The Easter bunny has left the building, but he left behind a pantry-load of chocolate, slabs of homemade blueberry pie and a refrigerator full of gallon baggies filled with leftover Polish food.
While, for believers of the church, He rose again on Sunday morning, my boys tolerance for day three of leftovers has not.
Even I have begun to look at the beige food on my plate coming out the microwave (has anyone else noticed the food of their people is lacking in vibrant colors?) and longed for some kind of green vegetable. Let's be honest, of course, I could add a side salad to the meal, but often I instead slap some extra sour cream on my potato pancakes and call it dinner.
But tonight, I know if I yell "leftover night!" there might be a coup staged by one 5-year-old superhero who has had his fill of kielbasa.
My options include breakfast for dinner — I can scramble some eggs, break apart the leftover potato pancakes and add onion powder and fry them up for hash browns alongside the remaining slices of kielbasa — or my favorite throw-it-in-the-frittata move. The pierogis can be added to a basic vegetable broth-based soup and you know those pinkish-green hard-boiled eggs (it's safe to feed my kid those slightly dyed eggs, right?) will make for a colorful — one might say, "magical" — egg salad.
And then there's the ham. So. Much. Ham.
Some will get used up in egg muffins for easy, breakfast-on-the-go this week, but I also like to make this cheesy casserole when we've all reached our leftover limits. It's a mild casserole, thanks to the Swiss cheese, and you can really use any vegetables you have in the freezer or that are already roasted and sitting in your fridge behind all those decorated eggs. This calls for leftover turkey, as well, but can be made without or with some cooked chicken. Throw together a side salad and you've got a completely new dinner — or don't and just add a dollop of sour cream on top. No judging here.
TURKEY, HAM AND SWISS CASSEROLE
8 ounces pasta (I usually use penne or bowties to catch the cheesy sauce)
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup onion (chopped)
3/4 cup celery (chopped)
1 cup ham (cooked, diced)
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups Swiss cheese (shredded)
2 cups turkey meat or chicken (cooked, diced) *optional
1 cup frozen peas or any frozen vegetables you have on hand
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat butter in a large skillet and sauté the onion and celery over medium-low heat until softened. Add ham and stir in flour until combined. Gradually stir in the milk until thickened. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese, turkey, and peas or vegetables if using. Add the cooked pasta and blend thoroughly. Spoon the pasta mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish.
Combine breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon melted butter; sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbly and topping is browned.
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My last column featured some of my favorite kitchen hacks. I had many comments on the various ideas I mentioned, though, only Marilyn Gattuso, a native of North Adams and a former Pittsfield resident, now of Naples, Fla., offered her favorite.
"When you burn your hand/fingers while baking or cooking, immediately place your hand in a container of flour or cover the area with flour — sting and potential blister/scar will disappear."
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