Do you cook because you love to cook? Like to cook? Because you need to cook? Maybe a combo of all of the above on different days?
Whatever your answer, these days, cooking is pretty much a necessity. And whatever camp you fall into at any given moment, it’s safe to say that few of us are excited by the thought of making three meals a day from scratch.
So let’s give ourselves a springboard for the next meal and get our minds firmly around the pleasurable concept of the “intentional leftover.”
Here you will find three recipes with a one-two punch. Each meal is prepared with the goal of saving part of the dinner to be reinvented later in the week.
Leftover roasted chicken and vegetables transform into a chicken salad grain bowl. Honey-glazed tofu, served with rice and sautéed spring vegetables, turns into a stir-fry. And a mixed grill dinner becomes family-favorite quesadillas. This is the opposite of leftover boredom. In fact, if you don’t point out that meal A was used to make meal B, your family might not even notice.
There’s more: six recipes with a hidden bonus. Each of these meals will serve four people, and each of these double-duty recipes clocks in at less than $30 total, so $15 per dinner, less than $4 per person. This includes the extra ingredients you will need to turn the reserved parts of the first dinner, such as tortillas and shredded cheese, into the second meal.
And, while these recipes should give you some ammunition for planning meals, they are also designed to get the old wheels a-churning. Once you embrace the concept of the intentional leftover, you’ll use it all the time. Meat sauce will be saved for lasagna; roasted salmon will be reborn as salmon salad; grilled vegetables will fill a frittata.
And do you know whom you’ll have to thank for all of this? Your own clever self.
Mixed Grill with Sausages, Vegetable and Corn
This recipe calls for a blend of hot and sweet sausages, but use what you like. Though the sausages could be cooked with the vegetables in the foil, they'll get browned with appealing grill marks if cooked directly on the grill. You can switch up the vegetables for whatever is on hand. You can eat all of this at once or reserve a portion for a second meal of Sausage and Vegetable Quesadillas (see SECOND MEAL, below).
Makes 4 servings.
1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces), sliced ½-inch thick
4 ears corn, shucked and sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces, or quartered
1 bell pepper (any color), stemmed, seeded and sliced into 8 wedges
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 8 wedges
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon minced or finely grated garlic (1 clove)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh turkey or pork sausage, hot
1 pound fresh turkey or pork sausage, sweet
Heat the grill to medium-high. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with foil.
In a large bowl, toss the zucchini, corn, bell pepper and onion (the wedges will fall apart and that's fine) with the olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper until combined.
Divide the mixture between the two pieces of foil. Spread out the vegetables so that they are evenly distributed, leaving a 3-inch margin of foil around each sheet. Cover each baking sheet with another piece of foil, and roll and crimp the foil all around the edges to seal. Transfer the packets to the grill.
Cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes, then add the sausages to the grill. Cook the sausages along with the vegetables for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, opening the grill and turning the sausages every 1 to 2 minutes, so that they brown evenly.
When the vegetables are tender and the sausages cooked through, remove them from the grill and carefully open an edge of each packet to let steam escape. Let the sausages sit for about 1 minute, then slice them into chunks. Transfer about a quarter of the sausages and a third of the vegetables to a lidded container and refrigerate for Sausage and Vegetable Quesadillas (see SECOND MEAL, below).
Transfer the remaining sausages and vegetables to a platter and serve.
SECOND MEAL: To make Sausage and Vegetable Quesadillas, slice the corn kernels from the pieces you reserved. Chop up the sausages and the vegetables, add the corn, and mix them together (you should have about 2 cups total). Heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and place 1 medium flour tortilla in the skillet. Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar or Mexican blend (you'll need 8 ounces total), ¼ cup mixed vegetable and sausage mixture, and another ¼ cup cheese. Place 1 flour tortilla on top and cook until the bottom has browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the quesadilla and cook until the cheese has melted, another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat to make a total of 4 quesadillas. Serve with sour cream or salsa, if desired.
Nutrients per serving of mixed grill: 601 calories, 44 grams fat (14 grams saturated), 110 milligrams cholesterol, 1,455 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 9 grams sugars, 29 grams protein.
Nutrients per quesadilla: 605 calories, 38 grams fat (11 grams saturated), 53 milligrams cholesterol, 1,063 milligrams sodium, 42 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 23 grams protein.
Honey-Garlic Tofu with Sauteed Broccoli and Sugar Snap Peas
In this simple preparation, tofu is seared and sauced for an irresistible flavor and texture. It will need to be pressed for 30 minutes before cooking. Cubed tofu leftovers are also good in wraps. You will serve half the rice with the tofu and reserve the rest for the stir-fry. You can eat all of this at once or reserve a portion for a second meal of the Vegetable Fried Rice (see SECOND MEAL, below).
Makes 4 servings.
2 pounds firm or extra-firm tofu
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided, or more as needed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon minced garlic (1 small clove), divided
1 scallion, white and light green parts, finely chopped (optional)
6 cups cooked rice (from 2 cups uncooked)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 cups (10 ounces) small broccoli florets
2 cups (6 ounces) sugar snap peas, trimmed, de-stringed and halved
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup water
First, press the tofu: Place the tofu on a flat plate and place another flat plate on top. Weigh the top plate with something heavy, such as a large can of beans, and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until some of the water has been pressed out of the tofu (use two sets of plates, if necessary). Pour off the water.
