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Turn Leftovers into a Feast

Contributed by: ARA Content

(ARA) - Whether you cook foods yourself, buy them ready-to-heat or ready-to-eat, it seems there are inevitably leftovers. The amounts might be substantial or miniscule, but there's always the question of how to use the bits and pieces creatively before they spoil.

All-natural eggs, with their high-quality protein and amazing versatility, can come to the rescue. A number of easy-to-make egg dishes are ideally suited to using up those odds and ends of different foods.

Two possibilities are French omelets and frittatas, the unfolded Italian version of an omelet. You can fill each French omelet with 1/2 cup or so of food, all one food or several combined. For a six-egg frittata to feed six people, use a total of about 1 1/2 cups of flavoring foods. Howard Helmer, holder of the Guinness Word Record for fastest omelet making, likes to fill omelets with the toppings scraped off of leftover pizza, but you could also flavor an omelet or a frittata with pieces of chopped cooked poultry, meat or fish and what's left of yesterday's cooked veggies.

A quiche is another choice. When restaurateurs feature the quiche of the day, it's often filled with whatever didn't sell out the day before. You can use the same trick at home. A good proportion of ingredients for a standard 9-inch pie shell is: 6 eggs beaten with 1 cup of milk plus 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped, cooked meat, fish, poultry or veggies. Simply put everything in the pie shell, add a sprinkling of your favorite herb or seasoning blend, and bake at 375 F for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Got stale bread around? Revive it by turning it into a strata, a layered casserole. For the most even cooking, cube the bread and toss it with shredded cheese (old and dried is okay) and whatever else you have on hand for flavoring -- maybe cubes of leftover pork chops and a handful of kernel corn. Pour on eggs beaten with milk and bake at 350 F until a knife poked near the center comes out clean, from 30 minutes to a bit over a hour, depending on the size of the casserole dish you use.

For leftover rice or pasta, invent your own spaghetti carbonara or fried rice. Simply heat the rice or pasta with dribs and drabs of leftover vegetables and meat, fish or poultry, if you have any on hand. Then, pour on some eggs beaten with a little milk and scramble. Add some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to the pasta dish and a dash of soy or teriyaki sauce to the rice dish. In just minutes, dinner's ready to serve and your family probably won't recognize the leftovers.

For more recipes that make the most of leftovers, visit

Omelet Rancheros
Omelet Rancheros

Makes 1 Serving

  • 1/2 cup vegetarian refried beans
  • 1/4 cup salsa or taco sauce, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
  • Lemon and lime wedges, optional

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together beans and 2 tablespoons of the salsa. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Keep warm while preparing omelet.

In a small bowl, beat together eggs and water until blended. Evenly coat 7- to 10-inch omelet pan or skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Pour in egg mixture. (Mixture should set immediately at edges.)

With an inverted pancake turner, carefully push cooked portions at edges toward center so uncooked portions can reach hot pan surface, tilting pan and moving cooked portions as necessary. Cook until top is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains.

Spread hot bean mixture down center of omelet. Sprinkle with cheese. With pancake turner, fold sides of omelet over beans and cheese. Slide from pan onto plate. Spoon on remaining salsa. Garnish with lemon and lime wedges, if desired.

Instead of the refried beans and salsa in this recipe, you could use leftover red- or green-sauced chili or bits of meatballs and what's left of a jar of spaghetti sauce. Any shredded cheese will work, including American, brick, mozzarella, provolone and Swiss.

Variable Vegetable Strata
Variable Vegetable Strata

Makes four servings

  • Cooking spray
  • 6 slices day-old bread
  • 1 to 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can (10.75 ounces) low-fat, reduced-sodium, condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1/2 cup skim or low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Evenly coat a 2-inch deep 8-by-8 (or 2-quart rectangular) baking dish with spray. Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Evenly sprinkle half of the cubes into prepared dish. Sprinkle vegetables and cheese over cubes. Sprinkle with remaining cubes.

In medium bowl, beat together eggs, soup, milk, mustard, basil and pepper. Pour over bread-vegetable mixture and cover. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Bake in preheated 350 F oven until knife inserted near center comes out clean and top is golden brown, about 50 to 60 minutes.

To flavor this casserole, you can use any bread and veggies you like or have on hand. You can also substitute a different type of shredded cheese or flavor of soup.



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