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Unburdening: Waste Not Want Not

October 22, 2014

Yesterday’s post reminded me that I was delinquent in finishing my series on unburdening the family meal. Since I undertook this challenge in September, we’ve covered a lot of ground, and I’ve posed solutions to many of the problems posed in the North Carolina State University study.

Problem: The “ideal meal” is hard to pull off.
Solution: There is no shame in simple one pot meals.

Problem: Healthier lean meats are expensive.
Solution: Cheaper fatty meats are delicious, just use less.

Problem: Fresh veggies can rot if not used quickly.
Solution: Frozen veggies are an awesome alternative.

Problem: Cooking takes a long time.
Solution: It gets faster with practice. Have realistic expectations.

Problem: The kids may reject new foods and cause chaos at the table.
Solution: Try a battle-tested approach that prevents conflict.

There were plenty of other problems identified in the study that I can’t solve. It’s hard to get around not having a clean, safe place for meal preparation. It’s hard to cook if you don’t have access to a pot or a stove.

Perhaps there are some good tips and tricks for preparing delicious food in a microwave, but I’m not equipped to provide those. Still, I found one last problem to solve, and that’s what to do with leftovers if the kids reject the meal and take the cereal option.

Here’s a quote from the original study,

Giselle, a single black mother of two, worked two part-time jobs to make ends meet. There was little room in the food budget to experiment with new or expensive foods. When it came to decide what to make for supper, Giselle played it safe. She explained, “Because I don’t want to cook something [they won’t like] because I’ll like waste the food. Right? Waste the food.

It would be hard to imagine someone who hates wasting food more than I do. Not only do we save our chicken carcasses for stock, but after I make stock I delight in eating all the stock vegetables. It’s one of those simple pleasures of life. Peanut butter jars get scraped clean. Bowls get licked. Stale bread is turned into bread crumbs. When food gets thrown away in our house, I consider it a tragedy.

All of which is to say that I feel like I can safely field this question.

The trick to introducing new foods that might not meet with kid approval is to have an exit plan. The first line of defense is to make sure that you yourself like the food. That way it can always be taken as lunches or eaten as is in the form of leftovers. The second line of defense is to get creative and find ways to use that same food in other preparations.

Let’s take something like broccoli rabe.

Up in this part of the world I discovered a dish called Greens and Beans. It’s usually made with escarole. I like using rabe. It seems to be pretty flexible. You like putting in pancetta, great. Want to make it vegetarian? Fine. No meat, but yes to the rich flavor of chicken broth? Go for it.

The point is that it’s a one dish meal in and of itself. Especially if you serve it with some nice bread or toast for soaking up some of the rich broth. Maybe your kids will like only the beans, or just eat the meaty bits. Who knows. But you don’t have to fight about it.

Day two, the leftovers can be heated and turned into a garlicky pasta sauce. You might want a pasta with plenty of nooks and crannies (like rotini) to pick up on the soft greens and brothy bits.

Day three, go to Stewarts, beat up some eggs, toss in some Cappiello ricotta and maybe a little grated parmesan cheese. Put them all together in a pan with some butter, and you’re on your way to having a delicious frittata.

And at any time, leftovers can be served for lunch or maybe even for breakfast. Why be a slave to tradition. Young Master Fussy often eats peanut butter with honey to start his day. Lately, I’ve been making Little Miss Fussy cheese quesadillas in the morning.

Some leftovers can be pureed, bound with an egg, dredged in flour and fried into fritters. A hearty pot of black eyed peas can on the second day be made into bean burgers.

Others leftovers can be chopped up and incorporated into a savory bread pudding. Roasted root vegetables with a bit of crumbled sausage would be a great candidate for this treatment.

Fried rice is a flexible dish, and many simple foods can take on a Chinese flavor once slathered with black bean sauce and a splash of toasted sesame oil. I knew Young Master Fussy loved fried rice, but I wasn’t sure if I could get him to eat a version chock full of slivered onions and cabbage. Without his knowledge, I made one that included these vegetables that are despised by Mrs. Fussy, and he ate it up.

That’s a win.

As far as getting kids to try new and expensive things? Forget about it. If they don’t like it, you’re likely in for a more decadent dinner than you originally planned. But even if they do like it, then your kids will be clamoring for expensive foods all the time. Trust me on this. One of Little Miss Fussy’s favorite foods is prosciutto. Fortunately, the other one is black beans and rice, so it kind of balances out.

For what it’s worth, I love coming up with creative uses for leftovers. So if you’re ever in a bind and left with something on hand that you just can’t figure out how to use up, just drop me a line. I’m here to help.

One Comment leave one →
  1. EPT permalink
    October 22, 2014 9:47 am

    You’re right on, on this Daniel, use what you have and put the thinking cap on. I also like to have a few things in my back pocket, like stuffed baked potatoes. I make 5 lbs. at a time, bake them off, put through a ricer, butter, cream, milk, pepper, salt…add cheese or whatever you like and pipe the potatoes (using a disposable piping bag) into the half shells, freeze and your good to go for quite a few meals.

    I, like you make my own chicken stock, usually when those inexpensive leg quarters come with the back attached, I just remove it and you get great stock, especially if you roast the parts first.

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