Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: 10 Tips for Repurposing Leftovers

I love to cook, but I’m also busy and tired. This means that I want to make dinner, but I also want it done quickly. I also hate wasting food, but my family is somewhat unpredictable with quantities. Sometimes I am feeding three hungry teenagers, and other times two have gone out unexpectedly and one decides that this is the day spaghetti sauce is gross. One night, I make two pounds of meat, two pounds of pasta, an entire bag of veggies, and a homemade sauce, and they complain that I never make enough food. The next night, I am packing up more than half of dinner, and I’m staring at the prospects of eating that same dish for lunch for the next week. I hate wasting food, so here 10 ways I use them up.

  1. Rinse: My kids don’t love potato salad, and after a picnic we might be left with a ton. Rinse the mayo off in a colander and sauté it into home fries or add it to a stew meat (shortly before it’s finished). This also works with basically any pasta dish. Pastas can get a new sauce or end up in a soup. I have even done this with a kale soup that was despised by draining the broth off, and turning the meat and beans into a chili. The tomato sauce and spices disguised the kale.
  2. Reinvent: Meatloaf is basically a giant meatball. Cube leftovers and serve with pasta and sauce. Add a few veggies to the sauce to give you more volume. Try peppers, onions, or mushrooms if you like to see your kids gag. Meatloaf can also be made into a meatball sandwich or crumbled into a meat sauce. This principle applies to just about anything Mexican. Last night’s fajitas or tacos can be tonight’s burritos or enchiladas. And Easter Ham is just waiting to be turned into cordon bleu casserole or tossed over pierogies in an alfredo sauce.
  3. Salad: Sometimes I get left with almost a pound of meat. It’s not enough to serve again as a stand alone, but too much to just eat in a few lunches. I shred or chop up the pieces and add them to a large dinner salad. While you might think that won’t be enough for hungry teens, my kids hate salad, so I can be assured enough for dinner. Use the seasoning of your meat to inspire your salad. (Terryaki, Taco, Ham and Cheese, etc.) The more variety in the salad the more likely they are to eat it. I usually serve with bread to allow my kids something to remove the salad taste from their palates.
  4. Roasted chicken/turkey can become just about any recipe that starts with sautéing chicken. (Fajitas, scampi, moo goo gai pan). Bags of frozen mixed veggies and jars of sauces in the pantry are the key to a completely different meal. This is great for after Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest, turkey isn’t that great. I like it best sliced and make into a giant hot dinner sandwich with bacon and cheese and some salsa. Also, it can make chicken salad, but see tip #1 for why I’m not likely to do that.
  5. Combine: Maybe you don’t have enough of any dinner to make more, so combine. You have sausage and chicken? Sounds like jambalaya to me. If you have beef, chicken, fish, or pork you can differnt taco options. What about a beef and vegetable stir-fry to go with a chicken lo-mein, fried rice, and fortune cookies?
  6. Pizza: You don’t need much meat to make pizza. Be creative: Buffalo chicken, BBQ pork, Thai peanut, Mexican taco, etc. You can serve several kinds based on your leftovers.
  7. Veggies: regularly I am left with a little bit of this veggie, and a little bit of that one. Not good for much of anything, but I hate throwing them out. Options for the little bits: soups, fried rice, salad toppings, or hide them in a casserole, or sauce. Throw peas in tikka masla, corn in enchiladas, and broccoli into the trash because broccoli is nasty.
  8. Baked potato bar: Chili, BBQ chicken, ham, etc. can all be toppings in a glorious leftover bar. The other night I used leftover ham and corn with cheddar cheese, green onion, crispy fried onions and …wait for it… dried cranberries on a buttered baked potato. UNBELIEVEABLE! Toppings bars also go great with mashed potatoes, fries, or even tortilla chips.
  9. Lunch: Maybe leftovers can’t be stretched into dinner. Can they be a Saturday lunch of quesadillas? Can you make soup with a couple cans of broth or a few packs of ramen? A can of enchilada sauce makes for a great soup base. A jar of spaghetti sauce and leftover tortellini/pasta also makes a great soup. Typically, I don’t make my kid’s lunch on Saturday, but I will if I’m pushing leftovers.
  10. Freeze: I keep a pound of browned ground beef in the freezer. I can add half or all of it to leftovers to spread them out. I also have pre-cooked chicken strips in the freezer that can stretch out chicken. Adding a little to stretch what I already have can save a lot of time and food. I also freeze leftover gravy or broths from roasts to add to other dishes later. Then I can use the gravy with meatloaf or the broth for a soup or sauce.

