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Monday, February 6, 2017

A Game Changer

This was last night's dinner, spaghetti pasta, topped with meat and vegetable tomato sauce, braised red cabbage and carrots sticks. I deliberately made double the pasta and double the meat and vegetable sauce.

Our family has always topped the pasta with sauce, instead of mixing it all together. It is what I grew up with, and it is what I prefer.

In the past, I would have taken the leftovers and placed each separately into food storage containers. As of late, I've been packaging up these deliberate leftovers as a meal.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen last night, I put the pasta and sauce in a casserole dish, tossed together, then topped with grated cheese. Tonight, regardless if I am busy or not, dinner is made. All someone -- anyone -- needs to do is heat it through. It's the convenience of a Stouffer's-type meal, without the cost. And it did not take any more time to package the meal this way. This sort of thinking ahead, while I clean up the kitchen, has been a game changer for my meal preparations.


  1. I prefer my sauce separate also. That way I can control my sauce to pasta ratio. However, the leftovers are always put in the same bowl. I do this mostly so there will be one less dish to wash besides the ease in reheating.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      In the past, I've kept the leftovers separate for 2 reasons, 1) so the pasta doesn't "suck up" all of the sauce, and 2) so I can use the two items any way I want. And I just like the sauce sitting on top of the pasta. I prefer more sauce than pasta, and I use some of my side veggies on my own plate in place of noodles. But combining the two in a casserole dish for reheating makes dinner super easy for the next night.
      Have a great day live and learn!

  2. I''ve done this for years, really helps to have something quick to grab and heat up as needed on a busy day.

    1. Hi Carol,
      It does really help. I imagine that with your career you really have found a lot of ways to save time with meal prep.

      I hope your day is off to a great start, Carol!

    2. Big meat dinner on Sunday=sandwich fillings for the upcoming week, planned over ingredients to carry over to another meal, soup stock. Cook/prep an extra casserole if a hellish week is looming. Crockpots. And sometimes, it's just the jar of sauce over pasta (pass the cheese!), a green salad and some canned/fzn veg. We survived! : )

    3. Carol, a meat dinner followed by meat for sandwiches sounds perfect! Processed lunch meat has the preservatives, so cooking meat for sandwiches is so much healthier and tastier, too! It all just takes a little bit of planning, doesn't it?!

  3. That's interesting--just goes to show that everyone does things their own way.

    Growing up, mom made spaghetti in the electric frying pan and it was a "dry" spaghetti meaning very little sauce. I always made "juicy" spaghetti meaning more sauce. I mostly served it separately but leftovers always were mixed together so no one would eat the sauce without the noodles. But many times I mix it together in one pot before serving and no one minds or prefers one way over the other. It basically get mixed when it's on the plate anyway. Another variation is that often put a layer of spaghetti and sauce on the bottom of a bowl, then add a scoop of cottage cheese, mozzarella and grated parmesan, then another layer of spaghetti and sauce. Basically, it becomes lasagna. Spaghetti is one of our favorite meals. I almost always make my own sauce too from fresh tomatoes that we froze or canned.

    We had that twice in one week a couple of weeks ago! Maybe I should make that tonight. I also like serving spaghetti with some kind of garlic bread. That's a good way to use up a hard bread, a nearly stale bread or old buns that are sitting in my freezer. We make a garlic butter and spread it on the bread before toasting them in the oven. Another good one is savory italian rounds. We like dipping our garlic bread in the spaghetti sauce or to wipe up the empty bowls to get every last morsel of sauce!

    Yes, we are pretty tough on people about not finishing that last spoonful in the bottom of the plate. If you can eat the whole plate then you can also scrape out the last bits! We are not doing that for you and dumping it in the trash! I have never scraped plates into the trash with my family but we don't enforce that with guests.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I like saucier spaghetti, myself. I love the sauce part. I thought about adding some cottage cheese from the freezer. I'll do that next time. I didn't want to wait for the cottage cheese to thaw yesterday.
      Great ideas for using up stale or lingering bread! We often have the end slices of bread leftover and get tossed in the freezer. Those work well for garlic toast, and get gobbled up. When left as the end slices of bread, no one touches them.

      Have a wonderful day, Alice!

  4. Isn't it a great feeling, to know you have tonight's dinner already 'in the bag' so to speak? Ahhhh. And I can picture all kinds of 'add-ins' that could be thrown in there too -- like the baggies of frozen grated zucchini I usually still have plenty of this time of year (last year's crop not being so prolific), or my quantities of frozen chopped garden green and red bell pepper. In any case thanks for the inspiration, Lili -- I just might add this "double duty", Planned Leftovers-type meal idea to my menu this week or next :-)

    1. Hi Patience,
      It was so appreciated last night of all nights. I had a major writing assignment to turn in, and I worked at it all day. Having a dinner all made was wonderful.
      How fortunate to still have some garden vegetables in the freezer! Those peppers probably add lots of flavor to winter meals.
      Have a wonderful day, Patience!

  5. Have a great day! Pasta sounds good for tonight. We had homemade veggie pizza with fresh spinach and reduced sugar and balsamic to dizzel over it for the game.

    1. Hi Patti,
      Yum! Veggie pizza also sounds delicious! I may make pizza this weekend. We have a celebration on Saturday.
      I hope your day is a lovely one, Patti!

  6. I like my pasta saucy, too. I think I'd put the leftovers in the oven next to a pan of buttered bread for toast and call it a meal.

    1. Hi Busy Bee,
      I like bread with spaghetti. I don't need it to be garlic or anything, but just a small slice of bread with pasta. That may be why I like it saucy.
      Have a great day, Busy Bee!

  7. I love game changers!!

    Our recent game changer has been wrapping our leftovers into burritos using premade flour tortillas bought .04 each from Costco after Ibotta rebate. We've been eating a burrito everyday for breakfast. It's been so good and refreshing, and no prep in the morning when it is usually difficult to come up with a protein meal. So far we've turned leftover egg/tuna/swiss chard/tomato omelets into burritos with some cheese. Leftover slow cooked chicken mushroom with steamed kale shreds and mozzarella cheese. Also Kalua pork with collard greens. Also a great way to use up expiring cans of refried beans that we're purchased on sale last year. It takes only about 2 heaping tablespoons of leftover food, plus a vegetable and cheese to complete a burrito. If this amount of food was served on a plate, I would not think it is a satisfying amount to eat, but funny, in a burrito, it is more than satisfying. Really, almost like making something from nothing.

    Have a great day!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      Your mention of burritos about a week ago has had me on a stretch of egg and avocado burritos for lunches. It is a very tidy way to eat something like eggs and vegetables. That was a great price on the tortillas. I bought 10 for 89 cents, so 8.9cents each. I think I prefer the texture of my homemade ones better. The convenience of pre-made is wonderful, though.

      Have a wonderful day, YHF!

  8. I love that. One extra meal on a night when you don't feel like cooking is perfect.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      It worked out extremely well for me, last night. It was a very busy day, and I would not have wanted to take time out to prepare something from scratch. Just perfect! As it worked out, I had enough time to get a pan of cookies into the oven. So my family got a homemade dinner, plus cookies, and it took less time than making just a dinner from scratch.

      Have a great day, Belinda!


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