Asparagus can be pricey and it’s a shame to waste any – and what the heck are you supposed to do with all those stems you’ve broken off? Here are a few ideas.
With any leftover vegetable, think how it might be transformed into something marvelous. As a building block for recipes that rely on an already cooked ingredient; as a shortcut. All you need is an inspiration & maybe a recipe.
Sometimes you just need a little inspiration when faced with leftover root veggies; here are some ideas that will have you hoping for leftovers.
Start to think about how any leftovers might be transformed into something marvelous. As a building block for recipes that rely on an already cooked ingredient; as a shortcut. All you need is an inspiration & maybe a recipe.
I originally posted this Chicken Pot Pie in November of 2011, one of my very first posts! Today, as I made it again, I updated with new photos. That night, I had been looking at Time’s Money Issue and became sidetracked. Pretty soon, I was clicking on one link after another; you know how that goes, right?
If you’ve thought a Souffle was a fancy dish, the bastion of a master chef, think again. I was charmed by this simple recipe from my Grandmother’s 1917 cook book. Not as tall or high rising as a fancy souffle, this is a simple, country souffle and is absolutely delicious. No stress and worry free, a souffle like this is right at home at breakfast, brunch or as a simple side.
Leftovers are the most expensive food in your house. You’ve used money & time to buy, transform, prepare and cook them!
Bear with me, please, as this post is updated. It used to be basically one long list, so this post is going through a complete transformation. Vegetables by type are getting their own pages, so right now this post is a little crazy!!
This post contains general information for all leftover vegetables, but vegetables by type either have or will eventually have their own pages! See the links at the bottom of the page.
Start to think about how any leftovers might be transformed into something marvelous. As a building block for recipes that rely on an already cooked ingredient; as a shortcut. All you need is inspiration & maybe a recipe.
Think of the recipes you’ll use as “guides” not something set in stone, especially as the amounts of your leftovers might not exactly match an amount in a recipe. Once you have a leftover ingredient to start with, scale recipes up or down, substitute and make do.
If you haven’t used a whole vegetable, wrap in plastic and store in the door of the fridge where you’ll see it and remember to use it. Think of leftover vegetables whenever a recipe already calls for cooked vegetables and use them as a shortcut.
Always keep Food Safety in mind when cooking or dealing with any leftovers.
1. egg dishes:
Add to your frittatas, omelettes, scrambled eggs. Lot’s of veggies can be added to egg dishes, and leftovers will save you time sautéing them up in the morning.
Reheat leftover vegetables in soups or make a soup from them. Save veggies on their own or in a combination of flavors that go well together. Just add to a Ziploc bag and freeze and keep adding until you have enough.
Since most casseroles start with precooked vegetables, it’s a no brainer to use your leftover veggies in one.
4. cheese it:
Transform lackluster leftovers with a simple cheese sauce.
5. cream it:
Reheat with cream or a white sauce to revive those leftover vegetables for a second meal.
So many veggies are great on top of a pizza, and leftover ones, already cooked, are even better.
Pickle them and use them as a side or an appetizer or a condiment. Think Asian, Mexican, or traditional American Pickles.
Add to your green smoothies like my Big, Fat Green Smoothie, or use with a combination of fruit for a more palatable option.
9. respice and reheat:
Sprinkle generously with your favorite spice mixtures and reheat with a little butter.
Add to potatoes or sweet potatoes and fry up a marvelous hash, or just make hash on its own.
Stuff vegetables with vegetables! Toss them into the mix for Stuffed Peppers or other Stuffed Vegetables.
12. bubble & squeak:
Fry everything in a saucepan. Or fry, add mashed potatoes and mix together. Try add grated cheese, form into cakes, dust with flour and pan-fried till golden. These little cakes freeze well.
Leftover Crudite Platters:
Keep in mind how long platters are left out; cooking the veggies is always going to be your safest option.
1. divide & conquer:
Separate by type and use each as you normally would.
Vegetable soup on its own or with rice, grains or noodles, Or creamy vegetable soup. You can’t go wrong. Check out this Veggie Tray Soup from Lost Recipes Found.
3. fry or fritter:
Use a tempura type batter like the one for my Crispy Vidalia Onion Rings or chop and shred, dip into a flour, egg, crumb set up and shallow fry.
Stir fry, with veggies already to go? No sous chef needed! One of my favorite stir fry recipes is Beef, Bell Pepper & Tomatoes, and it’s easy enough to add other veggies.
Go Indian, or maybe go Thai! Adapt this easy, peasy Thai Curry to use up your veggies.
