Creative Leftover Food Recipes

by heather

Summer Berries!

Summer Berries!

Leftovers. We’ve all got them, and now that most of us are trying to save money, we’re all eating them.

But, what do you do with, say, that extra portabella mushroom you didn’t use in your recipe? Or that handful of fresh thyme that you have left?

It’s easy to eat leftover meals. But, finding ways to reuse leftover produce is a bit trickier.

Well, thanks to Cooking Light, I have the power to share a solution!

I used to have a subscription to Cooking Light, which is a wonderful magazine featuring tasty, healthy recipes.  Instead of keeping the whole magazine each month I would simply tear out the recipes I wanted and pass the rest on to a friend of mine.

I now have a hefty stack of pages that I keep in a pretty folder in my kitchen.

I was looking through the stack last night, hoping to find a gem to cook for this weekend, when I cam across a page I’d torn out years ago.

The article, from the June 2007 issue, was called “Waste Not”.  And, it was all about how to reuse leftover produce.


My heart rate kicked up a notch, and all I could think was, “I can’t wait to share this on the blog!”

Again, full credit for these ideas goes to Cooking Light, from their June 2007 issue.  They are the brilliant culinary minds behind these creative solutions.  So, let’s dive in and find out how we can save money by making our produce go a bit further!

Reusing Produce


  • Cut celery into 1/4-inch slices; toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Sprinkle with parsley.
  • Add chopped celery to egg salad or a macaroni salad.
  • Make a vegetable stir fry with sliced celery, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, and garlic.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


  • Saute sliced carrots in olive oil; toss with chopped fresh parsley or chives.
  • Cut carrots into 1-inch pieces; toss with olive oil, black pepper, and chopped fresh thyme.  Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Portobella Mushrooms

  • Cook mushroom slices on a grill pan coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange on pitas, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and broil until cheese melts.  Serve with soup or salad.

Button Mushrooms

  • Toss sliced mushrooms with baby spinach leaves and bottled balsamic vinaigrette.  Sprinkle with goat cheese; add toasted whole wheat bread croutons.

Fresh Thyme

  • Add chopped fresh thyme to hot cooked pasta, rice, or eggs.

Fresh Parsley

  • Stir together chopped fresh parsley, grated lemon rind, grated Parmesan cheese, and black pepper.  Use as a topping over sauteed julienne-cut carrots or steamed baby spinach.

Fresh Cilantro

  • Combine finely chopped fresh cilantro and chopped plum tomatoes; use as a topping for scrambled egg substitute.
  • Blend fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, grated fresh Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and black pepper in a food processor to make pesto to serve over pasta, grilled chicken, or fish.


  • Combine almonds with dried fruit for snacks or as a topping for yogurt.

Wonton Wrappers

  • Cut each wrapper diagonally in half; arrange pieces on a baking sheet.  Coat wontons with cooking spray; sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cook at 375 degrees for 4 minutes or until lightly browned.

Mushroom Broth

  • Replace part of the water in soup or pasta recipes with mushroom broth.


  • Sprinkle chopped hard-cooked eggs or mixed greens.

What Are Your Creative Solutions for Leftovers?

Do you have a nifty frugal recipe for something?  If so, send it in!  I’d love to do an addition to this article with reader solutions.  I know I struggle with finding uses for things like celery and rosemary, and I’d bet the farm that most people do as well.

With all of us trying to save money right now, reusing what we’ve got on hand is a great way to make our money go further.

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Good Recipes » Blog Archive » Creative Leftovers Recipes | The Greenest Dollar
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Ashley June 19, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Freezing!!! I freeze so many leftovers, and most of the items you listed can easily be frozen for use at a future date. I also buy in bulk (a little goes a long way for only 2) and I store most of it prechopped in the freezer. Save money by buying bulk and from not wasting.

One tip for that leftover wine: don’t toss it. Pour wine directly into ice cubes and use them within a week or so for a wine sauce. Better than pouring it down the drain if you can’t drink it all before it goes bad.

Steff June 21, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I make pizza with all my leftovers. I make bread every day so I’ve always got dough in the fridge. I roll the dough out and add whatever’s left in the fridge – half a mushroom, a quarter of an onion, the rest of a can of chilli beans, fresh herbs, canned pineapple … it all goes on! For wintery vegetables like carrots, cauliflower and potatoes I make calzone instead.

Heather June 22, 2009 at 9:20 am

I have always hated how I end up with those few extra lasagna noodles in the box after making lasagna. So I recently looked up what you can do with them and found two pretty common ideas. 1) lasagna roll-ups….picture putting ricotta on the noodle and rolling it up. Put them all in a pan, add sauce/cheese or whatever you like and bake….voila! Google it and you’ll get lots of recipes. 2) Tuna noodle casserole with cut up leftover lasagna noodles. This is the one I tried because I’ve had a bunch of tuna on hand for a while now and had a potluck to go to. Now I no I will no longer have boxes with 3-5 measly lasagna noodles leftover in them for months!! I can use ’em up!

heather June 22, 2009 at 9:28 am

Wow, all of you rock. Seriously.

Ashley, I LOVE that idea for the wine ice cubes. I had no idea you could do that, but it’s so smart!

Steff, making pizza is an awesome idea for little things like half an onion or a handful of mushrooms. I really need to experiment more with my pizza making; my first attempts have been a bit, well, soggy. I need to find a better recipe I guess!

Heather, I lovelovelove your ideas. I make lasagna too, and was in the same boat. I always have like, five lasagna noodles left over. I’m definitely going to try your roll up idea! Plus, you can also use cottage cheese in lasagna instead of ricotta. It’s got way more protein, and is lower in calories. I always use cottage cheese and think it tastes really great in there.

Thanks so much to all of you for these great ideas! I learn so much from readers writing in, and I really appreciate it. I know other readers do as well!

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