Re-purposing Leftovers

Most everyone has had the experience of opening the refrigerator to find next to nothing. Empty shelves and a variety of condiments isn’t going to make much of a meal.

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At this sight, it is easy to call it quits, throw in the towel, jump in the car and drive to the restaurant down the street for some quick eats. I beg you though, STOP! You haven’t lost all hope quite yet, and in fact, you can probably pull together a few scraps from here and there to build a meal at home.

It’s hard to imagine this in a world that expects the creme de la creme, but a meal doesn’t actually have to be perfect.

More than likely, you have a meat of some sort stored away. That could be leftover pork chops, frozen beef strips or canned chicken. Either way, there’s a protein.

Even though the fruit or veggie drawer may be barren, don’t knock the frozen or canned veggies. Pull those out for a semi-homemade meal.

Sandwich bread or tortillas or rice or a potato? Any of those will work to build a meal into. Pick one!

The key to re-purposing leftovers, no matter how empty your refrigerator or pantry shelves may be is creativity. Use your imagination and the meal options become limitless (and MUCH easier to throw together at the last minute).

When I am in a pinch, here are a few meal ideas I keep in my back pocket.

  • grilled sandwich
  • loaded baked potato
  • pasta
  • tossed salad
  • quesadilla or taco
  • tortilla pizza
  • soup
  • enchilada or burrito
  • stir fry

Hopefully these meals don’t sound too foreign. And more than likely, you have enough ingredients on-hand to throw one together.

Just the other day I was working with leftover rotisserie chicken and a spinach and artichoke dip. Well, nuking each for a couple minutes is okay, but how boring! Instead, I thought to boil pasta and combine the chicken and dip with the pasta for a delicious, creamy take on “chicken alfredo”. Strawberries and green beans were the fruits and veggies around that day, which will work. Now THAT puts a fun twist on those ingredients to make a meal.

What about the always-popular baked potato? It never fails, we have a bag of potatoes on hand and ready for action. Yes, wrapping the potato in foil to bake is an option, nothing wrong there. I’ll challenge you though, throw a curve ball in sometime by chopping the potato into cubes, tossing in a bit of olive oil and seasoning for roasting. Layer the roasted potatoes with leftover meat, a drizzle of BBQ, dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of cheese. Now you know why this is such a hit at our house 🙂 Served with a fruit and veggie to make a meal and balanced plate!

Or, earlier last week we had leftover pork tenderloin and romaine lettuce that needed to be used. After glancing through the pantry, I found tostada shells that would work as a perfect base. A little further below, corn and refried beans. Nailed it. Next thing you know, everyone is shuffling through the build-your-own tostada bar: chopped pork, canned refried beans, corn dip (cream cheese, ranch seasoning, corn and rotel), shredded cheese and lettuce.

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Does this look like something your family may enjoy?

It is important to me that I feed my family well. Sometimes though, I just don’t have the time or energy it takes to cook something fresh from scratch. By re-purposing leftovers, I able able to save LOTS of time and effort, and all-the-while, build a meal that I know my family will enjoy and is nutritious for us, too. Both are important to me, food that fuels and tastes amazing!

To build a more balanced plate out of these meals, bring on the fruits and veggies and dairy. Even if they aren’t fresh, no biggie. Pop open a can of low-sodium veggies or fruit packed in it’s own juice or a frozen bag to steam and serve. Those are fantastic, too! See a whole gallery of balanced plates here.

The ideas listed above are just a few meals that work for my family. Which of these could you try with yours? Or even better, can you add to my list? Share how you re-purpose leftovers at your house in the comments below!


Meat the Only Stromboli Recipe You Will Ever Need

In my previous life (a few months ago), I would roll out a pre-made crust from the can to treat my family on pizza night. Our lives forever changed the day I stepped up and experimented with homemade pizza dough. The feeling of molding a perfectly developed dough—irreplaceable. I can’t say that I will never-ever use a can of crust again, but I can say that my family will be completely crushed on that day. Roll-up this hearty, meat-filled Stromboli for a REAL treat this week!

Makes: 10 pieces

 

Ingredients

For the Dough:

1 cup warm water

2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking spray

 

For the Filling:

1 cup marinara sauce

½ pound lean ground beef, cooked

½ pound deli pepperoni, sliced thin

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided

1 tablespoon butter, melted

 

Directions

  1. Combine the yeast and water. Let set for 5 minutes.
  2. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt and olive oil. After 5 minutes, when the yeast is frothy, pour the water over the flour mixture. Using the dough hook, begin mixing the dough. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Knead the dough on medium speed until fully developed. See notes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly spritz the inside of the bowl with cooking spray and return the ball to the bowl. Lightly spritz the top of the dough with cooking spray as well and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until double in size.
  4. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Roll the dough out on a clean surface into a 1 ½ x 2-foot rectangle, about ½ an inch thick.
  6. Spread the marinara evenly across the dough, leaving about 1″ around the edge.
  7. Layer the ground beef, pepperoni and cheese over the marinara sauce and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon seasoning.
  8. Beginning with the shorter side, roll the dough into a log. When rolled entirely, transfer to a greased baking sheet with the crease from the dough tucked under.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a golden crown crust has formed on the top.
  10. Remove the Stromboli from the oven. Spread melted butter across the top and sprinkle with remaining seasoning.
  11. Let set for 5-10 minutes before slicing into 1” pieces for serving.