Not every veggie on the tray will work in a Kabob, but chances are that most of them will! Try this recipe from Serious Eats as a base and adapt to what you have.
7. fried rice:
Chop them up a bit more and add to Fried Rice. I have several on my blog, but the easiest is this simple Fried Rice adapted from the Asian Grandmother.
8. roast the veggies:
Even if they’re a little tired, a good drenching in olive oil, spices and garlic and a roast in a 400 degree oven is going to transform those veggies. Add a little Parmesan if you’d like. Here’s my adaptation of an Alton Brown recipe for Roasted Broccoli, but toss on just about anything from the platter you have.
Shred the veggies and substitute for zucchini in your favorite zucchini bread recipe. They’d be great in a Harvest Bread, too, like this one from Vegetarian Ventures.
If you’re faced with a lot of crudites after a party, make a vegetarian lasagna. Layer in what you have or supplement with other veggies.
I gave you a lot of general ideas for inspiration, above, but sometimes you’ve got to find your way when dealing with a specific type of leftover vegetable. Here’s a few ways to make those shine!
Fresh beans go fast in the fridge! If you’re afraid you won’t get to them in time, do a quick blanch in boiling water, shock them in cold water and trim them when you’re ready to use them. Here’s a few ideas to use up any leftovers:
1. three bean salad:
Make three bean salad or use the same method for any bean salad. It’s not set in stone that you’ll need all three beans and that dressing is great! You can always count on AllRecipes for solid recipes that have been tested many times.
2. pickle them:
Hot pickled Beans are great – just cut down the recipe and guesstimate to make a small batch you don’t have to can. Same goes for Dilly Beans.
3. take out style:
When you reheat, saute them. Use this recipe to transform those beans into marvelous Take Out Style Beans. Saute them quickly so they don’t turn to mush.
4. salad nicoise:
Of course you’ll want to make Salad Nicoise, right? Such a classic. Here’s a recipe from Melissa d’Arabian.
Corn or creamed corn can be added to corn bread or johnny cakes. Corn Pudding is great. Spice it up like a Mexican corn, street vendor style. Add to a soup like my Wild Rice Chowder.
Make a quick refrigerator pickle – boil 1 cup of vinegar with 1 to 2 cups of sugar and pour over cucumbers, let sit at least 2 hours – these will keep for weeks in the fridge. You can also mix cucumber with a little sour cream, splash of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar for a refreshing side dish.
Go very well in any cream sauce. Think Chicken a la King, Creamed Chicken, Pot Pie. Also toss in salads, like the one using Lemon Yogurt Vinaigrette. Smash them up, add a few herbs: basil, mint, etc. or a combination and serve over pasta or on toasts for a kind of pea pesto.
almost any leftover pepper, green or red, hot or mild can be made into a small jam or jelly – it doesn’t take much to make a cup. You can also finely dice and heat with honey and drizzle on any type of cornbread when it’s hot out of the oven. You can char, peel and freeze. Little bits from the stem or bottom can be mixed with cream cheese for the best flavored cream cheese – it so beats out the premade at the store. Leftover cooked peppers are wonderful in a salad bowl with a bit of brown rice, quinoa, etc. Try it with a tahini dressing.
Spinach: Spinach works well into a cream cheese and sour cream dip. Don’t wait for an occasion, just mix some up and serve with vegetable sticks. See also ‘greens’. Use for a ravioli filling using leftover won ton wrappers.
So many are fantastic in Salad Bowls – think of mixed with greens, brown rice or quinoa, drizzled with a lemon yogurt, balsamic or tahini dressing. Using leftover squashes saves time. Can also be pureed and served as a side later in the week.
Don’t forget to toast the seeds – make up your own flavor combinations, brine or go au natural. Leftover pumpkin flesh can be pureed, cubed and tossed with dressings (balsamic is particularly good) and/or combined with other combinations of flavors – pumpkin and cranberry is nice in a salad. Pumpkin can be added to many soups.
Tomatoes Canned or Sauce: If you only use a partial can, get in habit of immediately pouring into a Ziploc and labeling with type, amount and date. Freeze till next time you need to make something with tomatoes. Thaw in a bowl in the microwave or add frozen to soups. I often buy the larger cans to save money and freeze the rest. If you drain whole or diced tomatoes, save the juice from the can and doctor for a virgin or bloody mary, or add to soups, sauces pastas, pot roast or meatloaf. It might separate a bit in the fridge but can be kept for a week, and frozen indefinitely.
