10 Ways to Repurpose Late-Night Leftovers Into New Meals the Next Day

© Shalayne Pulia
By Shalayne Pulia, Spoon University Posted April 19, 2016

In our continued effort to raise awareness for food waste, we created Food & Wine Microgrants with Spoon University, a food site powered by college chapters around the country. Spoon U contributors applied for small F&W sums ranging from $50 to $500 to execute a project and cover it! In honor of Earth Day (4/22) this week, here are some of our favorites.

Leftovers can be sticky business. They're sometimes tolerated, potentially reheated, never really enjoyed and more often wasted. Waste is something we see on a daily basis and usually ignore. It's everywhere, overflowing from our trash cans and filling our landfills nationwide amounting to 133 billion pounds (that's right I said "billion pounds") of waste every year according to the USDA.

Spoon UIUC teamed up with Food & Wine magazine to increase awareness about the problem of food waste on our campus. With a microgrant of just under $100, we created 10 original recipes to show you how you can transform leftover late-night eats into something equally amazing the next day.

We believe the US can do better than wasting $161 billion in uneaten food per year. And change can start with us, right now, on every college campus with small changes in our habits that will have a transcending impact—like promising to utilize all of our takeout leftovers.

This roundup teaches you how to repurpose the top five most common leftovers, according to our poll presented to the UIUC campus, into entirely new dishes. They'll not only revitalize your sad, goopy box of day-old orange chicken, but also aim to put a dent in reducing personal waste. Because giving leftover food an appetizing makeover is one hell of a way to make a difference.

1. Leftover Beef Taco Brunch Chilaquiles

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© Shalayne Pulia

Heaven is a place where avocado and eggs mingle at brunch. Step past the golden gates, my friends, into the land of beefy brunch chilaquiles. It's a simple recipe that looks like you've been cooking for hours and goes perfectly well with your morning mimosa ... or just water, lots of water.

2. Carne Asada Burrito Fried Rice

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© Shalayne Pulia

You know what makes fried rice better? Cheese. Lots of cheese. And corn, and the rest of the contents of last night's burrito binge. This recipe will give your lifeless burrito a facelift that is the best of both the fried rice and Mexican spice worlds. So whip out that rice cooker (or pop instant rice in the microwave, like I did) and get cooking.

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© Julia Marks

3. Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Citrus Ginger Sauce

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© Julia Marks

This recipe's play on citrus, ginger and toasted cashews makes for a refreshing take on goopy leftover orange chicken. It only takes five ingredients and about ten minutes to make, which means it takes less time and effort than it did to wait for your takeout. Mind blown? We know.

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© Julia Marks

4. Orange Chicken and Lime Avocado Tacos

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© Julia Marks

The only "cooking" required in this recipe is toasting the tortillas in the oven. Otherwise, it's all been done for you by your Chinese takeout destination of choice. And your microwave, I guess, that gets a little play in here, too, because repurposing your leftovers doesn't have to be complicated to be delicious.

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© Shalayne Pulia

5. Italian Arancini

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© Shalayne Puliav

What to do when you've got a massive carton of leftover fried rice? The stuff grows in the container I swear, but you're craving Italian home-cooking. Make my Nana proud and put together these Italian fried rice arancini, which are essentially simple risotto balls. Sing to me Paolo ... right after this bite.

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© Shalayne Pulia

6. Leftover Chinese Fried Rice Pudding

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© Shalayne Pulia

Satisfy your sweet tooth, too, with this recipe for rice pudding. Yes, last night's savory dinner can be tonight's sweet dessert if you wish hard enough, and click through to this recipe. Move the cursor up, little more, to the left, got it. Nice. There you go.

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© Shalayne Pulia

7. Pizza Scrambled Eggs

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© Caroline Pernai

Pizza for breakfast. This is not a drill, nor is it telling you to just eat it cold out of the cardboard box. This recipe lets you get creative so you can add, subtract and divide your pie (pizza pie, not your calculus homework, that sh*t's complicated), then scramble ingredients to your liking.

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© Caroline Pernai

8. Crunchy Leftover Pizza Croutons

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© Julia Marks

Add some pizzazz back into your life with this recipe for pizza croutons. You can toss them in a salad and still feel like you're making headway on that New Year's resolution, or crumble them over tomato soup, like I did because winter. So versatile, so chic.

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© Julia Marks

9. Waffle-Battered Chicken Wings

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© Divneet Dhillon

Today, we're makin' waffles. Waffles that look and taste so gourmet, your friends will have a hard time believing they're made from leftover chicken wings. This also means your waffles just became breakfast, lunch, dinner, all-the-time food.

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© Divneet Dhillon

10. Buffalo Tater Tot Bake

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© Divneet Dhillon

Forget the game. Forget the commercials. What's everybody's favorite part of any Super Bowl party? The snacks, you're right. These buffalo tater tot nachos, or tot-chos, will revolutionize your next party, football-based or otherwise, even if the tots are reheated. Disclaimer: Highly addictive finger food snack. Cheesy potato lovers beware.

#SpoonTip: Break apart leftover chicken wings and add over tots before baking for an extra chicken kick. Also, try substituting leftover french fries for tots. Noms.

Food & Wine:
© Divneet Dhillon

This piece originally appeared on SpoonUniversity.com.

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