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Empty Your Easter Basket: 15 Recipes for Holiday Leftovers

photo: Boby Dimitrov

Leftovers are inevitable after a holiday, especially one that involves baskets of appetite-spoiling goodies.

Easter, in particular, is when consumers tend to stock up on big cuts of meat such as hams and lamb tenderloins that, at other times of the year, are very expensive. “With the price of food, no one wants anything to go to waste,” says Diane Werner, a registered dietician and the food director for Taste of Home magazine.

While you probably have enough leftovers to reprise the original meal two or three times, you’ll be more enthused to enjoy ham, lamb, eggs and other East goodies with a little recipe creativity:

Ham

Go ahead and freeze some of the leftovers for later use. “They taste so much better a week or two later when you aren’t hammed out,” Werner says.

* Add to macaroni and cheese. You can also experiment with the cheeses used and other add-ins to tailor it to your taste and the type of ham used. A ham with a spicier glaze, for example, might work well with pepper jack cheese or salsa. Consider in-season asparagus as a mix-in.

* Use in a split-pea or other vegetable soup.

* Layer ham into a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s another family favorite, says Dana Joseph of the husband-wife blogging team behind Not Made of Money. “The kids get bored if they eat the same thing,” she says. “This way, they’re not saying, ‘Oh, ham again?’”

* Freeze individual slices to thaw later for breakfast meat, served alongside eggs and toast.

Lamb

Roast lamb is the less versatile of the traditional Easter meats, but leftovers don’t have to go to waste.

* Use instead of beef or chicken in a shepherd’s pie.  Other leftovers, including mashed potatoes and peas, help round out the ingredient list.

* Mix into a casserole of fresh vegetables and rice, Werner says.

Eggs

Dyed, hard-cooked (i.e. hard-boiled) eggs are good for up to a week, according to the Egg Safety Center, an industry food-safety group. Egg salad is the standard, but it gets boring fast, especially if you have a whole Easter basket’s worth of dyed beauties, Joseph says.

* Prepare deviled eggs — with a twist. Michelle Gillette, a chef and kids-culinary instructor from Brightwaters, N.Y., recommends blending the yolks with a half-cup shredded cheddar, one-quarter cup salsa, and a tablespoon each of sour cream and sliced green onion as well as the usual one-quarter cup mayonnaise. The result: festive colors inside and out.

* Chop up, along with some of the ham, for a fast chef’s salad, says Joseph.

* Pickle to make them last even longer. Boil a jar of pickled beets with a half-cup vinegar and a pinch of salt. (You can also include sliced onions if desired, or sub the beets and beet juice for another cup white vinegar. Just know that without it, your eggs may look a little odd: the purple-red beet juice masks any odd colors on the whites left over from dying the eggs.) Fill a large jar with the hot liquid, and add peeled, hard-cooked eggs. Let brine in the refrigerator for at least one week.

Easter candy

To many people, Peeps taste better with age. But all that candy becomes decidedly less appealing after about a week, when chocolate develops a white coating from changes in temperature and moisture and Peeps harden into rocks. You can lengthen the life of that chocolate bunny by stashing it in the freezer, but that really only buys you an extra week, Joseph says.

* Save jellybeans to decorate cupcakes and cakes.

* Chop up Peeps to sub for marshmallows in your favorite Rice Krispies or other cereal bar dessert. (Add jelly beans if you like.)

* Make Frugal Foodie’s springtime version of Nigella Lawson’s holiday rocky road bars, chopping up your chocolate bunny in lieu of buying chips, and subbing in chopped Peeps, candied nuts and jelly beans for the called-for mini marshmallows, Brazil nuts and dried cherries.

* Melt down a chocolate bunny for fondue. Dip any spare candy, or go for healthier fruit options including strawberries, bananas and pineapple.

* Grate a chocolate bunny into shavings for ice cream and other desserts, Joseph says.

* Substitute Peeps for marshmallows in s’mores. If you’re never cooked Peeps in the microwave before, you’ll want to watch this — the chick or bunny swells to monster proportions!

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner.