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The Joy of Repurposed Meals

plate of nachos

I’m really glad that people are back to cooking most of their own meals during this COVID period. It’s a healthy, silver lining to a terribly dark cloud. I find myself trying to use ingredients in more creative ways and trying new recipes to use up the foods in my pantry and freezer. It saves me a trip to the grocery store.

Past studies have suggested Americans throw out around 40 percent of the food we buy. I wonder what that number looks like these days. I’d guess it has gone way down as people cook many more meals at home. While your view may not be as exciting as when you eat out, here’s an idea to keep the meals you cook from getting boring.

I am referring to repurposed meals, which I call “planned-overs.” These meals allow you some creativity in your cooking, save food and—best of all—far surpass simply heating up what you ate yesterday.

Let’s start with nachos—a quick, fun meal. Go simple or as gourmet as you want. What happens to the leftover nachos? Nobody wants soggy nachos the next day!

You can repurpose leftover nachos into another meal altogether. By layering the leftover nachos with some common ingredients, you can transform them into enchiladas—a dish very different from nachos, but with very similar ingredients.

Another great planned-over is fried rice. My family calls it Fried Anything Rice. When you make rice, cook at least 2–3 extra cups and set aside to use within the next few days. You can use up a lot of the leftovers in your fridge with this dish.

Following are the recipes for you to follow.

Recycled Enchiladas

Leftover nachos

Low-sodium tortilla chips

1 can black beans, unsalted or rinsed

1 can or jar of lower sodium tomato sauce

1 can or jar of lower sodium salsa

Cheese, grated

Sour cream or ricotta cheese

Layer leftover nachos, beans, tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream in a greased baking dish. Mix tomato sauce with salsa and pour over chip mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 438, Carbohydrates: 51 grams, Protein: 16 grams, Sodium: 537 milligrams

Fried rice

Fried Anything Rice

3–6 ounces of any leftover meat, chicken, fish, diced

2–3 cups leftover cooked or fresh veggies (broccoli, onions, garlic, bell pepper, celery, spinach, bok choy, etc.)

2–3 eggs, beaten

2 cups cooked rice, noodles or pasta

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, or homemade salt-free soy sauce. (Hint: cut regular soy sauce with half water or pineapple juice to decrease the sodium.)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Heat oil in wok or large fry pan. Add fresh veggies first and cook 2–3 minutes. Make a well in the center and add beaten eggs. Stir until scrambled. Add meat and cooked veggies and stir-fry another 1–2 minutes. Add rice or noodles and continue stir-frying until warmed throughout. Add low-sodium soy sauce mixed with corn starch and cook until glossy. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 299, Carbohydrates: 28 grams, Protein: 19 grams, Sodium: 363 milligrams


Katy WilkensContributor Katy Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards—the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award and the Joel D. Kopple Award for significant contributions in renal nutrition.

Posted in Food

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