I got off to a little slower start for my April theme. I originally had my themes for the better part of the year planned out. In light of social distancing orders, efforts to avoid the grocery store as much as possible, and a decently stocked fridge & freezer, I decided to re-frame my April plans for something a little more relevant to everyone staying at home.
I have seen a flood of food posts on social media from friends & family – and I LOVE it. I can see that, whether people like it or not, they are cooking at home more right now. And, a little more creatively than usual, using the food they have on hand. Gone are the days of quickly popping in the grocery store for a few last minute ingredients. Now, it’s Instacart orders, with a minimum spend, delayed delivery, and higher grocery prices. All of this forces you to *gasp* PLAN your meals.
Thus – what I always do.
So for the month of April, I’ll be showing you a little of how I make the most of my meals, and my grocery list. What that means is maybe using those leftovers that usually get thrown out or begrudgingly eaten in a sad state. Instead, I will show you how I take some of my leftovers and re-invent them into new meals. New flavors to keep you from meal-time boredom. Less waste because you found those leftover burgers in the back of the fridge a week after grilling and ended up throwing them away.
My method is actually to PLAN for those leftovers, and use them toward a future meal. This does involve planning ahead, using your freezer (and LABELING your food!!!), and a little creativity. But the results, to me, are worth it. So for the rest of April, I’ll share some meals that started as one thing, and transformed into a completely different dinner with a few ingredients you probably keep on hand regularly. While I only cook for two, the same method can apply if you’re cooking for a larger family, just with larger portions to start. Thus…the theme this month will be #repeatmeatApril.
First up, pork roast. Probably my favorite thing to make and use on repeat. Pork roasts can be huge – and they are often on sale. If I see a good deal, I always grab a roast or two and keep them in my freezer. To start, I use a flavor rub and use the crock pot to cook my meat. The rub takes just a few minutes to prepare, and the rest is hands off for 8+ hours.
Adapted from this pork carnitas recipe, the result is tender, juicy, flavorful AND easily shredible pork. While it’s flavorful, it works well in a variety of meals. With this roast, I generally don’t just eat it, as is, after it’s long crock pot bath. I always make it with the intention of having a protein ready for multiple meals. I divide the finished product into labeled containers and freeze.
- 4-5 lbs pork shoulder/pork butt
- 1 zested & squeezed orange
- 2 zested & squeezed limes
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 1 bay leaves
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, deveined, deseeded, chopped
Wet Spice Rub
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon EACH dried oregano, salt
- 2 tsp EACH chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder
- 1 tsp EACH smoked paprika, pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
Slice the onion, dice the jalapeno, and arrange the pieces at the bottom of a large crock pot. Zest the limes & orange, squeeze out all of the juices, and add everything – whole fruit included – to the crock pot. Add liquid smoke and bay leaves.
Mix all ingredients of the wet spice rub together. Then, rub thoroughly all over the pork roast, and place the roast in the crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Finished pork will easily shred when you try to pick it up. Remove meat from the crock pot and shred. Divide into freezer containers.
Even though the meat shreds easily, I like to cut it in slightly smaller pieces. With such a huge roast, the shreds can end up several inches long. I cut them into about 1 inch pieces before I divide the meat into containers. I add a little broth from the crock pot into each container because ALL THAT FLAVOR. Discard the whole pieces of orange & lime. While you certainly could eat the meat right now, I tend to just automatically turn it into other meals. The original recipe that inspired me made pork carnitas. There were a few additional steps to get caramelization and crispy meat that I don’t bother with.
BBQ PORK SANDWICHES
For my first meal with the pork, all I did was add BBQ sauce! There are tons of recipes to put both the pork and the BBQ sauce in the crock pot, but I prefer to add BBQ only when I specifically want my BBQ meal. I made a blue cheese coleslaw and served it on homemade hamburger buns.
