You know how it is. One of your kids likes chewy whole-grain bread. Her brother prefers fluffy white bread. The health-conscious teen will eat only sprouted wheat bread. One will go hungry if the crust hasn’t been trimmed from his sandwich bread. Another one bites the crust.
And then spits it out.
It’s not hard for a woman to be a good steward when all she needs to do is be mindful of her own actions. But when she is a mother in charge of a household, good stewardship becomes a bit trickier. Especially in the kitchen.
In their pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” the U.S. Bishops define the Christian steward as “one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord.”
A family reciting grace before meals is showing gratitude for God’s gifts of food and drink. A father who has built a pantry suitable for long-term food storage is showing both parental responsibility in caring for his family, and accountability to God for the sustenance He has provided. And through the simple act of slicing a home baked loaf and dividing the portions among her children, a mother is sharing the work of her hands “in justice and love.”
For decades, mothers have sternly reminded their picky eaters of the “starving children in Africa” who would be very grateful for the broccoli stalks languishing on little Johnny’s plate. But it was long before these motherly admonishments came into use that Luke told us, “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?’” God calls us to manage our homes wisely, and in order to do so, we must not squander His provisions, lest our households lack their “portion of food.” Proverbs 21:20 tells us that, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” Food that is gulped is not properly broken down for use by the body, so nourishment that the food is meant to provide goes to waste. To be good stewards, we must eat and drink mindfully, and see to it that every bit of our food and drink goes to good use.
So what do we do with those soggy Cheerios?
That’s one of the challenges of good stewardship. Practicing accountability in the kitchen demands that we think up inventive ways to make use of all kinds of leftovers. In our large family, I found that, in our haste to clean up after a meal, it was too easy to scrape plates clean of food that could have been reinvented as a different meal. Admittedly, some readers might be repulsed by the thought of taking a half-eaten chop off someone’s plate and putting it into tomorrow’s pot pie. That’s understandable, and anyway, since every conscientious mother will find her own method of accountability, her family will steward its own resources in a unique way. But the “recycling” of food works for our own family, and I’ve even given the practice a cutesy tagline. I call it “going green with scrap cuisine.”
Here are just a few ideas for practicing Scrap Cuisine Cookery at breakfast time:
1- Salvage hunks of muffin from the breakfast table and crumble them. Toss the crumbs with melted butter, and then with cinnamon sugar. Lightly toast crumbs in a slow oven, stirring every couple of minutes. Layer crumbs with plain yogurt for tomorrow’s breakfast parfait.
2- At our house, sweetened cereal is served once a week, only on Saturday morning. All of the cereal is usually consumed in short order, but if there is any left in the boxes, I set it aside for Crazy Mixed-Up Cereal Medley. To make Crazy Mixed-Up Cereal Medley, I take a handful of nuts or seeds, run them through the food processor with some raisins and a little cinnamon or vanilla until the nuts are finely chopped, and dump the mixture into a big bowl. I process a handful of old-fashioned oats the same way; ditto the leftover cereal. I stir the oats and cereal crumbs into the nut mixture, sometimes adding toasted wheat germ or shredded coconut. The resulting medley of flavors and textures – and hues, too, if the sweetened cereal was one of the colorful varieties – makes a jazzy addition to cooked oatmeal or bland cereals like bran flakes. Use your imagination to think up other scrap ingredients for your Crazy Mixed-Up Cereal Medley. If you’re doing it right, it won’t ever taste the same way twice.
3- Small amounts of leftover cooked oatmeal can be pureed with a little milk or juice and added to pancake batter.
4- Reserve leftover scrambled eggs for the next morning’s breakfast tortillas. Line a heated tortilla with scrambled eggs and warmed salsa, top with shredded Mexican blend cheese, and serve.
5- About those soggy Cheerios: Dump them into a plastic container and place in refrigerator overnight to allow the milk to be absorbed by the cereal. Mash the cereal until it’s the consistency of baby food, and then use it to substitute for some of the banana in your favorite banana bread recipe.
Copyright 2012 Celeste Behe