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5 Easy Makeovers to Dress-up Your Leftovers

Believe in good home-cooking but sick of dealing out the leftovers?  Me too.  As a kid, I could count on something hot and healthy almost every night of the week, but would go to great lengths to avoid the dreaded "parade of leftovers"; you know, the mix and match smogasborg of cold spaghetti, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, fajita meat, and whatever else happened to be in the fridge.  As a mom, I'm trying to carry on the tradition of balanced, home-made meals, avoid wasting food or cash, and still skip "clean out the fridge night".  The best trick I've found so far? Dress it up!  Here's my five best strategies to make an old meal new, all for $5 or less!  

1) Pizza, always a winner whether from the freezer or the delivery man.  Get creative with that left over grilled chicken: shred it up and crisp a crust w/ peanut BBQ sauce, shredded carrots and scallions.  Viola!  You have thai chicken pizza!  Dinner is fresh and fabulous!  My best attempt?  Sausage and peppers rustica:  Crisp a crust that's been drizzled w/ olive oil, spread mashed potatoes from Sunday dinner over the crust, scatter slices of leftover sausages from Saturday's BBQ, add some sauteed bell peppers and carmelized onions, sprinkle w/ basil and parmasean cheese.  Drizzle w/ olive oil and bake until the cheese melts.  

What it's great for?  BBQ meat, crumbled sausage, roasted veggies, leftover pasta sauce, even mashed potatoes

What you add?  Really just crust (homemade or from a tube), cheese or mashed potatoes and sauce or olive oil

2) Empanadas.  South American flavor comes easy with these tasty meals in a flaky pastry pocket.  Toss your filling ingredients in a skillet w/ cumin, garlic, and cilantro.  Add potatoes or cheese as you spoon filling into the crust, fold over, seal edges, and bake!  Serve with black beans and corn, or even as a side dish to beef up a tomato soup from a can.  

What it's great for?  any ground or shreddable meat, chopped veggies, mashed potatoes, really anything! 

What you add?  Frozen pie crust, cheese, pico de gallo or salsa if you want it. 

3) Pie: pot or shepherds.  Delicious comfort food that will taste like you spent all day making dinner but only cost you 20 min tops plus baking time!  For Chicken or turkey: cube meat, add veggies, gravy and/ cream of chicken soup as needed for creamy filling.  Fill a frozen pie crust and follow the box directions.  For shepherds pie, I do this one of two ways: a)no crust, just leftover goodness w/ tomato sauce and mashed potatoes smothering the whole thing or b) again leftover goodness on the bottom but w/ a cornbread crust.  I like Betty Crockers 50 cent cornbread mix for this, w/ a little shredded cheese mixed in the batter to sweeten the deal :)

What it's great for?  Anything! almost any meat, sauce, veggie, with a few obvious exceptions like cooked pasta and rice, you really can't go wrong.

What you add?  Frozen pie crust, potatoes, or cornbread mix.  That's about it!

4) Fajitas.  Another crowd pleaser at really low time cost.  Shred your meat, sautee w/ veggies and a little water or OJ (trust me) and fajita seasoning.  Toss it on a tortilla w/ a little shredded cheese and you've got dinner in under 20 min, start to finish!  The best part of this, besides the taste of course?  Your dish load = 1 skillet

What it's great for? shreddable meat, any veggies, the basics

What you add?  tortillas, cheese, fajita mix, and you're done

5) Pasta.  Any shape, filled or plain.  Shake it up with just about anything and you're on the way to happy tummies.  And I'm not just talking about extra sauces or veggies.  Get creative, have some fun!  By best two attempts:  Rotini w/ meatloaf-meat-sauce.  Or Bow Ties w/ crumbled bacon, pico de gallo and basalmic vineagrette.  Yow!

What it's great for? get brave, this is one meal base that is almost fool proof!

What you add?  Pasta and extras of your choice

Bon Appetite! 

Wow, where have you been all my life? Thanks for all the great ideas!! I (almost) can't wait to cook dinner tonight.
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