Recipes That Will Level Up Your Leftover Cooking Game


Last July 18, the world has celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day or Mandela Day. Besides commemorating the birthday of Nelson Mandela’s birthday, this day is meant to be a global campaign to remind everyone that each individual has the power to transform the world--make a difference in his or her own way.

Because this very day is all about promoting change, fighting poverty, and making a difference in our own little ways, let’s start with something we’re all guilty of: FOOD LEFTOVERS. Whether those are from a party, a binge-eat night, a family picnic or what-not, leftovers are an inevitable part of life. What matters is, you don’t put them to waste by simply throwing them. 

And that’s why we’re here. You could use those extra meat, veggies and other leftovers to whip up totally different recipes that so good you won’t even notice they’re made from leftovers. Here are some recipes to inspire you to take your leftover cooking game to the next level:

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Chicken Parmesan Dip

If you need a way to perfectly use up leftover marinara sauce or chicken, this is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a rich, creamy, and savory take on a classic party dip. And, if you want it to have an extra-Italian twist, you may add a bit of Italian sausage (if you do have that in your fridge as well).


  • 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (from 1 chicken)

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 cups marinara sauce, divided

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. pre-shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)

  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

  • Fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Stir together chicken, cream cheese, salt, pepper, 1 1/2 cups of marinara, and 1 cup of the mozzarella in a medium bowl until combined. Spread mixture evenly in an 8-inch square casserole dish. Spread remaining 1/2 cup marinara evenly over chicken mixture; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake in preheated oven until cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.  

While dip bakes, stir together panko, Parmesan, olive oil, and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle panko mixture evenly over dip, and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil; serve with pita chips or crostini


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Southwestern Pork Lettuce Wraps

These easy lettuce wraps make for a healthy lunch or even a light yet nutritious dinner.  So, if you have a bounty of grilled meats like steak or chicken from yesterday’s BBQ party, then we recommend you whip up this recipe, stat. Another fun tip to lessen your effort: just set out the fillers and toppers in separate bowls and let everyone assemble their lettuce wraps as they please for a fun family meal.  


  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/3 cup whole buttermilk

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded, plus 1/2 tsp. canned adobo sauce

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, divided

  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 (8.5-oz.) pkg. microwavable basmati rice, prepared according to package directions

  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (2 scallions)

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 (1-lb.) pork tenderloin, trimmed

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 12 butter lettuce leaves (from 1 head)

  • 12 tablespoons salsa, divided

  • 3 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled about ¾ cup)

Process mayonnaise, buttermilk, cilantro, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, lime juice, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin in a food processor or blender until blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Stir together beans, rice, scallions, and 1/3 cup of the mayonnaise mixture. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Stir together black pepper and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cumin in a small bowl. Rub pork tenderloin with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt mixture.

Preheat grill to medium (350°F to 400°F). Place tenderloin on oiled grates. Grill, uncovered, turning occasionally, until a thermometer registers 140°F when inserted in thickest portion of tenderloin, 13 to 15 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Thinly slice pork.

Spoon about 1/4 cup bean mixture onto each lettuce leaf, and top each with 2 to 3 slices of pork, 1 tablespoon salsa, and 1 tablespoon cheese. Serve with remaining mayonnaise mixture

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Sheet Pan Cuban Sandwiches

If your party guests didn’t finish up that pork tenderloin, roast pork, or sliced ham dish that you’ve served last night, don’t get too weary because all those won’t go to waste. In fact, you’ll love them even more once you try making this recipe. Eat these for brunch, pack these to go for your kids, or share them in the office--totally up to you!


  • 3 medium cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon (12g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 medium orange, juiced

  • 2 limes, juiced

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • One 1 1/2- to 2-pound (680-900g) pork tenderloin

  • 2 large loaves crusty bread (preferably Cuban loaves, about 16 inches long by 5 inches wide), halved lengthwise

  • 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1/2 cup (125g) yellow mustard, plus more for serving

  • 1 pound (450g) thinly sliced ham

  • 8 ounces (225g) sliced dill pickles

  • 8 ounces (225g) sliced Swiss cheese

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, salt, cumin, pepper, oregano, orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil, and process until garlic is fully minced. Transfer to a large, sealable container and add the pork tenderloin. Toss to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 and up to 8 hours.

After the pork has marinated, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of heavy duty foil. Top with the pork and pour over the marinade. Roast until the center of the thickest section of the pork reads 145°F (65°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).

While the pork rests, pour any excess juices into a small bowl and discard the foil. Clean and dry the baking sheet, if necessary. Spread the butter all over the exterior of the bread. Set the bottom bread halves on the baking sheet. Spread mustard thinly on the bottom halves, then top with the sliced ham.

Slice the pork tenderloin into thin, 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer the pork tenderloin over the ham and drizzle with the reserved cooking juices. Top with the pickles and Swiss cheese, then close the sandwiches.

Place a second sheet pan over the sandwiches and press down firmly. Place heavy, oven-safe objects, such as cast iron pots or pans, on top of the sheet pan to compress the sandwiches, then carefully transfer to the oven.

Bake until the cheese has melted and the ingredients have warmed through, about 20 minutes. Cut the sandwiches crosswise into individual portions and serve with additional mustard, if preferred.