June 20, 2018
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Making creative school lunches from leftovers

Doug Young | MCT
Doug Young | MCT
By Lauren Chattman, Newsday

It seems like you’ve just finished washing the dinner dishes when you have to start packing lunch boxes. Does food prep ever end?

If you want to lighten your load as school begins, be a little creative when preparing dinner so you cleverly end up with lunchables for the next day.

Some foods are better suited for repurposing than others. Thinly sliced leftover steak is a treat on a sandwich. But when the lunch box is opened on Tuesday at noon, Monday night’s salmon fillet won’t have the same tantalizing aroma that it had when it first came off the grill.

Skip foods that need to be reheated, unless your child’s lunchroom has a microwave oven, sticking to dishes that are good at room temperature. In general, leftover pasta is better the next day than rice, which will dry out overnight in the refrigerator. But not all pasta leftovers are created equal. Pasta with a tomato- or olive oil-based sauce will stay moist; pasta with cheese will congeal as it cools.

If your kids balk at eating the same thing for lunch that they ate for dinner, try disguising your leftovers. Stuff chicken into a pita pocket with salad greens and pack Caesar dressing on the side. Layer sliced brisket with spreadable cheese on a crusty roll.

The following recipes will yield a dinner for four, and then two or three lunch-box servings for tomorrow.

Fusilli with Cherry Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings, with leftovers

This dish is just as good cold or at room temperature as it is hot, so it makes perfect lunch-box fare. If the pasta seems dry the next day, drizzle a little olive oil over it and give it a stir. And instead of packing grated Parmesan, include some small mozzarella balls or string cheese.


1½ pounds fusilli or other curly pasta

2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

½ cup basil leaves, roughly torn

Ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fusilli until just tender.

2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and basil in a large bowl. Toss with the hot pasta, season with salt and ground black pepper. Serve immediately with cheese on the side.

Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Garlic and Parsley Chicken Kebabs

Makes 4 servings, with leftovers

If you’re going to cut up 1½ pounds of boneless chicken breasts to make chicken kebabs for dinner, you might as well make 2 pounds so you have extra for the next day. Serve the just-grilled kebabs with some couscous and grilled vegetables. Refrigerate leftovers and stuff them inside pita pockets with some romaine lettuce (and a little Caesar, ranch or vinaigrette dressing packed in a separate container) for lunch.

¼ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1¼ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1½-inch pieces

Lemon wedges for serving

1. Combine oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in a gallon-size zipper-lock bag. Add chicken, seal bag and shake to coat. Refrigerate until ready to cook, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

2. Preheat a gas grill on high. Thread the chicken on metal skewers and grill over medium-high heat, covered, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 minutes total. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges on the side. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Slow Cooker Chili-Spiced Brisket

Makes 4 servings, with leftovers

Use leftovers to make brisket heroes with Cheddar or horseradish cheese spread on sturdy Italian rolls.

1 onion, sliced thin

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1½ tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 (2½-pound) beef brisket, trimmed

½ cup beer

Barbecue sauce (optional)

1. Lightly grease a 6-quart slow cooker. Place onion and garlic in cooker. Combine chili powder, salt, cumin, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar in a small bowl. Rub over brisket and place in cooker.

2. Carefully pour beer around brisket (you don’t want it to wash away the spices). Cook until fork-tender, 6 to 8 hours on low, or 3 to 5 hours on high. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let stand 20 minutes before slicing and serving with degreased pan juices or barbecue sauce on the side. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

©2012 Newsday

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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