This week’s post is by Christine Luken.
Most people don’t get excited about eating leftovers for dinner. “Oh, we’re eating that again?” I’m not the type of person that likes to eat the same thing over and over, so I completely understand! However, I hate wasting food. So rather than thinking of leftovers as last night’s recycled dinner, let’s learn how to “Upcycle” our leftovers into something even better!
Upcycling is a term that describes the process of converting waste materials (aka leftovers, for the purposes of our discussion) into new materials or products of better quality (tasty recipes your family will love). Several years ago, I learned that Americans throw away one-third of the food they buy. Ever since then, I have been on a quest to waste as little food as possible. And that means using up my leftovers in creative ways! My favorite thing to upcycle is roasted chicken (or turkey). For Valentine’s Day dinner, I made Cornish hens seasoned with lemon, garlic, and rosemary. They were delicious! Nick and I each ate half of a hen, which meant we had leftover chicken. I actually get excited about leftover chicken because I have come up with plenty of ways to upcycle it, including:
- Chicken Noodle Soup. If you have juice from the chicken left in the bottom of the roasting pan or crock pot, strain and freeze it. It makes the best broth! You can’t buy anything that flavorful in a can! I sauté sliced carrots, celery, and onions in a little butter. When the onions turn translucent, I add the broth with a bay leaf and some parsley, salt and pepper. Usually, my frozen broth isn’t quite enough, so I’ll add a few cups of water and a couple chicken bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil and add your noodles. Add the cooked chicken to the pot the final two minutes of cooking.
- Greek Chicken Salad. Just add your cold, cooked chicken to a bed of lettuce, with black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, pine nuts, and Greek dressing. I’ll serve this with warm, crusty wheat rolls and butter.
- BBQ Chicken Sandwiches. If you’ve got leftover dark meat chicken, BBQ sandwiches are the way to go! Shred the dark meat and mix it with enough BBQ sauce to thorough coat the chicken. I like Weber’s BBQ sauce because it doesn’t have any high fructose corn syrup in it. I’ll heat it up in a skillet, pop some sweet potato fries in the oven, and make a veggie or salad to go with it.
- Other ideas. Chicken salad (mayo, sliced red grapes, chopped pecans); Chicken, Artichoke, and Spinach dip; tacos or taco salad; chicken spaghetti; Chicken & Rice Casserole (This casserole is a great way to upcycle leftover rice. Make it healthier by using brown rice.)
One of my favorite side dishes to make with roasted chicken is Parmesan Potatoes. They are super easy and absolutely delicious! A few weeks ago, I had some of the Parmesan potatoes left over, which is pretty rare. So a day or two later, I thought I would upcycle them into Twice Baked Potatoes. I scooped out the insides of the potatoes, leaving the skins intact. I mashed the potatoes and added plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon bits. I didn’t need any seasoning because there was already Parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley on the leftover potatoes. I filled the potato skins with the mashed mixture and baked them for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. One taste and my hubby declared that ALL potatoes should be Twice Baked Potatoes from now on! Now that is leftover upcycling success! (I’ll be making extra Parmesan Potatoes in the future so we can have the Twice Baked Potatoes more often!)
What’s your favorite way to upcycle leftovers?