Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lovely leftovers

Sometimes I blog about cooking. And I think people may get the impression that nearly every day I'm in my kitchen, making some gorgeous, amazing meal. Um, not quite.

Honestly, I usually only do "real cooking"--and by this I mean, get down to business making a main dish from my meal plan (usually with a recipe)--a couple of times a week, if that. In between, we sometimes have hastily-thrown together meals like burritos or canned soup or chicken nuggets...and we very, very often have...


I am a passionate fan of leftovers. Yes, we often even have the exact same main dish two days in a row. (If it's extra good and made a lot, occasionally even THREE days in a row...though that's pushing it!)

Sunday I made Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Avocado Salsa. Yep, a "real meal." It looked better than it tasted, but overall it was decent. I purposefully made twice as much chicken as we'd eat in one meal. I will admit I may end up tossing the leftover salsa--a waste, but it was rather bland.

Monday I chopped up some of the extra chicken and made Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup, which is a recipe I come back to over and over (easy, cheap, and super duper delicious.) I hadn't put it on my menu plan; I just happened to have enough ingredients for half a recipe (which still makes a lot), and so I made it. (By the way, I add corn to it, and this time I topped it with avocado, cheese, low fat sour cream, tortilla chips & shredded cabbage.) Quick, easy, and a hit with The Engineer.

Tuesday we had leftover soup. It was still fantastic the second time, though we'd run out of tortilla chips to top it with. The kids preferred to eat canned soup. Because they're crazy.

Wednesday, I used the rest of the chicken in a pasta salad, which we'll have tonight too.

So, one meal with "real cooking" where I actually cooked meat and made a recipe I'd specifically shopped for...and four meals using leftover chicken. I'll admit, it's very rare for me to stretch a "real cooking" meal this far! But it's nice that it's working out that way, this week.

I have a hard time having patience with the concept of "not liking leftovers." It just seems like such a waste--not just a waste of food, but a waste of time--to make a whole new meal every night! As for the "boring" side of eating the same meal twice in a row, let's be honest--this is a consumer mentality that is worth examining. In many countries, they eat the same foods every day. If you were in Asia living on $1 per day, would you be sighing, saying, "Oh no, not rice again!!!"? And most meals are still good a few days days after you make them, so you can even stagger leftovers if you want to.

If it works for your family to make new meals daily, that's fine. But if you don't like having to think so hard, every day, about what's for might be worth having a good, honest household discussion about the merits of leftovers...lovely leftovers!


Kara said...

"Not liking leftovers" is one of my biggest pet peeves! I used to see this attitude all over Baby Center, and all I could think was, "are you people made of money?!" We eat every bit of everything I make - food is expensive, and I spend a lot of time making nice meals for my family, so gosh darnit, we are eating it!

SciFi Mama said...

In our house we call it "Pick your own supper night." I pull out all the left overs, and let Paige pick the ones she wants. She must pick at least 1 meat, 1 veggie, 1 starch. Anything else goes. Crazy combinations? Yep. But it's priceless to see my 4 year old pick mini hamburger, baked potato and grilled Brussels sprouts for her dinner. And she ate every bit of it.

Call Me Cate said...

We don't often do leftovers but we also eat quite simply most of the time. It's just the two of us so my husband grills up some meat while I make a simple side - usually fresh veggies of some sort. For us, it's also a nice way to sort of unwind a bit after work, the 15 minutes or so we spend making dinner together each night.

I have trouble getting Joe to eat leftovers so we've just adapted our cooking so that there rarely are any to deal with. We don't often throw food away or let it go to waste. But I also find that if I make enough expecting there to be extra (which I plan to take for lunch), he ends up just eating it until it's gone. It's almost more wasteful for me to cook extra because somehow he manages to eat it.

If we ever have kids though? That man is going to learn to let me cook with leftovers in mind.

SurvivorBlessing said...

Oh, yes, the subject matter of leftovers! A big issue in our house. I love leftovers! But there is a certain somebody that doesn't! The Hubby! HE does NOT like leftovers. At all!!! So I will have to show him your meal plan for this week - see if he likes it???
Also I think he got spoiled in childhood with a mom that cooked, and still does, EVERY night. Well, I am NOT her! That's for sure.

LOVE your ideas - please share in advance, so we can make the same things for dinner. Because I can NEVER think of what to make .... especially if I am never eating it!

Thanks for sharing! (I did think you are cooking every night a three course meal!) *hahaha*

Heidi said...

I love this and do it all the time! One of the things I like to do is buy whole chickens when they're cheap (a few times a year I can get them on sale for around $.59/lb). I roast a few chickens and then use the meat in enchilladas, pasta salad, casseroles, etc. I usually make one dinner the night after the chicken roast and then cube the rest of the meat and freeze it :)

Have you seen Quick Fix Meals (or something like that) on FoodNetwork with Robin Miller. She does what you're talking about. It's great!

My husband comes home for lunch pretty much every day so we pretty much HAVE to have leftovers on hand for him to eat for lunch, otherwise he just heats up a can of refried beans and makes a bean and cheese burrito. :)

Caroline said...

This gives me hope for the day when our family doesn't require six entire chicken boobies for just one meal. With no leftovers.


Our Scoop said...

I do the same exact thing! It's fun and you feel creative :) Plus, who wants to cook something new every night! Yikes. Isn't it amazing how inexpensive most meals at home end up being? I so have a hard time eating out when I think of this!!

Unknown said...

I don't really like leftovers. I get freaked out by food sitting around in my fridge for more than a day. The way I work around that is with my Foodsaver. I make several meals for the week on Sunday and then portion them out into Foodsaver bags. What will be eaten in the next few days stays in the fridge, vacuumed sealed so air can't get to it. The rest goes in freezer. The Foodsaver bags keep it nice and fresh so you can wait and have the leftovers later or my husband takes them to work.

Unknown said...

Personally, I'm a lot like you in this regard. I really cook 1-3 times a week and we eat leftovers the majority of nights. We have too many people going in too many directions (ok, really it's just me because I'm super duper busy and I leave the kids with my resident babysitter aka Becky my 13 yo daughter) in the evenings for me to cook every night.

I'm all for leftovers. My husband is not, so he fends for himself if he doesn't like what the rest of the clan makes. One redeeming thing about his coming home close to kids' bedtimes.

Sandra said...

This is one of the things that I can definitely say I have gotten better at over the years. When I was a young mother, I have to admit that many times leftovers stayed in the back of the fridge until they turned green and then I threw them out! But over the years I got smarter about buying AND using, and now I almost always use up leftovers. It feels good to not be wasting that food.