“What’s for dinner?”
“Gross! No WAY!”
And that’s when the fight starts. I can relate to that feeling of despair when you look in the fridge and realize you forgot to get groceries for the meal you had planned because either a) you were working all day, or b) you were studying all day, or c) you were just busy—the dog wanted in and out five times an hour, the phone kept ringing, another email from that important contact kept coming in. I know the frustration.
As much as we try to plan for the week’s meals in our house, eventually, the day comes where we just need supper. And neither of us has the energy to grab our masks, reusable grocery bags, hop in the car, and drive to get the groceries we need.
Enter the leftovers. That almost vulgar phrase that we cringe at. The thought of reheating that meal from four days ago, and then remembering the fight you had with the little one who decided s/he didn’t like potatoes anymore, even though it was her idea to make them! Okay, things might have gotten a little personal there.
The vulgarity of the word leftovers reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the scene with the Knights who say “Ni”. Any time someone says “it” they cringe and cover their ears. Like hearing your mom use the f-word for the first time, and you always thought she just didn’t know of its existence.
But what if I told you it is possible to still use your leftovers but transform them into something new! If you question my sanity, you’re probably right to do so, however, this crazy idea works, and restaurants do it all the time. The trick is to figure out what you can make with them.
So let’s talk about a few dishes that you can make from leftovers. Let’s say you have chicken with peas, carrots, and mashed potatoes from the night before. Have you tried chicken pot pie, or, for a twist, shepherd’s pie but with the leftover chicken? You could also turn those mashed potatoes into Gnocchi or potato dumplings for chicken vegetable soup. Turkey or chicken, both can be substituted almost equally.
How about that pulled pork you made a few nights ago. You’re getting down to the last third, and everyone is tired of eating pulled pork on a bun with coleslaw. Instead, try homemade pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese, pulled pork tacos, or pulled pork poutine!
Let’s say you already made tacos with ground beef (or turkey, or pork, or whatever you might have used). You could make taco soup, taco salad, a tex-mex sloppy joe, or save it for Friday pizza night and make a taco pizza! One cup of ground meat is perfect, then you can add tomatoes, cheddar, salsa, and sour cream once it’s done.
Last, when in doubt, make soup or nachos! Leftover pulled pork or ground beef both make for great nachos, but so does chicken or turkey. And soup is a great alternative; you can freeze it for the winter months when you need a quick warm-up or for the late summer camping trip.
When you change the leftovers into something else, it’s more exciting, and the word doesn’t have the same connotation that we’ve all come to think of. Leftovers aren’t bad, just misunderstood. So next time, do a quick google search for leftover ideas, and you’ll be whipping up a culinary delight faster than your 3-year-old can tell you they don’t want it.
That leftover pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese sounds good right now. Here’s how you can make it.
Leftover pulled pork mac ‘n’ Cheese
1 box of elbow macaroni
3 cups milk
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 tsp yellow mustard powder
3 cups cheddar – shredded
2 cups leftover pulled pork and sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the macaroni to al dente, then strain it and put it back into the pot off the heat.
- Meanwhile, place a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the butter.
- Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir for 2-3 minutes. This is called a blond roux; it has the most thickening power of all the roux.
- After the roux has just started to brown slightly, or after 2-3 minutes, add the milk and stir with a whisk to break up all the clumps. The sauce should start to thicken.
- Add the mustard powder and continue to stir.
- Add the cheese one cup at a time and allow it to melt.
- Once the cheese is melted, add the pulled pork.
- Cook until the pork is warmed. Taste it and add more salt and/or pepper as needed.
- Combine the sauce into the macaroni and mix together.
If you want to cheat a little because you just don’t have time to make your own mac ‘n’ cheese, I have used the store-bought product and combined these, and it’s still delicious! Watch your salt though, you may not need to add more at the end. Just make sure you salt your pasta—that’s a rule. I’ve heard stories of Italian Nona’s crying themselves to sleep because someone didn’t salt the pasta before it boiled.