This will seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen leftover pieces of vegetables get discarded immediately or go moldy in the produce drawer (and yes, I’ve been guilty, too). The thing about cooking for yourself is oftentimes you don’t use the whole vegetable or the entirety of a package for cooked meals. I might put half of a pepper into a dish and then save the other half for another meal. Last week, just before I went grocery shopping, I made a meal out of my leftover vegetable bits and my leftover tofu (about 1/4 of a standard package). All I did was chop them and season them with a little sea salt and pepper, then added a dash of oil, vinegar, and parmesan cheese.* So not only did I reduce waste and make full use of my food budget, I got a pretty tasty meal out of it.
*This little tub of parmesan cheese is possibly the best purchase I’ve made so far. You get a lot of use out of it, it makes everything taste better, it’s a source of calcium, and unlike softer cheeses, it has a long, long fridge life.
I made a lot of salads as an undergraduate (small school = not the best vegetarian options) so I’ve learned a few things:
1) Variety is key. Your salad should make use of as many colors and textures as possible. Cooked vegetables can make an excellent addition. Bright colors are generally a sign of high nutrient content (See: NOT iceberg lettuce). Good rule of the thumb: the prettier and more interesting your salad is, the better it probably is for you.
2) Add protein. I used tofu, but beans are also an excellent source of protein. Or leftover chicken, canned tuna, or lunch meat, for you meat eaters.
3) Good fresh vegetables have a lot of flavor on their own. You don’t need to drown them in dressing (bottled salad dressing, in addition to being costly, is usually loaded with sodium and fat). I mix my own olive oil and vinegar for dressing. Nothing fancy, just what I use for cooking, and only about a tablespoon. Also, a pinch of salt and pepper can bring out some vegetable flavors very nicely.
And the best way to finish off a good healthy meal like this? A healthy and fun dessert: the fruit smoothie.
So that same evening, I took my leftover fruit (strawberries, which I had frozen, and a banana) and made a smoothie. Add a cup of plain yogurt, 2-3 teaspoons of agave nectar or honey, and 5-6 ice cubes. And blend.
Here’s to leftovers!