Lunch Box Leftovers Do the Trick

I never used to be one to eat many leftovers. Usually, when the meal is over,  leftovers are put away, most likely never to be used or eaten again, until they are finally removed from the fridge when I need room to add more leftovers. Occasionally they might be eaten by a hungry child or a group of their friends.


But over the past few years, I noticed I actually was planning meals around the thought of having leftovers to see how far I could make them stretch. It started to become a challenge to see how long I could go before having to go to the store for main ingredients.

A few of my favorite leftover main ingredients are roasted chicken or turkey, beef and a few others. I can slice up any of these and add some grilled vegetables and a little cheese (or, in my case, a lot of cheese), place all between two tortillas or some great bread and I’m eating my favorite quesadilla or panini for lunch or dinner the next day.

I was thinking the other day, now that school is back in session, lots of kids bring their lunches from home and leftovers are a great way to change up their lunches from everyday peanut butter sandwiches. These days, it does seem that kids are eating lot better than back when I was a kid, or even when my kids were younger.

With it being such a “foodie” world right now, parents are trying lots of different foods and kids are being exposed to more and more ingredients – most I had never even heard of as a kid.

And because we have another year of school to get through, I thought a couple of simple lunchbox recipes would be fun to make using leftovers from a dinner or two.

Of course, the best ideas always come after a nice cocktail or two as you relax before you have to get busy making dinner!

The other day, I noticed I had a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream and only one thought came to my head. I made a Mudslide and it was yummy. I can’t have them all the time because to me, it’s just like drinking a milkshake and I probably would gain 10 pounds in just a couple of weeks!


  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liquor
  • 1 oz Bailey’s Irish cream
  • 1 oz cream

Add ice and all the ingredients to a shaker. Shake until chilled, pour into a glass and enjoy!


Sesame Peanut Noodles

Some night when you are having spaghetti, make extra and whip up a batch of Sesame Peanut Noodles. They are great eaten cold and a big change for the lunch box!

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 1 bunch green onion, sliced (white parts only)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Cook your pasta until done and drain. Meanwhile, combine the oil and onions in a skillet and sauté over low heat until tender. Add the ginger and cook for another 2 minutes. Mix in the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes.

Toss with noodles and serve. This is great cold so put it in a thermos for lunch the next day.

Italian-style Calzones

These calzones are great for dinner but also hold up well for a day or two in the lunch box!

Your favorite pizza dough, halved. Roll out each half into a circle that’s not too thin, so they don’t split when you fold them over.

  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped cold cuts – salami, ham, turkey or whatever you have leftover
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup bell pepper
  • ¼ cup black olives
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese or your favorite shredded cheese
  • 1 cup marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly grease.

Place the rolled out dough on the baking sheet and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Place the chopped cold cuts on one side of the dough, not all the way to the edge.

Add some tomato, onion, peppers and olives on top of the cold cuts, then add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Top with mozzarella cheese then fold the other side of dough over and pinch around the edges to seal. Cut a couple of slits in the top for steam to escape.

Bake in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove, cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy.

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Holly Simason

Columnist at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander cooking columnist Holly Simason is co-author of the mystery series “Death of a Kitchen Diva." Simason has collaborated with her screenwriter brother Rick Copp for the Bar Harbor-based series. The books are written under the pen name Lee Hollis.