Drabs, Drips, and Drops

March 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

   Walking the neighborhood becomes a rather dreary drill when rising temperatures and March drizzle leave behind a crust of dirty snow and a few weary Christmas decorations.  I predicted a stretch of gray skies as a postlude to our glorious week of sunshine, but by day six it does start to get old.  One can only sigh, and hope for each droplet of moisture to be the last drop, for Pete’s sake – and for the sake of the soil-saturated Crow River Valley, whose residents are sandbagging their little hearts out against the threat of flooding. 

Grainy (gray + rainy) weather aside, the phrase above brings to mind the tradition of common sense resource conservation explored by local radio show host Joe Soucheray. “Last-droppers,” he calls practitioners, and I am proud to be a member of that club.  Whether food or cleaning supplies, hand lotion or lipstick, foraging out every last bit of something you use on a regular basis saves bundles over a lifetime.  I know some people cringe at the notion of cutting open the tube of toothpaste to dredge out one last brushful, but I am blessed with a tolerant husband and the quiet confidence that we uber-conservers might just be mentoring others in our methods on that fateful day when the overextended economy smacks up against reality. 

But let’s move into a more upbeat aspect of the subject – scrumptious uses for leftovers. The list is a long one:  corn meal mush to slice and fry for breakfast; baked potatoes for hash; squash for soup; chili as a topping for cheese omelets; cooked meats, beans, and vegetables for soups; and that perennial favorite from holiday dinners, turkey. 

Today, let’s talk turkey.  I have three favorite combinations for using up leftover turkey breast that would make for a nice sandwich buffet after church on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  I’ve tried keeping these super low-fat by popping foil-wrapped sandwiches into the oven to melt the cheese,  but grilling produces a much tastier result and can be done with a minimal amount of softened butter or margarine.  The menu, then, for a casual family meal:  Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado Melts (I); Grilled Turkey with Mango Chutney (II); and Grilled Turkey with Fresh Cranberry Sauce (III).  The perfect side dishes – made with leftovers of course:  Polenta Fries, Three Bean Salad, and Squash Spice Bars.  

For each serving of the sandwiches

2 slices hearty, crusty bread                 1 oz mozzarella (I), Havarti (II), provolone (III)

4-6 oz sliced turkey breast                1-to-2 tsp softened butter

one slice extra crisp fried bacon (I)            1/4 avocado, sliced thin (I)

1 TB mango chutney (II)                   1 TB low-sugar whole cranberry sauce (III)

Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Butter outsides of two slices of dense whole grain or semolina bread and layer with (for option I) one slice mozzarella, turkey breast, halved bacon slice, and avocado slices.  Lay sandwich, buttered side down in pan.  Cook for four minutes or until golden brown on one side, then turn and brown on second side until cheese is melted.  

For II:  Follow same directions, but spread chutney in a thick layer on unbuttered side of one slice of bread, then top with turkey and Havarti cheese.  For III:  Follow same directions, but slather cranberry sauce (I make my own with fresh cranberries and stevia for sweetener) on unbuttered side of one slice and then top with provolone cheese. 

Polenta fries are a snap to make if you’ve had the foresight to smooth leftover polenta into a flat, square baking dish, then chill it to a solid mass before “repurposing.” 

Slice the firm polenta into French-fry sized sticks and lay them in one layer on a cookie sheet lined with well-oiled foil.  Spray the sticks with canola oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle on a little chili powder or paprika if you like.   Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes; turn and bake another five minutes or until golden.

And then the Three-Bean Salad:

1-1/2# green beans, crisp-cooked             1# bag frozen baby Lima beans

10 oz pkg frozen black-eyed peas                     1/4 C fresh lemon juice                                 1/4 C olive oil                                       1-1/2 C thinly sliced scallions

1/2 tsp salt/1/4 tsp pepper                                1/4 tsp garlic powder

Cut leftover green beans into 1-1/2″ pieces (or cook fresh green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water just until tender, 5 to 7 minutes, then douse them with icy cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain well). Cook Lima beans and black-eyed peas in boiling water according to package directions and drain well.  While cooking frozen beans, whisk together lemon juice, oil, and scallions and whisk in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Toss warm Lima beans and black-eyed peas with dressing. Cool 15 minutes, then add green beans and toss again.  Serve at room temperature.                                                    

And finally, some lovely, health-enhancing, last-dropper dessert bars:

4 eggs                                      1/2 C canola oil                                  3/4 C sugar              1/4 C molasses                        1-1/2 C mashed, cooked squash              1 C unbleached flour  1 C whole wheat flour                 2 tsp baking soda                              1 tsp baking powder  1/2 tsp salt                                1/2 tsp            ginger                                       1/2 tsp ground cloves 1/2 tsp nutmeg                          3 oz cream cheese                            1 TB orange juice

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar, molasses, and squash.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, soda, powder, salt, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.  Fold dry ingredients into wet until well blended.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 10x15x1″ pan and bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until center springs back after a light touch.  Cool on a wire rack and either dust with a sifting of powdered sugar or whip together the cream cheese and orange juice and put a blop on each slice as you cut and serve it.    

There; now I’m fortified to stride out into the mists again.

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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