Leftover Lunch: Fourth of July Edition

barbecue, fourth of july If you celebrated the fourth of July this past weekend, you probably had a cook-out, and if you had a cook-out, you probably have some leftovers.  And if you have delicious leftovers, you probably don't want to let them go to waste. If you're stumped, try out some of these ideas, or get inspired to come up with something new.

Grilled Meat and Vegetables:

  • Sandwiches: This may seem obvious, but using pre-grilled meat and vegetables takes the work out of making a beautiful, work-intensive sandwich.
  • Tacos: Shred your grilled meat, and add it to sautéed peppers and onions. For vegetables, slice into small strips.  Serve with fresh vegetables and whatever fixings you like.
  • Quesadillas: Same as above, but add cheese.
  • Soups, stir-fries, salads, pastas, omelettes, and chilis: Add whatever you've got to anything that could use the smoky, complex grilled flavor of what you've got on hand.
  • If you've got leftover corn, try some of these ideas.

    barbecue, leftovers, fourth of july, chicken

Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns:

  • There are always options when it comes to leftover bread, but consider making bread pudding, croutons, or bread crumbs for future use.
  • I love making grilled cheeses on hamburger buns-- invert so that the insides of the bun get crispy.

Fruit chunks:

  • Freeze it, and blend it into smoothies or use in place of ice cubes.
  • Puree to make a chilled, fruity soup.
  • Make sangria! (Not for lunch, perhaps, but why not a cocktail after work?)

fruit, fourth of july, leftover

What do you like to make with your cook-out leftovers?

For more Leftover Lunch ideas, click here.

What to Pack for your Fourth of July Picnic

Beachfront house or barbecue event: check. Fireworks display: check. Blanket to sit on: check. What's left but to pack up your picnic basket? With all your Fourth of July planning you may not have time to think of what is best for your basket. So to help you out, here's a list of foods, ingredients and tips to pack with you for your perfect picnic.

Depending on how far away you're going for this picnic, you may want to pack your ingredients separately so that your salad and sandwiches don't wilt or get soggy. Chop the lettuce, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes and keep them in separate containers until you get to your picnic site. Do the same with your sandwich ingredients: pack and store your sliced ham or turkey and cheese separately until you're ready to concoct the perfect sandwich. Don't forget the spicy mustard or homemade mayo to add zest!

Side salads are also perfect for picnics. Try for a 3-bean salad, potato salad or this wonderful bulgar wheat and watermelon salad which is light and refreshing and easy to eat. You have options of eating right out of your containers or serve on crackers or lettuce.

Instead of chips and salsa or sour cream-based dips, try for fresh cut vegetables and olive tapenade for healthier alternatives. Sliced cheese and crackers are also great finger foods to take with you.

Sliced or cubed watermelon (even spiked!) is a perfect snack or dessert to pack with your picnic. It's a healthy and juicy way to stay cool when sitting out in the sun. Sliced bananas, apples and grapes are also easy to package and store in your cooler or basket.

- Be sure to stay hydrated and bring along water or a gallon jug of iced mint tea with you for your picnic. Even if it's heavy, you'll be glad you made the extra effort. No one likes to be dehydrated from the summer sun.

Don't forget to pack a plastic bag to store all your trash as well as hand wipes or cloth napkins to keep your fingers clean from all the noshing you'll be doing. Lay your blanket out and you'll be all set for a perfect Fourth of July picnic!

Photo: Nico Paix on Flickr

Happy Meatless Monday, July 4th!

Recently, people in America and all over the world have begun to embrace the Meatless Monday movement, a project designed to encourage less meat consumption due to the ill effects of meat on our bodies and on the environment. But can we still celebrate Meatless Monday on a holiday that's all about eating abundant hot dogs and hamburgers fresh off the grill? 

It's a bit ironic that July Fourth falls on a Monday this year, as Mark Bittman points out in his column last week in the New York Times.  Bittman's article brings up the important point that we have come to revere protein to the extent of extreme overconsumption - Americans eat at least twice as much protein, mostly from animal products, than we actually need. And on a meat-focused holiday like the Fourth of July, that protein obsession is emphasized even more strongly.

