Ever have one of those “Why Didn’t I Think of That Before?” moments?
The chore-a-day approach to household cleaning is one of those. Why did it take me 70 years to figure that out? How come it never occurred to my mother? Duh!
Well, I just came up with another one.
As you may have noticed, the price of beef — particularly of steaks — is through the roof. I no longer can afford to eat steak at all. However, I do require at least one serving of some kind of meat per day…sorry, I’m simply not the veggie type. I don’t like the icky flavor of farmed chicken and also can’t afford organic free-range air-cooled chicken. Nor do I care at all for farmed American pork (ech!). So one way of filling this gaping hole in my normal diet is by substituting Costco’s excellent hamburger (which really is first-rate) for steak.
But…really…I’m just not that nuts about grilled hamburger patties. Once in a while…okay, whatEVER. But I find the “while” gets longer and longer. So now what do I have in the freezer but a TON of hamburger, divvied into patties and frozen as single servings. Which — let’s face it — at the rate my enthusiasm is flagging, is not likely to be consumed anytime soon.
So I’m sitting here thinking am i gonna throw all that meat out? don’t think so…but what’m i gonna do with it?
While, no, I’m not nuts about grilled hamburger, I do love a pot of chili. Or Caribbean-style stuffed squash. Or curry. Or cheese ravioli or spaghetti or lasagne bathed in tomato sauce spiked with hamburger.
For all of those, you start with the same first step: sauté some onion and garlic (add celery and carrot if you want to go all out). Remove from the pan and then brown the hamburger in the veggie drippings. Then mix the cooked veggies back into the cooked meat. This is the basis of most American-style tomato pasta sauces. And it’s where you start when you make chili.
But it’s enough of a chore that when you’re tired and hungry at the end of the day, you just don’t feel like bothering.
But…but…wait…BUT? Why do you have to do that every time you cook one of those dishes?
Why couldn’t you cook up the foundation for any of these sauces or stews ahead of time and freeze it? Why not take that mountain of Costco hamburger, chop a couple of onions, a couple of celery sticks, and a carrot, and sauté the vegetables, brown the meat, let it cool, and then divide it into meal-size portions, pack them into Ziplock bags, and toss them in the freezer?
Estimate how much of your meat mixtures would go into any one of the desired final dishes. That’s how much you’d pack into one bag.
Then, when you a crave a pot of chili (let’s say), you pull out a bag, defrost it, dump it into a stew pot (or a crockpot, if you’re in no hurry), add a hefty dose of chili powder, a big can of tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce or paste, maybe a little beef broth if have some around, and a generous splash of red wine. Allow to simmer long enough to blend the flavors, And voilà! Chili without the work. You could easily throw this together after a day of work.
Same for any other dish that requires a base of sautéed hamburger (or sausage!) and aromatic veggies.
It’s a weekend project that could feed you for many weeks to come.
Why didn’t I think of this before?