Left-o-ver (noun). Food remaining uneaten at the end of a meal, especially when saved for later use. Origin: 1890-95; n. use of v. phrase “left over. Surplus. Excess. Extra.
As all bitches know, the best way to make food last is to hold on to your doggie bags and take-out boxes. And so we’ve decided to offer some of our secrets to making the most of your leftovers.
Some ground rules:
- Throw out ANYTHING that’s been in your fridge over a month.
- If it expired, it’s not a leftover. It’s garbage.
- Be willing to get creative. We all know that you can add this piece of chicken to that container of veggies and voila, you’ve got a salad or a stir-fry. But we know you can do better- time to think out of the box!
Experts suggest a maximum of two days for all types of leftovers, but we’re willing to take some risks. We usually give an item at least five days, plus a sniff taste, to determine whether or not it’s edible. Please be aware that some food products, especially meat, can attract bacteria like salmonella or e coli. Rotting vegetables should never, ever, be consumed- no matter how much you paid for that rare out of season white asparagus.
The art of successful leftovers comes in the storage. Sounds easy, but if you keep something in its original cookware, don’t seal the lid tightly, or fail to re-wrap in saran wrap, you run the risk of speeding the expiration process.
Think you’re ready to tackle your fridge and see what’s available? Some of our tried-and-true tips that we swear by include:
1. Keep half-used sauces and jarred foods on their side in the freezer. This way, they’re much easier to thaw and don’t expand and break the jar.
2. Slice leftover bakery bread and put in the freezer. It’s easily defrosted for dipping in bruschetta.
3. All fruits and veggies (with the exception of bananas) can live in the fridge for an extended period of time. Even potatoes!
4. If you buy lemons and limes in bulk and can’t use them all before they expire, freeze the zest and juice in an ice cube tray. Just defrost on a small plate or saucer when you’re ready to use.
5. Never throw away any leftover pasta! You can mix it with tuna, mayo and frozen corn for a quick pasta salad, or olive oil, tomato, and feta cheese for a Mediterranean-inspired lunch. Bacon bits and cheddar cheese is great with leftover ziti, and we also love pesto and mozzarella with days-old ravioli.
6. If you want to make your milk last longer, transfer it to a glass bottle instead of leaving it in the plastic. Milk also lasts longer on the fridge shelf as opposed to the fridge door.
7. If your honey goes sugary before you get the chance to use it all, microwave it for a few seconds and watch it transform. Store in a dry cupboard and make sure the cap is on tight!
Now that you’ve taken inventory of what you’ve got, it’s time to start cooking! Some of our favorite recipes for stray items in our fridge are:
- Italian Omelet Sandwich. All you need are eggs, a crusty roll (or even a stale one, toasted), topped with whatever cheese bits you have floating in the fridge (asiago, provolone, cheddar, American, etc).
- Assorted Chinese. This one’s an easy one: mix anything that came in a white plastic take-out box, toss in the microwave for 45 seconds or less (you can even cook in a 400 degree oven for an our) , and top with soy sauce.
- You know that leftover biscuit you chose not to eat? Cut it in half, spread with butter and sprinkle with garlic and shredded cheese. Toast and enjoy.
- Chex party mix is great in salads, in place of croutons.
- Chili can be reheated and served as a sloppy Joe- just add cheese and put on a tasted leftover hamburger roll.
- Cooked oatmeal is great in pancake or muffin batter if you have a little leftover.
- Extra turkey, with some butter, mushrooms, and cream of mushroom soup makes a tasty turkey a la king.
- If you find yourself with a lot of assorted odds and ends, chances are you should use them up in one fantastic recipe. Tacos, salads, and pizzas are great for allowing maximum flavor experimentation.
- Nachos are the best way to save soggy or stale tortilla chips. Just top with extra chicken, meat, cheese, veggies (like olives, onions, and tomatoes), and microwave until cheese is melted. Caliente!
- When in doubt, visit one of our favorite websites, at http://www.bigoven.com/leftoverwizard2.aspx. The Recipe Wizard tool allows you to select three ingredients and then it tells you what to make. It’s never been easier to make the most of your leftovers- while enjoying something yummy.
Remember kids, haste makes waste! Think before you chuck that Tupperware filled with Mystery Meat- it might be worth a second taste.
Got any tips? Send us your best at email@example.com, or tweet us on Twitter @bbonabudget!