I open the fridge door and am depressed by the gaggle of small containers on the shelves—two pieces of chicken, a baked potato, some sautéed onions and peppers, three meatballs. Too much to throw away, too little to feed to a family. I shove them from one side of the fridge to the other as I look for something else and eventually pitched them after they’d sprouted gray fuzz.
Since my husband teaches in a schoolhouse in our yard, I’m privileged to have him home for lunch every day. But that means a hearty meal every noon. Not excited about cooking three times a day, I searched for ways to use those leftover bits and transform them into a quick and delicious meal. Being able to use up leftovers and make a quick meal is a win-win.
While I’m not excited about the save-a-bit-of-everything-and-dump-it-together soup, some leftover combinations can make delicious soup.
- Basic chicken soup – add leftover chicken and any veggies such as cabbage, carrots, potatoes, or sweet pepper to some homemade broth. Season it well with salt and pepper, chicken bouillon, parsley, and garlic powder. Make it Belizean chicken soup by adding an habanero pepper while cooking to give a little zing (remove before serving) as well as a handful of finely chopped cilantro and the juice of 2-3 limes before serving.
- Chicken and rice soup – add leftover chicken and white rice to homemade broth or water, well-seasoned. Throw in some vegetables such as celery, carrots, and onion.
- Creamy chicken soup – add milk, half and half, or cream as part of the base liquid. Add chicken, potatoes or noodles, and vegetables. Thicken with a flour/water paste.
- Beef soup – add leftover beef roast or hamburger to tomato juice or tomato paste and water. Add whatever vegetables are in the fridge. For chili, skip the vegetables and add kidney beans and chili powder instead.
A quesadilla is a tortilla filled with cheese and heated. Our family loves quesadillas in almost any form, especially when dipped in Belize's own Marie Sharp's hot sauce or Gallon Jug Secret Sauce.
- Meatless – On one half of a tortilla spread refried beans, cheese, and a generous sprinkling of taco seasoning. Fold tortilla in half and fry on a hot comal (a smooth, flat griddle used to make tortillas) or frying pan until cheese is melted. If making a large amount, you could lay them on a cookie sheet and heat them under the broiler.
- Chicken ranch – spread ranch dressing or dip on half a tortilla. Top with leftover chicken, mozzarella cheese, and sautéed onions. Fold tortilla in half and fry.
- Meatball – thinly slice leftover meatballs or meatloaf and lay on half a tortilla. Top with BBQ sauce and mozzarella cheese. Fold in half and fry.
Pizza can be a great absorber of leftovers. Have only one hot dog and hamburger left from your cookout the night before? Chop them up and put them on pizza. Leftover fajita meat and sautéed vegetables make a great addition. I like to use ranch dressing instead of pizza sauce when using chicken on pizza.
- Chicken casserole--cook some noodles and make a white sauce from butter, flour and milk or broth. Add leftover cooked chicken and cooked vegetables. Season well.
- Taco casserole—on the bottom of a casserole dish, layer leftover rice, leftover ground beef or chicken, a can of salsa, some cooked red or black beans, cheese sauce, and leftover tortilla chips on top. Stale chips will get crispy again in the oven.
Sautee thinly sliced onions and peppers, minced garlic, and julienned carrots in olive oil. Crack an egg into the pan and scramble it. Add leftover white rice and chicken. Sprinkle generously with soy sauce. Add a shake of garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.
With a few basic ingredients thrown together, when lunchtime rolls around, there will be a hot, fresh meal waiting and no complaints that we’re eating leftovers again. And side benefit: the fridge will be much happier too.