Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers

My goal for the past year has been to throw out less leftovers. Waste not, want not – that is the saying, isn’t it? For some reason though, no matter how hard I try or how often I serve leftovers in one form or other, at the end of every week there are more glass bowls filled with leftovers lining the shelves of the fridge than I started with.

Don’t over simplify this and suggest I just make less initial food so there wouldn’t be any leftovers in the first place. That isn’t an option. Grace takes them to work, Zeb takes them to school, and I do get some really great ‘Leftover Makeover’ concoctions that in some cases turn out better than what I first started with. So less is not the point. The point is the quantity of leftovers in my fridge increase the more I use them.

Now I am the first person to take responsibility when I do something wrong, or at least I try. But, I don’t believe I should take all the blame for this. I’m not certain and I certainly wouldn’t quote me on this, but I do believe there is some sort of “Law” out there about the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers. But if for some strange reason this hasn’t been discussed/discovered yet, I am right now taking claim to it – Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers.

Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers states that the harder you try to get rid of leftovers–the more effort you put into using up what at first try didn’t get eaten, the more leftovers you will accumulate until eventually they spoil and end up being thrown out, thus canceling out any intentions of the initial goal to get rid of your leftovers before they spoil.

I know, I know! You are probably wondering how I ever came up with such a thing. After all, correct me if I’m wrong…isn’t the point of cooking with leftovers, to “eliminate” the leftovers – not to make more?

That’s what I thought! I knew I couldn’t have been wrong all these years, but then again I admit that 9 out of 10 times when I cook with leftovers, I end up making even more leftovers. This obviously doesn’t happen when I “reheat” leftovers and serve them in their original form. No, then, and pretty much only then, I truly do either eliminate or at the very least make a dent in them. The trouble starts when I use leftovers in a “makeover” dish. This is when I find myself adding to the ever growing stacks of glass storage dishes layered one on top of another as high as the eye can see on every shelf of the fridge.

Let me share with you my latest example.

Thursday I made corned beef with boiled potatoes and fried cabbage for dinner. At the end of the meal I had three bowls to go in the fridge. One bowl with the extra corned beef, one bowl with the leftover potatoes, and a small bowl of fried cabbage. Plus I had half a head of cabbage still in the fridge that I didn’t use for dinner.

Friday I decided to try to use up the corned beef in a new meal. I made Chicken Reuben Roll-ups with Mornay Sauce. Plus I used the leftover boiled potatoes and made a Mashed Potato Casserole. Perfect, I could use up two of the leftovers in one shot. Well, things didn’t work out quite as I planned.

At the end of the meal we had leftover Chicken Reuben Roll-ups, Mornay Sauce, and Mashed Potato Casserole – three new bowls. Two bowls came out of the fridge, three bowls went back in. I was already losing ground.

Oh, and just when I think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does. Many a time when I use leftovers to make a new meal (a ‘makeover’), I don’t even use up all the old leftovers in the process. This leaves me with not only all the new glass storage dishes to hold the makeover leftovers, but also all the old ones holding the original leftovers. Albeit some of the old leftover dishes are possibly half empty or may have been transferred to smaller dishes, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are more leftovers now than there were in the first place.

So, back to my Chicken Reuben Roll-up makeover meal. In the process of making the Chicken Reuben Roll-ups, I didn’t use up all the corned beef so there was still that dish. Oh, and although I did use up all the boiled potatoes in the Mashed Potato Casserole, the casserole called for 6 slices of cooked bacon. I couldn’t very well just fry up 6 slices, so a pound of bacon got cooked and crumbled and what didn’t go into the casserole, went into another glass bowl.

So, I started out with 2 glass bowls coming out of the fridge to use up, and put five back in. It’s no wonder there’s never any space in the fridge and this does justify why Hubby can never find anything in there either (and here I just thought that was a man thing – don’t tell him that though, I’d never live it down).

But, not to be discouraged, today I decided to use up the remaining corned beef and the rest of the cabbage in Corned Beef and Coleslaw Sandwiches. At the end of the meal there was one sandwich left and some coleslaw. Two bowls came out, two bowls went back in. Okay, no gain, but then again no loss either.

