March 14, 2022

From Leftovers to Lunch: Easy Ways to upgrade your Meals

Whether it’s cooked pasta or potatoes, overly ripe fruits or leftover vegetables, these leftovers can easily be transformed into a seemingly new and delicious lunch for the next day. A bit of creativity can go a long way with leftovers, and help reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away. Need some inspiration? Keep reading to discover how you can turn every leftover into a potential ingredient for your next meal.

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Too good to go

Most of the food that is being thrown away doesn’t have to go in the garbage can. In fact, many leftovers from the previous day can be wonderfully “recycled” into a new and appetizing meal. Simply combining leftovers with a few new ingredients and reheating can easily lead to a great meal, saving time, money, and preventing unnecessary waste.  

Pasta and rice belong to the items that are often made in mass and then left over. Fried in the pan, a crispy noodle dish can taste even better the next day. Fun Fact: According to some studies, due to the reheating process, resistant starch is produced, which may have a positive effect on intestinal health. Some of the starch in the pasta decomposes as it cools – a side-effect that some might consider an added dietary bonus.1

Cooked pasta can be kept in the fridge for a few days, so why not try making a pasta salad? The Baked Lemon Mediterranean Pasta Salad is super quick and easy, and only needs to be mixed with a colorful mix of chickpeas, ​​baked lemons, red onion, cherry tomatoes and parsley. Adding chickpeas, or other pulses, is a great way to provide an extra source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, likely to leave you more satisfied than with just a bowl of pasta. Topped with tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil dressing, this pasta salad is ready to go! 

Overripe fruit for both sweet and savory

Fruits can turn brown pretty quickly. However, this change in appearance doesn’t always mean that those fruits need to go. One of the most delicious ways to enjoy bananas, for example, is when they are overly ripe and ready to be turned into a warm loaf of banana bread.

With a nutty twist, the Pecan Banana Bread recipe has a flavorful crunch thanks to one special ingredient: American Pecans. Developed by Jessica Hylton-Leckie, author of Jessica in the Kitchen, this banana bread recipe is simple and delicious.

If you have a sweet tooth and want your loaf to be on the sweeter side, simply add your favorite chocolate chips!

Another clever way to enjoy overly ripened fruit is by making jam or marmalade. If it’s plum season and you can’t get enough of California Prunes, simply preserve the lovely, fruity flavors by making the ​​5 Spice California Prune Jam. With only a few more ingredients and a bit of effort, you can enjoy your favorite fruits in a sweet and long-lasting way! 

Fruits don’t just have to go sweet! Soft gone apples or pears taste great in more savory dishes, such as in the Walnut Balsamic Spinach Salad. This classic spinach salad is dressed up with ripe pears, Candied California walnuts, blue cheese, prosciutto and pomegranate arils.

Last, but not least, you can freeze the fruits in slices to make delicious ice cream or smoothies later. There are also plenty of surprising smoothie recipes that can include leftover ingredients such as sweet potatoes or chickpeas. 

Saving time and money thanks to leftovers 

By cleverly utilizing leftovers, you’ll not only save money on groceries, but also time shopping and cooking. Plan ahead and be creative around your meal prepping.  

Meat, for example, that you were unable to finish, works great as cold cut for the next day. Just slice the meat up and use it for a wrap, salad or sandwich. Instead of buying a quick bite on your lunch break, why not make it yourself? For the Cranberry Rubbed Chicken Panini with Cran-Rosemary Aioli, leftover chicken just needs to be rubbed with cranberries and mixed with rosemary and other ingredients. Combining it with cheese and a creamy mayonnaise sauce, will turn your leftovers into a mouth-watering lunch!

CMC = Cranberry Marketing Committee

Being sustainable in your kitchen

Certain recipes can lead to leftover ingredients, especially when vegetables are involved. The great thing is that vegetables can be enjoyed the next day together with dips, such as the Classic basic hummus or a Lemon, pistachios and feta dip. 

Leftover potatoes can be tossed into the oven with some cheese and baked into a hearty delight. Similarly, American Sweet Potatoes can be cut into strips and fried or mashed into tasty soups. For the Sweet Potato Coconut Soup, simply cut the leftover sweet potatoes and roast them together with ginger, garlic and onions.

Add coconut milk and vegetable stock and puree everything. Want an extra kick? Chili flakes give this creamy soup a spicy touch!

As an alternative to soup, you can prepare a bowl – especially if you have leftover rice in your fridge. With raw vegetables, tofu, and nuts, you can create the colorful and delicious Peanut Tofu Bowl. The soy based peanut sauce puts this simple, but delicious bowl right on top of our favorite lunch bowl list.

There are many possibilities to be creative with your leftovers. By utilizing them, you can do your part in decreasing food waste. Recycling has long since ceased to be an eco-idea and is now a sign of responsible food handling. 

1 “Association of pasta consumption with body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: results from Moli-sani and INHES studies”, Pounis, G., Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S. et al. Association of pasta consumption with body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: results from Moli-sani and INHES studies. Nutr & Diabetes 6, e218 (2016)