Quick Recipes and Easy

Making Dinner Fast and Tasty: From Leftover to Makeover

Many people proclaim “my family doesn’t eat leftovers”. Is it the name “leftover”? I agree that doesn’t sound so appetizing. It makes one reckon of ancient or unwanted food. But why? If it wasn’t eaten because you didn’t delight in it the first time, then let it go. But if it wasn’t eaten because you loved it, but made too much – then that’s different. These leftovers can be plotted for convenience and get a “makeover” to make a new and tasty meal. “Makeovers” sound much more positive and exciting, and like a new beginning.

Right, some foods do not re-heat well or taste fantastic on day two. But most often leftovers go to waste because we want variety and don’t want to eat the same thing over and over. But most people will eat leftover ingredients and meal items if they are reinvented or “made over”. This can be done with most foods although there are other more complicated meals that are hard to make-over, such as lasagna. But with a small menu plotting lasagna can be made from “makeovers”. Also this is where the freezer comes into use. If you don’t want to eat something multiple nights in a row – freeze it. Most foods freeze pretty well for a few months. The lasagna you ate last night, may look new again in two weeks. Plus it’s already made and ready to thaw and reheat. Which means it’s quicker and simpler than preparing a new meal when you don’t have the time or energy.

Home and restaurant cooks use the same ingredients over and over – chicken, beef, vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. It’s how we choose to prepare them that makes them different and appealing each night. If you’re comfortable in the kitchen and cook often you don’t even realize you’re meal plotting and reinventing foods most nights. But if you can’t just whip up a meal on the spot, here are some tips for making the most of your cooking time and energy and reinventing those make-overs.

First, start with basic high quality ingredients and cook them simply the first night – you can transform the “makeovers” on subsequent nights. This not only cuts down on waste, but also on time and frustration over the $25,000 question “what’s for dinner?”

Second, stock your pantry and refrigerator with your family’s favorite staple and convenience items such as shredded cheese, pastas, fresh fruits and vegetables, condiments and spices. These will help transform your leftover ingredients. Sauces can transform plain meats, tofu and veggies into an ethnic favorite. Reckon salsa, curries, soy and cream. Shredded cheese can transform anything with cheese sauce for veggies and pasta, or as a key player melted on quesadillas or pizza.

Third, reckon ahead to when you and your family will be eating. Try not to make a huge roast the day before you’re leaving for vacation (unless you plot on freezing it).

Fourth, cook when you have time and plot the quick makeovers for when you don’t. This usually means making something that takes longer on the weekends and then reinventing it during the week.

Makeover thoughts:

Pizza – make or keep dough in your freezer and arrange makeover meat and vegetables with sauce and cheese. Kids can even make their own.

Pasta – make simple pasta (multiple shapes and types) and combine with makeover meats and vegetables for pasta salads, or add a sauce for a hot pasta.

Sandwiches – arrange makeover meats and veggies on bread with favorite spread for a quick meal, or take a few extra minutes to make a hot Panini or grilled sandwich.

Egg Dishes – mix in makeover meats and veggies with cheese and eggs for an simple omelet or frittata dinner.

Burritos, Tacos and Quesadillas – layer makeover meats and veggies with cheese in tortillas and shells and top with guacamole and salsa. Again kids can assemble.

Salads – toss those makeover meats and veggies into various lettuce salads and add dressing.

Here are ways to recreate a main ingredient for 3 nights of meals.

Night #1 – Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

(Chicken broth or soup from the bones can be done of course)
Bake a whole chicken or two in the oven, along with a pan of cut up vegetables (broccoli, red peppers, asparagus) mixed with salt and pepper and olive oil.

Night #2 – Chicken and Veggie Pasta

Prepare favorite shape pasta such as penne and stir in makeover cooked chicken and veggies and add pesto sauce or simply grated parmesan, diced fresh herbs and olive oil.

Night #3 – Chinese Chicken Salad

Prepare salad with lettuce, orange slices, peanuts, pea pods and dressing and add makeover cooked chicken.

Night #1 – Grilled Steak and Vegetables

Season and grill trip tip or flank steak on indoor or outdoor grill or BBQ. Cut bell peppers, zucchini slices and onions and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Night #2 – Grilled Vegetable Paninis

Layer makeover grilled veggie slices on focaccia or ciabatta bread with cheese, slices tomatoes and fresh basil leaves and grill on pan or sandwich grill.

Night #3 – Steak Burritos

Chop up makeover steak and roll into tortillas with favorite beans, cheese, guacamole and sour cream and top with salsa.

Night #1 – Hamburgers and baked potatoes

Make hamburgers with salt and pepper and grill indoors or out. Bake potatoes in oven.

Night #2 – Beef Lasagna

Crumble makeover cooked burger and add Italian seasoning and/or garlic and oregano. Layer (no cook or fresh) lasagna noodles with ricotta cheese, marinara sauce, cheese and leftover burger.

Night #3 – Stuffed potato skins

Hollow out makeover potatoes and stuff with cheese, leftover burger and steamed

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