Kitchen Encore
September 22nd, 2011

Leftovers can become the family cook’s best friend

leftoversNo matter how much you plan, there are inevitably leftovers. When it comes to leftovers, most of us reheat and eat or leave them to linger in the fridge until their edibility expires. It is time to take on a new strategy by using leftovers as fast fixings for tasty new meals.

For example, leftover meat and vegetables can be transformed quickly into a delicious pot pie. All you need is a pastry crust—homemade or packaged—or a tasty topping of biscuits or leftover mashed potatoes for a quick and hearty meal. For a quick and tasty casserole, try adding leftover pasta or rice and shredded cheese along with prepared sauce or a can of creamed soup to leftover meat and veggies. You also can use the same meat and veggies to make a quick simmering pot of stew, a meat and veggie pizza, or specialty omelet or quiche.

Too much macaroni and cheese? Use the leftovers to add substance to soup, as a tasty topping for a casserole, or combine with scrambled eggs for an on-the-go breakfast burrito. Leftover potatoes can easily be reused in a variety of ways from breakfast to dessert. Transform mashed potatoes into a breakfast pancake, make a ham hash for lunch from baked potatoes, or turn leftover scalloped potatoes into a dinner pot pie.

Combining leftovers with different foods, creates a cornucopia of delicious dishes. With a little imagination, you can reinvent the same leftover food in myriad menu ideas so your taste buds never get bored.

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Great for breakfast, brunch, or as an accompaniment to a main meal, these pancakes feature leftover mashed potatoes and veggies. Delicious as is or topped with applesauce or sour cream.


  • 3 cups chilled mashed potatoes
  • 2 cups chopped cooked cabbage, or other leftover vegetable of choice
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded carrots or chopped cooked carrots
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash or two of hot pepper sauce, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided


  • In a large bowl, stir together mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, flour, eggs, thyme, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce until well-blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Heat about 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Drop spoonfuls of the batter (about 1/4 cup) into the skillet; flatten with spatula or back of spoon to create a 3- to 4-inch diameter pancake about 1/4-inch thick.
  • Cook over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden. You may need to add another tablespoon of butter when cooking the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter, cooking pancakes in about 1 tablespoon of butter per batch or side. Serve with desired topper and enjoy.

Makes 12 to 16 cakes

Hearty Spinach Frittata

This is a tasty way to use up any leftover meat sitting in your fridge.


  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet peppers
  • 1 cup diced cooked meat, such as turkey, chicken, beef, ham, lamb or sausage
  • 8- to 9-ounce bag fresh spinach, chopped
  • 6 to 8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped


  • Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, feta cheese, thyme, salt and pepper; set aside.
  • In a 10-inch, oven-safe skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, sauté onions and peppers for 3 minutes or until soft. Add meat of choice and spinach; sauté until spinach is wilted, about 1 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • Pour egg mixture over the meat-spinach mixture in skillet and quickly stir just until combined. Lower heat to medium-low and cook without stirring for about 5 minutes, then finish cooking in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes more or until the frittata is cooked through. Cut into wedges and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Risotto Primavera with Ham

A medley of cooked vegetables and ham turns ordinary risotto into a lively blend of color and flavor. Fresh Parmesan cheese adds just the right amount of creaminess for a delicious side dish or meal.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or substitute oregano
  • 1 cup Arborio rice, do not rinse
  • 1 cup diced lean ham
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth (heat cold broth to boiling before use)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chopped cooked vegetables, such as broccoli and zucchini (room temperature)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped tomatoes (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste


  • Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add red pepper, onions, garlic and Italian seasoning and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice and stir until well-coated and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add ham and hot broth, stirring in 1 cup at a time until each addition has been absorbed. The entire process should take 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in wine, cooked veggies and tomatoes and simmer until wine is absorbed. Add Parmesan cheese; salt and pepper to taste. For a creamier texture, allow risotto to stand a minute or two before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Leftover Tips

  • Always wash your hands before handling food.
  • Refrigerate or freeze unused food within two hours of cooking.
  • Cool leftovers before putting in the refrigerator or freezer. Place leftovers in small, shallow containers to help the food cool down quickly.
  • Speed up cooling times by cutting large portions into smaller ones.
  • Never store stuffing in cooked poultry. Remove and repackage in small containers.
  • Make it easy to reuse your leftovers by storing them in your refrigerator in clean, see-through containers in plain sight and within easy reach.
  • Always use leftovers within three to four days of refrigeration. When in doubt, throw it out.