I keep thinking about the amount of food that gets wasted in this country and how much money is wasted by throwing away food that could be eaten. I wanted to understand this problem better, so I began with my friend who doesn’t like to eat leftovers. After our discussion, I realized that a big part of the problem with leftovers for her family is that they don’t want to eat the exact same thing for several days in a week. They want more variety in their diet, and she doesn’t possess the culinary skills to transform these leftovers. At least, she doesn’t think she does.
Transforming food left from one meal into something different for the next meal is actually a very old and time honored process, and it can be very simple. I call this process the leftover makeover.
A leftover makeover is where the leftovers from one meal are turned into something different for a subsequent meal. Obviously, this is easier with some leftovers than others. A few leftover pieces of chicken can be turned in to chicken salad, a chicken pot pie, or even chicken soup. Half of a pan of leftover chicken enchiladas, on the other hand, are harder to transform into something else, but they can make a great lunch the next day. Leftover makeovers are one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen, and I have been toying with the idea of starting a series of posts about the leftover makeover including photos and recipes. Did you know that pizza, paella, casseroles, and fried rice were all made from leftovers? Chop suey, another leftover dish, may have gotten its name from tsap seui which means miscellaneous leftovers. It is theorized that it had its humble beginnings among the specialty vegetable farmers in the Canton region who would saute their thinned vegetables, shoots, and any unsold vegetables into the humble dish.
Since most of my readers will likely proclaim that they enjoy many of the foods that I listed as leftover foods, I am looking forward to sharing some of my recipes for turning those leftovers that are lurking in your fridge into something delicious. As my family will tell you, leftovers aren’t scary. As a matter of fact, after a makeover, leftovers make some good eats. (My apologies to Alton Brown and the Food Network for mentioning his show’s name and tag line in this post without permission.)
If you’re interested in seeing how we put our practice of leftover makeovers to work, check out this post where we made a week of family dinners from two pieces of meat.
What are your favorite ways to use leftovers? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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