Hodgepodge Meals & Tips for Reheating

Sometimes when I’m not in the mood to fully “cook” I will make a bit of a hodgepodge — sort of like a buffet of grazing foods or I will serve up leftovers.  But the leftovers needn’t be all the same thing for everyone, but whatever they want from the choice of foods that we have left over.  This way one son might be eating pork, broccoli and pasta and another one bowl full of chili and brown rice and yet another with vegetable soup, pasta and cheese.  I use up the left over food and don’t go crazy making 3 different meals, just reheat ones already made.  And they usually get what they’re in the mood for and will eat it all.  

A more buffet style is putting out cooked and raw vegetables, cheeses, hummus, fruits, and other bits and pieces.  Then it’s more of a casual grazing and since all the choices are healthful, I don’t have to worry about the portions since, not only are mine not likely to take a ton of the more calorie-laden foods like cheese, but they’re not likely to pile up their plates with food. Yesterday, my youngest two each had a packet of roasted seaweed, tons of raw carrots and bagels for lunch. 

So key here is making sure they get healthy choices even when you’re not really “cooking”. 

Here are some tips on reheating those leftovers (especially right now the Thanksgiving turkey and mashed potatoes):

Microwave heating mashed potatoes: add a splash of milk to potatoes and stir with a fork in a microwavable bowl.  Heat on high stirring occasionally.  You can add gravy after the potatoes are slightly warm.(These mashed are not as fluffy as normal but hopefully you get the idea)

Reheating poultry in the microwave: cover pieces with a damp paper towel and reheat on 80% starting with 1 minute.  Flip and move pieces around then repeat until hot.  The turkey/chicken/duck won’t be rubbery and dry this way.

For a dinner plate with different items, you’ll want to reheat only those things that are the same (meats, vegetables, grains, etc) as they may take different lengths of time and temperature.  I usually put all of one item in a bowl/plate reheating the items that take longest first.  Then assembling the plate of food and maybe giving it another 10-20 seconds.  

Stews, soups and one-pot meals like chilies and curries can be heated together in the microwave.  Some sauces need heating on a stove over medium-low heat, especially cream sauces that would otherwise break.

Fried Rice– perfect for using up leftovers

One wonderful way to use up leftovers is to make a stir-fry.  And a fabulously delicious and nutritious stir-fry is fried rice (home made anyway).  We used up scrambled egg from breakfast;  rice, a bit of vegetables and a few scraps of pork from dinner.  This is adaptable depending on what you have left over or in the fridge.  Ours was colorful with plenty of yummy vegetables and delicious flavors from the ginger, soy, sesame and garlic.  It is also quick to cook— it’s just chopping that takes any time. 

It’s best to use cold rice for this, so if you need you can always cook the rice then chill it before adding it to wok (or in my case, my Dutch oven).

Fried Rice

2-3 cups jasmine or basmati rice, cooked and chilled

pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu (I used about 6-8 oz pork)

2 eggs scrambled, chilled

handfuls of chopped vegetables:

    broccoli, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage

½ cup peas (defrost if frozen)

½ cup edamame (defrost if frozen)

½ med onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1½ inch piece ginger, grated

1½ Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2½ Tbsp canola, sunflower or grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

sea salt (if needed) & ground pepper

handful of cilantro, chopped

Blanch for a couple of minutes any vegetables that need longer cooking time like broccoli, carrots and peppers. Set aside and chill.  Add the canola oil to a wok, sauté pan or other appropriate pan, and once hot add the onion cooking for few minutes.   Add the garlic and meat until almost cooked through.  Add remaining ingredients except rice and cilantro.  Let vegetables soak up flavors then add rice (breaking apart and lumpy bits). Stir often and adjust seasoning (soy, sesame and pepper) to taste.  Cook on medium-high heat for about 3- 5 minutes.  You’ll want to make sure you don’t overcook the vegetables so they lose color or nutrients.  Stir in cilantro.  Serve immediately and enjoy!


My kids loved this.  The colors are vibrant, the taste is yummy and there’s a few of their favorite vegetables and a couple of not-such favorites they might actually eat since it’s all blended together.

