Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Making the most of leftovers

Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Making the most of leftovers

With food prices continuing to cause sticker shock at the grocery store, the ability to be flexible while shopping can help.

Rather than sticking to a rigid list of ingredients for your usual go-to meals or to try a new recipe, be adventurous and pick up items on sale, whether or not they’re on your list.

We all approach mealtimes differently. Some plan ahead, most of us have a handful of dishes we make regularly, and while many of us enjoy it, not everyone has the energy to experiment every day.

Fortunately, the internet is an unlimited source of recipes and information to help you use what you have, or what you might find on sale. We talked about a few ideas this week on the Calgary Eyeopener.

It may just be a matter of switching brands, or trying a different variety of lettuce or squash, or a no-name version of a pricier name-brand item.

And you may find better deals in the freezer section — if fresh produce is pricey, frozen veggies are a good option; they’re harvested at their peak and flash frozen, so they’re not nutritionally inferior.

And unlike fresh produce, there’s generally no waste — you may end up tossing half your tub of fresh spinach or blueberries, but will most likely use your entire bag of frozen berries or veggies.

The photo show three unopened packages of DSI fresh tofu.
With the price of meat so high, tofu is an affordable protein option. The DSI brand is made in Calgary. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

With the price of meat exceptionally high, try exploring more affordable proteins, like tofu (DSI is made in Calgary), pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils — both dry and canned are inexpensive and shelf-stable), or even peanut butter.

Dry beans and lentils don’t need to be soaked before they’re simmered — simply cook them until they’re just tender (and feel free to salt the cooking water, no matter what you may have heard) then cool and store in the fridge or freeze in their cooking liquid to protect them from freezer burn.

When considering what’s for dinner, dishes like fried rice, noodles, pasta, soups, tacos and other one-dish meals tend to stretch small quantities of pricier proteins and other ingredients further and allow for more flexibility — not only in the ingredients you use, but the quantities.

Here are two dishes that will make use of leftovers, help you use what you have, and make use of all kinds of items you might find on sale at the grocery store.

Everything Fried Rice 

Two grey bowls hold piles of fried rice, featuring egg, green onion, peas, and carrots. Sticking out of one of the bowls is a pair of chopsticks.
The key to making a tasty fried dish is using cold leftover rice. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Fried rice is an amazing way to use up all kinds of leftovers, produce that may be on the wilty side, and smaller quantities of more expensive proteins.

Start with cold leftover rice, so that the grains separate and don’t clump together — this is a perfect reason to make extra for dinner one night and have a head start on dinner the next day.

Don’t worry about quantities — you can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like to accommodate the number of people you’re feeding and their appetites.

I like scrambling an egg or two into the rice as it heats through, or you could top each serving with a poached or fried egg.


  • Canola or other vegetable oil
  • Sesame oil (for flavour—optional)
  • Cooked, cold long-grain rice (any kind)
  • Chopped or crumbled cooked chicken, beef, pork, sausage (regular or plant-based — optional)
  • Frozen peas, if you like
  • Finely chopped or grated carrot, thinly sliced kale, chopped green onion or other fresh or cooked veg
  • Cilantro, if you like it (I chop the stems to cook with the rice, and scatter leaves on top)
  • Soy sauce, to taste
  • Eggs (or JustEgg) if you want
  • Chili oil or sriracha, for serving, if you like

Set a large skillet — or one big enough to accommodate the quantity of fried rice you want to make, without crowding — over medium-high heat.

Add a generous drizzle of vegetable oil and a smaller one of sesame oil.

When it starts to shimmer (just give it a minute to warm up) add the rice and stir to heat through.

Add any chopped meat and/or veg you like and a shake of frozen peas.

Stir to heat everything through, seasoning with soy sauce. If you like, push most of it off to one side and crack as many eggs as you’d like to cook in the space you’ve made — stir and break up the egg as it sets, you’re kind of scrambling it — and stir into the remaining rice.

Serve topped with extra cilantro and/or sriracha or chili oil, if you like.

LISTEN: Julie van Rosendaal speaks about cost-saving dishes:

Calgary Eyeopener6:58Julie van Rosendaal on cost-saving dishes

Our food guide Julie van Rosendaal on trying new dishes to keep grocery bills in check.

Peanut Noodles

A plate of noodles covered in peanut sauce and topped with sesame seeds.
Leftover veggies and proteins can be used in this simple recipe, which keeps well in the fridge. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Peanut sauce is delicious on everything, keeps well in the fridge and can turn any kind of noodle or long pasta into a meal, with or without leftover proteins, crispy tofu, and all kinds of veggies, in any quantity — try broccoli, pea pods, carrots, celery, peppers, daikon, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower…anything goes.

I like to make a batch of peanut sauce when my peanut butter runs low (all natural, creamy or crunchy) — I add everything else straight to the jar and shake it up.

The measurements here are approximate — feel free to eyeball it and adjust quantities according to your taste.


Peanut Sauce:

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar or honey (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely crushed
  • 1-2 tsp grated ginger
  • a drizzle of sesame oil (optional)
  • pinch chili flakes or a squirt of Sriracha (optional)
  • Hot water or coconut milk, to thin
  • Cooked fresh or dry noodles (like thin or thick egg noodles, rice noodles or buckwheat noodles) or thin pasta (like spaghetti or linguine)

The rest of the dish:

  • Cooked chopped chicken, beef or pork, crumbled or crispy tofu, or cooked shrimp (optional.)
  • Chopped or grated carrots, peppers, pea pods, broccoli, broccolini, peppers… anything you have or like.
  • Chopped green onions.
  • Chopped cilantro, if you like.
  • Toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts, for sprinkling (optional)

To make the peanut sauce, stir everything together (don’t add the water or coconut milk yet) with a fork — it can be tricky at first, but will eventually combine.

Warming up the peanut butter can help, and once you have an idea how thick it’s going to be, you can add hot water or coconut milk to thin it to the consistency you like.

Keep it in the fridge for weeks to eat with everything, or to toss with cooked noodles (I rinse them under cold water as I drain them) and any veggies or proteins you like.

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