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

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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! 🙂


Chickpea Curry Over Brown Basmati Rice

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Something magical happens as the onion and the curry powder bloom over the heat. Flavors come to life, and the stress of the world melts away. These vegan curried chickpeas over brown basmati rice feed body, mind, and soul. It’s one of my favorite recipes, in case you can’t already tell.

I was on the fence about writing about this.  Google chickpea curry and a TON of identical recipes will come up, and mine isn’t all that different.  One of those was what inspired me to cook this for the first time several years ago, but as time passed, the recipe changed.  Now I use fewer ingredients and have upgraded to brown basmati rice (which you can now buy at Aldi grocery stores!).


Chickpea curry is one of our favorite recipes, and it served to be a huge inspiration to writing about food in the first place.  I clearly remember the day: screaming fussy baby and we’re STARVING.  My husband volunteered to do the cooking for the evening (he was that hungry haha), so I’m calling instructions over the partition between the living room and the kitchen while doing the mom-things that needed to be done.

Me: “Are the onions in the skillet opaque yet?”

Adam: “Yes. Now what do I do?”


I shout off the next several ingredients off the top of my head, including where to find them in the kitchen, reminding him to shake the can of coconut milk.  I ended up coaching him through the entire dinner process off the top of my head from the other room.

Now maybe that’s something that lots of people can do.  I know several of the women in my family could probably cook a favorite recipe blindfolded.  Adam, however, was apparently impressed.


After seven years of marriage, I managed to surprise him by doing something unexpected. And that’s a pretty good feeling.

There’s something about getting encouragement from someone you love, someone who knows you better than anyone else, that’s just the little push you need to try something new 

Both Non-Baker and my site broke triple digits in views this month.  We’ve moved beyond just the friends and family who feel loving obligation to read what we write into a small community of kind readers who happened to stop by.

(In case you didn’t know, my sister, Anna, and I realized that we were both flirting with the idea of starting very different food blogs, so we started at the same time.  Check out Anna’s blog sometime!  It’s great!)

So why do I share a recipe that’s been done before on the internet?  Because sharing a recipe is also showing a little piece about who I am.

So enjoy chickpea curry.  Its texture is absolutely perfect, not to mention its flavor.


  • 1 C brown basmati rice
  • 2 1/4 C water
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1  14 oz can coconut mil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp hot chili paste (sriracha or other  brand)
  • 2 14 oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)


  1. Cook the rice per package instructions.
  2. Start the onion cooking in olive oil over a medium heat in a large deep skillet.  Stir occasionally.
  3. When onion is opaque, add curry powder.  Allow curry to cook with onion for about a minute to meld the flavors.  Add the cayenne pepper.
  4. Give the can of coconut milk a shake, as it naturally separates.  Pour into the pan.
  5. Add the honey and chili paste.  Let the sauce bubble for a minute or so. (Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Some curry powder and chili paste is more mild than others.)
  6. Drain cans of chickpeas and dump into curry sauce.  Stir to combine.
  7. Serve curry sauce over rice in bowls.  Enjoy!

Something magical happens as the onion and the curry powder bloom over the heat. Flavors come to life, and the stress of the world melts away. These vegan curried chickpeas over brown basmati rice feed body, mind, and soul. It's one of my favorite recipes, in case you can't already tell.

Tomatillo Ranch Chicken

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Tangy tomatillo ranch smothered over chicken and rice! While the chicken and rice are served immediately after cooking, the sauce is cold, which makes this a very enjoyable  summer dish.This creamy dish is quick and easy to make. It makes dinner time a breeze! Exactly the relief we need in this Kansas summer heat!


This recipe provided an opportunity for self-growth. A new ingredient, and an unfamiliar flavor. Oh, I am so glad I embraced the tomatillo goodness, because the tangy ranch sauce just hit the spot!

Tomatillos are common in the Deep South. However, I was unfamiliar with this ingredient when I ordered from it as a part of my weekly produce co-op basket. I’ve never even seen the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”  Basically, I had no idea what to do with it.

Tomatillos are basically the flavor of a sweet lemon. Peel off the husk and rinse off the sticky film that is commonly found underneath. Handle like a tomato.

Let’s talk about the ranch seasoning, because seasoning mixes are one of my favorite things, and this ranch is certainly the most commonly used mix in my kitchen.  Powdered ranch seasoning is extremely versatile to be used on both vegan and non-vegan dishes without adding tons of unwanted extra calories or sodium.


While fresh herbs have a better taste, this dry mix is much more convenient to have on hand.

Firstly, rub the the chicken in the ranch mix and get it into the oven.  While the chicken roasts, put together the tomatillo ranch sauce and cook the rice.


-3 medium chicken breast

-1 tbsp homemade ranch mix (see ingredients below)

-1 c white rice, uncooked

-2 c water

-1 C mayo

-1/4 C milk

-2 cloves garlic

-1 C fresh cilantro

-3 medium tomatillos

-2 tbsp homemade ranch mix
Homemade Ranch Mix:

-1 tsp Black Pepper

-1 tbsp Parsley, dried

-1/2 tbsp Garlic Powder

-1/2 tbsp Onion Powder

-1 tsp Dried Dill
1. Top raw chicken with ranch mix and put in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes until fully cooked.

2. Cook rice per package directions.

3. Combine mayo, milk, garlic, cilantro, tomatillos, and 2 tbsp ranch mix in a food processor until creamy.

4. Slice chicken into strips. Spoon rice into 3-4 bowls. Top rice with chicken and sauce. Enjoy immediately.


After I made this, I just realized a vegetarian or vegan version using this sauce could be amazing!  Unfortunately, my leftover sauce was left out, and I had to throw it out.  Someday, I will figure this out.

Tangy tomatillo ranch smothered over chicken and rice! While the chicken and rice are served immediately after cooking, the sauce is cold, which makes this a very enjoyable  summer dish.This creamy dish is quick and easy to make. It makes dinner time a breeze!