Growing up in my family, and even now, one of our favorite things about Thanksgiving and Christmas was sharing food.
It was nothing to have 15-20 people in the house other than all of our family members.
My parents and grandparents would invite anyone they knew who might have found themselves alone for the holiday.
"If you can't share a little companionship during the holidays then you don't understand what the joy and spirit of the season really means," my mother would say while opening the door to squeeze several more people into our house.
You haven't experienced the heart-warming madness of the holidays until you cram about 40-50 people in a house.
Sometimes the madness, if it was warm enough, spilled outside the house, with the men usually commandeering the garage.
People of all ages involved in card game arguments, board game "cheaters" defending themselves against accusations, stereos playing different music all over the house, separate televisions blaring football games, holiday programs and home movies, jokesters messing with each other, lively political discussions and there was laughter everywhere.
Somehow, and I'm not sure why considering all the chaos, it all worked out. Everyone got along.
Maybe it was because they were waiting on the food, or maybe my grandmother's throwing accuracy with a wooden spoon was the reason!
Although the holiday tables were filled with a veritable smorgasbord of incredible goodies, a lot of times there weren't a whole lot of leftovers actually "left over" after so many people returned for their "seconds, thirds and sometimes fourths."
The secret to having leftovers the day after a big holiday meal was a second turkey or ham hidden in the back of the refrigerator.
The following recipe -- which was recently, yet lovingly referred to as a "trashcan casserole" -- works with any type of leftover meat and vegetables.
In preparation for cooking, get out the leftover meat (either tear or slice into pieces) and any vegetables (peas, green beans and corn are our favorites) along with shredded cheese, onions, flour and whole milk.
Sautee a 1/2-cup each of yellow, red and green onions in a whole stick of unsalted butter (sorry, this isn't a dieter's recipe) in a pan on medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, until edges are a light golden brown. Add 1/2-cup of flour, one tablespoon of salt and pepper into the onion mix to forma paste, and then add up to two cups of the milk to make a sauce. Add two cups of shredded cheese and one can of creamed celery (or creamed mushroom) condensed soup to the mix, stirring constantly until melted.
While the onions are cooking, slice 6-8 medium sized red potatoes that have been pre-cooked or par boiled with skins left on and have been allowed to cool.
Place enough of the 1/4-inch slices in a butter coated (11-by-17 inch) baking dish to create the first layer.
Layer the onion mix, vegetables and a handful (or two) of cheese. Repeat the layers until you use all the ingredients up or fill the pan to within a half-inch from the top.
Pour the sauce over the casserole layers, poking holes that will allow it to seep through the food.
Spread some fried onions, shoestring potatoes or breadcrumbs (or try a combination of all three) on top and place the casserole in a 375 degree preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until heated through.
Serve with garlic toast or fresh bread.
NOTE: This recipe can be made in individual oven-safe bowls. It can also be made in a dish that can go from the freezer to the oven for a make-ahead dinner treat a few weeks later.