Now, there aren’t enough leftovers for a meal for the four of us, so guess what? That’s right, tomorrow I’m making something new. Sure Grace will take some of the leftovers on Monday to work and Zeb might be persuaded to take some to school, but that will just make the leftovers even smaller, thus not enough for a meal for three, then not enough for two, then Everyone Will Be Sick Of Eating Them And They Will Get Pushed To The Back Of The Fridge Until Weeks From Now I GET SO FRUSTRATED WITH HAVING NO SPACE TO PUT ANY LEFTOVERS THAT I TEAR EVERYTHING OUT OF THE FRIDGE AND FIND THEM ALL MOLDY AND GROSS AND END UP THROWING THEM DOWN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL CURSING UNDER MY BREATH THE WHOLE TIME ABOUT ‘WASTE NOT, WANT NOT!’

Whew! Well, I feel better. Sure I didn’t really solve anything here today, but at least now I can blame it all on Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers and perhaps come to accept that some things are just never going to change. And hey, I got five great new recipes out of my corned beef and boiled potato makeovers, it doesn’t get much better than that. And for this I am – Simply Grateful.

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Kitchen Burnout

I was nearing  the end of another long, tiring day on my feet in the kitchen. I’d started the prep work for this meal more than 24 hours earlier and with the kitchen a total disaster area, the end was not in sight. The aroma that filled the house that had once made my taste buds tingle, now made me want to hurl. I was exhausted, anxious, and regretting ever wanting to undertake such a labor-intensive endeavor. Yep, just another day in the life of this Simply Grateful Housewife.

Grace texted me from school, preparing to head out to dinner with friends, and casually asked how I was. Wrong question. She got a lot more than she wanted in response.

So, how are things going?

If this isn’t the best meal I’ve ever made, I am never cooking again. We can eat out every night from now until eternity!

I’m sure it will be, you worry too much.

So I sent her a picture.

Those look good.

Well it took me more than four hours to make them and I’m still working on sauces.

I’m sure it will be great.

It had better be or I’m NEVER cooking again! We can eat processed everything!

Ok, I understand.

I’m serious. I’ll quit.

Yes, my day had been a bit stressful. Making a new meal can be that way, especially when you’re unsure of how things are going to turn out and your main taste-tester (Grace) is out the house having a life.

Who said she was allowed to have a life anyway? Probably her father, he’s always undermining me in some way or other.

As much as I enjoy making new meals, typically I pick ones that I’ve tasted at one time or other. Not this particular day, not this particular meal. No one in our house had ever tasted it. No one had even considered ordering it off a menu. In fact, no one, besides myself, even had an idea of what this meal consisted of. I saw it on the Food Network (those darn heretics!). I really should smash every television in the house, or at the very least, cancel our cable.

So here I was, spending two days in the kitchen working on a meal that I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, that no one who I was serving it to had any idea of what to expect, and now the mere smell of it was turning my stomach. Things were definitely not looking good.

I stood at the stove, mixing the ingredients for the final sauce I wanted to try, dreading the moment Hubby would be home and I’d have to start serving. The moment of truth was not something I looked forward to. If I hadn’t invested so much time and effort into this meal, I probably would have just scrapped it and heated up some leftovers. As it was, I pushed on.

When the last of the sauces were done and simmering on the stove, I took a moment and sought refuge on the couch in the great room. The aroma was everywhere so a reprieve from that was not to be found. I’d have snuck out for a walk but Hubby was expected at any moment. At least it would all be over soon.

I heard the groaning of the garage door as Hubby’s car turned into our driveway and he honked his horn so I could let Bell out to greet him. At the door I enjoyed a moment of fresh, cold air before following him into the kitchen where he exclaimed, “Something smells good.” That was a good sign. That was a start.

