When we talk about leftovers, most of us think of the debris from a big dinner.
And truth is, many of the lunches I pack for my son are constructed from dinner leftovers – roasted chicken, cooked pasta, some chili, whatever.
Because making enough food to make sure I have leftovers takes no extra time or energy. Roasting a larger bird or boiling up more pasta adds nothing to dinner prep.
But having those leftovers to work with during the morning rush sure saves me time while trying to get my kid packed, fed and out the door.
The thing is, we tend to forget that this applies to breakfast, too. And those leftovers make for some great lunch options.
My favorite breakfast leftovers are pancakes and waffles. It’s easy to pop a couple extra waffles in the toaster or fry up a couple extra pancakes. In fact, if I make pancakes on a Sunday morning, I always make a double batch. Then I pack them two or three to a bag and freeze them. Easy breakfasts. Easy lunches.
For lunch, waffles and pancakes certainly can be packed hot and straight up in a wide-mouth thermos – with a side of maple syrup – but you also can get creative.
The easiest idea? Use them in place of bread for sandwiches. Try these ideas:
- Cream cheese and strawberry jam
- Ham and cheese
- Grilled cheddar cheese (as is, or with a dollop of jam)
- Leftover breaded chicken and cheese (particularly on waffles)
- Hummus and a slice of tomato (on waffles)
Not only do these easy idea make use of simple leftovers (saving you time and trouble), they also tweak classic lunches just enough to make them fresh and interesting to our tough little cafeteria critics.
When buying waffles, I always make sure to get a whole-grain variety – an easy way to get extra nutrition into our kids. For pancakes? I use white whole wheat flour (widely available at most grocers), which has all the nutrition of traditional whole wheat, but a flavor and color closer to all-purpose flour. Here’s my basic recipe. It’s already doubled so you’ll have plenty of leftovers. Don’t need that many? Just cut it in half.
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups milk or buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, then stir until thoroughly blended.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium. When the pan is hot, add batter ¼ cup portions, leaving room for the pancakes to spread.
- Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes, then flip and brown on the second side. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Recipe by J.M. Hirsch, AP food editor and author of Beating the Lunch Box Blues. Photo: Matthew Mead.