I feel a little silly about this post, because I know many of you are experts at making good use of the food that comes into your home. But this isn't something I've been especially good at. Things changed a bit when we moved to Mucky Boots and started growing our own vegetables: my mindset started to shift from "What's the recipe, go buy the ingredients" to "What's ready in the garden and how can I make use of it." But the fridge was still a place where leftovers found their own way to the back corners and died a slow, smelly death.
I am determined that this year, that's going to change. Part of it is trying to make better use of every food dollar. But the bigger part is out of respect for the food itself and the people who produced it, and out of recognition for how lucky we are to have it when so many in the world don't have enough. No, I'm not about to start packaging up my unwanted kale to send to the starving children in Africa. But I think I can do better with what we have.
Please forgive me if this all sounds like Leftovers 101 - but that's where I am: at the beginning. And the first challenge of the year was what to do with all the remains of our Christmas dinner. There were a lot of them, since Kim and I were on our own this year. Some things were obvious: we did a couple of days of reheated encore dinners, I made a batch of stock with the carcass of the turkey, and then a great turkey and vegetable soup. But there was still an awful lot of turkey, potatoes, gravy, squash and cranberry sauce left when New Year's rolled around.
Let me try to contain my glee as I tell you what I did.
Inspiration #1: Turkey croquettes. I took the last 4 cups of turkey meat, the last 2 cups of mashed potatoes and the last cup or so of gravy and whizzed them in the food processor until I got a pretty smooth mix. I added some green onions and a bit more seasoning, then formed it into croquettes and did a rice flour/beaten egg/smashed cornflake coating. 30 minutes or so in the oven and they were done, and didn't they go nicely with the leftover cranberry sauce! The best part is that I now have about 2 dozen of them in the freezer, for quick and easy dinners in the future.
Inspiration #2: Squash muffins. I have a killer gluten-free pumpkin muffin recipe that I make regularly, in a double batch so half can go in the freezer. So it occurred to me to replace the pumpkin puree with the leftover acorn squash, mashed into oblivion. I was worried about the seasonings: the maple syrup and cinnamon I had flavoured the squash with for Christmas dinner would go nicely in muffins, but I wasn't so sure about the thyme. But I tried it anyway, added a bit of streusel topping to compensate, and they were fabulous. More distinguishable from the pumpkin version than I had anticipated - a bit denser, sweeter, more squashy. Yum.
Like I said, Leftovers 101. But with the exception of about half-a-cup of cranberry sauce still lurking in the fridge, every bit of our Christmas dinner has been used.
Just call me Suzy Homemaker.