsed. Add some leftover tomatoes, mushrooms, cooked chopped onion (and green pepper if you like) and heat the mix in the microwave. Ladle out into individual bean bowls. Serve with crusty bread for a main dish.

So you get the idea: combine, add to, dress up, or give it a sauce -- for Scrumptious Leftovers!


(1) The taste test is a MUST. (2) Adjust all suggestions according to your family's likes.

For a rule of thumb: make use of simple utility foods such as cream soups, canned diced tomatoes, cheese, plain canned beans (garbanzoes, white beans, kidney beans, black beans, drained and rinsed), fresh chopped onion, eggs, slivered or chopped nuts, mushrooms, olives, etc.

Remember, you can pare and dice a fresh potato, or add a can of appropriate plain beans to a leftover that needs filling out. Just be sure the dish is flavorful. If something seems missing, try adding a dash of spice, or favorite sauce (Worcestershire, soy sauce, hot sauce, or whatever you like) to spark it up.

Never overlook the importance of good bread, and a spread your family likes -- maybe cream cheese or even softened butter mixed with a hint of spice, or a savory dipping sauce; some families like apple butter with every meal -- Mmm.

Yep, before you know it, you'll be known in your family circle as the Queen of Scrumptious Leftovers!

Sure, go ahead with the applause, folks!