3 simple cures for the leftover blues

Leftovers.  You can't live with them, you can't live without them.  I used to think they were my nemesis but I've come up with a few meal solutions that clear out the refrigerator and earn oohs and ahs instead of groans.

Shepherd's Pie

First of all, any leftover meat and gravy combinations (like crockpot roast, roasted garlic chicken, or turkey and gravy from Thanksgiving) become shepherd's pie, using the term loosely.  I'm not a fan of pie crust, so my shepherd's pies are crustless, with a mashed potato topping.  First, I chop or shred whatever leftover meat I'm using.  Then I saute some aromatics, carrots, onion, celery, sometimes mushrooms, add a veggie like corn or green beans, and mix it all together with the leftover gravy.  Simmer it on low for awhile.  If you have leftover mashed potatoes, this is a great way to use them up, too.  If not, mashed potatoes are pretty easy to make and I boil the potatoes while I'm working on the meat mixture.  Mash the potatoes when they're ready.  Then pour the meat mixture in a casserole dish, put mashed potatoes on top, and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  I take it out, add some bread crumbs and grated cheese to the top, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  This meal is always a hit.  It's also really easy and is a great refrigerator clearer.

Tamale Pie

Mexican leftovers usually become tamale pie around here.  This is a meal you can make in the crockpot or the oven.  This is a great way to use leftover chili or taco meat and toppings.  My tamale pie is so easy there isn't really a recipe, but you do have to have either homemade cornbread fixings or a box of cornbread mix and some sort of liquid, like chili or enchilada sauce.  I just prepare ground beef with taco seasonings, add whatever I want (black beans, corn, onion, peppers, etc), pour on the chili or enchilada sauce, and top with cornbread mix.  This one bakes at 375 for about 45 minutes in the oven, or you can cook it in the slowcooker on low for at least 6 hours.

Soup

And last, but not least, soup.  I can make soup out of almost anything, and probably have.  We call it Everything But the Kitchen Sink Soup and it is never the same twice in a row.  Or twice ever, probably.  Some of the basics to have on hand if you want to turn your leftovers into soup are chicken, beef, and vegetable stock and noodles, rice or barley.  Once your soup has those foundations, you can add almost anything and make a meal out of it.  One of my favorites is Chicken Corn Salsa soup and it was a necessity requires invention type recipe.  I had leftover chicken, frozen corn, a jar of salsa, and not much else, but they made a fabulous soup when combined.  When I make this one on purpose, I add black beans and garlic, too.  I have no recipe to give you, because it turns out differently every time.  And I have to admit, my creative side really kind of likes it that way.