'Simple Seconds' is a new weekly segment by Diane Dryden; mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother that takes great delight in using leftovers creatively while living a thrifty lifestyle. Her mantra: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Here's the Challenge: Garden Tomatoes that need to be used and Salsa that's just so-so.

Cut any bad spots out of whole washed tomatoes and cut into chunks and place in the blender, adding the salsa, blending until smooth.

If whole tomatoes aren't available, use a 16 ounce can of diced, or a can of whole tomatoes or tomato sauce or tomato soup, using water not milk to make it. Use whatever you have. Remember this is cooking, not recipe following.

Two more ingredients that can be added to the blended first two ingredients are ground cumin and 1 or 2 flour tortillas.

This is where the real cooking comes in. Start by pouring the blended ingredients into a saucepan, turn it on medium heat and add a small amount of cumin and salt. Stir and taste. Add more of either or both if needed. Two tablespoons of cumin seems to be about right amount for four cups of soup. But you're the cook, add what your family likes.

As the soup heats, use a pizza cutter and cut one or two tortillas into strips and then into noodle length pieces. These will puff up so don't add too many. Add these to the simmering soup. There is your basic soup, tomatoes, salsa, salt, cumin and tortillas.

Additional ingredients to the now gently boiling soup can be things like left over corn from the night before and/or a can of green chilies. Remember, these are optional.

Allow five minutes tops for the soup to cook at a high simmer after all the ingredients have been added.

Also, optional ingredients for topping the soup can be just about any kind of cheese you have in the fridge that you can shred, sour cream and green onions.

You can serve the soup with just the tomatoes, salsa, cumin, salt and tortilla strips, or add as many of the other ingredients that you like, or that you have. Tasting after each ingredient is added. A cook's best friend is a spoon.


About the Author: When I was young my mother worked full time leaving my older sister and I to fend for ourselves. It wasn't as bad as it sounds because we lived in one of those old neighborhoods where every mother was your mother and they were all watching you.

It helped a lot that my grandparents lived next door.

Often I'd stop in and grandma would always ask, “Are you hungry?” I was age six and yes, I was always hungry.

She would open the fridge, look for a moment and then started to pull out various covered dishes full of leftovers.

She would have loved today's microwaves because way back then she used the same technique - get out a frying pan and put a little bit of each thing you wanted to eat in its own little section of the pan and let the stove do the rest.

It was always glorious, but then, it was Grandma.

I wasn't aware I did the same thing as my kids grew up, but they all credit me with the same refrigerator opening, the minutes of pondering and then the final creation.

All the recipes that will be in this new Simple Seconds segment will be just that, using leftovers creatively.

Owning a restaurant for four years and a catering service for twenty, I've also come up with interesting ways to re-purpose good food instead of dumping it out.

Using leftovers means there will be less food thrown away and your kids will never be able to find anyone who can replicate those creative childhood meals ever again.

Which may or may not be a good thing.

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