I have a resident Leftover Fairy. Second cousin (once removed) to the Tooth Fairy, this little sprite waves her magic wand and fills containers with small (or sometimes, large) portions of meals I’ve prepared and sticks them in my refrigerator. The Cold Cuts Fairy only makes guest appearances, as there are always enough leftovers to cover lunch for my family. It’s only happened once where my mother-in-law stood with my fridge door ajar, her mouth open in disbelief to find no leftovers inside. I’ve heard she’s contemplated the three-and-a-half hour drive to my house when leftovers are on the menu for dinner at her house.
So last week, as I was preparing for a house full of guests for the weekend, I found myself with the fridge door ajar wondering exactly what we would be having for lunch. With my husband away to summer school, I haven’t exactly been cooking for a crowd. (Hot dogs again? Sure!) What could I make for supper that would make fabulous leftovers? What would be easy, quick, and not heat up my kitchen?
A side burner was not on the list of top-desired items when we were grill shopping last spring. But there are very few grills out there without a side burner, so our new grill has one, whether I like it or not. Our last grill had one; but to give you an idea of how frequently I used it– wasps had built a nest in it. However, when the mercury reading is above 80 degrees and the last thing I want to do is grill another chicken breast or sausage link of any variety, the side burner starts to look like a great possibility. So, taking some of the best tricks from my go-to skillet recipes, I exposed my skillet to the fresh air, fired up the side burner, and made a delicious dinner. Leftovers included.
Creamy Pasta with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Spinach
Note: in case you couldn’t have figured it out, you can make this recipe on a conventional stovetop.
- 4-6 slices bacon, depending on how much bacon you like
- 1 Tbsp. cooking oil, whatever kind you prefer
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cups medium-sized pasta (I like cavatappi or radiatore because they’re fun shapes; you can use what you like or have)
- 2-1/2 cups water or beef broth
- 2 beef bouillon cubes (omit if using broth)
- 1-1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed
- 4 oz. cream cheese, cubed (I use reduced-fat)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup milk
- Place bacon on microwavable plate between two paper towels. Cook at 60% for 10 minutes or until bacon is cooked but not crispy. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. (Now, you could cook the bacon in the skillet and then continue as below, but I didn’t want the sauce to get too greasy.)
- Heat oil in large skillet (12″ is best size) over medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until tender and mushrooms are beginning to brown. Add bacon and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add pasta, water, bouillon cubes, garlic powder, and black pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked (not too firm) and most of the liquid is absorbed. If pasta isn’t cooked completely and the liquid is diminishing, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time, and continue cooking until pasta is done.
- Add spinach; stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and cream cheese until melted. Add milk to thin sauce to desired consistency. Cook on low for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Serve.
On a side note, have you ever wondered: after Jesus fed the 5000+, what did they do with the twelve baskets of leftovers? Did they donate them to the local crisis center for distribution to the poor? Did some of the women take their share, soak the bread in egg, and whip up a seafood breakfast casserole the next morning? Did they take them on board the ship crossing the Galilee and lose them overboard in the violent storm? I simply find it hard to believe they just threw the leftovers away.
I know that I’ve often listened to this story, thinking, How incredible! To be fed by Jesus… to witness such a miracle… If only I had been there…
But how often I forget–I am there. I joke about the Leftover Fairy, but every night I have enough food not only to put a meal on the table, but to also have leftovers for another meal. The Lord has blessed me miraculously! I look in the refrigerator, my large chest freezer, and my pantry and I see the equivalent of twelve baskets of blessings and then some. And what do I often do? Complain that there’s nothing to eat. Grumble at the work it takes to do meal planning. Mutter that there’s nothing I really want. It’s at moments like this that the Lord should reach down from heaven with his generous hand and slap me soundly along the side of my head!
Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Think about what this is saying– God blesses me not only with what I need, but with so much I can’t contain it. He gives me leftovers! This is nothing short of a miracle; it’s the grace of God. Wow!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever!