Post-Thanksgiving is prime time for having mountains of food to use up, but even throughout the year, most of us are guilty of wasting food when we’ve cooked too much pasta or over-estimated how many veggies we needed. In fact, it’s been reported that Americans waste around 20lbs of food per person per month, which isn’t good for your wallet or the environment, so hunt down that Tupperware and get ready to put that extra food to use with these ten healthy ways to use leftovers!
Healthy Ways To Use Leftovers
If you’ve made a whole dish and have a leftover slice or portion, rather than helping yourself to seconds (bad for your diet) or throwing it in the trash (bad for your wallet and the environment), put it in some Tupperware for another day. This will be perfect for lunch the following day or a quick dinner for when you don´t feel like cooking. If it’s unlikely you’ll use it within the next two days, stick it in the freezer and get it out the morning of the day you’ll eat it. If possible, try and keep sauces separate from foods like pasta as these dishes can dry out and look a little unappetizing when you come to eat them again. You can always use the cooked pasta in a different way for another night and pair the sauce with veggies or meat for a different dish another day, giving you more variety while still putting those leftovers to good use. So, now you have your leftovers, what can you do with them?
1. Crispy Pasta With Tomato & Goat’s Cheese
Take your leftover pasta (which should always be whole grain!) and fry enough for however many people you have in a little olive oil for around 7 minutes, or until it’s a little browned then separate the pasta into bowls. Use the same pan to fry roughly chopped tomatoes (around one per person) with a sprinkling of your favorite herbs and a little black pepper. Divide the tomatoes between the bowls and then add chopped goat’s cheese to each bowl. Poach one egg per person, making sure the yolk is runny, and place a poached egg on top of each bowl of hot pasta.
2. Spaghetti Stir Fry
Stir-fries are the best way to eat more veggies, and they taste great too! Just add leftover vegetables to a wok or deep frying pan and cook with a little olive oil. Peppers, mushrooms, onion, broccoli and zucchini all work well, so just use whatever you have at home and fry with or without some lean protein, such as tofu, chicken or even eggs. Dissolve a low-sodium stock cube in some boiling water and then add it to the mix, plus a sprinkling of Chinese five spice and then add the cooked spaghetti to serve as the ‘noodles’ in your dish. Cook it through until the pasta is hot and serve!
Gazpacho’s creamier cousin, salmorejo (pronounced sal-mor-ay-ho) is the perfect way to use up old bread (again, whole grain we hope!) and try out this traditional Andalusian dish. To make enough for eight people, put 3 teaspoons of salt, about 10 ounces of bread cut into large pieces, a crushed clove of garlic, half a small chopped onion and eight chopped and de-seeded plum tomatoes into a bowl. Cover the ingredients with boiling water and let it sit for an hour. Drain the mixture and squeeze the liquid from the bread, saving a cup of the drained liquid. Place the mix into a blender and add the cup of drained liquid along with half a cup of extra virgin olive oil, and two tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Puree the mixture until smooth then chill. When you’re ready to eat, pour the soup into serving bowls and top with chopped boiled eggs and a little dried ham then season with salt and pepper to test.
No one wants to eat stale bread, unless it´s on a salad and given a fancy name of course! So, if you have an old baguette lying around, chop it into cubes and season it with olive oil and your favorite herbs to add a tasty crunch to your salad.
5. Healthy Snack Rice
A quick and healthy way to use up leftover rice, this recipe takes less than ten minutes and is perfect for a quick lunch or as a side dish for dinner. First, fry some chopped onion (frozen chopped onion is a great time saver) and then add these to your pre-cooked rice - brown rice is much healthier than white rice, and has a nice nutty flavor perfect for this recipe that white rice lacks. Mix in some sunflower seeds and raisins, microwave it and then grate a little hard cheese on top.
6. Brown Rice & Garbanzo Bean Burgers
These vegetarian burgers are a perfect way to use up leftover rice, and they’re a whole lot healthier than store-bought veggie burgers. To make four burger, mash together a cup of cooked brown rice and two cups of cooked and drained garbanzo beans until a thick paste forms. Stir in a small minced onion, a minced clove of garlic, and two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper then stir in one large beaten egg. Form the mixture into four 1/2-inch-thick patties then heat the burgers in a splash of olive oil over a medium-high heat, cooking the patties until golden brown, which should take around 4 minutes each side. Top the burgers with wholegrain mustard, slice red onion and roasted red pepper then serve on a bed of fresh green salad – perfect!
Chicken & Turkey
7. Turkey Chili
There are tons of recipes to use up any leftover turkey you might have from Thanksgiving, from pies to stir-fries, but we like this chili to give you a spicy metabolism-boost for the colder months! Chop one large onion and mince a clove of garlic then fry them on a low heat for about 3 minutes in olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium-high then add a pound of turkey meat and cook until it’s browned. Add a little salt and pepper plus 4 tablespoons of chili powder, let the mixture sizzle and then add a 28oz tin of tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, a bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, then add a 14oz tin of black beans (after draining them) and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Serve the chili with whole grain rice and any combination of the following: avocado chunks, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, and sour cream.
8. Mediterranean Chicken Wrap
Take about 3oz of leftover chicken and season with salt and pepper then broil for about 4-5 minutes. Take a whole grain tortilla wrap and spread with a tablespoon of olive tapenade. Layer the wrap with chicken, two canned artichoke hearts (squeezed dry and thinly sliced), half a thinly slice small tomato, and 1/4 cup mixed baby greens. Fold tortilla to seal and enjoy!
Fruit & Veg
9. Baked Banana Bread Doughnuts
This is healthier than it sounds with protein, potassium and fiber in every portion, and the perfect recipe for using up the last bananas in the bunch when they’ve gone soft and mushy. Preheat your oven to 325°F then lightly coat a doughnut tray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together a cup of whole grain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. In a medium-sized bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 2 mashed bananas, 1/4 cup of agave or maple syrup, 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt, a lightly beaten egg and a teaspoon of vanilla, then whisk until smooth. Add the second mixture to the large bowl and stir until they are just combined, so don’t over-stir it. Pour the batter into a re-sealable plastic bag then squeeze the batter you’re your prepared doughnut pan, ensuring that each indentation is about 3/4 full. Top each with some crushed walnuts and lightly press them into the batter. Bake for around 15 minutes or until the doughnuts are golden and thoroughly cooked inside.
10. Bean And Vegetable Soup
The best thing about vegetable soup is that it can be made with just about any vegetables you might have lying round your kitchen, so it’s the perfect way to use up any leftover veggies you have! Soup-perfect veggies include sweet potato, zucchini, squash, turnip, tomato, celery, mushrooms, onions, leeks, cabbage, kale, chard, peppers, peas, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli – see, pretty much anything as long as you like the vegetable, because you’ll end up tasting it in the final mix. So, take 1 to 2lbs (uncooked) of any of these vegetables then chop them along with some onion, garlic and leeks (the ‘aromatics’ to add more flavor to your soup). Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep pot and add the aromatic veggies first, then the rest of your supply and cook until slightly browned. Add your choice of seasoning, and then pour in 4 to 6 cups of low-sodium broth. Cover the pot and turn the heat down low and simmer the vegetables for about 30 minutes. When the time is up, taste the soup to check if you need to add more flavor, with vinegar, lemon juice, more herbs and spices or just a little salt and pepper. Once you have the desired flavor, puree half of the mixture and then return the puree to the pot. Add your choice of beans, drained, and then cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with warmed whole grain bread and enjoy!
We hope this has given you some great ideas to add some life to your leftovers. Or do you have some recipes that you’d like to share? Let us know by commenting below!