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Recycle Your Cooking

March 19, 2013 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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It can often be a challenge to eat all of the food a large recipe makes. My co-worker’s son screamed, “No more paneer!” at the dinner table the other night when he was served the same dish for a third day in a row. I’m also no stranger to slogging through the same meal for days on end just to get through a recipe.

Eating the same meal day in and day out can be uninspiring. It can also make it tough to meet your nutrient needs.Freezing leftovers gives you ready-made meals at your fingertips and helps avoid too much repetition. For example, during the Christmas holidays I made a giant batch of turkey tortellini soup and froze it in individual portions. This bailed me out on many occasions when I was pressed for time and didn’t have a lunch to pack.

Another solution is to make three different meals built around one food. Make a meal plan, planning one main food item and think of ideas to repurpose it into three different meals. This allows you to use up a recipe, and also increase the variety of the foods you eat and the nutrients you get.

Here’s how I might do it:

Food item: Chicken

Meal #1: Roast a chicken. Do this on a day when you have a bit of time. Roast some squash, onions, garlic and apples on the side. Enjoy with mixed greens tossed in a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.

Meal #2: Make Tortilla soup. Add the left-over shredded cooked chicken and a can of drained, rinsed black beans to the soup at the end and warm through. It’s also delicious with a few slices of avocado as a garnish.

Meal #3: Prepare Almond chicken salad. Change up the greens with spring mix or spinach as a base.

Food item: Chili

Meal #1: Make chili. Serve with a side salad.

Meal #2: Create chili stuffed peppers. Cut the tops off of medium sized peppers (any colour, one per person). Keep the tops to the side. Scrape out the ribs and seeds from the peppers. Make some brown rice (leftover rice saves time here). Mix some rice with the chili (about 1/3 rice, 2/3 chili) and spoon into the pepper, heaping it a bit over the top. Cover with the top of the pepper. Bake covered (with tin foil or a lid) at 375°F (180°C) until peppers are tender (usually 30 - 45 minutes). Top with feta cheese if you like. Serve with a salad.

Meal #3: Cook chili and eggs. Put a bit of oil in a frying pan and heat on medium. Add a few handfuls of spinach and one clove of minced garlic. Fry until spinach is wilted. Poach (or fry) an egg. Warm the chili in a saucepan and serve it over a nest of the sautéed spinach. Top with the egg. Sprinkle with grated cheese and/or some cilantro as well.

How do you repurpose your meals?


Recommended Resources
Food Safety Tips for Leftovers

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