Jul 28, 2014
Partly Cloudy

Getting Creative With Kitchen Leftovers

When I was a kid, we didn't run to the grocery store for every little thing. We ate what we had.

Getting Creative With Kitchen Leftovers

When I was a little girl going to the grocery store was a big deal.

We would go every two weeks and stock up on all of my favorite treats. I was always very concerned about the cereal selection: big decisions had to be made. Was it going to be Cocoa Puffs or Trix... or was my mother going to make me get Shredded Wheat again?

It was very important to choose my treats wisely because whatever I chose had to last for two weeks. My mom didn’t run to the store every other day if she ran out of something—she made do until the next trip to the grocery store. “Making do” is a concept completely lost on my daughter; she has a meltdown if we run out of her favorite Princess fruit snacks. Yes, yes—I know that’s my fault.

The first few days after the grocery shopping trip with my mother were glorious—our cupboards were full of my favorite snacks and dinner times were hearty meat and potato meals with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert.

But as that second week went on and the fruit roll ups ran out, my mother would get creative. I was usually out of cereal by the last few days before it was time to head back to the store, so my mother would put plain graham crackers in a cereal bowl, sprinkle some sugar on top and pour on the milk. It was yummy. 

Sometimes for dinner we’d have breakfast instead; my mom would whip up pancakes or —this was one of my favorites because I always thought it was so cool to be eating breakfast when it was dark outside. One of my brother’s favorite meals was gravy bread. I didn’t realize until I was grown that my mom made gravy bread because she only had left over gravy and bread but no meat. We never noticed that we were out of food or that my mom was trying to make things stretch until the next trip to the store.

We ate what we had.

Today things are quite different. Food is everywhere and I think we’re sort of spoiled. I know I am. I go to the grocery store all the time—at least 2-3 times a week. Sometimes if we run out of one thing, I’ll go to the grocery store just to get that one thing. 

It’s just now occurring to me, 35 years later, that maybe it’s OK to make breakfast for dinner or try to stretch things a little like my mom did. I think there’s a lesson in here somewhere about it being OK to not have everything you want when you want it, and to appreciate what you have and not be wasteful. 

Now that I’m 40 it’s probably time I learn about delayed gratification and how to make a meal out of gravy bread. Thanks mom for teaching me a lesson, sorry it took so long for me to get it but as you always said—I’m a little on the slow side.

This week I decided to make a big batch of soup using the ingredients in my refrigerator instead of rushing out to the grocery store. I always have carrots, celery and garlic on hand, and chicken stock is usually frozen in my freezer. I had some left over Italian sausage from the lasagna I made a few weeks ago for my husband’s birthday. Beans and canned tomatoes are usually in my cabinet so this was a really easy, healthy and delicious soup to make. 

This recipe was inspired from a recipe that a friend of mine gave me a few years ago from Life.com. I think the kale is what makes this recipe really stand out and gives this soup a delicious earthy, rustic quality. Try it!

Tuscan Bean Soup

Ingredients: Half lb Italian sausage, 1 diced carrot, 1 diced celery rib, 5 gloves garlic, 1 diced medium onion, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 lb kale (or spinach), 1/4 cup barley, 1 can cannellini beans/great northern beans, 5 cups chicken stock, 1 can diced tomatoes with the juice, 2 springs of fresh rosemary. Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Brown Italian sausage in half cup of olive oil, add onion, carrot, celery, kale and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions look translucent. Add the chicken stock, beans, tomatoes and barley. Cook everything for about one hour or until the barley is done. If some of the liquid evaporates add water to the pot to reach desired consistency. Add some salt and pepper. I usually like to add about one teaspoon of salt. When serving add parmesan cheese on top.

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