We usually enjoy 'The Luscious Leftover Buffet' on Monday nights. It's quick and easy before Dreamer's ballet class, and it really helps to clean out our fridge in preparation for the groceries that the Storyteller and I usually pick up while we are in town during ballet.
Here's some tips for 'selling' your leftovers in a simple but effective way. Whatever your family calls it, you will enjoy the fun of making something everyone seems to dread into an enjoyable family tradition.
- Spread it out! If you have an empty counter, clean it off and spread out the offerings, like a buffet. Everyone likes to make choices, and buffets are super popular with kids.
- Divide it up! A single small mug of chili, soup or baked beans is fun to pick up and that way everyone who wants a taste can get one. No one needs to see that messy casserole dish, so dish it up in paper cupcake cups or little custard cups and make it something special.
- Swap the cheese! Sometimes the cheese on the top of a casserole gets overbrowned in the process of reheating. I don't feel badly in scraping off a bit of the ugly cheese and putting on fresh. Fresh cheese also dresses up a cup of chili, reheated quiche, a bit of salad or a creamy soup. The same thing goes for leftover pizza - a fresh layer really does something good for reheated pizza.
- Keep it simple! While it is great to use leftover turkey in turkey a la king or beef in stroganoff, those leftover meats are just as delicious when served simply. Cold roast beef, turkey, chicken, bratwurst or ham can be served sliced 'as is' or in a sandwich, on top of a cracker or diced into some leftover salad.
- Put it on a stick! 6" bamboo skewers are pretty cheap, and they make a great 'finger food' supper when you put your leftover meats and cheeses or fruit cubes on a 'stick'.
- Cut it fancy! It doesn't take any extra effort to pull out your crinkle cutter then your paring knife, so why not cut up those fruits and veggies a bit fancy and see if they don't liven up your buffet?
- Use those tongs! I don't know why our kids think this is the 'best part', but we use cheap salad tongs for picking up things like sliced meats, breads, veggies and scrambled eggs. It might cause a bit more washing up, but I tell you, our kids are totally skilled when we are out for a treat at a real restaurant buffet!
- Make it a privilege! We are so blessed to have an abundance of food in this country - wasting is just not a choice. Making being a part of the buffet line a privilege that can be lost through grumbling or complaining can seriously brighten the attitude of those picky eaters who are not so keen on the whole idea.
- Set it to music! My husband started the 'music to match the meal' thing for our family when he took over the making of Mama Joy's Meatballs and serving them up with fresh green salad, a fresh loaf of crusty bread, and Dean Martin singing in the background. It made a simple supper more fun for all of us. I decided that we should do the same thing for 'The L.L. Buffet' and so I let the kids pick - they chose Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey 'Eugene Sings' and it seems to be a perfect fit!
I hope these simple tips will help you use up those leftovers in a fun and creative way that will bless your family and your budget!