Rightovers: Leftovers Made Right
Who gets excited about leftovers? They tend to be soggy, and no one brings out the special dishes to serve them.
But what if your leftovers were good enough to merit fancy bowls and compliments to the chef while still checking the most important leftover checkboxes: Quick and easy. Now, that’s what I call rightovers!
On this page, we’ve collected tips for turning leftovers into rightovers using our top three favorite strategies:
- Cook Once, Eat Twice
- Planned Overs
- Transforming Leftovers
Cook Once, Eat Twice
We all have a family member who’s legendary for the ability to make a big chicken dinner or tons of casseroles—enough to feed an army—and then freeze the extras for another meal or two. Steal this strategy! If you have a day or evening free, get that big meal made to stock up some easy meals for later. You can be the legend if you know which recipes work best for freezing.
Best Recipes for Freezing
When choosing a recipe to freeze, keep these top two tips in mind:
- Freezing and thawing foods can change their texture and flavor, but foods that have a high starch content like peas, corn, and beans hold up better to these changes.
- Extra sauce or a flavorful liquid with food helps boost the flavor. That’s why recipes like casseroles, chilies, pasta bakes, sauces, soups, and stews make the best freezer meals—they hold up and taste great after thawing.
Tips for Freezing Leftovers
First, always let food cool completely before putting it in the fridge. And let your food chill out there before freezing. If the food is still warm or even room temperature, steam in the container adds water and ice crystals to your frozen food. This can lead to soggy foods after reheating. For soups, stews, and dishes with more liquid, leave some extra space for the frozen liquid to expand.
And rather than freezing a big container of soup or large pans of baked pasta, freeze smaller portions so you can save time defrosting just the amount you need. This trick works especially well for chicken. Cooked poultry can stay in a freezer at 0°F (-18°C) for up to four months.
Most vegetable- or broth-based soups can stay in a freezer for two to three months. For soups with dairy, they can only stay in the freezer for a month at max. Label bags and containers with the date you made the food and add a use-by date.
How to Reheat Frozen Meals So They Taste Great
When it’s time to serve frozen rightovers, warm them up using the same method you originally used to prepare the food. For example, reheat soup in a pot on the stove or warm up a casserole in the oven. Using the same cooking method means that your food will taste the same way it did on the day you made it.
Another way to make a frozen meal into a rightover is to add a few fresh seasonings or ingredients after it’s reheated. Sprinkle in some fresh pepper and herbs to soups and stews, add Parmesan and parsley onto a baked mostaccioli, or add a dollop of sour cream and salsa to homemade frozen burritos.
Here are three easy ideas to make the most out of your leftovers.
1. Make a Frittata for the Family
You can make a frittata with virtually anything. From tomatoes and peppers to pasta and sausage, it can use up a lot of your leftovers. To make a frittata, all you need to do is dice your leftovers, whisk some eggs and cream together, and cook it in a cast iron skillet. Then, add a bit of cheese and bake it in the oven at 350°F (180°C) for 20–25 minutes. Plus, don’t forget to add some spice for even more flavor! Bell Pepper Herb Rub works well in meatier frittatas while Seasoning Salt complements most veggies.
Artichoke Zucchini Frittata
2. Build Your Own Bowl Meals
What do you do if you have leftover meat, cooked veggies, and/or rice? Make bowl meals, of course! Depending on what you have on hand, you can customize your bowls so they’ll please even the pickiest eaters. Shred your leftover meat, season your veggies with Tex-Mex Rub or Southwestern Seasoning Mix, and warm up your choice of rice and beans. And, to make serving even easier, set up your toppings station-style so everyone can personalize their bowls their own way.
Caribbean Chicken Rice Bowls
3. Bring on the Loaded Baked Potatoes
There’s nothing better than a warm baked potato covered in your favorite toppings. So, put your leftovers to good use by making loaded baked potatoes. They’re fresh, filling, and fun to make with the family. And, depending on what ingredients you have in your fridge and your pantry, you can come up with delicious, new flavor combinations! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Sour Cream + Chives + Cheddar Cheese
You can never go wrong with this classic combination. But if you want to spice things up a bit, sprinkle some Crushed Peppercorn & Garlic Rub on your spuds for a surprising kick.
Chili + Green Onions + Shredded Cheese
Make this quick yet hearty meal by loading your baked potatoes with Easy Weeknight Chili, green onions, shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream.
Pulled Pork + Sweet Potatoes + BBQ Sauce
Looking for a sweeter take? Substitute regular potatoes for sweet potatoes. Then, pile on the pulled pork, add some corn, and slather it in BBQ sauce to make a satisfying meal the whole family will love.
Shredded Chicken + Broccoli + Cheddar Cheese
For a cozy and comforting meal, load up your potatoes with shredded chicken, broccoli florets, and a generous amount of cheddar cheese. As the cheese melts, your potatoes will overflow with ooey-gooey goodness.
Hope this gives a little inspiration to make your leftovers a little less boring! Cheers!