While Hubby changed from his work clothes and got comfortable, I put the pans of food on the table. I didn’t bother using serving dishes. I already had more than enough dishes to wash, dirtying more just for presentation purposes was not going to happen. I suppose there is some truth in the belief that “it’s all in the presentation” when it comes to how a meal is received, but at this point, I didn’t care. All I wanted was for this dinner to be over so I could clean the kitchen and hopefully rid the house of the aroma Hubby found so wonderful, and I found utterly unbearable.

Sitting in his spot Hubby asked, “So how do I eat this?” I served him, placing everything on his plate and explaining that I had three sauces for him to try. He decided to try the sauces one at a time. I then served Zeb and finally gave myself a very moderate portion. Then I waited.

Hubby ate heartily. He put bite after bite into his mouth, with no comment. I sat there, waiting.

Zeb dug in, lopping up the sauce I’d served him, without comment. I watched and waited.

Finally, it was too much. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I broke the silence, “Well???”

Hubby smiled. Yes, he was torturing me. He knew all too well that I was nervous about this meal. He knew I’d been working on it for nearly two days. He knew and yet he continued to drag it out, just to prolong this. Didn’t he realize that the fate of having a home cooked meal EVER again lay solely in his response? Didn’t he know that my very future as a housewife was at stake?

Of course he did. We’ve been married more than enough years for him to read me the moment I open the back door to let Bell out to greet him. He can tell by the way I stand, the position of my head, the look in my eyes, the tone in my voice — one look and he knows if he should come through the door or run for the hills. Today, as much as I thought the end of the world as I knew it was upon me, he knew everything was going to be fine and took full advantage of it.

Putting his fork down, Hubby covered my hand with his and said, “This is really good.”

Relief? I’m not sure that’s what I felt. At that point all feeling had left my body. I was numb and yet all I wanted to do was cry.

I turned to Zeb, who had not lifted his head from his plate, and asked him what he thought. He grunted a favorable response without missing a bite.

Hubby continued to assure me throughout the meal that it was “excellent” then “really good” and “you can definitely make this again.” That’s always a good indicator as to whether or not he truly likes something or not. Then he said it. The one thing that is the ultimate compliment Hubby will give, “This is definitely ‘company worthy.”

There it was. All my hard work was not for naught. I ate two bites, choking them down, and have to say it was pretty tasty. Hubby and Zeb definitely gave the meal their seal of approval. As for me, I don’t know that I’ll be able to eat a tamale or any Mexican food for that matter again. Just the thought is making my stomach churn.

Still, as much as the process might have been laborious and time-consuming, I do have enough tamales now frozen for two more meals. Three-for-one — not bad in the whole scheme of things. Should you want to give this fairly tedious meal a shot, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/. The results will definitely not disappoint. Just make sure you set aside enough time to get the job done.

Another Mexican dish to add to my arsenal (for special occasions ONLY), and for this I am —Simply Grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Fix Too Salty, Too Sour Sauerkraut

It’s a muggy, hot and humid 92 degrees here in Michigan this afternoon, so of course I decided to cook something appropriate for the weather. NOT!

I decided on sauerkraut with pork, sausage, and dumplings. This calls for the stove to be running for at least four hours at the highest setting. Granted that’s only one burner, but then the other four are going intermittently to make the dumplings, sear the pork, and what would this meal be without some garlic and white beans on the side. Oh, and did I mention, our air conditioner is on the fritz? Well, it just wasn’t hot enough in my kitchen this morning after canning another batch of pickles, so heck, why not throw on a pot of sauerkraut to heat things up to that oh so pleasant temperature of 97 degrees?

Now this wouldn’t have been such a bad idea, if when I went to test the meal, about two hours before serving, I didn’t notice that my homemade sauerkraut was too sour and too salty.

With homemade sauerkraut, I find rinsing it prior to cooking is not a good idea. The reason being that many times all the sour gets washed out. When this happens, there is no fix other than opening another jar and adding it to the washed sauerkraut. Therefore, I empty the jars of sauerkraut into a stock pot and add several jars of water to start the process. As the kraut cooks I add water to it as necessary so it doesn’t cook down and burn. Usually this is enough to tone down the sourness and make the sauerkraut perfect by the time dinner is served.