Happy Cooking!


women, Christian, ministry

Getting my MRS. Degree

I went to college to get my BA and my MRS. Degrees. I don’t know if anyone still talks about this, but back in the 90’s, it was a joke that many women, especially Christian women, were attending college to find a husband. My sophomore year in college, the school newspaper had a front-page article on this topic. I am unashamed to admit that I was totally one of them. My parents told me that I couldn’t get a ring on my finger until I had a degree in my hand. I am very efficient and opted to double major. I love school. Seriously, on bad days, I fantasize about a long vacation and getting another college degree. (It’s a sickness, I know.) College seemed like a perfect way to find a smart, motivated husband. My plan was to find a husband, get married right after graduation, work a little while and then once I had kids, stay at home and raise them.

I had equated a good, Godly woman with being a wife and stay-at-home mother. And I didn’t invent this idea all on my own. I took in both implicit and explicit messages from the Christian community around me. Messages that said child bearing was my highest calling. Messages about how being soft spoken was not only feminine but Christ like. Verses that promoted those ideals were highlighted, and the ones that didn’t were glazed over. The worst thing a Christian woman of my generation could have been called was a feminist. Feminists were career driven, man-hating, pro-abortion, anti-Jesus, women whose sinful hearts had turned them away from God’s call in their lives.
jay barb 1992.png
And as someone who truly wanted to be a wife and stay-at-home mother, these messages simply reinforced my “career” path. I wanted what I was told I should want.

I got married during graduate school. We had kids and I homeschooled. GASP. I mean, that was my “calling.” Right? There never was any conflict inside me… until I wanted something different.

Until someone questioned whether I should lead our church’s youth ministry or if it was unbiblical for me as a woman to teach high school boys. Until we decided to send our kids to school and I needed to go to work to pay for tuition. Until I got interested in issues of social justice and came to understand more about both local and global issues of inequality and injustice. It’s hard to not be a feminist when you learn how women in some parts of the world are living. Heck, it’s hard to not become a feminist the very first time someone tells your daughter she can’t do something because she’s a girl. In a very short time, I began wrestling with who I was a woman of God, and if I could reconcile being a working mother, a feminist, and a ministry leader with being Christian.


Mom pic

It might sound crazy to some of you, because today’s culture is very different than is was a quarter of a century ago. (I died a little writing that line.) Yet every culture has its blind spots. And it goes beyond the American Christian culture we live in, to the subcultures that we find ourselves in. Your culture is sending you messages about what it means to be a Christian, what is right and wrong, moral and immoral. You need to weigh those messages out against the whole counsel of scripture and critically analyze what is truly Godly. You need to think critically about everything from views on marriage and sexuality, political parties and their stance on gun control and immigration, to gender roles in the church, the home, and the workplace. You need to evaluate views of modesty, alcohol, and the legalization of marijuana. You need to be able to critically analyze these messages so you can understand Truth with a capital T.

CS Lewis coined the phrase “Chronological snobbery” and argued that every generation has their own biases. If you only read the Christian literature of your generation you are getting a very slanted viewpoint. He argues that you must read a variety of works from different generations in order to help protect you from your own generation’s bias. If you are only reading tweets and blogs and the newest best sellers in the Christian living section of Barnes and Nobel you are missing so much. To protect yourself from this bias, CS Lewis suggests a cross generational reading diet.

