Turn Tonight's Leftovers into Tomorrow's Lunch

Restaurant entrées seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and if you start your meal with a hearty green salad or fun appetizers you may very well end up with leftovers to take home. Instead of just repeating your dinner for lunch the next day, use a few kitchen staples and a little creativity to turn your leftovers into a fresh lunch.

Chicken Salad

Pretty much any kind of chicken — grilled, smoked, roasted, fried — is perfect for turning into chicken salad, as long as it hasn’t been slathered in a really strong sauce. Just pull or chop the meat into small pieces, and mix with mayonnaise, pickle relish or grapes, and maybe some chopped onions, celery or peppers for crunch. Season with salt and pepper, and possibly a sprinkle of curry powder. If it’s a little dry, give it a squeeze of lemon or a dash of olive oil. Eat your chicken salad in lettuce wraps, as a sandwich, or straight from the bowl.

Fish Tacos

If you find yourself with leftover fish — sautéed or fried — flake it and put it in an airtight container to use for fish tacos! Fill soft corn tortillas with the fish, shredded cabbage, and your favorite taco toppings. For a spicy sauce, mix mayonnaise with the sauce from a can of adobo peppers and a squeeze of lime. Or, to keep it simple, just use sour cream or salsa.

Steak Sandwich

Leftover steak — especially if it’s medium rare to rare — is just begging to be made into a steak sandwich. Slice it thinly, then put it on a crusty baguette with horseradish mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. If you have access to a toaster oven, kick it up a notch and put the steak on buttered bread, topped with provolone or swiss cheese. Toast the open-face sandwich alongside the top piece of bread until the cheese is melty, then add mayonnaise, onion, and tomato.

Pork Fried Rice

If you have a leftover pork chop or pork tenderloin, chop it into small cubes for a quick-and-easy pork fried rice. Fried rice is best when made with day-old rice, so if you have some left over from Chinese takeout, half of the work is done for you! To make the fried rice, warm some oil in a large sauté pan, then add the pork and crack an egg into the pan and scramble it with the pork. Next, add frozen peas or carrots, followed by the rice. Season everything with soy sauce, salt (if needed) and pepper, and continue to stir until everything is hot. If you’re packing it for lunch, just let it cool down before you refrigerate it. If you can’t microwave your rice at work, use it as a filler for lettuce wraps.

Kitchen Sink Salad

You might think salad won’t work the next day since lettuce that sits in dressing overnight will get super soggy. But there’s a simple solution: If you’re ordering an entrée salad for dinner, ask for the dressing on the side. You can dip your bites in your dressing as you go, or put half of your salad on an appetizer plate or in a to-go container from the start. Take home the leftovers, and for your next meal check the pantry and fridge for anything that might make a great topping. Finish off whatever’s left of an onion, add the last few cashews in the can, and slice up an apple. For quick protein, add tofu or canned tuna. Dress it with a a pre-made dressing, or toss the whole thing in vinegar and oil when it’s time to eat.

Next Up

Plan a Progressive Dinner Out

Whether you’re looking to shake up your regular date night, you want a unique way to celebrate a special occasion, or you’re trying to wow an out-of-town guest in just one day, consider a progressive dinner out. Typically, when people hear “progressive dinner,” they think of a progressive dinner party, where multiple hosts offer a single dinner course at their homes. But it can be even more fun to apply the same concept to dining out at restaurants — and nobody has to cook or do the dishes!
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