As a busy college student who shares a kitchen with three roommates, I do not have the time or energy to cook dinner every night. But hey, a girl’s gotta eat. Instead of splurging on takeout or settling for something from the freezer, I take out whatever I have in the fridge, and I reinvent leftovers to taste like a whole new meal. Previously made food does not have to be boring. With a few fresh ideas, you can make last night’s meal taste brand new, and even better than before.
Reinvent leftovers as…a salad.
Salads make an excellent vessel to reinvent leftovers. I always keep a bag of pre-washed greens in my refrigerator to quickly freshen up any meal. A bed of leafy greens is like a blank canvas for Sunday’s leftover chicken, the few slices of ham in your meat drawer, or those extra bits of roasted broccoli and sweet potato from dinner last night.
After you’ve spotted your favorite meat or cheese and combined it with leftover veggies, it’s time to check out your pantry to really add some energy to this dish. I always keep a jar of olives in the house for impromptu martini moments, but they also add the perfect saltiness to brighten up leftovers. If you’re not an olive fan, you can add capers, pepperoncini, or your favorite jarred topping.
If you’re really in a hurry, use a pre-made dressing, but I think it’s simple enough to whip up an easy vinaigrette. My favorite combo is white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. Toss everything together, top it off with a few grinds of salt and a few extra of pepper, and get ready to reintroduce your fork to last night’s dinner in disguise.
Source: Pinch of Yum
Reinvent leftovers as…a rice bowl.
If you’re craving something that radiates with that fresh-from-the-oven warmth, then a rice bowl is the perfect option. A few days ago, I roasted up some carrots and green beans to go along side a turkey burger, and I was craving those same warm, hearty vegetables the next day. But reheating a sad pile of limp vegetables felt like a punishment, so I thought of ways I could make them taste just as satisfying as they were fresh and crisped from the oven. I cooked up some chewy, nutty wild rice and added a knob of creamy, grass-fed butter after it was done cooking.
The rice glistened in my little ceramic bowl, awaiting more toppings. I warmed up my leftover veggies and added them to the bowl as well. Then I cooked up another turkey burger, seasoned with plenty of Herbes de Provence, and cut it into pieces so it didn’t feel like a burger, and it joined my leftovers in the bowl. Even cutting up a meat or a vegetable in an unusual way can transform the ingredient.
Then, it was back to the pantry to see what I had on hand to really boost up the flavor. I am obsessed with sun-dried tomatoes, and they have a really concentrated flavor that will dazzle even the pickiest taste buds. I dropped a few of the olive oil-drenched, chewy red morsels to the bowl. Now that the flavor of my leftovers had been transformed by all the other ingredients in the bowl, I needed to work on the texture. I always keep a jar of nuts in my apartment; they are the perfect healthy snack, and they add an energizing crunch to dishes that need a little refreshing. I chopped up some unsalted mixed nuts and added them to the bowl. My creation was almost complete.
When you have a concoction of different flavors and textures, you need to unify all of the disparate elements with a sauce. I stirred lemon juice and a dash of honey into some creamy, silky tahini, and drizzled the dressing all over my rice bowl. It seeped into the glistening, buttery rice, and melted into the steaming veggies. I could hardly recognize my dinner from last night, but I couldn’t wait to eat it again.
featured image by Coco Kelley