 “It’s a good rule after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to three new ones…. Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and especially liable to make certain mistakes. We all therefore need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period…. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books….The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds and this can only be done by reading old books.”   (As found in “CS Lewis on Chronological Snobbery” by Art Lindsley)

I’d add to that quote, something I am sure Lewis would agree with. We have to know our Bibles well. Our Bibles need to be the root from which all of our beliefs stem. We need to weigh what the world says against what God says, and when the two conflict, we need to side with God. That doesn’t mean that we don’t critically analyze scripture, looking at scripture against scripture, scripture in the context of the culture it was written in, and identifying a broad view of scripture as a single great story told across generations.


Christians in different times and in different places in the world have defined the ideals of Christian men and women differently. We need to be careful that we don’t confuse our culture’s ideals of Godly with God’s definition of Godly. The Gospel message must be true everywhere and for all people. If we impose on it standards that cannot apply to a specific group of people, it might not really be the Gospel.

Growing up believing that Godly girls didn’t have careers, invalidated entire groups of Godly women who either had to work (like single women and the impoverished around the world) and those women who chose to work (you know, like say Mother Teresa) And the issue of women with careers is only one area in which cultural ideals can lead people into false interpretations of Godliness.

Fortunately for us, the Bible is filled with examples of godly men and women who are as different as can be. There are kings and queens and peasants and priests. There are children, young men, and old women. There are the single, married, widowed and divorced. There are working mom’s and eccentric prophets. It took me years of internal struggle to see that there is a whole lot of room under the label “Godly.” The real challenge is in finding room for our Christian brothers and sisters in our own hearts.

family, marriage, parenting teens

Surviving the Natural Disaster Known as Parenting

Everyone has heard stories of people who have fallen in love after surviving a traumatic ordeal together.  These romantic dramas make for great books and movies. Perhaps time spent together overcoming a mutual trial can create these deep bond. We think about the couple who met and married after Sully landed his plane in Hudson, or people who met through 9/11 and other tragic ordeals. Then there are the stories of patients and their nurses who fall in love.  I’m sure the list could go on to include stories from every war throughout history and so much more.

Research shows that people facing acute stress, as in a natural disaster, show an increase in cooperation, friendliness, and increased connections between individuals.

Parenting teenager definitely qualifies as acute stress, and I would argue it has to constitute a natural disaster.  Parenting is hard! Raising human beings into adulthood and releasing them into the wild is a lot of pressure. If being trapped in the house with a child you have grounded doesn’t constitute a hostage situation (for you), I don’t know what does. And, if I had a dollar for every time I told an irate teenager that, “This administration doesn’t negotiate with terrorists,” I’d have at least enough money to put myself into a world-class sugar coma. Trust me, I know stress.

family wall

In all seriousness, some couples fall apart when they confront the increasingly difficult struggles of raising their children. Add to that the conflict created by real crisis or loss, and it can be too much for some couples to bear. Life is hard, and all couples have times of brokenness and sorrow; you can’t be on the same page all the time. Crisis often throws couples into whirlwinds.  When the storm passes, couples can find that they have landed in different places. They feel lost and alone.

But not everyone stays that way.  Sometimes couples endure and come out stronger. They land in different places, but they find each other again. I think that’s what happened to Jay and I.

hotel fire

We’ve had the normal ups and downs that every marriage faces, but there were a few years in which we were never on the same page, not even in the same book. I had changed so much already, and the heartaches of life made our differences all the more profound. The challenges of parenting teens, demanding careers, caring for aging parents, and all the costs associated with these things seemed like ever strengthening waves that were constantly crashing over us and making it hard to even catch our breath before a new wave would send us tumbling head over heels.

I think what made the difference for us was the belief that marriage is forever; divorce is not an option. I remember a Valentine’s Day Couples dinner at church once where the speaker reminded couples that their partners were not their enemies. I have needed to remind myself of that many times. I didn’t have the strength to take on a new enemy anyway. We needed to join forces to survive; so we did. Every time the dust settled, we looked for each other. Our marriage, not our kids, takes priority of our home.

