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TRANSITIONAL COOKING: Reinventing the leftovers

January 1, 2010

By Mary Danielsen

I would like to change my name to Mary Leftovers. In 2009 I moved into my use-it-or-give-it-away stage of life. I’m not old or sick. I’m just fed up with consumption and now want to justify anything that gets bought or collected. Even good stuff can overwhelm a home.

For example, there are 123 cookbooks stacked on shelves in the basement. Some were bought. Some were gifts. I’d really like to say that I regularly use them all, but I don’t. Sometimes they look and smell like they’ve been in storage.  I probably use 30 regularly and another 20 occasionally.

Throughout the last few weeks I have not backed down on the 104-Meal Challenge, just the writing. I’ve had a lot of fun reconnecting and cooking from my cookbooks, pamphlets, and my recipe card file. The first step I had to take was realizing that, with my daughters away at school, I only needed to cook for 3 people. My son is only four; so I don’t need to cook for three adults. Right now all recipes need to get cut in half. Still, there are too many leftovers. We’re scrambling to figure out what to do with lots of little portions.

My husband hates leftovers.  I tell him that they are “Precooked food items,” but he doesn’t buy it. He is not a fan of making a big meal on Sunday that we eat until Wednesday or have packed in 10 serving sizes in the freezer.

My challenge then is to figure out what else to do with the leftovers. From now on I will refer to cooking with leftovers as “transitional cooking.”  For example, I made a perfect loaf of Oatmeal bread with a Quaker Oats recipe a week before Christmas. It stayed fresh. There were a few pieces left that I incorporated into a Country Breakfast Casserole from McCormick Spices on Christmas morning. Yum, yum. No leftovers. Rick raved about it and didn’t realize that the “old loaf of bread” was in the dish.

One dish I cooked for Christmas dinner was Emeril Lagasse’s mashed butternut squash with pears and vanilla butter. It’s very simple. Cut a butternut squash and two pears in half.  Cook them cut side down at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool a little or risk burning your fingers. Scrape out the butternut squash into a bowl. Peel back the skin of the pears. Chop into small pieces and add to the squash. Melt 2-4 tablespoons of butter or margarine. Add a teaspoon of vanilla. Mash all the ingredients together. Savor the way your kitchen now smells.

As a side dish for Christmas dinner, I made enough for a dinner party for 12. My daughter Helen ate two heaping bowls. I piled it high on my plate twice. Oh, the leftovers!

We ate as much as we could the following few days without getting sick of butternut squash. Then I found this great recipe by James Beard and substituted the sweet potato for butternut squash. If no one looks I just might eat the whole loaf for dinner with a small salad.  I’m taking the second loaf over to my inlaws.

Sweet Potato Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 packages active dry yeast

4 tbsp granulated sugar

½ cup warm water

3 tbsp melted butter

1 tbsp salt

3 eggs

3-3 ½ cups flour

1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes or yams

(I used 1 cup of cooked mashed butternut squash with pears)

2 tbsp cream

Proof the yeast in a mixing bowl with 1 tbsp sugar and the warm water. About 5 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, salt and 2 eggs to the yeast mixture. Blend well. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time, and then stir in the sweet potatoes. (Or in my case, a heaping cupful of cooked butternut squash with pears and vanilla butter) Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead. When the dough is smooth and springy to the touch, shape into a ball. Place in a buttered dish and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk; about an hour.

After the first rising, punch down. Let rest for 2 minutes and then turn out onto a floured dough board. Divide in half. Shape into loaves and place in buttered 9 x 5 3-inch loaf pans Let rise until almost doubled. Beat the remaining egg and cream and brush over the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Note: This recipe can be made into rolls or smaller loaves. Also, if you have a newer energy efficient oven, watch the time and temperature. You may only need to bake it for 30 to 35 minutes.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 2:32 am

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