If you have ever hosted a holiday, you know that there are always leftovers. In my traditional Italian family, there was always days of preparation and cooking resulting in multiple courses, an overabundance of food and lots of leftovers. My Grandmother and, in turn, my Mother and Aunt would cook enough to “feed an army.” And then they would complain that “nobody ate anything.”
Seriously, you should have seen the amount food. I’m not just talking a ham, some potatoes, and an apple pie. There would be appetizers (crackers and cheese, peanuts, shrimp cocktail, fried cauliflower), homemade soup, a pasta dish (lasagna and/or stuffed shells), a ham, multiple vegetables (corn, potatoes, broccoli, squash), rolls and butter. And then, a parade of desserts would follow (multiple varieties of homemade pies, cookies, and cannoli). Last, but certainly not least, a fruit bowl and a bowl of assorted nuts in their shells would grace the table.
Believe it or not, this banquet would appear at every single holiday. The main protein and pasta dishes would vary, but otherwise, we would stuff ourselves silly with these courses. Have you ever heard the phrase, “soup to nuts?” Yup, my family invented it. Well, not really. But we sure did experience it! My husband would joke that he had to cross-train for the eating marathon weeks before a holiday dinner and put on his stretchy pants.
As you can imagine, there were always plenty of leftovers. Pasta dishes could be reheated and taste just as good. The main protein, ham for Easter and Christmas, needed some help. I always like to see what I can come up with when serving leftovers. I like to try to give them new life so that I don’t end up eating a dried up version of dinner the night before. My inspiration for this is my mother-in-law. She is really good at taking a bunch of ingredients, putting them together and making it taste good. She’s like one of those chefs you see on “Chopped.” I’ve been trying to live up to her abilities, but I tend to fall short in the casserole category. I’m not much of a casserole girl. I just can’t seem to get a casserole to taste good.
I have come up with my own way of preparing leftovers that tends to work really well for my busy family of picky eaters. One of my go-to tricks for leftovers is eggs. Eggs are a versatile way to give new life to just about anything. Put them in a skillet with some cooked rice and soy sauce and dump in your leftover protein and you instantly have fried rice. Egg sandwiches are a great way to use up leftover ham. Simply fry the egg and put it on your favorite bread with some cheese and warmed ham. The ever-popular diner favorite Monte Cristo elevates a regular old sandwich into something special by dipping it in egg and grilling both sides then dusting with a little confectioner’s sugar. Omelets, quiche and frittatas are wonderful all-purpose meals. I serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and just use whatever leftover protein and vegetables I have.
My hope is that the ideas here have inspired you to elevate your leftovers game into something new that will not only make life easier for your busy family, but also encourage you to serve something that might not be part of your normal dinner rotation. I have included a recipe for quiche that uses a frozen pie crust. This can be made ahead and will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. I even use this recipe for entertaining. Leave a comment and let me know if you find any of these tricks helpful and feel free to share any tricks for leftovers that you might have. Happy eating!