Today I used two quarts of sauerkraut and added about three quarts of water. After adding the sausage, pork, and dumplings, my 8 quart pan was pretty full. This was left to boil for several hours. When I tasted it however, the sauerkraut was too sour and salty to the extent of almost being inedible.

What to do?

My fear was that if I were to wash the sauerkraut now, I would be left with tasteless sauerkraut and the meal would be ruined. Doing nothing however would result in the same, so here is what I did.

First I removed as much of the meat as I could. Then I strained out most of the original water in the stock pot, reserving it for later.

Next I filled the pot half full with fresh water and returned it to the stove. Right away I tasted the sauerkraut and found the salty taste gone, unfortunately so was the sourness — just what I had feared. But, I had planned on this. So, slowly I added back some of the reserved original water. Each time I added the sour liquid I let the pot come back to a boil and then did a taste test. Eventually I got it to my liking and then added back in the meat.

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Once the meat was back in the pot and it came to a boil I again tasted the sauerkraut. Because of the reintroduction of the meat the sauerkraut was a bit more sour and a little more salty. Not too much, but definitely something that should be kept in mind next time. It is possible that the meat could have taken the salt/sour ratio over the top again, so in the future I will add the meat back to the pot immediately and start taste testing from that point.

In hindsight, making this meal on the hottest day of the year might not have been the smartest thing, but I learned something new and that made it well worth it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

How To Get Bottom Round Roast Super Tender

I had to share this.

This week at our local grocery store they have bottom round roasts on sale.  I know that bottom round roast is very tough, but seeing as all other beef cuts are $3 and $4 more a pound, I figured I’d have to make the best of it.  I’ve used it before and although it is a tasty cut of beef, it is tough.  Hubby would ask me things like, “Did this die on its own?” or “Is this beef or mule?” Still, for the past 22 years I used this cut more often than any other for economic reasons.

Today however I decided things had to change.  I know that if you cook meat at a low temperature for a long period of time, it typically turns out tender.  This being said, that is why a crock pot is recommended so often for tougher cuts of meat.  I am not a big crock pot fan though.  For some reason I find meat cooked in a crock pot to be somewhat flavorless.  It is tender but unless you are dousing it with barbecue sauce or a tasty gravy, the flavor just isn’t there. This is just one persons experience, but for me a crock pot is used only on the rarest of occasions.

Another tenderizing trick I have learned through the years is that liquor or vinegar helps to make most meats become fall-off-the-bone tender.  Marinating tough cuts of meat even for a few hours in wine or a vinegar based marinade can make a world of difference.

This morning I pulled out the roast I picked up on sale.  First I seared it to seal the juices in, then I put it in the roasting pan.  Next I put 1 1/2 cups of wine in the pan, covered it tight with foil, and put it in the oven.  For 4 hours I cooked the roast covered at 225 degrees.  Then I removed the foil and put the broiler on.  I left the roast under the broiler for about 10 minutes to brown the fat.

When Hubby went to cut the roast he couldn’t believe how tender it was.  It fell apart as he lifted it from the pan and cutting it was more like shredding it.  The taste however was the best part.  It was flavorful, moist, and tender. Everything a roast should be. Everyone went back for seconds and there were no jokes about how tough it was.

Being able to save money by buying a lesser cut of meat but still serving something that tastes like a more expensive one is a great way to save money, if I can pull it off.  Tonight, by using a few things I’ve learned through the years, (why I didn’t think of this sooner I’ll never know), I made what was once an okay meal into something the family will actually look forward to, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Ox Tail Soup

The way to a man’s heart is through his…

Back a few years ago, Hubby and I took the kids to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a vacation.  It was beautiful there and full of European cuisine.  Hubby especially enjoyed the food, as many of the meals used ingredients that most American’s aren’t accustomed to eating but being that he was born in Serbia, he truly appreciated.

Of all the meals that we enjoyed, one that Hubby raved about for months after returning home was ox tail soup. It wasn’t something I wanted to try, but Hubby absolutely loved it.

