There are two kinds of leftovers that I always end up with in my house: left over prepared meals, and extra meat and produce that I didn't use in my meals. Because it's just me and two preschoolers, it's not uncommon for me to end up with half a bell pepper, half a can of corn, or one extra chicken thigh that we didn't use. and with the unpredictable eating patterns of 4-year-old's, I can often end up with way more left over food than I want to eat in my packed lunches. To avoid wasting all of that food, I often throw everything into one of these recipes for a quick meal that makes the food taste completely different!
1. Instant ramen
I know what you're thinking....... instant ramen?!? Yep. I certainly don't recommend doing this all the time, but for a quick (and cheap) meal it's hard to beat! I get these packages of spicy ramen at my grocery store to keep in my pantry- the red chili flavor is not overwhelmingly spicy but it is enough to give it a little kick. I throw left over (cooked) meat and produce in it and end up with a not-too-unhealthy meal that is really comforting on a cold day- my favorite combination is slaw mix, bell peppers, one scrambled egg, and chicken with a slice of cheese melted on top (I got that from my time in Seoul), but you can honestly put in almost anything. Chop any meat or produce up into small, bite-size pieces and throw it in the pot once the noodles are cooked.
OK, this one is pretty similar to the first idea but it's worth mentioning. If you've never had it before, yakisoba is basically a Japanese pan-fried noodle dish, and it's another one that you can throw almost anything in. I have found imitation yakisoba at the grocery store, but the best flavor (in my opinion) is this brand from Japan, which I've always been able to find at Asian markets. The cooking directions are the same- throw in any cooked meat and produce you want after the noodles are cooked- the only difference is that the yakisoba won't have any broth (and the seasoning will be different).
3. Fried rice
Whenever I make rice for dinner, I often make an extra cup of rice to save for fried rice. Fried rice with fresh rice is just.... not the same. This is my favorite way to use up extra meat that is still uncooked, because to make the rice you cook the meat and produce first, but it's also my favorite way to use leftover fish. Cook any meat, then stir fry the vegetables in. Put the leftover rice in with some seasoning- I'm personally fond of this Japanese kind (surprise) but really any kind will do- and cook until well-combined. The last step is to make a hole in the middle of the pan by pushing the rice to the edges of the pan and scramble an egg or two in the middle, then mix it all back together.
4. Stir fry
Nothing fancy about this idea- just stir fry any combination of meat and/or vegetables together! The key is the sauce. For Japanese flavor, I like this teriyaki sauce, and for spicy / Thai flavor, this red chili garlic sauce is my new favorite (be warned: this stuff is not bland)!
I hope this gives you some new ideas for using up the leftover food in your fridge! How many of these have you tried, and what are your favorite ways to use leftovers?