By Deborah Eisenhut

When I was cooking for my young family years ago, saving money was paramount to our existence and food savings were our best bet. Leftovers however, were almost non-existent. My boys, and often their friends, ate everything I cooked. Thankfully, both of my sons grew up to become good cooks, not afraid of creativity and reluctant to waste food.

Enthusiasm for leftovers in America, if there ever was such a thing, started during WWI when we became aware of childhood hunger in Europe. During the Depression era, not wasting food was necessary, as gardening and preserving food was during WWII. During the 40’s and 50’s when saving money was a family necessity, housewives did so by using their kitchen skills to turn leftovers into culinary classics. Casseroles, soups, and forever favorites such as banana bread, became more and more acceptable, partly due to increased food production costs. The concept of “leftovers” has been around since ancient Greece, when ice would be brought down from the mountains and stored in cellars at harvest time to preserve food longer. Not embraced by everyone, yet a great way to be creative and save money, give it a chance in your kitchen. The following several recipes show some delicious ways to eat well and waste not.

Leftover Roasted Chicken (or Turkey) Soup

A comfort on chilly days or when under the weather, with either leftover rice or egg noodles.

Remove meat from carcass & save for soup. Boil down carcass in 6 cups of water or chicken stock. Strain after simmering for several hours, add 2 medium carrots, peeled & diced, 2 medium stalks of celery, diced, ½ sweet onion diced, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper & 1 tsp. minced garlic (optional). Simmer for 20 minutes; add chicken & a cup of leftover cooked rice or 1 cup cooked egg noodles. Warm thoroughly. Top with fresh chopped, parsley.

Leftover Bread Pudding

Leftover bread, total about 6 slices, chopped into cubes

2-3 tbls. sugar

MIXTURE: 2 cups milk, 2 eggs, ½ cup brown or white sugar, 2 tbls. sweetened condensed milk, ½ tsp. vanilla, ½ to 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ cup raisins, dried cranberries or chopped nuts or both.

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl beat eggs with a whisk, add milk, sugar, condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and combine well with whisk. If using fruit & or nuts, add now. Place chopped bread in greased medium size baking dish; pour mixture over bread & let soak up for 15 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over top & bake one hour or until top is golden brown & bread set. Remove & cool from oven 15 minutes. Serve slightly warm or cooled in fridge for an hour. Can top with cream.

Leftover Black Bean Brownies

1 ½ cups cooked left over black beans or 1 (15 oz. can) rinsed very well

2 tbls Cocoa powder

½ quick oats

¼ tsp salt

½ cup pure maple syrup or 1/3 cup honey

¼ cup coconut or canola oil

2 tsp pure vanilla

½ tsp baking powder

½ to 2/3 cup chocolate chips plus extra for topping

(not optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients except chips in a food processor & blend really well. Stir in chips, pour into greased pan. Sprinkle extra chips on top & bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. If a little under cooked, chill overnight & it will firm up.

Easy Leftover Baked Potato Soup

3 tbls butter

1 ½ cup finely diced leeks (or onion)

1 ½ tbls minced garlic

6 cups chicken stock, hot

4 large baked potatoes, halved, scooped & finely chopped

1 ½ cups buttermilk

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

½ cup sour cream

2 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 tbls Sherry vinegar

¼ cup minced chives

In a large saucepot, over high heat, melt butter & add leeks & garlic. Cook over medium heat until translucent. Add hot stock & whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the potatoes, buttermilk, sour cream & grated Parmesan. Add to soup stirring constantly. Season with salt & pepper. Remove from heat & add the Sherry vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives and real bacon bits (optional).