Cook once, eat three times
By Angie Sutton
If I say it once, I say it at least twice: “Please don’t lick the guinea pig.” “Please don’t drink the bath water.” “Please don’t sit on your sister’s head.” Oh the life of having 2-year-old twins.
So I’m always in search of ways that I can stretch one main entree into two or maybe three meals. The trick is using the ingredient, usually meat, in a way that tastes different and has a varied texture for each meal. This helps avoid the “Didn’t we just have this?” question.
Chicken is a great staple that fits this theme fairly well. You can line the bottom of a slow cooker with chicken breasts and top them with chicken legs or cook them both in the oven at the time. Serve the roasted chicken legs on night one and dice the breasts for chicken pot pies on night two. Or simply dice and freeze the chicken breasts for that delectable flaky pastry meal a few nights later. Pork tenderloin is another great choice. It stands alone as a main entree on night one and contributes to a spicy black bean taco meal on night two.
Stretching a meat product for three nights is also a reality. Night one it is a standalone main, night two it is the protein for a tummy-warming soup and night three the meat is a headliner for a robust salad.
Changing the texture by serving diced “planned-over” meat with stir-fried vegetables and rice or tossing it with pasta and a white or red sauce is a good way to stretch the protein. Another tip for stretching your main meat without giving up the protein punch is to add a can of black beans to your dish. Our sample menu and recipes for stretching pot roast for three days is:
Day 1: Large pot roast slow cooked. Slice 1/2 of the cooked pot roast to serve and shred the other half. Mashed potatoes. Brussel sprouts with bacon. Fresh cantaloupe.
Day 2: Smothered burritos with refried beans and shredded cheese. Salsa and sour cream for sides.
Day 3: Vegetable soup with shredded beef. Sliced watermelon.
Midwest Chuck Roast—Slow Cooker Version
2 lb. bottom round roast (around 2 lbs.)
Place roast on the bottom of the slow cooker. Evenly coat the top of the roast with both dry seasoning mixes. Top with a full stick of butter. Place pepperoncinis around the butter on top of the meat. Cook on low for 8 hours. Slice or shred the meat to serve.
Smothered Shredded Beef Burritos
The beauty of these babies is the opportunity to customize them. Spicy for adults and mild for the kiddos. Toss in some fresh corn or Mexicorn for a change.
1 1/2 lbs. stew meat
Toss beef pieces into slow cooker. Top with crushed bouillon cubes and enchilada sauce. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until meat is very tender. Stir in can of refried beans and continue to cook until beans are warmed through, about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to broil. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. Add two heaping scoops of meat and bean mixture on the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and roll up burrito style. Place burritos onto pan. Cover with remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle cheese over the top. Broil until cheese becomes bubbly, approximately 2Â4 minutes.
Apron Strings notes: I use my leftover cooked shredded beef and simmer the beef with the enchilada sauce on the stove top for 20 minutes, adding the refried beans in the last 5 minutes. Skip straight to loading the burritos. Since I don’t have the benefit of the beef bullion flavor, I stir in 1/2 c. of salsa with the refried beans on the stove top.
Vegetable Soup with Shredded Beef
Make sure your vegetables are diced and sliced in small evenly–sized pieces for faster cooking. Take an easy shortcut and go with canned country vegetables, which include diced potatoes or toss in Southern hash brown potatoes. Basically this recipe allows for easy manipulation!
5 potatoes, diced
Stove top directions: Boil potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic until tender. Add frozen vegetables, tomato juice, canned tomatoes, roast beef, basil, beef bouillon and Worcestershire to mixture. Bring to boil again, then reduce heat and let simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Slow cooker directions: Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add to slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours.
“Planned-overs” prepared safely
Plan meals based around key foods prepared in larger amounts for use in one recipe the first night and an entirely different recipe within the next night or two. This is different from making large batches and eating leftovers. Follow these general guidelines to ensure your food remains safe and of high quality:
Separate out and refrigerate the portion to be served for your next meal before you set the food on the table. This keeps your food quality higher by preventing “planned-overs” from becoming “picked-overs.”
Promptly refrigerate the food for the next meal to keep it safe. Perishable cooked foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, shouldn’t be at room temperature longer than 2 hours total—that total is the total of the first and second use.
Refrigerate the prepared-ahead food in shallow containers so it cools faster in the refrigerator. For thicker foods—such as stews, hot puddings and layers of meat slices—limit depth of food to 2 inches.
Loosely cover food. This allows heat to escape and protects from accidental contamination from other foods during cooling. Stir food occasionally to help it cool; use a clean utensil each time. Cover tightly when cooled.
As a general rule of thumb, use the extra refrigerated food you cooked within one to two days. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you’re ready to use again—never thaw at room temperature.