It’s the end of the week, and when you open the fridge, you’re shocked at how much food is waiting inside. There are so many leftovers you had every intention of eating — but didn’t get around to it.
Before you pitch them in your kitchen trash can, consider the ways you can liven up those leftovers. A simple soup that makes use of slightly wilted vegetables and leftover cooked meat, rice or pasta is a great way to stretch your grocery budget and throw away less food.
If you aren’t sure how to start experimenting with using soups to use up leftovers, start with this recipe:
ANY VEGETABLE SOUP
1–2 pounds fresh or frozen vegetables
Aromatics, such as an onion, a couple garlic cloves or leeks
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
4–6 cups low-sodium broth
Seasonings to taste, such as pepper; cumin; chili powder; ginger; or dried herbs, including basil, sage, oregano and bay leaf.
Leftover cooked meat, rice, pasta, quinoa or beans, optional
Cut up the vegetables and aromatics. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Saute the aromatics for about 5 minutes or until fragrant and soft. Add vegetables, except for any delicate greens, and continue cooking for several minutes until softened slightly. Add seasonings now so the flavors blend well in the soup.
Add 4–6 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Cook for about 30 minutes. If you want to leave the vegetables intact, take the soup off the heat when vegetables are tender but still firm. If you want the vegetables soft for pureeing, keep cooking until they fall apart. Add delicate greens, such as spinach, a couple minutes before taking the soup off the heat.
Once the vegetables are soft, you can puree the soup in a blender or with a stick blender. Rewarm gently after blending. When pureeing the soup, you can add flavor and creaminess by adding beans, tofu, coconut milk or plain yogurt.
Once the soup has finished cooking, you can jazz it up more, especially if you’re not pureeing it. Add leftover cooked pasta or rice, cooked ground turkey, diced chicken breast, a can of rinsed beans, chickpeas or tomatoes, and simmer until warmed through.
This article was adapted from an article that originally appeared in the Mayo Clinic Health System blog.
Romi Londre, R.D.N.
Romi is a dietician at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin.