Someone once asked me if I’ve ever made Friday Night Casserole. That’s hysterical; I think we all know I’d never do that. But if I ever had to, I bet I could come up with a special Friday Night Casserole meal by using the leftovers in my fridge, like my Mom would have. Of course, my fridge actually has food in it that I want to eat. But there aren’t usually leftovers in my fridge (hello … Jay lives here). Though there are times I look through my cupboards and fridge to survey what I could make a meal out of. Thankfully I always have good stuff like chicken stock, tomato sauce and pasta noodles in the cupboards; onions, mushrooms, spinach, butter and cheese in the fridge, and olive oil, limes and tomatoes on the counter. Always. These are all some of my favorite foods and I bet I could come up with at least 20 ways to prepare them. But I wonder what I could come up with if I had to resort to some of Mary Ann’s ingredients.
Have you ever seen the TV show “Chopped” or “Iron Chef?” I think Mary Ann created the concept of Iron Chef before the Japanese did. They have to make a meal featuring one secret food ingredient. The chefs on “Chopped” find four random (and often disgusting) ingredients in their baskets and have to prepare dishes with them. Somehow they always make something the judges like. Mary Ann could also take any ingredients and make a meal out of them. Unfortunately it was usually something her judges didn’t like. One time her secret ingredient was turnips. Of course, she told us that big bowl of mashed white stuff was potatoes. And naturally, being the Spud Queen, I piled that stuff on my plate. Big mistake.
Here’s a sample of four ingredients that could be found in one of Mary Ann’s baskets:
Jar of Marinated Vegetables
Lipton Onion Soup Mix
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Leftover White Rice
Can of Stewed Tomatoes
Pimento Loaf Lunch Meat
Okay, it usually wasn’t that extreme, but it’s close. So anyway, there’s no such thing as throwing together a Friday Night Casserole at my house. When I find the leftovers are piling up in the fridge, I’ve found a way to make them appealing. See, Jay loves buffets. Loves them. I hate them. All those glass sneeze-guards that are too tall to block kids’ sneezes, day-old lettuces, rice pilaf ending up in the mashed potatoes, sticky serving utensils, crab that’s never crab, and pretty much just cooties galore. Jay knows the only way he can get me to go to a buffet is this: when one of the nieces or nephews spends the night and we ask them where they’d like to go for dinner, he whispers “HomeTown Buffet” in their ear. Then I’m screwed.
So for times when Jay passes up the leftovers in the fridge, I hold a “Buffet Night.” I take out all the leftovers, which are never disgusting, and heat them up. I place them on the kitchen counter in pretty bowls and plates and add a bowl of green salad, make some yummy appetizer and throw in a bowl of his favorite potato chips to make it fancy. Works every time. I have to be honest: I got the idea from Jay. One time he had to watch our niece for about an hour before I got home. She was about 2 at the time. When I got home, she yelled out, “We’re having a Food Party!” He had put raisins, cheese, grapes, goldfish crackers, pretzels and other kid foods in a bunch of cute little bowls on the table, and my niece was eating every single one of them. See, you just have to make it fancy.