Dinner at the Improv

NO NEED TO ADJUST YOUR SCREEN! That photo above isn’t a re-run; it was Wednesday night’s Dinner at the Improv! Okay, technically it IS a re-run. But leftovers make some of the best meals ever. There’s nothing quicker or more convenient, and when it comes to low sodium dishes, they often taste better – not worse, the next day. Now that it’s January, the SHINE of Christmas has passed and you’re left footing the bill for all that merry making, there’s nothing more sensible than making due with what’s in the cupboard. You don’t have to be bright as 100 matinee bulbs or a culinary Julia Child to turn whatever happens to be on hand into something at least semi-sensational. Sometimes the best recipes aren’t recipes at all.

Take those lemony chicken wings above. I posted the recipe earlier this week. After consuming the wings for dinner, we had 4 wings left over. Instead of inhaling them the next day for lunch, I tossed them in a pot of water, boiled ’em for an hour-plus, then drained the broth and picked the wings clean. (My puppy Roxy assisted; she is so helpful.) I returned the meat to the broth, added a chopped onion, several minced cloves of garlic, some diced carrot and celery, half a bag of yolk-less egg noodles and zippity doo dah – Dinner is Served. To perk up the broth I also added a generous dash of thyme and a tablespoon of salt free Sunny Spain Seasoning from The Spice House. The vibrant lemon pepper blend was the perfect addition to the lemon infused wing meat. Yum-YUMMMMMmmmmm!!!

Soup is the perfect throw-it-together dish for this time of year. And like that improv above, there are infinite variations on the theme. Whatever’s in the Fridge Chowder, Leftover Stew, This Produce is Almost Too Old Let’s Toss it in the Pot Surprise. Regardless of rendition, all healthy, filling & (hopefully) tasty. Another easy and adaptable weeknight meal? Doggie Meat. (Poor Roxy is cowering). No, I’m not talking actual DOG. Doggie Meat is code language for Goulash; here in Maine, it’s called “American Chop Suey.” Growing up, my best friend was one of 7 children and weekly her family enjoyed a meal of Doggie Meat. It always consisted of the same basic things. Some kind of ground up meat (or not); a type of noodles; tomatoes of some sort – whether fresh or canned, sauced or chopped; usually a chopped onion and/or garlic; and seasoning. My mom made almost the same thing and called it Goulash. Regardless of name, the dish was an improv. Cheap and filling, thrown together with whatever was on hand and on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Why am I writing 4 paragraphs going on about leftovers on a Friday morning?? BECAUSE. It is January. For many that means post-holiday belt tightening. But whether money’s tight now or not, there’s nothing better than being resourceful. Taking what you’ve got and trying to put it to good use. When it comes to meal making, how many times have you gone to the market, hauled home a bounty, only to later toss half of it in the rubbish or compost bin?? We’ve all been there. Start the year off right. Not by making a bunch of halfhearted resolutions that fall by the wayside, but by actually doing something meaningful. Don’t waste food. Before you buy, first go to the fridge, open up those cabinets, and see what you’ve got. That dusty can of salt free beans, some frozen corn and a box of taco shells may not a fiesta make, but then again, they might. Throw in a little leftover meat, some diced tomato, a splash of low sodium hot sauce. What’s on hand? All of that? None of that? So be it. Today’s post is simply a reminder to maintain a positive attitude and be thankful year round for what you’ve got. Improv meals can be feasts with the right frame of mind.

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