Leftovers Can Make Great Meals

Developing recipes leads to lots of leftovers. Although I always aim to avoid food waste, my test kitchen is inevitably littered with odds and ends – a quarter cup of canned tomatoes, half a cup of beans and remnants of any other ingredients I happen to have on hand.

Looking for ways to use up leftover bits before they turn into chemistry experiments, I frequently turn to soup. Soup making is a time-honored answer to this age-old problem. Half a head of cabbage, a lone zucchini, some leftover green beans and one last, tired carrot can make a great minestrone when paired with canned tomatoes and white beans. Add some leftover rice or pasta and, for amazing flavor, toss in the end of that Parmesan cheese that’s been lingering in the fridge.

For less expected ways to use up foods, from mushroom stems and tomato paste to an enduring handful of rock-hard raisins, I like to consult a favorite cookbook, Half a Can of Tomato Paste & Other Culinary Dilemmas, by Jean Anderson. Written in 1980, its recipes are dated, but still inspire great, money-saving dishes. Soak those raisins, for example, and then combine them with horseradish, plus chopped celery and apple to create a salsa to accompany pork chops.

To use up leftover meat, this hearty omelet, also inspired by Anderson, is always a hit. Combining lean beef with a mix of vegetables and eggs helps a small portion of beef feel satisfying – an important lesson as high red meat intake is now convincingly linked to colorectal cancer.

In the spirit of leftovers, one-third cup of tomato paste can be mixed with two-thirds cup water to replace the tomato sauce if needed. Also Parmesan or Jarlsberg cheese can substitute for the cheddar.

Chili Omelet

– Makes 4 servings.

  • 4 tsp. canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 tsp. ground chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium tomato sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese

In heavy medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and peppers until soft and start to brown, 5-6 minutes. Add salt and pepper, garlic, chili powder and oregano and cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to bowl and set aside.
Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add ground beef and brown until done, 5-6 minutes.

Return vegetables to pan. Add tomato sauce and cook until meat mixture is almost dry, 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Rinse out and dry skillet.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, egg whites, salt and pepper until well combined. Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Add eggs and cook on medium-low until bottom and sides are set but center is liquid, 3-4 minutes. Spoon chili over eggs, covering eggs, and cook – covered – until eggs are almost set, 4-6 minutes.

Sprinkle cheese over omelet and cover pan until cheese melts. Let sit 5 minutes. Cut omelet into 4 wedges before serving.

Per serving: 230 calories, 10 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrate, 23 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 290 mg sodium.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR’s Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.

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