Level Up Your Leftovers

Learn how Tiffani Thiessen turns yesterday’s leftovers into today’s meals

By Ryan Slattery 

Love them or loathe them, leftovers are part of our daily lives. The reality and result of making weeknight dinners. But rather than simply reheating them and serving with a fresh side dish, Tiffani Thiessen has a few tricks to elevate yesterday’s dinner and transform it into an entirely new meal. 

Known for her roles on “Saved By the Bell” and “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the actress turned cookbook author is taking leftovers to another level with her September 26 release, Here We Go Again.

“It’s a love letter to my childhood in many ways,” Thiessen says of her second cookbook. “It’s almost like a memory book. I mean, recipes are generally based on stories that are personal to us, right? These recipes are based on meals I grew up having. I just modernized them a little bit.”

While her debut cookbook, Pull Up a Chair, was a collection of family-driven recipes meant to  bring people together, Here We Go Again is mindful of food waste–a lesson Thiessen wants to instill in her own children, ages 8 and 13, with a greater goal of helping the planet.

She points to the fact that 40 percent of food in America is wasted. A figure confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which states that the entire food chain–farmers, packers,  shippers, retailers and ourselves–are to blame. To the tune of 42 billion pounds of food waste annually.

“It’s astonishing,” says Thiessen.

While not everybody is able to grow their own vegetables, raise chickens and compost, like she does, everyone can do a small part and make use of the ingredients in the fridge and pantry.

“We need to change our mindset about how we look at food in our own homes, in our own kitchens,” explains Thiessen. “[Here We Go Again] is about approaching leftovers differently and showing that you don’t have to eat the same thing as a traditional leftover. It’s really the pieces from your leftovers that you can actually make into something completely different. So the roasted chicken that you had, can be made into enchiladas the next day.”

But she may have a hidden agenda, as well.

“Also on the funny side, I kind of wanted to prove to my husband that leftovers can be awesome,” she says with a laugh. “To show him I can make it into something else that he won’t even recognize was the same thing from the night before.”

That means leftover rice gets new life as a sushi rice cake. A slice of pizza is transformed into a breakfast sandwich with the addition of an egg and chili oil. The last of the coffee grounds are rubbed on ribs and grilled. Soft beets are turned into beet patty melts (a favorite among her vegetarian friends). And even the chip bag with its small crumbs gets ripped from her children’s hands before hitting the trash bin. 

“The broken chips that are at the very bottom that my kids are going to throw away.  No, let me show you what I can make with it,” Thiessen says. It doesn’t end there. One of her all-time gems is using mashed potatoes to make dessert. 

“I make the most amazing chocolate cake out of [potatoes]. It was a true test,” she says. “We recipe tested that one quite a bit, but it really gives a nice dense creamy chocolate cake. It’s insane.”

Thiessen says, Here We Go Again, reminds her of being in the kitchen as a young girl “with all the women in my family.” Her love of cooking started there because “they looked like they were just having so much fun.” 

The book’s styling and photography gives a retro vibe using colors, fonts, dishes and cooking gadgets that are all inspired by the 1970’s and 80’s.

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“It’s very nostalgic. I used a lot of vintage stuff,” she says. “I wanted people to go, ‘Oh my gosh. My mom had that bowl. My grandma had that blender.’”

For Thiessen, the cookbook is about getting back to basics and thinking outside the box. 

“There’s a little bit for everyone,” she says. “It’s about taking what you have and reinventing it. The options are endless.”

“Here We Go Again” is available now for preorder and goes on sale September 26.