Tomatoes, Cherry: Roast any leftover Cherry tomatoes from a crudite platter, for instance and serve over pasta, crostini or in salads or Salad Bowls. Leftover Roasted tomatoes can be used in the same way. Add to scrambled eggs or omelettes. Mix with beans and serve over toasted breads.
Tomatoes – Sun dried: Add to pasta salad or almost any chicken dish using cream. Add to chicken salad. Use the oil it’s packed in to dip garlic bread or saute your aromatics for an Italian sauce.
Tomato Paste: Need one tablespoon and had to open the whole can? Freeze in a small baggie. Break off needed quantity when you are ready to use.
1. air dry:
Almost any fresh herb can be dried in small quantities. Don’t let them wilt and throw them away! Just spread them on a plate, let air dry and put in Ziploc or jars. Label.
Freeze in water and toss in soups or stocks. This goes for certain soft, not woody, stems, too, which carry have the same flavor as the herbs.
3. freeze in oil:
Freeze either plain or chop leftover herbs with a garlic, then freeze in olive oil. Easy, mess free option for when you’re ready to cook anything with an Italian flair.
4. flavored oils:
Save your herbs or scraps to blend with olive oil for a finishing oil for toasted breads, soups, steaks, or you name it. Use your judgement as to what will taste good. Basil and chives come to mind, immediately.
Put a little over chicken breasts and bake for Chicken Parmigiano.
Spread a bun or English muffin, add cheese and broil for a quick kid friendly snack.
If it has meatballs or sausage, place all on a good sliced roll, cover with mozzarella and broil. Fried peppers and onions are good on this.
A tablespoon or two can round out the flavor of a vegetable beef soup.
Larger quantities can be used in many pasta bakes and lasagna.
Spaghetti Pie – toss spaghetti noodles in leftover sauce, top with cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan or all of the above and bake till heated through and cheese is melted.
Try as a pizza sauce.
If you have leftover noodles and sauce and want to store them together, put the sauce in the container 1st and the noodles on top. Your noodles will not become overly saturated and flabby.
Spaghetti sauce can be frozen.
Saute up some vegetables – onion, bell peppers, etc. Add marinara over and serve.
Makes a good warm sandwich
vegetable parings & potential waste:
When buying fresh vegetables, there’s going to be more waste than when buying canned or frozen. You’ve paid for it, so here’s a few ways to turn potential waste into a positive.
Keep in a bag in the fridge any carrot tops and peelings, celery pieces, onion skins and other bits of vegetables (use your judgment as to how well something will keep or how it will taste) add to your stock or broth when making. Alternatively, put in a container in the freezer.
2. vegetable stock:
Traditional stock,is great, but think about Vegetable Stock, too. Just about anything goes. Here’s a recipe from The Kitchn.
Put tough outer greens from kale, chard or beet tops in an oven on low to dehydrate them. Then puree and you’ve got a homemade vitamin-packed powder to add to your morning green smoothie. Some people EAT these and claim to like them, btw.
Save all kinds of vegetable pieces and parts and use in your morning Green Smoothies. Think “nutrient packed” items like asparagus & broccoli stems. Leave out seeds.
5. spa water:
Make Spa Water with certain vegetable/fruit parings: Tomato, Bell Pepper and Cucumber are wonderful. Others maybe not so much. Use your judgement.
6. use cooking liquid:
Save the nutrient rich water you cook vegetables in and use it in your soups, sauces and gravies or smoothies. The same goes for liquids in cans if they aren’t overly salty.
Your Input: I’m always looking for new ideas – what are your favorite ways to use your leftover potatoes, vegetables, herbs, & dishes they’re made from?
leftover vegetables by type:
Slowly, I’m updating this page and making new pages for leftover vegetables by type. There’s just so many different kinds, and this page has gotten long!
Cream of Broccoli Soup, when done just right really does it for me. Anytime I can make something delish that’s super fast, fresh & healthy-ish, I’m all over it. And if it’s a meal that can come in at a budget – well, even better.
These lightly infused, refreshing drinks are some of my favorite things; so simple, so easy and so fabulously frugal. So refreshing. Not necessarily “intensely” flavored, what I call spa water is just a gorgeous hint of vegetable or fruit, possibly with a few herbs or spices thrown in the mix. You may have seen mention of them here or there on my blog pages, but I felt it was time they got their own page.
Potato Cakes – are they Irish? I grew up with them but I suspect even cooks that weren’t Irish made these beautiful little cakes when they had left over mashed potatoes. What I do know is that Potato Cakes are delicious, perhaps better than the original mashed potatoes. Each little cake is an individual, but each has a delicate, brown crust that once opened reveals the creamy inside.