The Art of Leftover Surprise

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook celebrates leftovers. Yes, even the tiny bits. There’s always soup or some complex reintroduction, but there’s also a bowl, a tortilla, and some imagination. After a travel week, there’s inevitably more food in my house than when I left (looking at you TPC’s Mom).

Summer Thanksgiving Feast

Summer Thanksgiving Feast

You see, I am Southern. Culturally, this means my mother has to feed the Juniors as if they were on the brink of starvation at all times. Fortunately for my newly minted vegetarian, I am from a farming family, so this means approximately 20 vegetables are served at any given meal. This may sound a bit exaggerated, but it really is not.

Cucumbers and Onions

Cucumbers and Onions

So I return from trips to find various bits and pieces. I’ve learned to accept this, even as my OCD self yearns to see the back of my fridge. With an extreme case of jet-lag and “event kennel cough” (my new favorite term, not one I coined myself), complex repackaging of food was not in the cards.

A lot of little leftovers can add up to a whole meal.

A lot of little leftovers can add up to a whole meal.

I opened the fridge, laid out the dishes, offered some tips, and let the Juniors put together meals. There were beans of different stripes, rice, tomatoes, cheese, tortillas, cooked apples, bagged salad. The Eldest went Mexican, using her tortilla like a chapati to pick up her food. We made a quick Mexican salad dressing to toss on the salad (salsa verde, juice of 1/2 lime, couple teaspoons of sour cream, stir), and she was set.

Mexican Salad Dressing: Simple and Tangy

Mexican Salad Dressing: Simple and Tangy

The Youngest made Hoppin’ John from black-eyed peas, rice, corn, tomatoes, and cheese. She dipped her cucumbers into the Mexican salad dressing.

The lesson: kids don’t have some preconceived notion of what should and should not be paired, or what constitutes a “real” meal. What a gift, to be without boundaries on your culinary creativity. If the combo tastes bad, don’t eat it again. Simple really.

Leftover corn mixed with a diced roasted yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and a fresh sweet pepper.

Leftover corn mixed with a diced roasted yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and a fresh sweet pepper.

And there was enough corn leftover to turn into a simple topping for the salmon the next night. Genius. Lunch, solved. The kids, happy and full of vegetables. My fridge, clean. How do you manage small bits and pieces of leftovers? Post a comment below today! I’m waiting.

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On Friday, The Tower of Bacon.

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Punt!, Recipes

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