Home Economics and Leftovers

LeftoversHomeEcConsider a few statistics:

69.2 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight or obese (CDC 2009-2010)
$15,799 is the average credit card debt per US household (US Federal Reserve)
56 percent of consumers carried an unpaid credit card balance in the past 12 months (US Federal Reserve)

Simply stated, more than half of Americans are failing to manage their household AND caloric budgets. Seems to me like we are having a little problem with home economics, doesn’t it? And can you blame us? I’m not even sure Home Ec is taught in schools anymore, or if the content being taught is relevant.

I remember being sorely disappointed by the quality of my own middle school Home Ec class. We learned things like how to make a cake from a box of mix and sew on a button. By fifth grade I already had a firm grasp on basic meal planning, cooking, baking, household chores and arithmetic. I was no child genius, I had just grown up being expected to participate in the daily operations of our home and family.

I quickly became the first “Home Ec Cadet” my school had ever had, saving myself from the shame of doing things like baking biscuits that came out of tube. It was a good thing I was able to help my teacher, too—she needed it, my classmates were WAY behind when came the basics.

I realize not everyone has the ability or desire to excel at home economics, but as a country we would all be a lot better off if we were at least achieving a “C” grade when it comes to taking care of our families and homes.

One more stat (take your pick of studies): Up to 40 percent of our food from our plates ends up in the landfill.

One of the most useful skills a person can cultivate to save time and money is the ability to cook with leftovers, and it’s not as complicated as you might think. (And if you foodies want it complicated, go ahead and chiffonade some basil for your leftover meal.) You see, there is a basic rubric for creating a balanced meal: protein, starch and vegetable. Next time you find yourself wondering what to do with leftover grilled meat and salad fixings consider trying your hand at creating your very own leftover pasta!

All you need is:
2-4 oz meat per person (chicken, salmon, steak)
1/2-1 cup of chopped veggies per person
2 oz pasta per person
1/4-1/2 cup sauce of your choice per person (white, red, pesto)

And then…

• Cook pasta per package instructions.
• Make your favorite sauce, or heat up some from a jar (with the exception of pesto which you really want to avoid cooking and won’t need as much).
• Lightly sauté mix of veggies and meat.
• Combine pasta and meat/veggie mix.
• Top with sauce.

Last night I made rotini with leftover grilled steak and corn, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and arugula topped with home made parmesan-roasted garlic sauce. Leftover pasta dishes always get rave reviews at my house and they are quick and easy—even my parmesan-roasted garlic sauce is simple to make, I’ll include that recipe in another installment.

I look forward to sharing more of my home and health related musings with you—check back soon for more of the things you didn’t learn, but should have, in Home Ec.

Leah Nicholson (MinnesotaMrs) is an ass-kicking personal trainer, a damn fine home cook and…Mrs. Minnesota United States 2012. Follow her at @MrsMN2012.

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