Not everyone loves leftovers, and I can understand why.  Some foods just don’t stand up to an overnight stint in the fridge.  Some foods beg to be eaten right away, and they should be.  That’s when they’re the tastiest and freshest.  Some foods however, while they will comply with being eaten right after being cooked, will develop a deeper flavor, and get more mature with a night in the fridge.

The trick is knowing what to do with the food you have left over.  And the trick to that is knowing, before you even cook the meal, what you might do with the leftovers.  (It’s a strategy that we use on our weekly menu.)

I have a beautiful toddler in my life.  I also teach a cooking class with her and cook and write and consult.  I know you’re busy, too. So, leftovers can really help us out when we’re in a pinch or they can give us a much-needed day off from so much cooking!  Below are my top secrets for making leftovers a meal you and your family can look forward to.

1. Do not re-create last night’s dinner.  Eating the same, exact thing the night before is not very exciting.  (You won’t convince the kids like this!)  Or, it may be.  Lasagna can’t exactly be taken apart, but if you had lentils with your fish last night, there’s a lot more you can do with those lentils for lunch.

2. Make a big change.  You’ve got to get creative with leftovers and you’ve got to give them a new look.  If you had those lentils with a protein last night, how about pairing them with a grain today or making a salad with them?  If you had grilled chicken with potatoes last night, how about making a curried chicken salad or a tasty wrap?  You want to pair your leftovers with new veggies (and fruit), cooked and/or raw.

3. Make herbs your BFF.  Fresh herbs over anything lend a refreshing, new flavor to leftovers.  Chop them coarsely so you can maximize the flavor from each bite.

4. Make nuts and seeds your other BFF.  The herbs won’t get jealous, and your palate will be singing.  Adding a bit of crunch from some toasted seeds and/or nuts will elevate your dish to heights it’s never dreamed of.  Give your leftovers a bit of confidence!

5. Play dress up.  Dressings are a surefire way to get a burst of new flavor from a dish.  Simple vinaigrettes of olive oil, dijon mustard and any vinegar will do wonders for your seemingly inferior lunch.  So will condiments such as mayo, aiolis, mustard, etc.

Leftovers are a reality, but they certainly don’t need to be a boring one.  They can bring you the break you need while still nourishing and delighting you at the same time.

Enjoy!

Previously published at Guaya Gourmet on February 13, 2014.

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