Eating meat is also a difficult habit to quit. Not only have our taste buds become trained to enjoy the taste of meat, our digestive systems, the body's second pleasure receptor for food after the tongue, also crave animal proteins, so even meat substitutes like veggie burgers don't always satisfying the urge. However, excessive consumption of meat has been linked to numerous ailments such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer, so it's definitely an urge worth fighting.

That's why Johns Hopkins and Columbia University teamed up to create the Meatless Mondays movement in 2003. Since then, it has spread from dinner tables at home all the way to entire towns. Aspen, Colorado, recently announced that it was becoming the nation's first Meatless Monday community, and many public schools are also adopting the trend to provide no-meat meals on Mondays. Read more about its history here.

This Fourth of July, don't abandon the tradition! While Independence Day may not be the best time give up meat entirely, there are lots of healthy options you can try this holiday besides just veggie dogs and burgers. Have you thought about grilling a thin-crust vegetarian pizza, or adding some in-season zucchini or asparagus to your holiday plate? Filling up on a delicious salad can also keep you from over-doing with the meat.

Even if you don't forego the meat this year, this Fourth of July is a good time to turn our attention to the amount of meat we really do eat and to reflect on conscious consumption.

Will you observe Meatless Monday this Fourth of July?

Photo: Erica Morris

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Fourth of July

Elementary school biology has taught us all that we need protein to grow healthily, but the idea that protein absolutely needs to come from animal products is quickly becoming a figment of the past. With more and more Americans adopting a more vegetarian lifestyle, for health and ethical reasons alike, and Meatless Mondays gaining speed across the world, plant-based alternatives are rapidly replacing animals proteins in our everyday diets.

However, as Mark Bittman points out in his New York Times article "Fourth of July: Tough Day For Meatless Monday," our upcoming holiday may prove to be a wrench in the vegetarian system, as outdoor grilling has become something of a Fourth of July tradition over the years. Many of us know the serious health risks of eating too much red meat, not to mention the harmful effects the environment, the farmers and the animals themselves.

But, as Bittman discovers, it's not just the taste of animal proteins that keeps us eating, but something deeper, literally. A recent study suggests that our stomachs, too, enjoy the animal products we eat, a sensation that is completely separate from our tongues, causing us to crave these proteins even more. And now that the Fourth of July falls on a Meatless Monday this year, he idea of combating the looming hotdogs and hamburgers seems virtually impossible.

And, if we thought matters couldn't get any worse, Brian Palmer points out, in his New York Times Op-Ed article "Fire Up the Grill, Not the Atmosphere," it's not just the meat we have to worry about this weekend, but the grill as well. As cooking certain foods releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the transport of such foods, we need to find a more environmentally conscious way to prepare our meals.

Luckily, Palmer doesn't ask us to completely abandon grilling for the Fourth of July, but rather he offers accessible, yet effective alternatives to our normal cooking routine. Instead of boiling potatoes, which wastes a lot of energy heating the water instead of cooking the actual potatoes, Palmer suggests a "direct-heat" approach, such as frying over the heat, to cook the potatoes thoroughly and efficiently.

For our much-loved grills, Palmer recommends charcoal briquettes, made from scrapped wood that would otherwise go to waste, as their effect on our environment's climate change is much lower than regular charcoal or propane. Lastly, instead of using that overheated oven to bake dessert pies or cakes, why not try these no-bake vegan truffles, or, as Palmer advises, try grilling fresh fruit, such as peaches or pears, on the waning coals for a healthier and more green dessert.

With these great alternatives, we do not need to sacrifice too much to enjoy our Fourth of July holiday, but both Bittman and Palmer recommend sticking to your Meatless Monday routine and forsaking meat completely for the most environmental effectiveness. Instead enjoy a delicious plate of rice and beans to get your protein fix or try these healthy alternatives to traditional grilling.

To read Mark Bittman's article in full, click here, and to read Brian Palmer's article in full, click here.

Photo: Hryck.