5 Ways to “Upcycle” Food to Minimize Waste

By now, you have certainly discovered your inner home chef, have learned to nourish your body and soothe your nerves through the COVID-19 pandemic, and now have little bits of “this and that” at the end of the week. Never fear, here are 5 quick & delicious ways to turn those “leftovers” into an Instagram-worthy “upcycled” meal.We don’t know why “leftovers” developed such a bad reputation, but delicious ideas from Chef Yolanda Lockhart-Davis and renowned Executive Chef Benjamin Bynum will inspire you to look forward to the end of the week, every week.

1. Soup
Chef Yolanda Lockhart-Davis (Former Personal Chef & Caterer, and current Food Service Consultant) As a single mom to a perpetually hungry son, Chef Yolanda learned the concept of menu development long before attending culinary school. “One of my favorite ways to upcycle food was (and still is) to take any leftover beans, pasta, meat (if I had or have it), with vegetables and turn it into a hearty soup. This is also one of the best possible ways to “stretch” a small piece of meat into several meals. If you have a slow cooker, now is the time to use it, if not, your favorite oven-safe pot will be just fine. I’ve been making a version of this soup recipe for 20+ years and it never fails, using whatever I happen to have on hand. Want to make a creamier, more luscious soup? Puree some of the beans, whisk in a bit of heavy cream or coconut milk, and make your bread happy!”

2. Eggs
Dice any leftover deli meat, greens, onions, peppers, toss it into a buttered baking dish of scrambled eggs, season with salt, pepper, and dried herbs, and enjoy the best “Baked Omelet” you have ever tasted for brunch or dinner!

3. Rice
Whether you have rice leftover from the perfect pot you made earlier in the week or from a delivery, sauté it with a bit of garlic oil, toss in leftover chopped onions, frozen or leftover cooked vegetables, finely chopped cooked meat, and of course, scrambled egg for a “Pandemic Rice” that you’ll wonder why you never prepared before.

4. Pizza
Let’s say you have a little bit of leftover cooked Chicken, some fresh tomatoes, and a few dark leafy greens that have been in your fridge all week. If you have been baking bread all along, make a quick Sourdough Pizza Crust, if not, roll out your favorite ready-to-use dough, or if you’re really feeling ambitious, make a 30-minute crust from scratch. You can do this, I promise.
Spread your favorite jarred marinara over the crust, top with finely chopped chicken & greens, arrange the sliced tomatoes, drizzle it all with a bit of chile-garlic oil (and brush a bit on the crust!) and top with your favorite shredded cheese. Bake at 450 degrees until the edges of the crust are golden brown, wait for it to cool, and VOILA! You’re a Pizza Pro, and your family will kiss the hem of your garment.

5. Pasta
Executive Chef Benjamin Bynum, (30-year Restauranteur and Co-Owner of South Jazz Kitchen, Green Soul, Relish & Warmdaddy’s restaurants in Philadelphia) recommends this crave-worthy way to enjoy leftover pasta. First, he twirls the pasta into serving-sized nests, places the nests into a resealable container (in a single layer), then tops each nest with an egg yolk, and a generous drizzle of heavy cream. When it’s time to eat, Chef Benjamin simply heats 1 tablespoon of olive oil & sesame oil, presses the nest into the oil on both sides until the egg is lightly cooked and the pasta is delicately crunchy. The result is a light, crisp, and creamy pasta dish that is perfect with a salad or sautéed vegetables.​

Turning any one of these chef-inspired ideas into brunch, lunch, or dinner will make you look like a GENIUS, might save you one more trip to the supermarket, and will guarantee that you never look at “leftovers” the same way ever again.

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