What to do with leftovers?
Do you ever feel a bit like a catfish when it comes to leftovers in your house? Not so much that you’re a bottom dweller, but that the task of consuming leftovers falls mostly on you?
Being a work from home mama, I can feel this way a lot. Especially since I’m incredibly grocery budget conscious and hate to throw leftover food into the trash.
When I plan our weekly dinners, whether or not they will portion out enough for leftovers to make lunch the following day for me or my toddler is a consideration. Especially if it’s a meal that requires me to buy an ingredient solely specific to that meal.
Spaghetti squash is a prime example.
I’m not a big pasta eater, but pasta and meat sauce is easy and fast. It can be made super healthy if you buy the right kind of pasta. And I can even sneak extra vegetables and fiber into my toddler’s diet without so much as one thrown rotini noodle. So, we have it for dinner at least every other week.
But instead of pasta, I serve a generous portion of cooked spaghetti squash onto my plate. The tummy is much happier!
Since I’m the only one who eats spaghetti squash, I’m left with a decent amount left over for the following day, even if the squash was a small one. If there’s any leftover meat sauce and pasta, my toddler gets that for lunch.
So, what to do with all this spaghetti squash?
On my grocery budget? Without buying some extra ingredient just for one or maybe two lunches?
I feel a little bit like the contestants on Food Network’s show Chopped staring down at my basket of ingredients.
Thankfully, spaghetti squash is pretty versatile. While I’ve thrown together some leftover lunches using spaghetti squash and whatever random things I found in my fridge, what I’m about to share with you is my favorite leftover lunch combination. The basic recipe leaves a lot of room for foodies who have more time to construct a lunch than I do most days to elevate it to something really fancy. (Let’s face it–if I have to cut up more than one thing and use anything other than the microwave or toaster oven to prepare lunch, it’s a NO GO.)
I call it Warm Spaghetti Squash & Spinach Salad.
1 spaghetti squash
1 can of garbanzo beans
5-6 cherry tomatoes or 1 Roma tomato
1 heaping cup of raw baby spinach (a good handful for you non-measuring people like me)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
Red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black peppercorns (to taste)
*See farther down for elevated ingredient ideas.
Directions to Cook the Spaghetti Squash:
Remember, this is a leftover, so for lunch I’m just pulling it out of the fridge already cooked and shredded. But, if you want to cook one just for this recipe, here’s how I cook mine.
Fill your stock pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.
Use your biggest, sharpest knife (a chef’s knife will do the trick) to cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.
Once your water is boiling, very carefully place each half into the stock pot.
Boil for 15-20 minutes, depending on how big your spaghetti squash is. You should be able to pierce it without resistance with a fork.
Once it’s cooked, I very carefully pour everything out of the stock pot into a colander which I’ve placed in the sink.
Once the halves have cooled down enough for you to handle them, use a fork (or two) to remove one of the halves from the colander and place it on a plate on your counter. Use a fork to scoop the seeds out of the squash.
You’ll pull some of the squash with it too, and it will feel a lot like cleaning out a pumpkin at Halloween, only hotter. Discard the seeds.
Now you’re ready to shred your spaghetti squash. Just use two forks and scrape the top of the flesh. It will scrape off like little “spaghetti noodles.”
Transfer your “noodles” to a bowl (preferably glass or ceramic since they’re going to be hot). Repeat with the second half.
Directions to prepare the salad:
If you’re building your salad straight from here, ladle out at least a cup’s worth of spaghetti squash into a microwave-safe bowl. Next, drain and rinse your garbanzo beans. Add 1/3 cup to your spaghetti squash.
Next, quarter your cherry tomatoes lengthwise, or dice up a roma tomato and add it to the squash.
Add a heaping cup of baby spinach (or a generous handful) on top of the tomatoes.
Finally, squirt your lemon juice, drizzle your EVOO, and splash your red wine vinegar on top.
Pop your bowl in the microwave for one minute on high. This will soften your spinach and tomatoes and reheat your spaghetti squash if you started with cold leftover squash.)
Carefully remove from the microwave and adorn with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black pepper.
Voila! Lunch is served!
Now, this was the basic version using things you probably already have in your pantry or fridge.
Here are some ingredients you could add to elevate this dish. (Do I sound like a Chopped judge or what?!)
Toasted pine nuts
Goat cheese or feta cheese (instead of parmesan cheese)
Finely chopped red onion
Greek vinaigrette (instead of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and EVOO)
My favorite thing about this lunch is how easy yet healthy and economical it is. As work from home or stay at home mamas, we don’t have to always eat what our kids eat or adopt a catfish mindset when it comes to our lunches. With a little creativity, you can feel like you’re eating something prepared at a bistro! If you can tune out the Daniel Tiger songs that may be playing in the background, that is.
Do you have a dinner time leftover ingredient that you transform during the following day’s lunch? I’d love to know what it is and how you use it in the comments section!
Find some delicious recipes in these posts as well!