We found each other not because we had common interests, but because we had common ground. I can’t speak for Jay, but I clung to him for dear life. There were times I honestly thought I might die.  In the midst of the absolute worst, I fell in love with him every day that I didn’t hate him, until the days I hated him were fewer and fewer and my love grew deeper and deeper. I know that probably sounds horrible, but it’s true. One day we’d be screaming and the next day he’d hold me as I sobbed. I’m a very passionate person, so it can often be all or nothing with me. And if you think you are going to die, and someone rescues you, you just about can’t help but fall in love with them.

I’m all in with our marriage, and so is Jay and that’s why it works. And bonus: every time we find each other again, I not only love him more, I like him more.

jay and barb 1



Christian, Proverbs 31, women

Stumbling into the Truth of Being a Godly Woman

A few years back, I resolved to strengthen the spiritual disciplines in my life. I desired to be more consistent in my quiet times, deepen my relationship with God, and see more fruit of the Spirit flowing from my life. Step 1: buy a well-rated women’s devotional on Proverbs 31. I determined that I would give it my all while understanding that some of the book might not work with my life. Maybe that was a tad prophetic thought.

Honestly, it didn’t started out as a train wreck. Years of being a Christian prepared me for the inevitable “wake up early for your quiet time.” At first it was getting up 20 minutes early, but later she was asking me to exercise for an hour before work. Let’s do some math. I leave for work at 7:00 am. Back up the 60 minutes I am going to need to get ready for work if I am now showering and blow-drying my hair in the morning instead of the evening. Backtrack another hour for exercise and the 20 minutes of devotional time, nay the 30 minutes if you count needing time to wake up enough to not be quite so hostile towards Jesus. Hello 4:30 am. Because she also recommended 8 hours of sleep, I would be going to bed at 8:30 pm. People, I have 3 teenagers. I get home from work at 5:30. We eat dinner at almost 7. Can you even imagine what kind of life that would be?

Forget spending time with my husband and kids, getting up in the middle of the night to speed-walk through the neighborhood will make me a better Christian. Not!


There were suggestions about prayer closets, healthier eating, juice cleanses, buying a mini trampoline, finding the right clothing color scheme, part-time employment, and so many other things. I just couldn’t do all the things she was asking.  Just about everything had to be modified or completely ignored. Maybe navy is my color, and I should never wear black, but I just wasn’t about to purchase whole new wardrobe even with the money I was going to make off my real estate ventures.

prayer closet

My “prayer closet”

Now, I know I’m being kind of hard on this book but she is not an anomaly. So much of what she said can be found in hundreds of women’s conferences, books, and blogs. I don’t know what men’s Christian living books and events are like, but some how I don’t think they are telling men what kind of power ties to buy and how they need to invest in expensive cologne to entice their wives more. I don’t think they are promoting essential oils, organic, clean eating, and the latest in home gym equipment to make sure their temples are well maintained. Maybe I’m wrong.

Sometimes you feel tied to a “truth” that you can’t fully reconcile yourself to, until the curtain is pulled back and you realize the Wizard is just a man in a machine. I had wanted so badly to be this Proverbs 31 woman I had been taught so much about until I understood why she was just smoke and mirrors. I needed to see Christianity broken down into such ridiculous standards before I could find the truth.

We have allowed the idea of being a Godly Woman to be attached to so many things that are good, but not innately Godly.

  • Does the women in a third-world nation raising her children on the proceeds of her small farm need to buy exercise equipment to be more Godly?
  • Does the woman living in an urban flat need to turn her walk-in closet into a “prayer closet” so she can hear God speak more clearly?
  • Does the low-income mother need to buy all organic food with her food stamps to be a Godly mother?
  • Unless her plan is to meet Jesus sooner, does the woman in the bad neighborhood need to take a 5 am walk through town praying over her neighbors?
  • Does the Godly woman even need to have children? A spouse?

If the message you are spreading to others about what it means to be a Christian does not apply universally to all people, it is not the true Gospel. That doesn’t mean that you can’t provide tips for applying that truth to a variety of unique situations, but the application cannot become the gospel.

