Healthy eating does require cooking, but it doesn’t require conjuring up a new dinner from scratch every single night – ain’t nobody got time for that. The key to feeding yourself nutritious meals day after day (instead of eating out where serving sizes, fat, sodium, and calorie content are astronomical and vegetables can be all but nonexistent) is embracing your leftovers.
There are people that will say “But I can’t stand to eat the same thing more than once in a week!” to which I say two things 1. get over yourself, and 2. doesn’t have to be the same thing! The beauty of food is that there are no rules. You don’t have to just chuck your leftovers in the microwave and pray it doesn’t come out rubbery, you can instead use some simple cooking techniques to whip up an entirely new dish from the remnants of the original. It’s like you’re on Chopped, except instead of starting out with Ox blood and strawberry pop tarts, you’re starting out with things that were actually delicious in the first place. Leftovers are great for so many reasons:
- Since you’re producing the food, you’re in control of the nutrition
- A lot of things taste better after the flavors have time to meld
- You don’t have to cook a lot
- You reduce food waste by eating leftovers
- You can also have healthy HOT lunch meals – there are only so many sandwiches a person can eat before they get bored.
While there are certainly over-the-top creative things you can do with some leftovers, there are some go-to methods that are always 100% delicious. And so I give you, my 4 favorite ways to reinvent your leftovers!
Four Tried and True Ways to Reinvent Your Leftovers
- Salads – This is pretty easy. Take whatever leftover veggies and proteins you have, heat them up (in a skillet is my favorite, but the microwave is the most convenient), and toss with greens! Adding some fresh components like sliced onion and celery, or a vinegar-oil-mustard dressing to tie together is always great. Shoot for a variety of textures so that you don’t end up with a pile of (delicious) mush. Unless you’re into that.
- Cakes – Cakes work best with some protein and some starch/starchy vegetable (helloooo shrimp and grit cakes), but we’ve done it even with corned beef and cabbage (non-starchy)! Chop up your leftovers and add to a bowl with a beaten egg (or flax egg, not as strong a binder but will still work) and a binder – breadcrumbs or quick oats work well for this. Adjust proportions as necessary to get a consistency that holds together. Patty the concoction and cook in a lightly oiled skillet (pan spray works well) over medium heat until a nice crispy crust has formed. Flip and cook through.
- Hashes – A hash is super easy – just chop up your veggies and protein and throw it all in a pan! Starting by sauteing some fresh onion and garlic, or adding more vegetables (kale from our garden comes to mind), or even adding an herb or spice to tie it all together is a really good way to make it feel new and special.
- TACOS – Everything makes a great taco. Add some cheese, salsa, cilantro, or fresh crunchy romaine if desired. I find that it’s all about the accouterments when it comes to tacos, whether that’s something as simple as hot sauce or something as involved as a freshly chopped pico de gallo.