Friday, November 7, 2008

Today's Special: Leftovers

I love leftovers. I enjoy getting a break from standard lunchtime fare to sample a hot meal, and so many dishes taste even better to me the second time around. And best of all, with the minimal effort required to prepare leftovers, I gain more time for other creative pursuits outside the kitchen.

Unfortunately, I am the only one in my family who feels this way. Presenting Monday's meatloaf or Tuesday's turkey later in the week is usually met with groans from my husband and four children. So awhile back I came up with a fun way to please my food critics and take leftovers from old news to today's special.

As I peered into my refrigerator one Friday night trying to decide what to prepare for supper, I was amused noting leftovers from two previous weeknight meals: spaghetti and chicken enchiladas. I smiled wondering if we should return to Italy or Mexico for dinner that night. I had some of both dishes left, but not enough to serve the entire family either one. So an idea was born: Mom's Cafe.

I tried not to let my excitement spoil the surprise as I quietly set the table, printed menus and prepared for that night's restaurant opening. Tuesday's spaghetti became The Italian Feast, and Thursday's enchiladas became The Mexican Fiesta. With the document saved on my computer, updated menus could be printed with new specials if the restaurant concept went over well. In no time, Mom's Cafe was ready for customers.

When I called the family to supper, I met the children as they sauntered into the kitchen. "Welcome to Mom's Cafe," I offered with a smile. "How many are in your party tonight?"

The boys shot each other a look as I directed the children to their seats: "Right this way, please." They looked confused as they settled into their chairs and I handed them their menus. "Would you like to hear our specials?" I asked. They nodded silently, and I told them about our featured dishes. "Can I get you something to drink while you look over your menus?" With drink orders in hand, I slipped into the kitchen.

"That was freaky," Carson murmured to Christian.

Joe and I exchanged smiles, and he offered to work in the kitchen while I waited on our customers.

By the time I returned with their drinks -- chocolate milks all around -- the children were starting to enjoy themselves. "May I take your order?" I asked. The children acted so grown up looking over the menu and making their selections. My kitchen staff -- I mean Joe -- worked quickly to assemble and reheat the plates, and I delivered them to the children.

The children were fully engaged in Mom's Cafe by the time I placed the boys' Italian Feasts at their places. Carson was in the bathroom when I asked Christian if he would care for cheese on his spaghetti. "Yes, please," he replied, "and my brother would also." I almost giggled at his response, but I didn't want to break character. The children laughed, talked, cleaned their plates -- and offered their sincere compliments to the chef.

I think all the food critics in my house would agree that the opening night of Mom's Cafe was a huge success. Our role playing made for fun family time, and I'm thinking that down the road the children could learn a lot from taking turns waiting tables or working in the kitchen. The evening reminded me that presentation is important and little touches go a long way in creating a fun atmosphere. We received rave reviews at our opening, and I discovered that hugs and thank you's are the best accolades a restaurateur can receive.

By the time Mom's Cafe closed that night, I felt like a culinary genius. After all, I had gotten my family excited to eat leftovers!

Mom's Cafe serves up wholesome goodness prepared with love and presented with a smile. Little touches please even the most finicky customers and turn yesterday's leftovers into today's special.




28 comments:

Laura said...

Kewl idea, Melissa! I have to admit though, when I saw your update on my blog roll, I thought, "Leftovers?! Melissa and leftovers just don't mix!" Of course, you put your own unique twist on something like "leftovers" and it turns out into something fantastic!! Only you! Great post - even if it does have the word, "leftovers" in the title! Te-he!

Judy said...

What a cute idea! Growing up, my kids were not leftover fans either so I either ended up throwing stuff away or eating it until I couldn't stand it anymore....now my hubby and I love leftovers, they ususally taste better the 2nd time around....

Judy

Becky Welch said...

Love love love it!! We are so going to do that at our house!!

An Accomplished Woman said...

