Life Matters

Some leftovers are best discarded

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Families most often celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey dinner, stuffing themselves with stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies and pumpkin pie. After everyone has gone home, what happens to the leftovers? 

The turkey, of course, can be used to make turkey sandwiches, no question there. What about the butternut squash? According to Yummy Recipes, if mushrooms, olive oil, coconut milk, lemon zest, ginger and salt are cooked together with the squash, a lovely soup evolves. Betty Crocker recommends butternut squash tartlets, a minimal amount of work if pre-made mini fillo shells are purchased. Additional recommendation includes butternut squash risotto, butternut squash cornbread, chicken and butternut squash potpie, and chicken and butternut squash quesadillas. What a variety!

Left over green bean casserole is more difficult to redesign, but there are several Yummy recipes for this, such as left-over mashed potato and green bean casserole. This dish adds tomato soup, browned ground beef, onions and cheddar cheese to make another meal with a completely different taste. Also, according to Yummy, mushrooms can be stuffed with green bean casserole, as can a grilled cheese.

Real Simple has several suggestions for leftover mashed potatoes. They make a great topping for shepherd's pie. Mixed with spinach and garlic, the patties can be fried and topped with a fried egg. They also suggest leftover mashed potato and cheese soup, and mashed potato puffs.

For the turkey A Taste of Home recommends gobbler cakes, prepared similar to crab cakes, shells stuffed with turkey and stuffing, turkey chili and turkey noodle.

While there are endless suggestions for what to do with excess food, this time of year, I reminisce about a different kind of leftover; regretful things I had done in the past. My tendency to hold onto these memories often causes my heart to ache. On this Thanksgiving Day those regrets are being tossed out, discarded like the turkey bones.

When Francis was about ten years old, we took him to the Warwick Animal Shelter to choose a dog. He happily picked out one of obvious greyhound descent, which Francis named Sam.

Sam was “very perky”, skinny, had beige hair, and ran like the wind, which it took every opportunity to do. If anyone came into or left the house, it would quickly slip through their legs and run out the door – every time anyone came or left! This was especially problematic when I would be leaving for work in the morning and have to go catch the dog. I finally learned that if I drove the car around and around the block, the dog would chase it. After about 10 minutes or so, he would finally get winded and be willing to jump into the car for me to bring him home.

After a few months, I was frustrated and couldn’t take it any longer! Sam was driven back to the animal shelter and surrendered. I had not consulted Francis on this matter, and sneakily pushed out the screen of one of our porch windows and pretended Sam ran away. It was heartbreaking to hear Francis cry in his bed at night over the loss of his pet. In retrospect, I am not sure what I would have done differently (short of keeping the dog in a crate the whole time), but the sound of his crying still haunts my heart. So, on this day, I officially forgive myself for this parental faux pas.

One winter several years ago, my mom, my daughter, Marie, (about 9 at the time) and I were headed for a trip to Maya Riviera, funded by my generous mom who greatly enjoyed traveling. We had just officially adopted Marie after her living with us as a foster child for several years. I naively thought that her adoption certificate would serve as a birth certificate for our trip to Mexico, but learned when we went to check in at the airport that I was wrong. Faced with this situation at the airline counter with Marie expectantly looking up at me, I switched our destination to Tampa, Florida where we ended up spending several fun days at Busch Gardens. The hotel was lovely and had a great pool, and Marie was none the wiser that we hadn’t gone to Mexico.

My mom, good naturedly, came along and was a good sport, but I knew in my heart that her traveling bones had really wanted to go to Maya Riviera. She hated amusement parks and loved, loved, loved traveling to distant countries. (She had taken us on trips to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Belize previously.) All these years later my heart still aches at the in the moment decision I had made to switch the trip to Florida. We could have booked a later flight and I could have gone to the Department of Health to get Marie’s birth certificate. But I didn’t, and my mom’s last trip with us ended up being a disappointment to her. I am sure that she, in eternal life, has no afterthoughts of that trip, so I am also tossing out this leftover heartache.

It has been a great Thanksgiving! Leftovers fill my stomach my heart is lightened.

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