Halve each tofu block crosswise, through the equator, into two flat slabs; you should have four slabs. Stack them together, then cut the stack into quarters, so you have 16 pieces total.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Working in batches, sear the tofu in a single layer, without stirring, until lightly browned and firm, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Flip and cook until browned, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a paper towel-lined plate and to drain excess oil. Repeat with the remaining tofu, adding more oil, a little at a time, as necessary.
While the tofu is cooking, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon minced garlic and the scallion (if using) and stir to blend well.
When all the tofu is cooked, transfer 4 pieces to a lidded container and refrigerate for the Vegetable Stir-Fry (see SECOND MEAL, below). Leave the rest of the tofu in the pan, and then add the sauce to the pan, pouring it between the slices, and heat until simmering.
Reserve half the cooked rice for the leftovers meal. Place the rest in a shallow serving dish or bowl and transfer the tofu on top of the rice. Pour the sauce in the pan on top.
In another large skillet with a lid over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the broccoli and sugar snap peas, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to turn a brighter green, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute. Add the water and cover the pan for about 2 minutes. Remove the lid, stir and let any remaining water evaporate; the vegetables should be crisp-tender. Take 2 cups of the vegetables and reserve for the leftovers meal. Add the remaining vegetables to the tofu and rice and serve.
SECOND MEAL: To make the Vegetable Fried Rice, chop the leftover vegetables into ½2-inch pieces and the reserved tofu into ½-inch cubes and set aside. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil, ½ cup chopped carrot and the reserved 3 cups of rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger and 1 teaspoon minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Drizzle with ¼ cup of reduced-sodium soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil and stir to combine. Add the chopped cooked vegetables and tofu and stir until blended and warm, about 3 minutes. Make some space in the pan and add 2 beaten eggs. Cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 2 minutes, then stir the egg into the rest of the ingredients. Serve hot with chopped scallions, if desired.
(Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful nutritional analysis.)
Sheet Pan Greek Roasted Chicken with Garlic Broccoli and Potatoes
Using two rimmed baking sheets - one for chicken and another for the vegetables - delivers a mix of textures to this dish. Look for regular-size chicken breasts, not the jumbo ones. You can eat all of this at once or reserve a portion to make Greek Chicken Salad and Broccoli Grain Bowls (see SECOND MEAL, below).
The chicken will need to marinate for 12 to 24 hours before cooking; reserve some marinade before you add the raw chicken.
Makes 4 servings.
½ cup olive oil (8 tablespoons), divided
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves), divided
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (10 to 12 ounces each), or about 4 pounds total skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
1 large head broccoli (about 1½ pounds), cut into large florets, including the stem (see note)
1 pound small red potatoes, halved or quartered, if larger
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving (optional)
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
Note: If the broccoli stems seem woody and hard, peel them first before cutting into chunks and cooking.
In a large container, whisk together 6 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, vinegar, oregano, 1 teaspoon garlic, the salt and pepper until combined. Transfer ¼ cup marinade to a lidded jar and refrigerate; it will become a dressing for the Greek Chicken Salad and Broccoli Grain Bowls (see SECOND MEAL, below). Add the chicken to the remaining marinade, turn to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess marinade drip back in the bowl, and place on one baking sheet, skin-side up. Place the chicken in the oven. Discard the used marinade.
While the chicken roasts, place the broccoli and potatoes each on one half of the other baking sheet, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle the broccoli with the remaining ½ teaspoon garlic. Give each vegetable a toss to coat with the oil and spread back out on its half of the baking sheet. Season with salt.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then place the vegetables in the oven. Continue to roast the chicken and the vegetables for about 25 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender and slightly browned in spots, and the chicken is browned, crispy and cooked through.
Transfer two of the chicken breasts (or about a third of the chicken) and half of the broccoli to a lidded container and refrigerate for the leftover dish. Sprinkle the potatoes with some parsley, if desired. Serve the rest of the chicken, broccoli and the potatoes hot, with lemon wedges on the side, if desired.
SECOND MEAL: To make Greek Chicken Salad and Broccoli Grain Bowls, chop the reserved cooked chicken (discarding the skin and bones) and broccoli into ½-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add ½ cup chopped onion and 1 small diced zucchini. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved dressing and toss to combine. Divide 4 cups of room-temperature grains, such as quinoa, farro or brown rice, into 4 bowls. Divide the chicken salad over the grains and drizzle the remaining dressing over. Sprinkle with some feta and maybe a few halved, pitted Greek olives.
Nutrients per serving: 549 calories, 30 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 118 milligrams cholesterol, 551 milligrams sodium, 26 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 3 grams sugars, 44 grams protein.
Nutrients per serving of Greek Chicken Salad Grain Bowls: 430 calories, 13 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 59 milligrams cholesterol, 242 milligrams sodium, 48 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 4 grams sugars, 30 g protein.