Monday, October 15, 2012

Taco Bake (No Food Waste Night1)

As part of my resolution not to have food waste, I was trying to decide what to have for dinner. (First post of the series is found here.) I took the frozen pound of hamburger out on Saturday so I figured I need to cook some, if not all of it, tonight. What do you do when you need to find a recipe? Google of course. In googling ground beef dinner recipes, I found a couple that sound amazing: Beef and Wheat Berry Chili (I have been wondering what to do with them!) and Smoky Beef and Bacon Chili. Both required a can of beer, which I don't have. Luckily for me, my husband and I fell asleep before getting the diapers through the wash last night and my grocery shopping today was delayed. Tomorrow when I pick up milk and yogurt, I can easily grab a couple beers. Hooray for small blessings.

That still left what to do tonight, then I remember that two weeks ago I made a Taco noodle one pan recipe that my husband and son loved. I finally found the recipe: Creamy Taco Mac (I made it from another blog last time but the recipe is the same.)

Then I thought about the fact that I only had one pound of hamburger. Looking into my refrigerator I remembered what a close family friend told me about depression cooking (besides that they went to bed hungry): his mum used to add grated carrots to ground meat to stretch it. He has 11 kids in his family so I think his mum knew what she was doing. So those three lone carrots in the crisper got grated up.

I started my preparations thinking about another article I had recently read about cooking that said that preparation is everything. I diced up an half a sweet yellow onion, while my fry pan heated. I added olive oil* and some bacon fat to the pan and sauteed the onion* until it was softened. I added the grated carrot* (I used the smallest setting after the spice grater so it was really small.) and a cup of water. I cooked them both together until they were nice and soft, then added the ground beef.

Wow, what an amazing tip. I ended up with a lot of "meat stuff." I scoped out 1/3 into a pint mason jar, then another 1/3 into a pint mason jar so both could cool before going into the refrigerator.

I was left with a nice meat mixture. To the pan I added:
1 heaping TSBP of taco seasoning
2 cloves of minced garlic (because who doesn't love garlic?)*
1/2 cup (roughly) water
1/2 pint of my homemade tomato sauce/salsa (this is just our tomatoes, peppers and garlic we cooked up and canned from the garden). It is a little on the spicy side*

While the mixture simmered, I cooked the noodles (organic whole wheat) in salt water. With the mixture hot, I added 2/3 cup of sour cream* and 2 heaping TBSP of cream cheese* and mixed until it was melted and gooey before adding the pasta. The recipe says to let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes. I turned the whole pan off and waited until it was time to eat, then turned it back on while I set the table.

To serve, I put a spoonful of sour cream on the plate, some organic corn chips from Trader Joe's and in the middle, a heaping scoop of the taco casserole.

The verdict? Pure bliss.

The food waste?
- Skins from the onion and garlic went into the compost/chicken food bin.
- Also, I took less and when my son was finished (he uses a fork and spoon so there is no food on his plate from his mouth) I ate his last six bites instead of seconds. L2 (almost 9 months) got only a little and ate most of it, the rest ended up being excitedly eaten by our dog Anya. My husband had two servings. Basically we all cleaned our plates plus had a full serving (maybe a little more) that was put into the refrigerator for my husband's lunch tomorrow.

I must admit, I felt really proud of myself. That is, until I did the dishes and came across L2's extra oatmeal that didn't make it back into the refrigerator so into the chicken bucket that went. Granted it was only about 2 TBSP and it was on a second serving (from yesterday's breakfast) but still. Lesson learned: make L2 less for one serving. He is still small and is breastfeeding for most all of his food. Overall though, the day was a success.

Tomorrow I plan on using the extra potatoes from Friday night's dinner (we only used half a jar) for fried potatoes and eggs. Dinner: Parmesan Roasted Green Beans, Zucchini Bites (my neighbor brought me 3 zucchinis) and Beet-Apple Mash.

Anyone have any recommendation for the beet greens so they don't end up chicken food?

*All produce and other ingredients are organic if possible.

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