Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mom, there’s a Kitchen in my Apartment!: Conquering Leftovers Anxiety

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When I was kid, meal time just happened: it seemed sort of this instantaneous event where my mother would summon my sister and I from our rooms and there would be delicious food sort of miraculously at the table. As I got older, I realized that this seemingly magic trick actually required work, whether it was chopping vegetables for a stirfry, cooking the meat, washing and ripping lettuce for a salad, etc. 

Now that I’m even older still (I’d say “grownup” but as an elementary school teacher, I still retain enough enthusiasm for things like Sesame Street and Disney that I don’t know how “adult” I actually am) it sometimes seems like such a vicious cycle: but I already ate dinner yesterday, why do I have to decide again about what I’m going to eat? So time consuming.

Today is a day of leftovers. In the kitchen, I still have one last serving of the Bean and Red Chard Soup from last week, and one lone Apple Crumb bar (a ridiculous dent between my younger sister, my roommate and myself… not to mention the two pieces that I gave away to the awesome people who make my morning coffee. Share the love, man.) from last Tuesday. I am eating other leftovers (from last night!) stuffed in a tupperware, along with some strawberries for "dessert". Yum.

However, it is dangerous to simply bank on the fact that you’ll want to eat the food you ate yesterday in the same method and manner today. It becomes too easy to get bored (aww, man, that again?) no matter how delicious it was. Not to mention that reheating a product rarely elevates it in quality.

A few tips I’ve discovered to reclaim the “eh” potential in having leftovers.
  1. Go with the (liquid) flow. With something like soup, that’s not a big problem, as soup = liquid, mostly. With dryer things like pasta or rice, either mix in some additive sauce (pasta sauce, soy, butter) or drizzle the plate/bowl with some water. Something to revitalize the consistency.
  2. Love the spoon. If heating, don’t be afraid to heat for short periods of time and stir in between. This will allow all the warm bits to distribute themselves in the food, so you won’t have warm edges and an ice cold middle when you try to eat. No fun there.
  3. Spice is the spice of life. Food that has been stored often loses some of the snap and bite that it had when first served. Add some fresh ingredients (a small bit of fresh lettuce, grated carrot, chopped tomatoes… your mom will love that you’re eating vegetables!) or seasonings (fresh or dried herbs, soy sauce, heck even ketchup or butter) and the dish that seemed so dry (literally, see number 1) has new life!
  4. Same actor, different role. If you made hamburgers, turn it into a stirfry or pizza topping. Most things than be turned into a salad with the cunning addition of lettuce and bottled or fresh dressing. Magic!
  5. Make things you like! I’m not saying that you should eat chicken wings and mozzarella sticks for the rest of your life (that’s a express train to a spot on The Biggest Loser) but it stands to reason that if you aren’t jazzed about a meal the first time you eat it, putting it in tuperware and having it the next day doesn’t bode well.
Today I will be eating teriyaki chicken (using Soy Vay marinade, yum) with broccoli and mushrooms over rice. I made it last night in the haze of exhaustion from my new job—a miracle that I shopped, cooked, and even ate before I fell asleep—so hopefully I will be able to employ some of those techniques. Although I may have it cold; depends on if I can find the microwave ;o)

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! I use up my protein leftovers into toppings for a salad all the time. I'm glad I'm not the only person that does that.

    I will say that I'm not a huge fan of Bon Appetit magazine (having firmly been in the Gourmet Team before it folded) but the one thing I appreciate on the menu recipes, is that they often times add hints on the bottom of the recipes for "what to do with leftovers" which I think is great.

    I would actually just add that pasta and italian food is often better the second or third day, as the flavor have time to marry and merge.

    That said, if I really get bored of soemthing - especially if I've made a large portion of it - like lasagna or chicken pot pie, I often will portion it out, and then freeze the portions in individual plasticware. That way I can grab a meal anytime for work - thus cutting down my need to eat out as much or bring bad frozen dinners. Convenient food, not convenience food. That's my current mantra...