Celebrate Your Independence with Cookout Leftovers

After the fireworks have faded and the charcoal in the grill gone cold, you know what comes next at your 4th of July cookout: the annual distribution of the leftovers.  If you're a guest, you're eying that bowl of potato salad shyly, waiting to see if the host wants it.  Maybe you sneak a few cupcakes out on a paper plate, alongside a stack of hot dogs.  Or you're the hostess, and you're desperately trying to push off baked beans, seven layer dip, and bratwursts on overfed guests, while secretly nurturing fantasies of waking up on the 5th and having a breakfast of cold grilled meat and tortilla chips.

Whichever side of the grill you were on, you know that 4th of July is one of the great underrated holidays for leftovers.  Thanksgiving and Christmas, with their turkey, ham, and buckets of mashed potatoes, get all the glory, but Independence Day's mid-summer smorgasbord of backyard delicacies is not to be sneezed at.  But, of course, that leaves you with the same conundrum that characterizes the more famous holidays for leftovers; how does a health-conscious person reconcile the desire to eat all those leftovers with the need to stick somewhere close to the dietary high road?

First step--let yourself off the hook for what you ate at the actual cookout.  If you're eating well most of the time, there are worse things than indulging in some beloved treats on a national holiday.  The morning of July 5th is, literally, a new day.  So step forward with your head held high, secure in the promises of our Founding Fathers and confident in your own good choices as you try some options like those below.

- Wrap your reheated hot dogs in big leafs of Romaine lettuce instead of white hot dog buns.  Feeling ambitious?  Top your dog with some chopped tomato, fresh garlic, pepper, and sea salt.

- Take the fish and veggies off the skewers you grilled them on, and stir fry with some rice, coconut oil, any other available veggies, an egg, and some curry paste for an impromptu kedgeree.

- Replace your breakfast bagel with some of that potato salad, cooked carefully in a skillet for the potatoes to get crispy, and serve alongside a boiled egg and some freshly sliced tomato.

- Crumble your cooked burgers and add to some gluten-free or whole-grain pasta, along with some olive oil, fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce, and sautéed onions, garlic, and crushed red pepper.

- Just eat the baked beans already.  That's not the healthiest way to eat your legumes, but there are plenty of worse options and very few ways to clean up the cookout's relatively healthy stalwart.  If you have had enough meat for awhile, try serving the beans with some of summer's ripest, freshest veggies: pan-fried green beans, sautéed and seasoned squash or zucchini, and some roasted onions, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.