Leftovers With a Purpose: Simple Tips for Making Multiple Meals with Shared Ingredients

I was once a gourmet cook, who used her kitchen time as a stress reliever. Now I’m a stay at home mother of two with a husband who has a consistently inconsistent travel schedule. On the side, I’m a travel and lifestyle writer who’s out several nights a week and a business woman trying to launch a business (this blog).

Planning healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners to fit the hectic schedule of my family has become just another chore in a never ending cycle that seems to keep growing as my kids grow. Far to often I find myself at the mercy of convenience fare; serving my family processed food -not my ideal means of providing nourishment.

Inspired by Cooking Light’s March 2015 feature, Cook Once, Eat 3x, I’ve taken control of my kitchen and found a way to stress-less-ly enjoy meal planning and preparation in a whole new way.

The Cooking Light feature offers three recipes that share one common ingredient, roasted root vegetables, and uses it in very different ways: as a side dish with chicken, in a turnover, and in a soup. Brilliant, simple, healthy and satisfying, all three recipes were home runs with each member of my family. Most of all, I had zero stress repurposing the roasted roots each day.

Seeking more easy ideas, I put my own spin on Cooking Light’s concept; roasting a whole chicken along with a 6 crowns of broccoli that produced enough leftovers to use in two more meals throughout the week: Chicken Nachos, and Broccoli Soup.

Meal 1: Roast Chicken and Oven Roasted Broccoli

A super simple and sensational recipe this crowd pleaser involves few ingredients and gives you a moist, flavorful bird.


  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder

Pat the chicken dry then rub it with olive oil. Mix the seasonings together then coat the exterior of the bird with the mixture. Set your oven to bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes (this will crisp the skin nicely) then reduce to 350 degrees and walk away for a little over an hour while the oven does its thing to a 5-6 pound bird (cooking times vary based on size and oven).

When the chicken is close to ready (an hour and fifteen minutes into total cooking time) return to the oven and add the tray of broccoli, allowing just enough time for the bird to brown up, be removed, and rest before the broccoli is caramelized. Turn the broccoli  about halfway through the 20-25 minutes it needs to cook (the size of your florets places a roll in cooking time) in the 425 degree oven.

Slice the chicken, and serve with a side of broccoli. Let the remaining chicken and broccoli cool then store in airtight containers (after removing the remaining chicken from the bone).

IMG_4213If you’re looking to take your chicken to another level, skip the olive oil and seasoning mixture. Instead, mix 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter with 2 tablespoons of your favorite chopped herb (thyme, rosemary, dill, parsley, oregano, and sage all work well) loosen skin, and massage the butter mixture beneath, then sprinkle the outside with a bit of salt and pepper, squeeze 1 lemon on top, then stuff the lemon halves inside the bird along with any extra herbs before baking as directed above.

Meal 2: Chicken Nachos

Everyone in my house loves chips; but I’m not a fan of them becoming the main course.  Dressed-up with shredded leftover chicken, and melted cheese these tortilla chips transform into a protein-packed, kid friendly meal. Amp up the nutrition by setting up a toppings bar loaded with veggies and dips and you’ll be returning to chips for dinner in many forms.


  • 1 cup leftover shredded chicken
  • 1/2 to 1 bag of your favorite tortilla chips
  • 1 cup (or more if you’d like) shredded cheese of choice; I like a Mexican blend

Optional extras:

  • chopped tomatoes
  • chopped onion
  • shredded lettuce
  • chopped olives
  • 1 can of rinsed black or pinto beans
  • chopped avocado or guacamole
  • sour cream
  • salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, layer tortilla chips on a sheet pan, top with chicken, cheese and beans (if you’re using), and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly but not too brown, remove from oven and allow to cool then transfer to individual plates or serving platter.

Place toppings bar selections in small bowls on your dinner table and pass them around so your family can create their own masterpiece. Challenge your kids to create the coolest toppings combination and you’re sure to find them clearing their plates.

Meal 3: Broccoli Soup

Choose your favorite broccoli soup recipe. I’ve yet to find a go-to choice and have not been successful experimenting. I like mine with cream, but I’m not a fan of the calories. My most recent favorite is simple and can be found in Food and Wine online. If you choose to use this recipe, I suggest roasting the garlic the night you cook the chicken and broccoli to save time. With the pre-roasted broccoli and garlic this recipe is lightening fast and super simple allowing your food to be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Serve this alongside a panini, grilled cheese sandwich, or a fresh salad and this soup becomes a filling meal.

-Making mealtime manageable one bite at a time, Jess

Rather dine out? Check our Jessica Polizzotti’s picks for family friendly Boston restaurants on USA TODAY’s 10best.

Armed with an undergraduate degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Teaching, Jessica began a career as an advertising executive before spending nine years as an 8th grade English teacher. In 2009, Jessica opted out of the workforce to be home with her kids.

In need of an intellectual outlet, Jessica was offered the opportunity to start a third career as a freelance travel & lifestyle writer and has never looked back. Having contributed to travel & lifestyle outlets: Nile Guide, Tripology, USA TODAY & 10Best Jessica is excited to be part of the Amazing Matriarch where she hopes she can encourage other women to channel the amazing within.

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