A few years later I happened to come across a package of ox tails at our local grocer’s.  I couldn’t believe it.  Never had I seen them at the specialty markets, let alone at our regular grocery store.  Needless to say, I snatched them up and began researching recipes.

A few days later, Hubby came home and I served him my version of ox tail soup and hoped it would be somewhat close to what he’d enjoyed so much in Punta Cana.  I put the bowl of soup in front of him, without telling him what it was and stood there waiting.  He took his first bite and then another.  Not a word.  I could tell he was trying to place the taste, but all he kept saying was, “This is really, no REALLY good.”  When I told him what it was, he told me it was actually better than what he remembered.

Success!

Ox Tail Soup

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  • 2 -3 lbs. Ox Tails
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 2 Tbsps. Lard or Bacon Fat
  • 1 Large Onion, minced
  • 2 Quarts Water
  • 1 Heaping Tbsp. Beef Bouillon
  • 1 6 oz. Can Tomato Paste
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. Parsley Flakes
  • 2 Medium Carrots, minced/diced
  • 1 Stalk celery, minced
  • 1/4 Cup Orzo Noodles
  1. Dredge ox tails in flour and brown in lard or bacon fat.  Add onions and cook 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add water, bouillon, tomato paste, salt, bay leaf, thyme, and parsley flakes.  Bring to boil.
  3. Add carrots and celery and return to boil.
  4. Turn heat down to simmer and cook for 2 -3 hours more.
  5. 30 minutes before serving add 1/4 cup orzo noodles and bring to boil.  Cook until noodles are tender.
  6. Serve with fresh bread.

Tonight I made him this soup again.  It is certainly not a regular on my menu, as finding ox tails is truly a hit or miss in our area.  Hubby loves it though and as he rolled himself over to the couch after dinner he said, “Wow!  That was so good.  Probably the best soup you’ve ever made. I really shouldn’t have had that third bowl!”

I love making food that the family likes, but it is especially rewarding when Hubby really likes something.  Ox tail soup is one of those special meals I like to make for Hubby just to show him how much he means to me, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Don’t Judge A Cook By Her Counters

I don’t know about you, but I gauge how productive I’ve been at the end of the day by what my kitchen counters look like.  This morning, this is what the counter I call my “production counter” looked like.

 

Last weeks canning results.

Last weeks canning results.

It was full of all the canning I’d done last week.  I could not put these jars away until I labeled them, thus why they were still there.  Being the beginning of a new week, plus the fact that Hubby was complaining about the counter being completely inundated with canned goods, this was my first task of the day.  Before I even put on the morning coffee, I made the list of all the labels I needed.  This is what the counter looked like after the jars were labeled and moved to the pantry in the basement.

Empty, lonely, dismal counter.

Empty, lonely, dismal counter.

Maybe it’s just me, but I look at that clean, empty counter and think to myself, “How sad.  It looks as if I haven’t been doing anything.”  Well, that didn’t last long.  By noon I’d canned the beets I picked yesterday, a batch of kiwi lemon-lime concentrate, and a fresh batch of granola.  Still, the counter was mocking me, daring me to do more.  So I made a deep dish peach crumble pie and some peach cobbler with the peaches I had left over.  Much better.

 

Today's canning and baking.  It's a start.

Today’s canning and baking. It’s a start.

Hubby might not like the counter cluttered and full, but this is one way I judge how productive I’ve been throughout the day, week, and dare I admit — month.  Sure it might look a little cluttered and limit the amount of counter space I have to work on, but with the proof right there for everyone to see, there is no way I can be accused of sitting around and eating bon-bons all day (not that on occasion that’s exactly what I want to do).  So, go ahead and judge me by my counters.  I’m proudest when they are full and cluttered.  It shows that I’m doing more than just dusting them (which I admit I really don’t do).

Today was a productive day, and I’m still not done.  I have a batch of dill pickle relish on the counter waiting for me to finish it.  With more jars to add to the growing accumulation, I can honestly say I had a good day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

You Know You’re In American When…

“I’ve learned that I should never praise my mother’s cooking when I’m eating something fixed by my wife.” – Age 27 Anonymous, page 28, Live & Learn & Pass It On

Coming up with something original to make for dinner 365 days a year is not an easy task. It is downright stressful. Even with a stockpile of recipes to go three months without repeating a single meal, I sometimes want a break from the old meat and potatoes or meals inspired from around the world. Sometimes I just want something simple and quick.

