"Leftovers" Creative Genius
A Way of Life
Most people love coming home to a freshly cooked meal. As the door opens, they expect to meet aromas of fried chicken or a grilled steak, freshly mashed potatoes or broiled salmon.
Now perhaps mom or the wife did not get a chance to come home early. She worked late at work or got stuck in traffic. She peeks into the refrigerator and finds a piece of steak left over, two dollops of potatoes and just enough peas and carrots to feed everyone. "Great!" she thinks, "We'll have leftovers."
However, the kids break through the door like gangbusters, and hubby has envisioned those lamb chops all day long. He comes into the doorway, unloosening his tie at the same time. "Hi honey, do I smell those lamb chops broiling?" You try to sound upbeat and know you are really "perpetrating a fraud". "No, sweetheart but that steak you loved last night is warming up."
He halts at a screech and has already decided the drive-in is a better bet. The kids are close on his heels. You turn off the pilots on your stove and sit to wait for them to get home with your burger and fries.
Sound familiar? Tell me something. What is so wrong with leftovers? When I was growing up, they were a way of life. My mom refused to throw away food. If it was called "leftover", it was edible.
The Reality of "Day Old" Food
When food is properly stored in a timely manner in the refrigerator, it is perfectly safe to eat them. In my opinion, certain foods are even more delicious the next day. For example, most people will tell you they love pasta the next day. Lasagna, macaroni & cheese, spaghetti & meat sauce are all awesome.
They are all delicious. When heated correctly so they don't dry out, steak and baked chicken are great. I do agree,however, that fresh vegetables lose nutrients and flavor. Many times I'll make those fresh. However, if the meal was great to begin with, I find my family always looks for something left the next day; even if it's a chicken wing!
Nowadays, people don't mind running to the "day old" bakery. The term "day old" is the same as "leftover" in case you didn't pick that up. Nothing wrong with it...no mold, still soft. Warm up those rolls and add butter and "mmmm". And think of the savings! If you haven't tried it, please don't knock it, as the phrase goes.
What's That Red Stuff?
My mom was the Queen of the leftovers. As I said, if it had a hint of vitamins and didn't move, it went on the plate and not in the garbage. Please understand, it was not two or three weeks old (thank goodness); just a few days. But, I still don't believe that spaghetti and beets belong on the same plate. A piece of steak, a small piece of chicken and OH NO...is that liver???!!! Yes. All on the same plate.
I was the kid who was hungry all the time. I cried if I couldn't get thirds. But on the night we "cleaned out the frig", I told myself I could last without food until the morning. If you haven't heard, the "baby boomer" moms didn't believe in skipping meals. So, I sat, and sat, and sat, listening to the clock tick. Perhaps if I sat at the table long enough, she would feel sorry for me and let me leave. Not! Every gagging morsel went down.
I can laugh about it now, but I still remember thinking "when I grow up I will not make my kids go through this torture. They're getting fresh meals every day. And, I won't make them eat beets. Ever!" Well, LOL, guess who got cloned by her mom?
I think it's not so much the leftover, but what you do with it. For instance, take those boiled potatoes, mash them, add cheese and some garlic, salt and pepper. Voila! Cheese potatoes. Left over chicken? Dice the pieces, add mozzarella cheese and pasta sauce. Serve with pasta and whip up a salad.
Slice that leftover steak into strips and open a jar of mushroom gracy. Serve with rice and add some quickly steamed broccoli.
For those Southerners who love grits? Heat them in a pan with sauteed onions until they are softened. Add a little salt and pepper and you can add cheese, or pasta sauce and serve with those breakfast sausages or bacon. Or, if it's brunch, serve them with sliced steak.
With a little imagination, you can come up with wonders. My daughter peeks into the frig and says "there's nothing here to eat." In about 30 minutes she's out of her room with "what smells so good?!" I tell her, "the nothing that was in the frig.!"
Educate and Stay Positive
Children need to learn early their way around the kitchen. You can teach them how to make easy, healthy meals, but also as important is the importance of not being wasteful. There is absolutely nothing wrong with serving leftovers.
However, whatever way you train them, that is how they will grow up. Emphasize the importance of wise shopping, saving money on meals and time in the kitchen. The drive through should not be a way of life. Those foods contain too much sodium and additives, don't fill you up long and rob your pockets. I'll bet there are many people who will attest to the fact that even a homemade leftover meal is better than a greasy burger (and they change that grease once a week).
Take a Brave Step
My mother taught me well. She was really great at this and with three children and a husband, she had to be. I save lots of money which is not a bad thing the ways things are going now. I enjoy the challenge of serving up something different. Still nutritious, healthy and flavorful.
Perhaps you "don't do leftovers", or swore them off as a growing child. However, I encourge you to just try it once and see. You'll be surprised how creative you too can be. Your family just might come in asking "any leftovers today?" I could be wrong, but you won't know if you don't try.
And...watch and see how long those groceries last!
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