I needed to see how badly women were defining the Proverbs 31 woman, before I could finally find her already there inside myself.

I have a long way to go, but I am figuring out how to apply the Gospel to my own life, in my own way. I’m not making the Gospel fit my life. The Gospel is the Gospel, but having my quiet time in the middle of the living room after dinner, works better for me than at 5 am in a quiet corner of my bedroom. Eating a doughnut in the car on my way to work so I can sleep a little longer and stay up a little later with my kids isn’t going to land me in the pits of hell, and it might even make me a better, although slightly larger, Christian woman.

Barb 40th

So if you see me without make-up, wearing black leggings as pants, and eating doughnuts, please know that I’m a work in progress, and I don’t think Jesus minds.

family, gifts from God

A Brother is Born for Adversity

A Friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

I always thought that these two verses were saying basically the same thing, but now I’m not so sure. I took it to mean that good friends can be truer than family. Certainly we all know someone whose family is absent from their lives. Maybe they live physically too far away, or maybe they are just so different in personality and life that they can’t seem to make the jump to close relationships. Friends are those people you choose, so we often find those deep soul connections with our friends rather than our blood.


But I think adversity has helped me see that a brother may not be born to create adversity, but rather for times of adversity. Sure, my brother teased me growing up. Sure he still mocks me over an incident where I ran screaming from a bottle of shampoo and another time that he convinced me in my groggy state that my teddy bear was talking. But when push comes to shove, my brother is the one I turn to. (And I’d like to add this is just as true for my sister.)

house sale

When my father died months before my wedding, who waked me down the aisle? Who showed up at my house to watch my kids when I was in labor, or we needed to make a run to the ER? Who did I text a thousand times from my mother’s bedside? Who stood next to the grave the day we buried our son? Please don’t misunderstand, I have many a good friend that showed up at these and other hard moments, but I know I can count on my brother and sister in a deeper way, in a “we’re all in this together” sort of way. My siblings have been my rocks through more adversity than I thought it was possible for one person to bear.

I am so very fortunate to have friends who love at all times, but I am all the more blessed that I had a brother born for adversity.

siblings 2

Christian, family, grief and loss, mental health, parenting teens

Borrowing Trouble From Yesterday

Proverbs 17: 21,22
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
    and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Please let me be clear right upfront. I am not calling my children fools, any more than I might say of anyone. We are all fools at times and in certain areas of our lives.  However, I wanted to make an connection between the fool and the struggling or wayward child. It doesn’t matter exactly what the details are, but a child whose life looks different from a parent’s dream for their child, can result in a parent who struggles with sorrow, grief, and a lack of joy. This could be physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. It could be illness. It could be a prodigal child who has rejected the faith their parents have so prayerfully tried to instill in him or her. It might be a child who is simply making foolish or risky decisions regarding academics, alcohol, dating, or a host of other areas.

life disasters

Parents, if this is you, please listen up. You are hurting, fearful, broken, grieving, disappointed, angry, sad, anxious, or any combination of these and many other emotions. You had an image of what your family would be, and it hasn’t turned out that way. You were sure you’d be a good parent, and you promised yourself you wouldn’t make the same mistakes your parents made. Maybe you didn’t; maybe you made different mistakes. I can only promise you that you most definitely made mistakes. It would be impossible for you not to have. We all do. Don’t try to evaluate your mistakes by comparing them to others. You can’t take them back. Personally, I know I can’t seem to let mine go. If you are anything like me, you can’t let yours go either. Please believe me that hanging on to them is only hurting your child and yourself more. Do what I say and not what I do.

flaming grill

Perhaps the mistakes you made directly resulted in the exact negative choices you desperately wanted to avoid in your child. Maybe you held on too tight, or maybe you were too lenient. Maybe you are wracked with guilt and “what ifs”. Maybe you are grieving the happy home you though you’d have or the parent you thought you’d be. Maybe the issues your child has have absolutely nothing to do with you and you know it. Maybe it was the results of genetics, accidents, or someone else’s sin. Maybe you’re angry with God or someone else. I really can’t say for sure. If you’re like me, then you deal with stress and anxiety about the long term future of your child(ren) and how their life will turn out. Maybe you fear for your safety or the safety of your loved ones wether because of depression, violence, or physical ailments. I’ve talked with so many parents who have walked various challenging roads with their kids. Some need to establish care plans for their children in their wills, some worry about access to weapons. Many are on their knees in broken hearted prayers every single day.

