Back to school means back to some often hectic (and, let’s be honest, dreaded) routines: picking out the day’s outfit, shuttling to after-school practice, planning dinners, packing lunches. But what if you could make one little difference in the daily crazies? What if you could take that list and check off two items at once?
Try rebooting tonight’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch. Key word: reboot. Kids will eat these leftovers because they’re not exactly the same as the night before.
We asked local chefs and foodies for their go-to double-duty meals: dinner which, with a little creativity, turns into lunch the next day. This is a new level of leftover: a Sunday dinner transformed over multiple days. Dessert turned happy surprise in a lunchbox. Pizza in a new shape.
So throw open those refrigerator doors, take stock of your pantry, and prepare two meals out of one.
Co-owner and chief financial officer, Ethan Stowell Restaurants, Seattle
Go-to strategy: Roast chicken for dinner, chicken salad for lunch
Her story: “We almost always, even in the summer, have a roasted chicken for dinner on Sundays. Sometimes we’ll roast two chickens! Then we’ll take whatever the leftovers are and repurpose them.” The first day, Stowell revamps some of the meat into a chicken salad with pasta, zucchini, feta, and a light dressing, and packaged it into a container for her preschooler to take for lunch.
Stowell ticks off the possibilities: From one roast chicken can come a pasta salad, a quinoa salad, and a traditional chicken salad for sandwiches or wraps. In the winter, the chicken might get tossed into a soup instead. She’s a big believer in making sure the whole family eats the same foods — no special orders for the little ones — and preparing scratch meals throughout the week. “You can send your kids to school with actual lunches,” she explains.
Recipe: Chicken salad
- 2–3 cups of diced chicken
- 4 celery stalks, peeled and diced
- 1 minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon minced tarragon
- 2–3 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Steps: Combine chicken, celery, shallot and tarragon in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and tarragon. Toss all ingredients together to taste. Finish with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Try chicken salad served over a bed of arugula, in a whole-wheat wrap or on a Macrina baguette.
Author, Seattle Tall Poppy blog
Go-to strategy: Raiding the kitchen
Her story: Savadogo starts by chopping whatever vegetables she finds in the fridge. Roast broccoli for a side at dinner, then dice it fine the next day and fold it into wonton wrappers. The sautéed greens on the side can tuck into ravioli for the next meal; stir-fried zucchini finds new life in a frittata.
Kid-friendly tip: Use a muffin tin to make mini-frittatas for breakfast or to take to school (brunch recess, anyone?). “Having stuff ready is key,” Savadogo said. Take some extra prep time and set up your own salad bar. Cook rice in advance to use in soups or make fried rice.
Recipe: Individual zucchini frittatas
- 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 3 medium zucchini (1 pound total), halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion
- 1 1/2 oz finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 cup)
- 10 large eggs, lightly beaten
Steps: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 12 standard muffin cups (one-third cup capacity) with nonstick spray.
Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, sauté the onion until translucent. Add the zucchini with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about four minutes.
Whisk green onion, zucchini mixture and 1/2 cup cheese into eggs. Divide mixture among muffin cups and bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and set, about 14 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn on broiler. Sprinkle frittatas with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until cheese is melted and tops are golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
Instructor, PCC Cooks
Go-to strategy: Anything kids can help prepare
Her story: As a chef educator who specializes in children’s cooking classes, Morgan encourages parents to involve kids in the fixings. “They’re so much more willing to try new things if they’ve had a hand in making it,” Morgan says. Start with a basic meal with all the components — a protein, a grain, vegetables — so that it’s easier to reimagine the next day. Like Stowell, Morgan suggests roasting a chicken one night, then slicing it up for a salad the next day with one new ingredient: a homemade dressing that instantly disguises the leftover main. Pour the dressing into a small container to take to school, and kids can choose how much to add at lunchtime. Grains get a similar makeover: Cook an extra batch the night before, then turn into a salad with your fave dressing the next day.
Recipe: Morgan recommends Food Network's roasted pork shoulder
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4 pound) pork shoulder
Steps: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Using a pastry brush, spread the mixture all over the pork shoulder.
Set the meat on a rack set into a roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the shoulder reads 185 degrees F, about four hours. Remove the pork from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
See also the Food Network's roasted vegetable recipe
Linda Miller Nicholson
Cooking instructor, Issaquah School District, former author of the Salty Seattle blog
Go-to strategy: Homemade pizza for dinner, calzone for lunch, sauces on everything
Her story: Nicholson has been pursuing her dream of teaching children and adults to cook — and preparing her family’s meals in her at-home wood-fired oven — for years. Time in Italy instilled in Nicholson a love of sauces, and homemade pasta and pizza dough; after a few years writing the Salty Seattle blog, she donned a chef’s apron to devote much of her time to teaching after-school cooking classes.
