Monday, September 24, 2018

Ten Creative Plans to Upcycle Leftovers

The prudent use leftovers is important to a healthy family budget. But, of course, very few families really enjoy eating leftovers of a big meal for the third or fourth night in a row. So, a bit of creativity really goes a long way.

Most of the time, when I serve meals this way, I add a little something extra - like Garlic Toast, some salad, baby carrots, capers or olives, a sauce - you know, something that adds an additional layer of texture & flavor.

Here are a few ideas that work for my family:

1. One thing I've done for years is to prepare a large meal and freeze it to serve more than once - but not more than once in a row! This is especially helpful when you're cooking for one, or for a very small family, and don't want to waste a lot of time with recipes that take 45 minutes for one serving. They're also helpful when you have one family member on a special diet or with an allergy. Read more about this method in my post Cooking for the Single Vegan

2. I also pack leftovers after dinner into individual portions to make future lunches for my husband to take to work - or for us to eat during our home school days. These can go into the fridge or freezer, depending on the content and your serving schedule.

3. One day I was sitting with a friend who I knew had very little budget for food for her large family. She mentioned that her voracious teenagers really liked my lentil soup. Then she surprised me, and said, they even like it better the second night when I serve it over spaghetti! For an additional dollar or two, she made an already frugal meal into two abundant meals for her family. This also works great with a variety of other soups and stews. For a little added Oomph, top with capers, olives, salad, or avocadoes. For Omnivores, an addition of shredded cheese and or sour cream also adds interest.

4. My Indian friends really enjoy having Dal for a second night poured over their favorite Basmati Rice. It seems like a whole new meal that way.
Serve your Favorite Indian Legume Dish over Rice the second time

4. Similarly, serving a stew or thick soup over potatoes or over oven fries or French fries can stretch it for as second meal, without seeming like the "same old thing" again.

5. Make a Wrap. This is my favorite way to use a bit of spread - like hummus, or peanut sauce- and a bit of raw or cooked veggies from the back of the fridge. You can also throw in some Rice, if you like. If you have the veggies & rice, just make some sauce or spread to add, and you've got a meal!

6. Bake it into a turnover.

7. Have a backup plan. If you tend to have a leftover like rice, don't waste it - plan it into another dish!

8. Make a great soup. This was probably your Grandma's method - and it still works. But, I prefer to use a template like this one, to avoid bad outcomes. 

9. Make an Entree Salad. If I have leftover beans or grains, I often turn to one of these salads. With a few raw veggies & a dressing, it's ready to go! If I don't want to make the salad right away, I put the grain or beans to the freezer till I'm ready. Click here for ideas!

10. And - the most classic method of all. Offer a "Dickensian Dinner" - you know, where the Ghost of Dinner past is remembered fondly. In other words, set out a buffet all your leftovers, and let everyone help themselves to a few of their favorites! ; )

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Monday, September 3, 2018

How to Start Crocheting

Last summer, on a family visit, my daughter-in-law began to teach my daughter how to crochet. Unfortunately, it was a short visit, and by the time we got home, all my daughter had learned was how to make a chain. She turned to me for help to learn more.

There was only one problem - I didn't know how to crochet!

So, together we turned to Youtube for lessons. We found great tutorials on everything from how to get started, to how to make more complex stitches and how to read patterns.

In the course of teaching my daughter, I learned too, and now we BOTH have an enjoyable hobby.

I never thought I'd enjoy crocheting, but much to my surprise, I love it! I especially love that it gives me a way to occupy myself so that I can focus better on homeschooling my daughter. It helps me avoid the temptation to surf the web, when I should be focusing on listening to her read. It also gives us both something to do while listening to audio books, or audio Bible reading. We've found that far from being distracting, crocheting helps us be still and focus on what we're hearing.

Crochet is an inexpensive hobby. Many Hooks are well under $2., and skeins of yarn are from 1 - 6 dollars for most common types (although fancy yarns can be MUCH more!). Many patterns are free on the internet.

Here is how we got started learning, and you can start, too!

For basic lessons, we started with Simply Daisy. She has a great channel!

After our basic lesson, we moved up to our first projects. We found these tutorials fun, and they gave a great sense of accomplishment, as well as helping us perfect our basic stitches.

Bella Coco has a great channel, with lots of helpful tutorials:

A Coaster My Daughter Made from the Above Tutorial
This was made with Caron Simply Soft

Even and "Oops" can be happy - this heart shaped Trivet resulted from the first coaster making attempt

My daughter is still young, and so is taking it more slowly. Our first big project was this: My daughter made a Shawl for her 18" doll, while I made a Shawl for my daughter : )

The Shawl My Daughter Made - Being Modeled by "Natalie"
The Shawl was made with Peaches & Creme yarn

The Shawl I Made
For this one, I used Lion Brand, Hometown USA, Honolulu Pink
and an N Hook (10mm)

We both kept our first projects simple, using only a single crochet for the first project - and I used a bulky yarn with a large hook for the large project. These first projects didn't even require patterns.

After a couple of basic  tutorials, and some practice, I was ready to move up to reading patterns. 

 I found this tutorial on pattern reading very helpful:

After that, I was ready to start following the easier patterns that can be found for free on the internet. Yarn-making companies have great pattern libraries, like these:

Lion Brand Yarn

Yarnspirations - Bernat & Caron Yarns

Within a month or two after starting, I was able to make projects like these:

Caron One Skein Summer Wrap

First Few Rows Of Caron One Skein Summer Wrap in Progress
This is with Caron Simply Soft, Orchid (I changed the gauge and used a different yarn, so needed more than one skein)

Finished Wrap with Scalloped Ends

American Girl Doll Summer Seashell Top
American Girl Doll Summer Seashell Skirt

American Girl Truly Me "Natalie" in Her New Outfit
This is also from Caron Simply Soft

Of course, in learning to crochet, I've also started following innumerable crochet blogs. Rather than play favorites, I'll let y'all list YOUR favorites in the comments below. And, don't be shy! Feel free to list your OWN crochet blog as your "favorite" ; )

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