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Deceptively Easy Leftovers

By Tina Albo:

An ages-old dilemma has plagued our kitchens since the beginning of time:

What do we do when we have a refrigerator full of leftovers?

Whether you're running a household of five or a household of two (like I do), leftovers are inevitable. Now that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, you'll be wondering what to do when you can't find a use for the last remnants of the turkey lurking in your fridge.

If there's anything I’ve learned from my friend Amanda, it's that leftovers are just another ingredient waiting to be repurposed into something delicious and easy. The best part is that it will reduce your cooking time if you plan your meals accordingly. Take a long look at the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator, there just might be a new delicious meal hiding in plain sight!


French Dip Squares

I love pot roast; this particular cut of meat is so versatile that leftovers can effortlessly be made into so many dishes.

My new favorite dish came from a video from that popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks back. I’m a big fan of French Dip sandwiches, so this video immediately got my mouth watering. One might think that a name like “French Dip Squares” sounds fancy and complicated, but I assure you that it’s much easier than you think. In fact, this particular recipe will make use of many things you might already have in your refrigerator.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I sometimes keep cans of refrigerated crescent roll dough in my fridge. As a busy single mom, I don’t always have time to make dough from scratch, so these pre-made cans definitely come in handy when I need to make a quick, easy dinner.

The original version of the recipe called for caramelized onions, but I used French fried onions in my version instead, as I'm not a big fan of the former. I also like my squares and sandwiches to have a little crunch, so it all worked out in the end.


2 cans refrigerated crescent roll dough

1 ½ cups leftover cooked pot roast, sliced thin

6 slices provolone cheese

1 cup French fried onions

½ tsp kosher salt

1 tsp tuxedo pepper seasoning

1 cup leftover au jus

Olive Oil cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

2. Coat a cookie sheet with the cooking spray to prevent the dough from sticking.

3. Open both tubes of crescent dough. Unravel them both and place one sheet on the greased cookie sheet.

4. Place leftover pot roast on top of the dough. Make sure to spread out the pieces so that the dough is evenly covered.

5. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the meat evenly.

6. Sprinkle the French fried onions on top of the meat for even coverage.

7. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of the leftover au jus so that it can absorb into the onions.

8. Place the provolone cheese on top. Make sure to place the slices evenly.

9. Place the second sheet of dough on top. Using a fork, make a tight seam so that the ingredients inside do not spill out.

10. Place the cookie sheet in the preheated oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until the dough is nicely browned.

11. Reheat the au jus for dipping.

12. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.

13. Cut the pastry into even slices before serving with the au jus.

Your end result is a delicious, piping-hot pastry that will stick to your ribs and leave you ravenous until the final morsel has been eaten. This is a perfect dish to have when the kids have their after-school activities that leave you pressed for time.


Kimchi Fried Rice with Shredded Chicken

Whenever I make a roasted chicken over the weekend, I’m guaranteed to have a lot of leftover meat. The best part about roasted chicken is that you can pretty much use it in any of your favorite dishes.

As a lady who enjoys everything spicy, I always keep a container of kimchi in my refrigerator. There are many varieties you can find in your local supermarkets, but I prefer the small-container premade by the Chinese supermarket close to my house. It has the right amount of spice without being too overpowering.

The concept of fried rice is daunting to most, as a lot of Chinese delicacies are exotic to many people—but trust me, it's simple to make. Like everything else, it just takes a little bit of time and patience.


1 ½ cups shredded leftover roasted chicken

3 large eggs, whisked lightly

¾ cup chopped kimchi

1/3 cup kimchi juice

3 cups cooked rice

½ tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp salt

1 tsp tuxedo pepper seasoning

½ tsp chili powder

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds


1. Heat a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add in olive oil.

2. Whisk in the eggs and cook until set. Transfer to a plate.

3. Before measuring out the kimchi, squeeze out as much of the juice as you can until you have roughly 1/3 of a cup.

4. Chop the kimchi until you have roughly ¾ of a cup.

5. In a bowl, mix the chicken with the cayenne pepper, salt, tuxedo pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and sesame seeds until evenly coated.

6. Pour the sesame oil on top of the cooked rice to break up any clumps.

7. Add vegetable oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat until hot.

8. Add the chopped kimchi and stir fry until the kimchi is starting to brown and is very fragrant.

9. Add the rice and stir-fry, pressing down on any clumps until the rice is evenly coated.

10. Chop up the cooked egg and add to the rice. Stir until evenly mixed.

11. Add the seasoned chicken to the wok. Stir until evenly mixed.

12. Pour kimchi juice and soy sauce into the wok. Turn the heat up to high and stir until evenly mixed.

13. Continue to stir fry the mixture until the rice starts to brown and doesn’t stick together.

14. Remove from heat and serve.

If you’re not a fan of heat, you can substitute regular cabbage for the kimchi. All you need to do is adjust your spices and liquid accordingly. This is why fried rice is so versatile; you can pretty much make it any way you want to and it will still be delicious. Don’t be afraid to put your own spin on it!

What you’ll have at the end is a tasty dish that will make you look at roasted chicken in a whole new light.


Turkey Tetrazzini

In my household, the word casserole doesn’t usually get thrown around much, as I don’t eat a lot of pasta. However, this dish is one of a few that I turn to when turkey is made.

When Thanksgiving or Christmas comes around, my refrigerator is full of leftover turkey. One can only make so many sandwiches until it becomes old hat.

Turkey Tetrazzini is a satisfying one-dish recipe that will make you think you’re eating a whole new meal. You can add almost anything you want to it—let your imagination run wild!

Most people add peas to this concoction, but I prefer to add marinated artichokes to my version as it melds well with the other flavors without being overpowering. They are also softer than peas, so the texture has a better mouth feel. But any vegetable you want to add is just fine.


Cooking spray

1 ½ cups fusilli pasta

6 slices pancetta, chopped roughly (regular bacon works just as well)

6 tbsp butter, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. sliced mushrooms

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp tuxedo pepper blend

3 cups leftover roast turkey, chopped

1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1 cup chopped marinated artichokes

1 tsp dried oregano

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.

2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook fusilli according to package directions. Drain.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

4. Add chopped pancetta and cook until browned.

5. Add mushrooms and wine and cook until most of wine is absorbed and mushrooms are soft, 5 minutes.

6. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to skillet, then whisk in flour and cook until golden, 3 minutes.

7. Slowly add broth and cream and whisk until no lumps remain. Simmer until thickened, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Add turkey, cheese, artichokes, and oregano and toss until combined. Add cooked fusilli and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

9. Transfer mixture to prepared dish and top with panko and Parmesan. Bake until top is golden and cheese is melty, 25 minutes.

10. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Once you have taken your first bite, you will forget that this dish was borne from your holiday leftovers. The best part of this recipe is that you can substitute chicken or pork into this dish, and it will still taste fantastic.


In short, having leftovers in your refrigerator isn't the awful situation it’s painted to be. Instead of looking at them with disdain, see them as an ingredient you haven’t thought to use yet. Much like the old adage goes, “A stranger is a friend you haven't met yet,” and so too your leftovers are the hidden delicious ingredients you haven’t introduced to the others yet. Let your imagination run wild and see where this culinary journey takes you!

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