When I got married some 20+ years ago, my hubby didn’t say a whole lot about my cooking. He would say it was “good” or that he liked it, but wasn’t one to gush. I learned with him the less he said the better because he was the first to point out if something wasn’t right or God forbid — his mother didn’t make it like that or … wait for it … you guessed it “My mother really makes good ________ (fill in whatever I had made for dinner that night).

I can tolerate quite a bit, but being compared to his mother, well I draw the line there. My rebuttal was always the same, “Then maybe you should have her make it for you!” And that meal was wiped from my menu permanently. No I wasn’t bitter, just not in the mood to be compared to someone who told me after my husband and I got engaged, “It would be so much nicer if he’d marry someone Serbian.” Yeah, in the 45+ years my in-laws have lived here, they have not accepted Americans in the least.

For the most part, my husband is all-American. He has been here since he was a young boy so has assimilated the American ways, but many of the old traditions and values remain. One such instance of this was made apparent to me when I served hot sub sandwiches for the first time for a dinner. This is one of those quick and easy meals I love to make when I’m tired of spending hours in the kitchen day after day. Being that it was hot, filled with meat, and served with a side of homemade potato salad, I figured it could squeak by for dinner.

With my hubby sitting at the table, waiting for me to serve dinner, I casually walked to the table and placed a Corning Ware dish filled with hot sub sandwiches on the table. He looked at it, pierced his lips, shook his head, and said, “You know you’re in American when you get served sandwiches for dinner.” I won’t get into what happened next, but lets just say, the meal was spent in silence and for years I never attempted to serve “sandwiches” for dinner again.

After so many years of marriage I believe I have earned the right to serve whatever I want on occasion, without regard for what darling hubby wants. He gives no help in the kitchen, offers no suggestions for meals, and is dead-set against eating out more than once or twice a year. I believe this gives me cart blanche when it comes to deciding whether or not I’m going to serve sandwiches for dinner.

Time has a funny way of mellowing people. Now-a-days, hubby has been known to suggest every once in a while that I make some sort of sandwich for dinner. It might be because it’s too hot to crank up the old stove, we might have been out all day and don’t have much time to make something before we pass out from hunger, or dare I say, he actually has a few “favorite” sandwiches that he enjoys having for dinner.

One of his favorites, as well as the rest of the families is a roasted turkey with peppers and onions sub. I made these yesterday after spending too long in the sun working outside. I didn’t saute any peppers, only onions, but it was delicious just the same. Served with homemade pickles and pickled peppers, two sandwiches for a grown man is plenty. I barely choke down one.

Roasted Turkey Sandwiches with Peppers & Onions

  •  Deli Sliced Turkey (I used both turkey and ham yesterday)
  • Cheddar Cheese Slices (I added a little Fiesta Jack cheese as well)
  • Garlic Powder
  • Vedalia Onion (2)
  • Yellow, Red, or Orange Bell Pepper (1)
  • Sub Rolls

Toast rolls.

Toast rolls and assemble ingredients.

Toast rolls and assemble ingredients.

Place five to seven slices of deli turkey on half of roll (how many will depend on how thick the meat is sliced).

Put sliced deli meat on rolls and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Put sliced deli meat on rolls and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Sprinkle with garlic powder.
Cover meat with one to two slices of cheese.

Top with cheese.

Top with cheese.

Saute onions and peppers in butter until tender. Drain and put on top of cheese.

Drain sauted onions and put on cheese.

Drain sauted onions and put on cheese.

Top with other half of sub roll, place in Corning Ware pan, cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°.

 

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

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Marriage is a learning process that begins with the first date and lasts for a lifetime. Getting your footing can be challenging, but once you get your stride and everything calms down, life is good, and sandwiches pass for dinner, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.