A Menu is helpful
I encourage the girls to make menus and shopping lists while helping with meal planning and cooking. I think it is good for them and helps them to think things through a week at a time. If the family or even just the person in charge of a meal is going to be gone or busy for most of a day, the cook must learn to adjust the menu to accommodate that. If we are planning for guests, extra food must be bought and prepared.
But Not Always
There are times however, when what is on the menu is not practical or the best answer. Two examples come readily to mind. One is when there are leftovers in the refrigerator. As a rule, we try to use up leftovers before starting something new. This helps to control food waste. Leftovers make good lunches, but sometimes there is just a lot, or we don’t want to mess up the kitchen in the middle of the day. At those times, we may need to have leftovers for supper.
What Do You Have On Hand?
The second scenario is when we have a lot of fresh produce on hand. Sometimes this is because someone gave it to us, (we don’t often refuse fresh produce) or because we gathered from the garden. Sometimes it’s because mom found a really good sale at the grocery store and got carried away. Please don’t tell me you have to fix tacos tonight because that’s whats on the menu when we have fresh green beans and corn on the cob on hand.
On those types of nights, we have a refrigerator or a garden supper. Sometimes both at once. We clean all the leftovers out of the refrigerator, see what’s in the garden, and try to make something creative for supper.
How This Happens
Tonight was one such night. It was Catherine’s turn to fix supper, but she didn’t have her menu for the week done yet, and we had not gone shopping yet. “Mom, what should I fix for supper?” she asked. I really didn’t know. I was busy and wanted to focus on what I was doing. However, I also want the girls to enjoy cooking and have good, not frustrating memories of being in the kitchen. So I told her to check for hamburger and to thaw a couple of pounds. I told her to chop up an onion and cook it with the meat and I would be in there. You can almost always figure something out when you start by browning hamburger and onion together. That gave me time to bring my project to a good stopping point, and to think ahead of what we could cook. As it turns out, we had so much stuff on hand that dinner just kind of came together.
The first thing I found were green zebra tomatoes Joseph had brought home from the farm where he works. These pretty tomatoes are ripe when they are green and yellow. They are super sweet and fun to eat. There was corn on the cob the girls had traded for bread at Harbor Market. We had red and orange tomatoes in our garden and peppers and cucumbers in the refrigerator. I found a few leftovers and I had made bread this morning.
Tonight’s No Menu Meal
So here’s what we fixed. For the main dish, we made a sloppy joe type meat by adding spaghetti sauce to the hamburger and onions. From the refrigerator, we added some chopped peppers, a little leftover spaghetti squash, and a half can of black olives. We parboiled some of the fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped them. All of this went into the meat mixture and it cooked while we fixed everything else. For supper, we served it open faced on the fresh bread from this morning. It was amazing and so full of body.
We also sliced up some of the tomatoes and made a pretty tomato platter with red, orange and green tomatoes. Catherine sliced up some cucumbers and soaked them in vinegar and water. We also cooked corn on the cob.
I think this would have been a very nice meal even if it had been planned, but it wasn’t. It just came together by using what we had on hand. Catherine and I had a good time in the kitchen. We both grew in our creativity and she has another good memory of cooking in the kitchen.
And leftovers? There was a little bit of the meat mixture left that we will warm up and give to John tomorrow for his lunch. The cost? It was very minimal. We cooked two pounds of hamburger, used a jar of spaghetti sauce, a half can of olives that someone had left in the refrigerator. we also used two loaves of homemade bread. Everything else was garden produce – either ours or shared with us for free. That fed eleven of us with enough for John’s lunch.
The kids love these type of meals and say they are always better than the planned ones. I love that we are so blessed that we can put together such a bountiful meal, eliminate waste, and know that my family was well nourished.
What did you fix for supper the last time there was no planned meal? How do you handle leftovers or a surge in garden produce? Please share your ideas and insights in the comment section below.
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