I have a rule about unprocessed food: Whatever I buy gets eaten twice. The ripe figs dazzle me in my yogurt this morning, topped with toasted walnuts and honey. The rest will appear as tomorrow’s appetizer, broiled with goat cheese. My roasted chicken makes an elegant dinner, and then I shred the remains for salad the next day. The guacamole I ate in a taco for lunch will make it into an omelet (yes! My Israeli friend insisted it was good and I tried it!) or employed as a dip with red pepper spears and cucumber.
It sounds rather gourmet, doesn’t it? But I haven’t planned it that way. Far from it. I just head to a weekend farmers market and buy whatever looks good, then supplement with proteins from my freezer or the specialty grocery, like Trader Joe’s or Costco.
Going unprocessed requires a lot of cooking and strategizing, and I’m not always in the mood. I work at home, and I’m often oblivious of the time. Suddenly I’m famished and want to shove something down my gullet immediately. Today I staved off a major binge by snacking on a few pistachios while I made lunch, but other days I might demolish a half cup of cashews because there’s nothing else to eat immediately. That right there is a reason to have leftovers around.
Leftovers refer to cooked or fresh food, in our house. It’s a matter of making more than you need or buying more than you need for one meal. Today’s lunch was leftover brisket from a restaurant, made into a Caesar with crisp romaine from the farmers market. Last night I paired leftover Asian turkey burgers with steamed broccoli dashed with sesame oil and soy. It took just a few minutes to sauté the broccoli with garlic, then steam it to keep it beautifully green.
Here’s what I suggest you keep on hand at all times:
- Eggs. I scramble them with mushrooms and onions or make them into a frittata with leftover greens. There’s nothing better than fried eggs, particularly in a sandwich with cheese, on days when I don’t have much time. Keep a few boiled eggs in the fridge to eat for breakfast or smash into egg salad with mayo and a bit of mustard.
- Olives. These are always great for salads, pasta, frittatas and snacks when you need a salt hit but don’t want to get into the potato chips.
- Avocados. It just takes a moment to smash it on toast or cut it into a salad, and it makes even the plainest meal seem indulgent.
- Lettuce. When there’s nothing to eat, there’s always salad. Even a minimalist salad with good olive oil and lemon tastes great with a sprinkle of toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
- Lean proteins like chicken, turkey or tofu. The trick is to have it cooked and ready to go for salads, pasta, sandwiches and snacks.
- Cooked grains. Store cooked brown rice, barley, and farro in the freezer so you can defrost for a quick grain salad. Quinoa cooks so quickly there’s no reason to see if it behaves in the freezer.
- Roasted yams. I roast them after dinner and then stash them in the fridge, wrapped in foil and ready for breakfast or snacks.
About the Author
Dianne Jacob is the author of Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir and More. She is the co-author of two pizza cookbooks: Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas, and the upcoming United States of Pizza (Fall 2015). She coaches writers, edits cookbooks, and is a popular speaker at food blogging conferences. Her blog is DianneJ.com, and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
HI Nicole, I adapted a recipe using ground chicken. I start with a pound of ground turkey meat, and add a can of water chestnuts that I grind in a food processor, also lots of chopped cilantro, and some salt. The water chestnuts and cilantro amp up the flavor of the burgers and keeps them moist and crisp vs. mushy. Adding the water chestnuts cuts down on the calories and saturated fat.
I just wanted to say I found this information really helpful. And I was wondering if you could share the recipe for the Asian turkey burgers? That sounds really good to me. Also, I’ve been trying to cook with ground turkey, but it doesn’t taste all that great because it’s usually pretty bland tasting. Do you have any suggestions that I could try? Thank you!
I agree. I cook for leftovers. I work long hours and too much to cook every night. When T-Rex appetite strikes I need food now!
Yes! I love looking in the fridge when I’m hungry and seeing a few different things I can eat right away. Very satisfying.
Thanks Jennie. I like yours as well. I usually buy marinated tofu and I can’t believe how expensive it is. I will have to make my own more often. As for home-made bread, well, I can only dream, but peanut butter is another one of my always-have-on-hand foods. There’s nothing better than toast and peanut butter, eh? A comfort food, that’s for sure.
Great ideas, Dianne! I love the idea of keeping roasted sweet potatoes in the fridge. I marinate firm tofu from the farmers’ market for 24+ hours in soy, mustard, lime, sriracha, and a dash of maple syrup, varying the seasonings depending on my mood, then bake it until it browns. SO much better than the store-bought versions and there’s always a quick bite of protein at the ready. I also always have homemade bread on hand. I know many people consider it a no-no but it’s perfect for everything from toast to a between meal snack (peanut butter and marmalade!) to sandwiches to rounding out dinner. Happy twice-cooking!
I don’t get it either! We had one friend years ago who would cook exactly enough for a meal because he couldn’t tolerate leftovers in the fridge. Weird.
I have a secret weapon for the farmer’s market. I’ve been taking my husband with me, and he knows all the farmers now and likes socializing with them. Now I send him by himself when I can’t make it.
Great ideas Dianne. I have a couple of friends that don’t like leftovers and I don’t get it! Even if I don’t eat leftovers as they are, I love to figure out how to repurpose. I couldn’t get to the farmers’ market today and I am already bummed! But my local grocery has beautiful local organics, so I will supplement there.
I have changed my eating habits, see my daughter does the Paleo Diet, though I don’t consider it a diet since the food is so good!!! I don’t miss the other foods I use to eat & I actually enjoy eating now cause I don’t have as many issue’s with my stomache. Sweet potatoe hash is great with my fresh eggs from the farm I get out here where I live, I also make my own cheese from fresh milk. I will & am enjoying your tips also on new recipes from you so thanx, Ander Wilder.
You make your own cheese! That is impressive, Raquel. So glad you (and potentially your daughter) are feeling better on the paleo diet.
You’re making me hungry, thinking about sweet potato hash.
It’s fun to take a peek in your kitchen, Dianne. Great tips – and I didn’t know I could freeze cooked rice and grains.
Thanks Liz! And thanks for your help too. I think grains are more successfully frozen than pulses, for example, which get mushy.