Zero Waste Dinner: Chinese Hamburger

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

Once,  I listened to a podcast about a working lunch which was served to a group of 40 world leaders who were gathering at the UN. Sam Krass, who had served as the Obama family’s personal chef, along with a team of other chefs, served these world leaders, most of whom were presidents of their respected countries, a dinner made of trash.

That’s right, the entire meal was made out of perfectly good food that was intended to be thrown away out of NYC restaurant kitchens.

We, as a culture, waste a lot of food. This includes my own kitchen.

This week, I have been noting ways to use Zero Waste Cooking strategies in my kitchen.

Are you familiar with Zero Waste Cooking? This is an term I encountered while pre-reviewing Erin Odem’s book, More Than Just Making It, which will be released in bookstores in September (affiliate link).

As far as I know, I haven’t encountered this exact term before, but the idea behind it is very familiar to me. Zero Waste is a strategy that my mother and grandmother often used in their kitchens to stretch the weekly food budget. It’s actually very common in kitchens around the world, although not so much in the U.S. these days.

The idea behind Zero Waste Cooking is to use every food to its fullest potential.

For instance, this lettuce. It’s not bad or rotten, but it’s wilted after spending several long days in the fridge. It would make a very sad salad.

What do you normally do with lettuce like this? Do you just chop it into a chewy salad?

I normally just do what my mom did: make Chinese hamburger for dinner. And soon, before the lettuce goes bad!

The really nice thing about this dish is that it’s easy to keep the other ingredients on hand. Frozen ground turkey, a box of beef Rice-A-Roni, butter, and water.

Isn’t it nice to have a back up plan for wilted lettuce??!

Of course, there are considerations to be made when trying to elimate wasted food in your kitchen. The first consideration is food safety. (And, food safety has changed over the years as the bacteria changes. For instance, you can’t rely on your grandma’s method for thawing meat on the counter anymore, folks.)

But, at least you can stretch some overlooked lettuce from the back of the fridge instead of throwing it away!


One-Pot Chinese Hamburger

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

Servings 4


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box Beef Rice-A-Roni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 head lettuce
  • reduced-sodium soy sauce optional


  1. Heat ground turkey in large skillet over medium heat until cooked.

  2. Add butter and rice-vermicelli mix and sauté over medium heat until vermicelli is golden brown, stirring frequently.

  3. Slowly stir in water and 1/2 bag seasonings (to lessen sodium), and bring to a boil.

  4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked.  Chop lettuce into bite sized pieces.

  5. Turn off burner, but keep pot on stove. Stir lettuce into pot and cover. Leave 1-2 minutes to allow lettuce to wilt.

  6. Plate, sprinkle with soy sauce, and enjoy!

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

Cookbook Review: Southern Pantry Cookbook

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

This review of The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen by Jennifer Chandler includes a FREEBIE RECIPE for Weeknight Red Beans and Rice! Don’t miss out!

I didn’t intend to buy this book. I was bored and flipping through cookbooks looking at the food photography was a way to pass the time while my husband shopped.

Now, I don’t impulse buy things.  I’m a thrifty person, and I normally think long and hard before I make a cookbook purchase. I read amazon reviews. I check my local library.  My cookbook shelf is reserved for a very select few permanent figures.

I bought this book upon first glance, and I’ve had ZERO regrets.


This book has nestled in comfortably among its peers on the shelf, but it hasn’t stayed on the shelf for very long! It’s extremely useful.

For instance, this delicious Weeknight Red Beans and Rice dish only took 20 minutes in its entirety. So easy and yummy!

For instance, this delicious Weeknight Red Beans and Rice dish only took 20 minutes in its entirety. So easy and yummy!


I have fallen in love with the idea of using existing pantry ingredients creatively.  I was already compiling the Non-Chef FOREVER Grocery List before this book–which will be ready early next week! Yay!


Weeknight Red Beans and Rice

(Or, like this photo, black beans and rice, because that’s what I had on hand.)


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb Andouille smoked sausage, sliced thinly
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinced and drained
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 4 cups brown rice


0. If you would rather use dried beans, put beans in water to the brim in a crockpot on low in the morning and allow beans to soak in water for 8 hours. While preparing dinner, rinse with water before adding .

1. Start cooking the rice per package instructions.

2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, warm oil. Add the sausage, onion, green pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in oregano, thyme, and bay leaf (or, if you were out of oregano and thyme like I was, substituting a tsp of Italian Seasoning mix was still absolutely yummy). Salt and pepper to taste, and add beans and stock.

4. Bring pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow flavors to meld for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Discard the bay leaf, and serve beans over rice.

TIP: If you are watching your carb intake, I have read that you can substitute black soy beans, which have a lower carb and higher protein trade-off.  Also, give cauliflower rice a try! 🙂