How to Use Leftovers to Create New Meals

Doggie Bag Dining

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The large portions in U.S. restaurants are famous and often thought one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic. Although it's true that it can be hard to regulate portions when faced with a huge plate of food, it's easier when you are plotting how to turn those leftovers into a healthy second meal at home. I'm not talking about just reheating them (although that can be good, depending upon the food), but turning the contents of your doggie bag into the basis for a whole different meal. When you know that the remains of Saturday evening's fajitas can easily become Sunday's brunch machaca, the temptation to "pick" is much less.

General Tips for Doggie Bag Dining

  • Plan your outing so you can refrigerate the leftovers within two hours, and if the temperature is above 90, make that one hour.
  • When reheating, unless it's a food already in a sauce, add water to avoid food that is too dry.
  • If using the microwave, beware metal handles on many Asian takeout containers. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl.
  • Avoid reheating in Styrofoam containers (particularly solid food, as opposed to soups and other liquids). If the food gets too hot it will melt holes in the foam.
  • Reheat thoroughly to reduce contamination. When microwaving, stir part-way through to ensure that heat is penetrating all the food.

    Using Leftover Chicken

    If you have cooked chicken left over, you have scored.
    • Make chicken salad.
    • Put the chicken ON a green salad.
    • Chop up into coleslaw.
    • Put it in soup.
    • Put it in a casserole such as Chicken Pot Pie.
    • Make a chicken quesadilla with low-carb tortillas, salsa, and cheese.

    Leftover Steak

    • Sliced-up steak is great for a stir-fry. Saute it up with any kind of veggies you want, soy sauce, ginger, and a little sesame oil.
    • Put it on a green salad.
    • Make fajitas out of it.
    • Wrap in a low-carb tortilla with lettuce and other fixings, or use the lettuce as a wrapper.
    • Grill or cook in skillet, green onions, mushrooms, and onions, and mix with sliced steak. Add cheese and you have a cheese steak; eat with a fork instead of on a huge white roll.

    Leftover Fish

    • It's not just tuna that can be mixed with mayonnaise and made into a salad. Do it with any fish. Salmon salad is nice with sweet pickle relish in it.
    • Again, put it on a salad.
    • Salmon is good in egg dishes, such as this quiche.
    • Mix coconut milk and Asian curry paste (such as Thai) as a sauce for the fish.

    Leftover Hamburger

    • Hamburger or meat and vegetable mixtures can be used to make stuffed peppers, zucchini, or eggplant.
    • Crumble and use as the basis for a Joe's Special (hamburger, spinach, mushrooms, and eggs).
    • Combine with veggies and spices and make a hash or saute (such as Ground Beef and Pumpkin Saute).

    Leftover Chili

    • Make a chili cheese omelet.
    • Put over hamburger for a chili burger or dog.
    • Put over spaghetti squash or low-carb pasta.
    • Turn it into a different kind of chili by adding some different spices.

    Leftover Veggies

    Vegetables can be thrown into almost anything:
    • Soups
    • Casseroles
    • Quiches
    • Frittatas
    • Mix into scrambled eggs.
    • Stir-fries or other skillet meals

    Leftover Chinese Food (or other Asian)

    • Asian sauces, or dishes with these sauces already on them, are great for just adding more protein (including tofu) and vegetables, too.
    • Make it into a noodle dish by adding shirataki noodles.
    • Many Asian dishes are good as omelet fillings.
    • Make cauli-rice and mix in the leftovers.

    Leftover Mexican Food

    • Leftover fajitas or taco fillings: Chop them up, heat them in a nonstick skillet, and add beaten eggs. Voila! Machaca Con Huevos, which is great for any meal.
    • Wrap leftover fajitas in low-carb tortillas, including salsa and guacamole if you wish.
    • Use low-carb tortillas to make quesadillas out of other leftover Mexican food.
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