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Loving Leftovers

Posted Nov 21 2008 10:24am

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When I was little and I’d ask, “What’s for dinner?” and my mom would say “We’re having leftovers,” I just about would throw a tantrum.

“Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” I’d shriek in that whiny-brat voice.

I hated leftovers, hated the idea of eating the same food again. Ew.

Don’t get me wrong; I grew up fortunate. My mom always cooked delicious, balanced meals. There was no reason not to enjoy them the next day, or a week later.

We ate our dinners with milk. We could have seconds if we wanted them. And we sat down as a family as often as we could, even as our scheduled became jammed with cheerleading, dance, karate, etc.

But sometimes life got hectic, and my mom (bless her!) just wanted us to eat leftovers so they’d go away (especially if the freezer was stocked).

As I got older and my tasted changed, leftover nights became more appealing to me — especially in high school, when I started expanding my palate. Leftovers-Night meant I could have a mish-mash of whatever I wanted. Maybe a meatball with Mom’s Lebanese rice and green beans. They don’t necessarily “go,” but so what?!

Since then, I’ve learned that some foods simply taste better to me in left-over format, particularly those involving tomato sauce or paste: meat sauce, chicken cacciatore, beef stew.

My favorite Weight Watchers recipe ( Greek Lemon Chicken ) most certainly tastes better the next day, and I’ve already raved about my favorite Cooking Light recipe, Greek Bulgur Salad with Chicken.

And my other favorite (Core spinach pie) is even better the next day. Same with butternut squash soup. A lot of foods taste better in leftover format, when the flavors have had time to marry.

In college, and even when living on my own after college, I’ll be honest, I didn’t do enough cooking to yield leftovers. Even when I began Weight Watchers in 2004, I was buying sandwiches (Potbelly’s, Subway) or salads (Cosi) for lunch, and dinner was usually a frozen Lean Cuisine or WW meal (I shudder at the thought of those now!).

I didn’t have the kitchen know-how, and I always shared an apartment, which stunted any creativity I may have had. (Hard to experiment when your dear roommates are sharing the same space!)

But when we got married and bought a house with a nice big kitchen and I started cooking and really, truly appreciating it … I realized what a blessing leftovers could be!

Because my husband and I are both busy people who both function better with regular fitness (usuallly after work these days), having healthy leftovers in the fridge or freezer post-gym/post-game means insta-dinners — and insta-lunches for the next day, too.

It means at dinner-time, we can now eat meals together — versus me having a separate frozen meal. Plus, if we don’t have a craving for the same thing on the same night, we have a wide variety to choose from. So long as we’re together, it doesn’t matter to me what we’re eating.

While preparing our anniversary dinner on Tuesday, ( crockpot beef stew ) I also made a maple glazed pork tenderloin. I call this “batch cooking” and I know a lot of other people do this, too, when they have time.

Now we have a ton of options for the rest of this week, and won’t have to cook next week — when we go to South Carolina for Thanksgiving.

Really, who needs sodium-laden frozen meals, when I can pull my own delicious, healthy cooking out of the fridge or freezer?

How about you? Do you bring leftovers to work for lunch? Has it helped you health-wise?

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