Kid-friendly tip: Like Morgan, Nicholson believes in involving kids in meal prep, so that they not only will try new things but also will begin to understand where their food comes from. But that doesn’t mean food can’t be kid-friendly: Homemade pizza dough and toppings can be wrapped up as a calzone and cut into lunchbox-ready strips. Ladle pasta sauce over more than just noodles. “Whenever I make sauce, I always think about the fact that it can go on pasta, rice, potatoes. I make twice as much as I think I’m going to need, because it goes through several incarnations over the course of the week.”
Recipe: Lunchtime calzones
So you made the family pizzas and you’ve got a bunch of stray toppings left over, and nothing to put in the kid’s lunch. The solution? Calzones! This is not so much a recipe as it is a technique, because, at the end of a long day, who wants to drag out a recipe that needs to be meticulously followed? Not this mom.
The beauty of this technique is that all you’ve got to remember is the rule of thirds. one-third dough, one-third cheese, and one-third other goodies, including sauce and toppings. How does it work? Well, you gather whatever remaining dough you have lef tover, whether homemade or provided by the nearby grocer, and stretch it or roll it about 1/4 inch thick into either a rectangle or a circle. The shape doesn’t matter; it just needs to be able to fold back on itself like a pocket or an envelope.
Then rope your adorable kid into helping you decide what goes into this puppy. Top one third of the dough with the toppings you and your helper agree upon, including the sauce. An excellent combination to consider is pesto or red sauce along with sundried tomatoes and quartered artichoke hearts. I have yet to meet a picky eater who didn’t love it. It works especially well if your kid happens to be as anti-meat as mine.
After you’ve got the toppings piled on, add cheese in a 1:1 cheese/topping ratio. Next, you fold the un-topped part of the dough over the mound of goodness and tightly pinch together the ends so that the pinched ends become one. This ensures that you have no spillage. Place the whole shebang on a lightly-oiled baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F until nicely browned on top. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your calzone, but a good rule of thumb is between 20-25 minutes. Once cooled, slice the pocket into lunch-sized pieces, wrap in foil and lunch is covered the next day for anyone in the family who is lucky enough to brown-bag it!
Chef, Monsoon and Ba Bar, Seattle; Monsoon Bellevue
Go-to meal: Fish, chicken and vegetables he can cook and freeze
His story: A few years ago, Banh learned he was allergic to wheat. That meant cutting back on some of the easy foods he’d throw together for him and his young son. He started making more of an effort to concoct homemade soups — such as his recipe for chicken soup, with the bone of a roasted chicken as a base. But there’s another healthy — and, he believes, overlooked — choice for kids’ lunches: fish. “A lot of kids in this country don’t seem to eat anything other than chicken or beef,” he said. “I never see parents pack mackerel in their lunchbox. It can be done. It’s so inexpensive.” Banh suggests starting with kid-friendly fish such as salmon, trout or cod. Buy or have it filleted, then fry it in vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Serve it with noodle or rice.
Vegetables? An even quicker tip: Chop, blanch for just a couple of minutes (no soggy broccoli or green beans, please!) and freeze in snack-size plastic bags. Sauté them later for a side dish, throw into soup or sauces, or munch from the bag.
Recipe: Chicken broth with ramen noodles and broccoli
Delicious homemade chicken broth with ramen noodles and broccoli. Adding chicken is optional. Eric uses a store bought whole roasted chicken and is able to make a tasty stock that is super simple.
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1/2 cup each roughly chopped yellow onion and carrot
- 4 bay leaves
- 8 whole peppercorns
- ramen noodles
Steps: Use the bones from the same chicken that supplies meat for the noodle soup. Separate wings from chicken and pull meat from bones; discard skin. Set bones and wings aside and shred meat into bite-size pieces. While not absolutely necessary, disposable kitchen gloves give you a good grip.
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic cloves, chopped onion, and carrot, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add wings, bones, 8 peppercorns, and bay leaves, along with enough water to just cover bones (7–8 cups). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a slow-bubbling simmer. Skim the pot after 15 minutes and occasionally throughout cooking. Simmer stock 2 to 3 hours; then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. (This chicken stock can be stored in freezer with plastic cup containers up to 30 days.)
To make the soup, pour the broth into a bowl and add the broccoli and noodles. If your kid likes chicken, add some of that, too.
