Over the years my family has dubbed me, “The Queen of Leftovers.”
Although my list of talents is not overly long, one talent I do have is that I can stand in front of a refrigerator filled with miscellaneous, mysterious leftover food items and envision how they can be reconfigured, transformed, and given a second chance.
Fortunately, Steve and Sarah are good sports when it comes to consuming said leftovers and always make every effort to be complimentary of whatever concoction I put in front of them.
I will have to admit, however, that a couple of times when my experiments went a little wacky, they had to diligently search through their line up of compliments to find something positive to say. To their credit, they have always succeeded, coming up with such winners as, “Wow, Mom, that was some really lovely parsley you sprinkled on that . . . um . . . food item.”
Generally speaking though, my leftover food offerings are often almost always usually edible. (Which is a great accomplishment, is it not?)
Here’s an example:
Last Sunday after the morning service, I stood staring into the depths of the fridge pondering what I could get on the table quickly so that I could move on more speedily to one of the highlights of my existence–the Sunday Afternoon Nap.
My perusings revealed two items of interest; the first of which was turkey kielbasa sausage and hash brown potatoes. (Which by the way, is a delicious, quick meal.)
I also spied a bowl of leftover turkey meat loaf spread over a layer of sliced, seasoned potatoes and baked—a wonderful, all in one meal.
My first impulse was just to throw both items in the microwave and then toss them on the table and let everyone help themselves to whichever leftover dish they wanted.
But then? Well, my Queen of Leftovers tendencies kicked in and I realized that with a wee bit more effort, I could make something a bit more palatable and lovely to look at.
So I heated a skillet, sprayed it with some Pam and added the contents of both bowls.
I figured that since they were both different permutations of meat and potatoes, it wasn’t like the flavors were going to clash or anything. (I also added a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce for extra flavor and liquidy-ness.)
(As I thought back on it later, I realized it wasn’t absolutely necessary to do this step; I could have started the re-heating process in the microwave instead, but my idea was to heat the food at a high-ish temperature for a few minutes in order to crisp the potatoes a little.)
Once everything was about 90% hot, I put the mixture in a casserole dish and brought out my Queen of Leftovers Secret Weapon: shredded sharp cheddar cheese. You can recycle a lot of food if it is disguised under a dusting of that lovely yellow stuff.
(Note: Back in the day, I would have covered the entire dish with cheese but I have found that a little dusting of it down the middle of the dish gives some nice color and flavor and cuts down on the calories.)
After sprinkling the whole conglomeration with parsley (my other Secret Weapon For The Disguising of Leftovers) it was all ready for the oven.
Five minutes later, lunch was ready.
Doesn’t look too bad, does it?
I added a vegetable and some muffins I had made earlier and we were eating (and then napping) in no time at all.
It may seem an odd thing to get satisfaction from such a mundane task but I truly do love the creativity involved in taking food that might otherwise have gone to waste and making something newish with which to nourish my family.
We are strong believers in meals eaten together as a family and when a meal happens to consist of budget-conscious, reconfigured leftovers? Well, to me that just makes the experience all the sweeter.
Speaking of budgets and food, I was just reminded of the following story.
You all know how much I love thrift stores. Well, a few years ago, I was in a Goodwill and they had a huge stack of bread, muffins and rolls that had been donated by a grocery store because they were a day old. And they were all free! Of course, I grabbed a couple of items and was so happy about finding the bargain.
Later that evening, I served some of the rolls at dinner remarking casually that I had “gotten them at the thrift store.”
In my mind, of course, that line made perfect sense but when I caught a glimpse of Sarah’s horrified face, I realized what she must have been thinking.
“Okay. My mom has definitely gone over the edge with her thrift store shopping. Now she is buying our FOOD second-hand?”
She was very relieved to hear the rest of the story!
So although I don’t usually obtain my food from second-hand sources, I have learned the joy of taking the food I have and giving it a second chance.
And that’s almost as good.