You are so creative and your family is lucky to have you as a Mom. I love your blog and visit it daily. You do create a little loveliness for your family

"Blossom" said...

What a unique idea; Moms cafe.
Not only are you creative you are making memories with those little ones of yours. Thank you for sharing your ideas.
blossom

Home School Dawn said...

What a fabulous idea. I will have to try it. Thanks for sharing!

The Quintessential Magpie (Sheila) said...

How absolutely adorable, Melissa! Look at that colorful table, and such cute menus, too! This is very, very clever. I might try it on my husband. Maybe I could even get him to "tip" for that red jacket I was eyeing! ;-)

Sheila

Cindy ~ My Romantic Home said...

You really deserve a "mom of the year" award! I hope your kids appreciate that they have an awesome mom! I think you should write a book!

missy j said...

BRAVO! I am clapping right now... you rock:)
missy

Anonymous said...

Melissa you are the bomb!I am just always absolutely in awe of your abilities. What fun and precious memories your children will have of having grown up with an inventive and creative mommy like you.
Jennifer at JSL...

Meredith Teagarden said...

Clever, very clever! This idea should win an award!!

Home School Dawn said...

I just gave you a blog award. See my most recent post http://homeschooldawn.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-love-your-blog.html
for details.

Valerie said...

That was a great idea. My husband is usually the one that eats all of our leftovers. After our daughter left I tried to make less but it doesn't work. He takes all of our leftovers to work for lunch. lol That way I don't have to throw out food. Have a great weekend.

Miss Janice said...

Now that's cute girl!

Live.Love.Eat said...

You're too amazing!!! The efforts you put forth for your family and in being creative are outstanding!!!!

Joanne Kennedy said...

You have to be the best mom! You come up with such great ideas. You must write a book.

What a lovely idea. I loved how your husband got into it also.

Hugs,
Joanne

Stacey B said...

You amaze me and truly inspire me! You have such a blessed gift of seeing the good in things, even leftovers and coming up with wonderfully creative solutions. What a blessing you are to all of us and your family. Keep up the good work!

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

I think you should trademark that idea QUICKLY....I can see a book in your future!

Sandy Toes said...

OH my goodness..that is so creative and cute...what memories your kids will have..I just love your pictures!
-sandy toes

sweeter and the bubbas said...

That is such a cute idea! I bet your whole family loved it!

Karin @ 6ByHisDesign said...

So Melissa, where did you find that clipart image? It is just darling --- I concur 100% that you are just so creative! And I agree, too, that you have become such a blessing to ME, as well as the blessing that you are to your family...I LOVE this idea and will have to incorporate it into our family's mealtimes, as well!!!

christie said...

This is such a fantastic idea!
I love your table setting and menu, brilliant!

Melissa Lester said...

Karin, I made my menu in Microsoft Word and thought that clipart image was perfect! I saved the document and can e-mail it to anyone who might want to use it.

new mom in law said...

When I read this my immediate thought was *Now here is a mom who is dedicated to her family*. LOVED this post!

Karin @ 6ByHisDesign said...

M~
I didn't give it the 'panache' that only you could dream up, but I did offer each of the kids drink choices yesterday with a flair of the hand and a most-sophisticated French accent. They laughed and thought it was fun --- I can only IMAGINE what giggles I would be privy to if I were to have an entire pre-printed menu!!!

Michelle said...

Oh you are brilliant! Luckily, my wee ones are ok with leftovers. Unfortunately, I don't think my husband would be conned by this idea, and he's the one with the leftover issue. LOVE your idea.

And thanks for stopping by my BATW tour. It's been a busy week, so my apologies for taking so long to get back. It was almost overwhelming! Come back and visit again soon!

Three plus Me said...

Very creative! You idea makes me think of the Cosby Show--this is something they would do!

Debbie said...

YOU ARE BRILLIANT!!! How you did that on the fly just amazes me. I get too caught up in everything that all the joy and fun would be taken out of it. I just love this idea!

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