Get creative with leftovers

Jan 3, 2009 at 10:36 a.m. ET

Have you ever been to one of those Mongolian barbecue restaurants? The places with the large griddles where you choose your ingredients (typically meats and veggies), choose your sauce and the cooks put it all together for you? Aren't they fun? You know what? Those restaurants can be a creative culinary inspiration for dealing with those leftovers in your fridge, too.

Mom with Frying Pan

Leftovers? Make "Mongolian barbecue" at home

There is a Mongolian barbecue chain of restaurants near us that my kids just love. My middle one, especially. Not only does he ask to go there at least once a week, but he asks to recreate the experience at home. When leftovers in the fridge reach a certain critical mass, I'm game. It's a great way to use up leftovers - and sometimes the results are more exciting than the original meal.

At any given time in my fridge, there are snippets of veggies and pasta and usually a meat or two leftover from a meal. In addition, there are always barbecue sauces, marinades and so on. I might need to prepare one or two items for this particular leftover meal, but that effort typically is minimal. I find that the kids often eat better on these nights, too - more veggies get into them, and there is less complaining about one meal element or another. Mealtime is quite fun!

I also like to do this on nights my husband is working late. Unless you have a very large griddle, it can be hard to do more than one or two meals at a time, and therefore actually sit down all together. Here is our rendition of Mongolian BBQ - use it as a guide and take advantage of the leftovers you have in your kitchen.

Mongolian Barbecue night

Gather whatever you have!

Suggested meats:
Slices of beef
Slices par-cooked chicken
Chunks of fresh fish, shrimp or other seafood

Suggested veggies and fruits:
Pea pods
Broccoli florets
Shredded carrots
Sliced mushrooms
Diced peppers
Chopped Scallions
Mandarin oranges
Cubed pineapple

Suggested starches:
Cooked Udon noodles
Cooked pasta shapes
Cooked rice

Suggested sauces:
Barbecue sauce
Soy sauce
Marinara sauce
Teryaki sauce
Sweet and sour sauce

1. Have everybody gather their ingredients in a bowl from selections you have set out, and have plates ready.

2. On a large griddle or in a frying pan, heat a small amount of oil over medium high heat.

3. One person at a time, cook their ingredients, stirring occasionally. A little caramelization on the edges of the veggies makes the experience more realistic.

4. When the meats are about done, add in the sauce over the top. Stir around a bit and serve. Then repeat until everyone has a "Mongolian Barbecue" meal.

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