Chef, Volunteer Park Café, Canal Market, Chop Shop, Seattle
Go-to strategy: One dinner, three meals
Her story: With two school-age boys (her 5 ½-year-old, her partner’s 5-year-old), Burke looks for menu ideas that stretch a long way. There are times, she admits, when there’s no time for the grocery store, so she “shops” for fresh, organic ingredients from her restaurant kitchens.
Like many chefs, Burke turns to meat for its versatility — the roasted chicken, the pork shoulder, the flank steak. “I like to meal plan that way because I’m so busy, especially at the beginning of week, doing a pork shoulder or chicken, I know I can get three dishes out of it.” That first entree can be part of a salad the next day, followed by tacos or quesadillas, or even a stir fry.
Recipe: Chicken pot pie
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 large carrots, peeled, small dice
- 6 celery stalks, small dice
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled, small dice
- 8 Red Bliss potatoes, skin on, small dice
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
- 1 tablespoons lemon zest, minced
- 4 cups chicken breast, medium dice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth, home made or purchased
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup pearl onions (fresh or frozen)
- 1/4 cup Italian parley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup roux (recipe follows)
- puff pastry (purchased)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup flour
Melt butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Slowly add in flour in small batches- whisk well to combine. Continue cooking for approximatley 5–8 minutes until a light golden brown. Reserve.
Pot pie method:
In a large pot, heat oil. Add carrots, celery, onion, and potato and cook over a moderate heat, careful not to brown. When vegetables are tender (approximately 10 minutes), add thyme and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Add cut chicken. Contiue to cook (approximately 8 minutes). Deglaze with white wine and chicken broth. Reduce liquid by 25 percent. Add cream. Slowly add in roux, continually stirring, until mixture has thickened. Add peas and pearl onions, simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in Italian parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Puff pastry method:
Puff pastry (purchased) approximatley 4 ounces weight for each pot pie
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
Beat egg and milk together and reserve for egg wash. Roll out puff pastry on a clean lightly floured surface. Roll puff pastry to quarter inch thick. Place the individual baking dishes (such as small au gratin or casserole dishes (must be oven proof) you will be using to serve the pot pie in over the rolled out pastry dough. Using a small knife trace the top of the dish. Place on a sheet pan and cut a little slit in the center of each pastry. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Pull from the freezer and brush with an egg wash. Place the chilled pastry in the oven at 350 degrees F. and bake approximately 12 minutes until golden brown.
Fill individual serving dishes (such as au gratin or casserole dish) with hot pot pie mixture. Top with baked pastry. Serve hot.
Owner of PinkaBella Cupcakes, stores throughout King and Snohomish counties
Go-to dessert: Cake, natch
Her story: Engberg runs a four-kid household and a five-store operation. “My kids never get tired of cake,” she says. But a little creativity doesn’t hurt. Leftover cake can be a welcome dessert alone. Reshape it into cake balls, cake pops, cubes for fondue, or layered into individual parfaits — and it looks brand-new.
Picture a trifle: layers of cake, fruit and custard. Now imagine it portioned into little cups for school or ready for an afternoon snack. Now that’s a treat.
Recipe: Margo Engberg's cupcake trifle
- 1 parfait cup with lid ... can use Tupperware for this
- 1 full-size cupcake sliced in half
- custard or whipped cream
- berry filling, jam or fresh cut berries
In bottom of parfait container, layer 1 tablespoon of berries, jam, or fresh berries; 1 tablespoon whipped cream or custard, one slice of the cupcake and 1 tablespoon of frosting. Repeat and finish with sprinkles.
This can be done with any flavor of cake and using other fruits, puddings, custards, peanut butter, etc. Be creative and make up your own!
Chef and owner, Café Juanita, Kirkland
Go-to meal: Homemade soup for dinner, paired with salad and sides for lunch
Her story: “In the fall and winter, a hearty soup and salad is a fast and favorite meal,” whether you make your own stock or buy the boxed (preferably organic) variety, Smith said. Throw in parmesan rinds to enrich the flavor; at Smith’s house, soup staples include chickpeas, carrots, garlic, kale or spinach and fresh herbs. The next day, combine the soup with a salad of kale, apples, and balsamic vinaigrette, or romaine and anchovy vinaigrette and parmesan.
Kid-friendly tip: Smith likes to send her fifth-grader to school with a variety of items — often a salad, along with a protein, a fruit, maybe “something pickled.” But the busy working mom, after too many days without a trip to the grocery store, sometimes tosses “an odd assortment of foods into the bag,” too. If the priority for [your kids] is being there for them, then it can come in many ways,” Smith said. “Cutting each other some slack is probably the best lesson ever!"