Little Leftovers

If you've followed Seasoned Cooking for a while, you know I'm a fan of leftovers, using them wisely, and planning things out so that you can use them wisely (something often referred to as "plannedovers"). And that's all well and good ... until you find yourself with just a little of something left over. You know what I'm talking about. You make a pan of brownies and end up with about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. You nearly finish a bag of chips and all you have left are small pieces and crumbs. Or that tiny wedge of cheese that keeps staring at you every time you look in the refrigerator. All around the kitchen, a little of this and a little of that can add up to a lot of great ingredients just waiting to be used. But how? Here are some of my favorite ideas for little leftovers:

  • Cheese: One of my all-time favorite ways to use a tiny bit of hard cheese, like Parmesan, is to either grate it super fine with a microplane or super coarse with a potato peeler and serve it over salad. Depending on how much cheese you're talking about, it might just be enough for you, but who said you don't deserve a special touch on your lunchtime salad? If you are talking about a soft cheese like cream cheese or goat cheese, try adding it to your favorite savory sauce for a nice creamy touch. Things like cheddar or other standard medium cheese are terrific grated and served over a bowl of chili, a hot baked potato, or even a bowl of soup.
  • Nuts: If you only have a few nuts left after a baking spree or the like, consider using them as topping for a salad, sundae, or casserole. The added crunch is a yummy treat. Sometimes, when I have really small amounts of a bunch of things like nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, etc, I mix them together and use them as a sundae topping. You'd be surprised at how far those mixtures can go, too. I've had rather elegant sundae bars that have fed a dozen people with little leftovers in the mix!
  • Fruit: When you find yourself with just a few berries or grapes or the like, rather than toss them, consider gathering them into a storage container in the freezer for making smoothies. Or, if you're like me, you enjoy a bowl of yogurt drizzled with honey and granola in the morning. Some fresh fruit can really add a nice touch. And, of course, there's no rule that says you can gather together several fruit little leftovers to make yourself a fruit salad for lunch. Yum!
  • Potato Chips: A few crushed chips can make a great casserole topping, but have you ever tried sprinkling them on frosted brownies? The salty flavor and the extra crunch are great additions! And then there's the sprinkle-it-in-your-sandwich solution. A little crunch and salt are welcome additions in most sandwiches.
  • Chocolate Chips: Melt a few chocolate chips down and either drip or drizzle fruit, depending on how much chocolate you have. Suddenly, you have an elegant treat and it's just because you had some little leftovers you were trying to get rid of! Of course, chocolate chips lined up on a graham cracker and topped with a marshmallow becomes easy s'mores when you microwave them for about 30 seconds. Who is going to argue with that kind of treat in the name of using up leftovers?
  • Jelly or Jam: I love adding a spoon or two of my favorite jam or jelly to plain yogurt to make my own flavored yogurts. You can also add small amounts to spicy-sweet salad dressings or dips for eggrolls or the like. If you microwave it for about 30 seconds, you can easily pour it over ice cream for an impromptu sundae.
  • Coffee: If you have a bit of coffee left, but don't want to vibrate off the planet, consider using it in your favorite baking recipes in lieu of water. This works best with recipes involving chocolate, since the two pair so well together. I'm particularly fond of using coffee in chocolate icing and have been known to make an extra pot of coffee to make sure I have enough leftover! You can also free leftover coffee for coffee ice cubes for your iced coffee.

I'd love to hear about your little leftover solutions, too. What do you find yourself in possession of and how do you use it? Or are you stuck with a little bit of something and at a loss for a use? Toss out a comment and I'll see if we can find you a solution. Now is a great time to make a bit of order in your kitchen and enjoy the benefits that little leftovers can bring.

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