I love leftovers.
In fact, let me be EXTRA clear, I get EXCITED with leftovers.
After converting my beloved #MrB into another Leftover junky (you can watch more about it here!), I always find myself pondering about what will I create next out of whatever is in the fridge from the night (or week before) and getting exhilarated at the possibilities of another culinary win.
Now, growing up, leftovers felt much like punishment. I mean, we didn’t have much money, it was Venezuela in the early 90s and I was being raised by a single mom. Things got tough in many occasions. However, my mom always made leftovers’ dishes super exciting and delicious, especially the omelettes she would prepare at the end of the week with whatever compatible things were in the fridge. In many ways, these occasions felt like feast for me.
These days, leftovers have taught me some valuable lessons, that make me love them EVEN more. Here are my 6 lessons learned from committing myself to creatively reusing leftovers:
If kept adequately, they can resist even 2 weeks: Now, most of the times, food in our home doesn’t make it beyond the 1-week mark (unless packed for the freezer!), but now that I have invested in great containers and make sure food gets put away properly and never touched with serving tools that could be messy or dirty, things have lasted much longer than I imagined they would.
Spices and herbs evolve over time: A lot of casseroles, stews and sauces tend to get better with time. Particularly dishes with onions and tomatoes tend to get better after a day or two in the fridge.
… so beware, especially when reheating!: As flavours evolved and change in the fridge and then some get reactivated with heat, the level of spiciness can hit new marks that you might not be ready for. I’m not a fan of spicy foods (and my lips swollen when I eat it!) and so if the leftover dish had some peppers or chillies I always check before reheating them, as they might become WAAAAYYYYY too spicy for me.
Most things can be turned into a casserole with some imagination, eggs and cheese: Seriously. This should be taught in school. If I don’t have enough of one leftover to make a whole new round from it, I tend to make a baked dish to make it go further without investing too much time or money.
When repurposing leftovers, the Key is in maintaining Flavour Consistency: This lesson I learned early on and later relearned in cooking school. There are spices that go well with certain cuisines and dishes but not with others. I try to make sure that there’s a theme on the repurposed dish, especially when there are several elements combined. A quick Google search can help you sort out what spices go well with what… no one wants to end up with a Bolognese sauce full of garam masala and cumin.
They can be a busy grown-up’s best friends: With kids at home on their summer holidays, loads of projects to catch up on and more ideas to be developed, leftovers are one of my secret weapons to avoid investing too many hours cooking AND helping our resources stretch. Win-Win for sure!
If you believe in yourself, almost anything can be a Delicious Feast!: For many, eating leftovers has a layer of lacking and shaming. These days, when ethical brands and practices are reminding us of the cost of our consumption habits on our planet, I believe reusing and embracing leftovers is both an act of Love towards our environment (and ourselves!) and an act of defiance against consumerism. So, when facing them, dared to be creative, check out ideas online, think outside of the box and, above and beyond, have fun with them.
Want to start giving Leftovers a go with an easy recipe? Here are 5 great recipes for you to try this week:
Versatile Veggie Soup: This one is ALWAYS a winner for me. I even save the hard stalks of the Broccoli and Asparagus for it and, with our always present Bone Broth, I can turn it into a Gut-Healing powerhouse! Make sure you skip the potatoes when doing a Keto version. You can always substitute those for Chayote or Cauliflower.
The Best Meatloaf Ever (which happens to be Keto and Paleo!): Now, I wasn’t a fan of meatloaf until recently and this particular recipe will even make the pickiest one in the house a convert too. This is a great way to reuse: Veggies (shredded or chopped and mixed into the minced meat), meat (you could even use cooked options and add extra fat and water to the mix) and even offal meats (aka nutritional-powerhouses like Liver or Heart!). Make sure you take the time to nail the spices and you’ll have a great recipe that everyone will love.
Leftover Turkey Casserole: I’m a fan of casseroles. Consider this your blueprint but feel free to change the protein, veggies and cheeses involved to fit YOUR leftovers situation.
Lamb and Potatoes Pie: This is a bit counterintuitive on a mostly-Keto side, but pies like this one are great ways to reuse lamb. I easily change the potatoes for some cauliflower mash, added some spring onions and garlic to it and that alone cut the carb numbers greatly. Skip the breadcrumbs and use either cheese or almond flakes instead and you have a winner!
Anahi’s Left Over Beef Fajitas Salad: Now, this one is a recipe I created to deal with the extra meat we would have at times when indulging on BBQs during the summer. I’m always concerned about overcooking it, specially if it has already well-done, but in general the dish is super forgiving:
Leftover Beef Keto Friendly Fajita Salad
300grs Leftover Steaks, cooked and sliced*
1 medium white onion, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
4 garlic clove, chopped
3 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste
½ cup Broth
2 cups Fresh Spinach
2 cups Fresh Mixed Greens
1 large avocado, diced
½ cup Salsa
1/3 cup Cheddar Cheese, grated
In a pan at medium heat, put the spices and let cook for 3 minutes. Then add the red and white onion and let cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Add some salt and the garlic, cooking whilst mixing for 5-7 minutes. Add the peppers and let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes before adding the broth.
Let it cook at medium high and, when the liquid has reduced by half, add the chopped beef, mixing well to make sure all flavours are combined. Cook at medium heat until desired consistency. Taste and adjust spices and salt before turning off.
On a bowl, start plating with the greens and spinach, followed by the avocado and salsa. Top it all with the Beef Fajita and the cheese. If needed, add extra pepper on top.
*Please know the quantities of beef can vary and you can always swap it for a different protein you have handy instead!
The Beef Fajita could also work well with tortillas or rice, and you can always eat any leftovers the next day as a cold salad. It is beyond tasty and for sure will make your tummy and pocket happy!
Are you a Leftover Lover yet? If yes, what are your go-to Leftover recipes?