Episode 4: Fresh ideas for using leftovers that’ll get your tastebuds going

 When you’re cooking for a smaller number of people, it can seem wasteful to buy big packets of ingredients, even though they’re often cheaper.

Throwing away leftovers because you cooked a large meal but got tired of eating it every day is even more annoying.

But there are some unexpected ways to reuse leftovers that you may not have tried. Many meal staples can be repurposed for new, tasty dinners.

Here are some fresh ideas to help you reuse meals more effectively.

Mince

Cooked mince of any variety of meat is delicious and filling when made into Mexican quesadillas, used as a topper for baked potatoes, or if you’ve also got some leftover mash, a cottage pie.

Meanwhile, empanadas – little Mexican pasties – only require some store-bought pastry (or homemade shortcrust, if you’re feeling energetic). Enchiladas are another way to use leftover mince – just add tortillas, some cheese for melting over the top, and some sour cream to dollop before tucking in.

Shakshuka is a one-pan Middle Eastern dish that only requires mince, an egg, and some crusty bread for dipping, while stuffing a capsicum with the mince then topping with some crumbled cheese and baking is an easy way to increase your vegetable intake.

Vegetables

If you’ve boiled or roasted more vegetables than you can eat in a sitting, keep the leftovers to make some vegie pakoras. All that’s required is some cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry or chili powder, and some flour and peanut oil for frying.

Vegies can also be used to bulk up meatballs or rissoles if put into a food processor until they’re finely chopped, then combined with mince, egg, and spices, then fried.

Spaghetti, pasta and noodles

These two basic ingredients can be made into a tasty frittata if chopped up, mixed with eggs, milk, some parmesan cheese, herbs and chopped tomatoes, then fried in a pan and cut into wedges.

Likewise, they can be made into spicy little patties if shaped into individual serving sizes, with some coriander, onions, red or green curry paste, again bound together with some eggs.

Bread

Stale bread has so many uses, the obvious being homemade breadcrumbs when whizzed up in the blender.

Homemade croutons are also a piece of cake – just cut the bread into small squares and toast in the oven with some olive oil and a dash of salt. Sprinkle with some dried herbs for different tastes.

Panzanella salad is simple to make and a great way to get your greens as part of a heartier meal than a regular salad, while traditional French onion soup actually calls for stale bread, and is an easy way to use up onions that might be getting a bit close to sprouting.

Many of us will know bread pudding from our childhood but savoury bread pudding is a new twist, and can be combined with leftover sausages or ham, mushrooms and onions.

Cheese

Got some random ends of cheese left over from a party? Rather than getting sick of eating grilled cheese sandwiches, try making a fondue, or homemade macaroni and cheese.

Both are good ways to get more vegetables into your diet, either as crudités with the fondue or with leftover boiled vegies thrown into the mac’n’cheese.

Rice

We’ve all thrown leftover rice into a stir fry, made it into fried rice, or whipped up a rice pudding, but that can get boring.

You could try making arancini balls instead, or blend the rice with some herbs and spices to your taste, then fry, to make vegie burger patties.

Adding some tomatoes, herbs, pine nuts, and allspice, then stuffing a capsicum with the rice mixture and baking is another way to use up leftover white or brown rice. Throw in some dried fruit for a more exotic taste if you’re feeling adventurous.

What’s your favourite way to turn leftovers into a yummy new meal?

Uniting is passionate about helping older people to lead happy, healthy lives. Whether you are looking to downsize for a more relaxing retirement, need support to remain independent at home, or require full time assistance with your health and care, we can tailor a solution that’s just right for you and your family. Uniting provides lifestyle, health and care services to 14,000 older people across New South Wales and the ACT.