That was a HUGE pork roast, so I made another, completely different, meal! I like to find ways to mix up some of my favorite foods. So for this dinner, I turned my favorite sandwich – the Cuban – into a pizza. I’ve had it a restaurant and while it was good, I’ve been making my own version for quite a while.
- Recipe for 1 large pizza (I like Sally’s – or buying it at Trader Joe’s)
- 2-4 TBSP Mustard aioli – Trader Joe’s
- 8 oz shredded pork roast
- 4 slices deli ham
- 1/2 cup dill pickle chips, diced, and blotted
- 6 oz shredded swiss cheese
- 2 oz shredded cheddar or other cheese blend
- Yellow mustard, for garnish
- Corn meal, flour, and olive oil as needed
Let pizza dough come to room temperature for about an hour. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a piece of parchment on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Shape the dough on the parchment, using flour on your hands if it’s sticky. Spread the mustard aoili on the dough, leaving about 3/4 inch from the edge. Add the shredded pork and ham. Blot the pickles several times before adding on top of the meat. Top with any shredded cheeses. Drizzle olive oil on the exposed edge of dough and use your fingers to spread it around. Bake the pizza in an oven pre-heated to 450 degrees, until the cheese is melted and browned, and the edges are puffy and browned. Mine took about 18 minutes; time may vary based on the thickness of your dough or the type of pan used. Once the pizza is done, drizzle on yellow mustard, slice, and serve.
You could apply this to any of your favorite sandwiches. It may take some creatively to find a sauce that works in place of the traditional pizza sauce you may be used to. Think of what sauce is used on the sandwich. Your pizza may not even need a sauce, depending what the toppings are. You could lightly coat the dough with olive oil and add other toppings, and cheese, and then drizzle with a sauce like you with did with the yellow mustard.
I decided to make one more meal this week that could leave me some leftovers. This time, with ground beef. Enter – the stuffed cheeseburger! I feel like leftover burgers are so common in the summer. Extras from a party are hidden in the fridge and you see people eating sad, reheated burgers and soggy buns at the office. I refuse to do that. So I made my favorite burger this week, and will save the extras for a new meal later this month.
After I assembled my burgers, I discovered that my grill was no longer useable. So I used my cast iron skillet to cook the burgers stove top, and then quickly popped them under the broiler to melt the cheese.
- 1 lb ground beef (for 4 burgers)
- 2 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded cheese – any kind – I use a blend or cheddar
- 1 jalapeno, diced finely
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- hefty dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- salt & pepper
- 4 slices of cheddar cheese
In a mixing bowl, add the ground beef, salt & pepper, onion, and Worcestershire sauce. Using your hands, mix all ingredients together, but do not overmix. Divide the meat into 4, then each pile into 2 pieces. One pile of meat at a time, make a 4 inch patty – it will be very thin. Try not to overwork it, but make sure it has an even thickness.
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, bacon, shredded cheese, and jalapeno. The mixture will be thick and sticky. Divide the mixture in 4, and place a blob on top of 4 of the hamburger patties. Top each burger with the other patties, carefully pinching the edges together and working the burger into a circle. Cover and refrigerate the burger patties for at least an hour before grilling.
From there, either grill to your desired doneness on the grill or in an iron skillet. Top with a piece of cheese. I served these on homemade hamburger buns with sweet potato fries. If you want to add any sauce, lettuce or tomato, go for it. I don’t think these need much more! I did use a little of my dipping sauce for the sweet potato fries – equal parts mayo & ketchup, a little powdered garlic, smoked paprika and salt .
But….I made 4 burgers for 2 of us. And we can’t have friends over. What do you think I’ll make the leftovers into next week?
I didn’t make any Half Baked Harvest recipes this week so next week I have a few in mind – a little outside of my theme but I want to make progress on working through the cookbooks. I did take on several baking projects this week. The homemade hamburger buns and sandwich bread! Both were so much better than store bought versions. Plus I made a batch of pizza dough for the freezer. All of our carby needs, homemade!
Next week I’ll share what I did with the burgers, and add another protein to the mix!