Life is hard, and you have become skilled in borrowing trouble from tomorrow. You are even more skilled at borrowing trouble from yesterday.

pills 2

Stop it.

Hear me.

God has this. I know it’s easy to say this, and it’s near impossible to do this. I don’t mean to suggest that you stop worrying forever; I mean for right now. Stop.

This is robbing your joy and destroying your health. I don’t think it was a mistake that Solomon put the next verse where he did. The stress and worry that is marking you life is shortening your life and making you unhealthy. So for just this minute- stop. The worry and anxiety will come back soon enough, so for now count your blessings and embrace something wonderful or beautiful or good that also marks your life. Maybe start with all that is right and good with your difficult child, all that you love and deeply want to see flourish. And when the worry or fear or guilt returns, stop again. It’s going to be a constant battle. Don’t set up some unattainable goal like “never worry again,” that when you fail to achieve will leave you defeated. Stop for just a moment, for as many moments as you can, as often as you can. Start making a new normal.

Your life isn’t what you dreamed of or hoped for, but that doesn’t mean it is without it’s joys. Find those joys. Live in those joys. You need your health to care for those kids (big and small) who are struggling through life. Your kids need the best you, and your best medicine is joy.


book review, Christian, social justice

Love Does: A Review (the book and the organization)

The name Bob Goff came up so frequently in the past year or so I had to check him out. I didn’t know much about him, just a mention of him by other authors, a forward in a book, or someone mentioned reading Love Does. Hearing he had a new book coming out, I made reading it a priority. I borrowed it from Hoopla, because I almost never have time to read a paper book and Hoopla fits my budget of FREE.

I’m not used to a book that immediately draws me in, but right from the get go I couldn’t stop listening. At first I was trying to reconcile a man who was a great mentor to others, a human rights lawyer who put human traffickers away, but who also thought flying out of a Jeep in an auto accident was cool. How could all be the same person? But it was.

The stories were highly entertaining, but the book had real meaning and purpose. It helped me think about some of the relationships I have. I felt like I understood love a little more. I wanted to love better.

That led me to look up the organization that Bob Goff runs that works to secure justice for the oppressed and underprivileged in Africa (Uganda, Somali) and Asia (Nepal, India, Iraq). Love Does is doing amazing work! I must say that the idea of traveling with them sounds like an amazing chance to go on an adventure, but that’s not in my budget…nor do I expect it ever will be.

The only thing even remotely negative about this book is that Bob Goff’s life seemed unattainable for me. I tend to like to think that maybe one day I could be as wild and crazy as the authors whose lives I read about. But Bob, well, I’m never going to have the funds to take my kids to visit 27 different nations, even if the the leaders of those countries invited us over. I have no desire to sail across the pacific with rudimentary navigational tools. Now, my dad on the other hand, he’d have loved it. Maybe there in lies the draw. I’m not like Bob, and I don’t have his resources, but I know and love people who are similar to him in spirit and passion and that makes Bob relatable even if he’s unattainable for me personally. I bet Bob would be an awesome person to chat with over dinner or go on an adventure with.  I loved reading every word of Love Does. I can’t wait to get my hands on his next one Everybody Always. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.

So, check out the book Love Does, but more importantly, check out the organization. Support them with your resources and prayers. And if you ever get the chance to travel with them, share your pictures. I’d love to see them.

And Bob Goff, our house probably isn’t as nice as the houses of some of the world leaders you have met, but the food will be good, the conversation lively, and there is a key to our house just waiting for you. Come on by.