Building Bowls from Leftovers

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I love leftovers. Moreover, I'm really a fan of "plannedovers" — dishes or particular ingredients from dishes that I assemble and prepare with an intention to use them in another meal. That's not something left at the end of the first meal, it's something that's planned for yet another meal and it can be a thing of beauty once you get the hang of it. For instance, say you're making a chicken and rice casserole. Plan ahead and make twice as much chicken and rice — only keep them out of the casserole. Set your cooked chicken breast and steamed rice aside in the refrigerator and get ready to transform them into super simple, delicious chicken fajita bowls the next day. Minimal warming, some sautéing of peppers and onions, and slicing of tomatoes and avocados later gives you a beautiful bowl brimming with your favorite tex-mex flavors.

In like fashion, don't toss all the pulled pork with BBQ sauce. Instead, pair it with extra noodles from the other night's spaghetti dinner and a soft-boiled egg or two from this morning's breakfast. Add some fresh sliced vegetables, your favorite broth, and a dollop of hot sauce and you've got an oriental noodle bowl that looks like it came from a fancy Asian restaurant. Planning ahead a little and recognizing when your meals are going to feed more than those at your table allows you to sneak bits and pieces of your meal aside for something quick and easy later in the week. This can become part of survival mode when family life hits you with a football game, theater production, late afternoon meeting, and bake sale obligations all at once. If you've planned ahead, dinner's covered in about the same amount of time it takes to get everyone's pizza order figured out!

I like to take this approach a step further by always slicing a whole onion, pepper, zucchini, etc. I might only use a third of it tonight, but when was the last time it took more than a week for you to need more? My refrigerator holds little containers of chopped onion, sweet pepper strips, ribbons of carrot, and slices of radish ready for use in a bowl meal. And hey, my favorite bowl meal? Fried rice! Grab all those ready-prepped veggies, leftover chicken or pork, chopped egg, handful of nuts, and chilled rice from tacos earlier in the week — dinner's about to be served!