We were at a picnic this past weekend when talk turned, as it does in the presence of flaming grills and groaning sideboards, to “repurposing” leftovers. There are two camps that take sides during these types of conversations: the “I can’t get enough” group who happily eats their way through the Tupperware jungle in their refrigerator, and the “give me something new” folks who simply can’t stand to have the same dishes night after night.
Who knew that we were introducing such a heated (pun intended) topic into the conversation! It seems that, once you’ve found your tribe, there is little that will change your perspective on eating leftovers.
Around here we have some cross-pollination of opinions and that makes for an interesting week of menu planning. My “waste not, want not” mindset gets a little trying for the rest of the family, who tire of seeing progressively wilted specimens on their plates as the week wears on.
Which is why I like the idea of “repurposing” as much as I do. It’s not the “same old, same old,” but neither have I resorted to tossing the Sunday leftovers in the trash (for shame!). Personally, I find this to be the mark of a good and frugal cook: someone who can take what they have on hand and serve it up in a new and tasty way. Element of surprise and all that — just don’t get too creative, which is a lesson we learned in the Split Pea Soup with Ham post. Plus, with the busy lives we lead, who really has the time to make a full dinner from scratch every night? Oh, what a luxury that would be, though I think I’d go broke trying to cook that way!
For those like-minded individuals who are trying to use up the last of this past weekend’s barbecue fixings I have this advice: consider the burrito.
I’m hardly being original here, but if you haven’t had burritos at home in a while this is your reminder to put them on the menu this week. Grab a big flour tortilla, fill it with some traditional ingredients like rice, cheese and beans, and then toss in those leftover proteins or veggies. Grilled chicken is perfect. Steak would be great. Lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes, grilled onions or zucchini….all wonderful in a burrito.
We made ours using Black Beans Cowboy Style — which are already loaded with onions and tomatoes — and some sliced Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts. I threw in a healthy sprinkling of cilantro and hot sauce for me and my husband and served the burritos with a side of sliced watermelon. Dinner in mere minutes.
Each of our Stout Sprouts assembled their own burrito, choosing from the various ingredients we laid out. Daughter 1 went light on the beans while Daughter 2 loaded her burrito up with them. They both love rice so I got no complaints there, and cheese is a perennial favorite. They both made a healthy go at rolling their burritos, but that was really the only thing I had to help them do during the meal prep. This is a great way to get your kids involved with making mealtime choices and experimenting with what they like.
If you’ve never rolled a burrito take a quick look at this tutorial on The Kitchn which also happens to be one of my favorite food sites on the Web. When you’re finished browsing around over there, come back here and get rolling!
Black Bean, Cheese and Chicken Burritos
1 package large flour tortillas (the brand we used had 8 to a pack)
1 cup long grain white rice, cooked to yield approximately 2 cups hot cooked rice
1 cup (or more) shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese blend (or just one or the other)
2 cups of warm Black Beans Cowboy Style
2 cooked and sliced chicken breasts – I recommend using leftover Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts
1 cup shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup finely minced fresh cilantro
Sliced pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Following the rolling directions on The Kitchn link included above, lay out one large tortilla on your work surface and, in the center, begin to assemble ingredients. Be careful not to overstuff your burrito. For each burrito, use about 1/4 cup rice, 1/8 cup shredded cheese, 1/4 cup black beans, a couple of slices of chicken breast, and 1/8 cup lettuce. Sprinkle with some minced cilantro and add any of the optional condiments you wish — a teaspoon or so of each, remembering that a little goes a long way.
Roll the burrito by folding in the right and left sides of the tortilla over the filling and then rolling up from the open bottom to enclose the filling, squeezing a bit as you go to keep the filling tightly wrapped. Then roll the burrito in a sheet of aluminum foil and place it on the baking sheet in the preheated oven until ready to serve — not longer than 15 or 20 minutes or the fresh ingredients, like the lettuce, will become soft. But hey, that’s not the end of the world. Still tasty!
Serve with additional hot sauce, sour cream, and a side of fresh fruit.
Kid rating: four stars. Both our Stout Sprouts loved making their own burritos. It was fun for them to choose their fillings and load up the tortillas. As a warm, comforting dinner option these were a hit. Daughter 1 completely finished hers. Daughter 2 unrolled hers and picked at the filling a bit, but this didn’t particularly surprise me. This is the same child that eats her sandwiches in a deconstructed fashion: cheese, then lunchmeat, then bread. We’ll keep at it, and switch up ingredients a bit too.
Parent rating: five stars. If the adults go heavy on the cilantro and hot sauce, and sneak an extra tablespoon or two of shredded cheese…well, who’s to blame them. These are a great example of “more than a sum of their parts.” Together, all these ingredients are terrific. Let everything melt together a little bit in the oven before serving and you’ll be rewarded with a great “repurposed” dish. No need to even mention leftovers ever again.