Soup from Scraps

We compost our food scraps and I noticed that since the kids don’t tend to eat most of the broccoli stalks, just the florets, I have been throwing them into the compost.  Well, I decided before tossing them into the compost, I’d keep aside a few meals’ worth in the fridge and make soup out of it.  I had some left over potato in two forms— boiled in the jacket and mashed.  I knew the mashed potato would thicken the soup nicely. You can just use a whole potato cut. brown specks are from the potato skins

Broccoli & Potato soup

2 cups of broccoli ends

1-2 potatoes

2 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken broth

2 tsp onion flakes

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup cream

salt and pepper to taste

So, I cut up the broccoli stalks (and about one floret) into small pieces and brought them to a boil in water .  I cooked until tender and added the seasoning (I added 2 tsp chicken base too) and 2 different types of cooked potatoes.  Lastly I added the cream.  Once it had come back to a boil I took it off the heat and used the immersion blender to purée it.  Delicious and vibrant too!

My eldest son had it for lunch and deemed it “Delicious!” after getting over the fact I didn’t make potato leek soup. 

Since the potatoes were already cooked it didn’t take long.  You can always cut everything into small pieces, to increase the speed of cooking if you’re starting from raw, since they’re staying in the same liquid in which they’re cooked. 

Snowed In!

This past week my kids have had a 6 days in a row without school (only 2 were actually snow days) and they’d just returned from the winter holiday break and had a snow day the week before.  In the morning I will find out if it will be 7 days in a row.  Luckily the inability to get to school has also turned our town into winter wonderland and without having to travel, the kids have had a blast sledding, making snow forts and just playing in the more than 2 feet of snow.   If they stay inside too long they drive me and themselves crazy.  Snow is such a great draw to play outside; it’s much more fun than rain! 

When the first big snowfall of the year was falling I made a simple, quick yet delicious and nutritious meal using leftover roast chicken.  We had chicken quesadillas, broccoli and cauliflower, brown and red rice, black beans and peas.  Since the rice was left over from a previous meal it took only 10 minutes to cook/assemble the whole dinner. 

I used pre-shredded cheese (Cheddar, pepper Jack and Muenster), chicken and chopped cilantro in the tortilla.  My husband showed me how the Mexican cooks he works with cook their quesadillas by putting the filling inside one half then folding the tortilla over it.  I think it’s easier to flip.  Once they’ve browned nicely and the cheese is melted you can cut into pieces and serve.  I didn’t have any avocados for guacamole (and wasn’t going out in the snow) but did have some jarred salsa.  I only had to heat the peas and beans (added oregano, 1/4 tsp chili powder, some chopped cilantro and garlic powder) and reheat the other veggies and rice. 

The kids loved it and it was so little effort.

Funny thing about peas…My middle son said he had to “turn the plate around for the peas express” so it was easier to scoop up.  My youngest said when he saw the plate, “I don’t want any. I don’t like them!”  I just reminded him that peas are in snow peas and sugar snaps, which he loves, so he tried some. Minutes later when he’d finished all the peas on his plate, “Can I have some more?” 

Taco Night

My sons love tacos!  But they prefer the way I do them.  When my eldest got tacos at school one day he told me how they weren’t very good because they didn’t have all the “things” we have on tacos at home- “No vegetables! Not even lettuce! It was just meat and cheese.”  Ugh, school lunches…another topic for another time

I set up a taco bar on our island in the kitchen.  The offerings at the bar can change according to what’s in the fridge or cabinet.  Mostly on the bar are bowls with shredded lettuce, black beans, rice, shredded cheese, chopped avocado and/or avocado salsa, tomato salsa, tomatoes, chopped cilantro, cabbage if we’re having fish tacos,  most often I serve beef but sometimes other meats or fish.  I give them hard and soft tacos- corn shells and flour tortillas.

Last night’s was organic beef (no hormones, antibiotics, etc) made with shallots, garlic and tomatoes and a pre-packaged spice mix from Trader Joe’s (careful— I used only 1/2 the packet and it was very spicy for the kids), but you can mix chili powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, paprika and black pepper to get a good taco seasoning.  I also put out the left over swordfish and my eldest jumped at the chance to have in a hard corn tortilla.  I used up the black rice too.  If the kids don’t want all the stuff in the tacos I serve some things on the side.

It really doesn’t take long to prepare, mostly time spent chopping, and they get a well-rounded meal that they absolutely love!

FYI- you can get organic corn tortillas.  I don’t like to buy conventional corn as most corn in the US is genetically modified. 

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