The Leftover Makeover


By Tina Ong I am one busy mama. But no matter how busy I am, I make time for the most important part of my day which is preparing dinner for the family.

My kids are tired from school and swim training; my husband is stressed from his day in the office. When they come home, I want them to expect a wonderful meal waiting for them. It’s the way I want to welcome them home.

While I prioritize dinner prepping, I don’t want to spend an entire afternoon slaving in the kitchen. My goal is to minimize my time in the kitchen with time efficient recipes that can be stretched into several meals. I am talking about cooking in big batches here. It’s really my solution to serving good meals and not spending too much time cooking. The only drawback in big batch cooking is that my family complains if they are served the same food the next day. To keep complaints at bay, I have learned to give makeovers to our leftovers.

One of my fave big batch meals to serve for dinner is tacos. It’s so quick and easy. I serve them often and in every version that I can think of: open-faced, taco salad, regular tacos, you name it.


If you have little ones, tacos are a great way to involve tiny hands in food preparation. When my kids were younger, I noticed that they ate more if they actively participated in prepping their food.

Taco meat also lends itself as a great canvas for adding to the nutritional content of the meal by making it easy to mix in quinoa and flax seeds without any obvious alteration to the taste.

But what I really love about Taco Nights is that it’s so easy to repurpose it into several other meals. Let me share with you:

IMG_5174 TACO QUESADILLA: Mix leftover taco meat and leftover shredded cheese. Put in flour tortillas. Fold in half and cook until tortilla is golden brown and crispy, and the cheese is melty. Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole or taco sauce and enjoy as a merienda treat!

IMG_5176 ARROZ ALA CUBANA: Just add potatoes, carrots, and tomato sauce to the leftover taco meat. Serve with eggs and fried saba. Now you have a lunch baon that your kids will surely love.

IMG_5173 SHAKSHUKA: This is a brunch staple every time I have leftover taco meat. This Middle Eastern baked egg dish share a similar spice base of cumin and paprika. How to do this? Cook onions and peppers (or any vegetable) in oil until soft. Add leftover taco meat and canned tomatoes. Simmer uncovered until liquid is reduced, but not dry. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Make a well in the middle, add one to three eggs. Cook for a few minutes until whites are set, but yolk is still runny. Top with cheese.

No matter how you serve it, the taco is one of those easy weeknight dinners that will make your life a little bit saner during the busy evening rush. Try it!

MM Contributors_tina