 

Notes

Kneading the dough usually takes around 5 minutes. A fun way to test and see if your dough is fully developed is the “windowpane test”. Pull apart a small piece of dough and begin to stretch it between your fingers. When the dough is fully developed, it will thin as it is stretched to create a small window but won’t break apart. That’s when you know that you are ready to rock-and-roll on to the next step!

Pizza dough adapted from the Crazy for Crust recipe, https://www.crazyforcrust.com/the-ultimate-pizza-crust-recipe/.

Alert. Family-friendly recipe here! Get your kids’ (or borrowed nieces and nephews) hands in the dough: measuring, rolling, filling. Fun stuff!

 

 

Tell me, what would you pair with Stromboli to build a balanced plate?


A Hungry Cowboy’s Chunky Chili

Ever crunched for time and that special someone asks, “What’s for supper?” Rather than letting yourself begin to boil, may I suggest taking this as-easy-as-it-gets chili to a gentle boil instead? Dump. Dump. Dump. Stir. Enjoy as-is, or pour over chips with cheese and sour cream for a take on the ever-classic chili pie.

Makes: 8-10 servings

 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2 cans chili beans, 15 oz

1 can black beans, 15 oz

1 can diced tomatoes, 15 oz

1-2 cups of meat (chopped brisket, shredded chicken, ground beef, etc.)

1 package chili seasoning, 1.25 ounces (or homemade chili seasoning)

1-2 cups of water

 

Directions

  1. In a large dutch oven or stockpot, sauté the onion in oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the beans, tomatoes, meat and seasoning to the onions.
  3. Simmer on low heat for an hour.
  4. Add water to thin chili to the desired consistency.

 

Notes

For a more balanced plate, serve with a fruit or veggie or glass of milk! You could even be a little sneaky and stash some veggies in the chili. So sneaky.

 

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The Beginning of a Chilly Winter

As I imagine most did, I snuck away from my office for a few days to spend time with friends and family during the holidays. I use the term “friends and family” a little loosely here, for it goes without saying that the cattle are one and the same.

 

Stroberg Cattle

 

It was risky, stealing Abby-dog’s seat riding shotgun with my Farmer for one of these chilly mornings, but I did. Bundled from head to toe, we took on the Kansas cold before the sun was even up. Over the last few years, I’ve found a dear place in my heart for the chunky winter farm-gear that would’ve been considered foreign to me not too long ago 🙂

Cows, on the other hand, are able to withstand great temperature drops and spikes. Still, we like to make sure they are well-cared for and at ease all winter long.

Stroberg cattle are spread out on different fields and pastures close to the farm. Sorted appropriately based on age, weight, gender, etc. and fed accordingly. They graze on crop residue but will need a little something extra when the temperature begins to drop. Same goes with me I think, needing a little something extra when the temperature drops 😉

Although I’ve been told cattle can consume most anything, we actually don’t feed them cookies (sent those with Santa & Co. earlier last week). That would be an example of low-quality forage. These cattle need high-quality forage to keep up with the extra energy needed to maintain body temperature in this sub-zero weather (and, of course, to optimize gut health).

The supplemental hay and alfalfa, mineral and protein is delivered in the morning to give the girls and boys just enough of an energy boost to get them up and grazing by day, rather than retreating behind a wind block (always there for protection though).

Even in the frigid cold, we all need to drink. Cattle tanks are refilled after the ice is broken to keep them well hydrated. There may have been a part of me that was thankful there was only one mallet in the truck, or I’d have had to be a bit more helpful!

 

How much extra energy do they need then, eh?

Research suggests energy needs increase by almost 30%. (There’s a more specific calculation to it, but either way) that’s pounds upon pounds of extra food, and also, more hours spent feeding.

 

So, how did I spend some of the final hours of my first year married?

Outside battling Mother Nature to keep our cattle warm and comfortable this winter.

 

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2018 will come with many more hours spent in the flatbed rolling out bales, but I look forward to that time. I’ve grown to love our truck and tractor dates, year-round 🙂 Other times, I will continue to enjoy whipping up a family meal. Proud to have a farm-wife life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

As it goes, “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” –Alan Wolfelt.

 

Reference: Mullinex, K., Ph.D. (2015, January). Conserving Energy for a Cold Winter– Cattle and Calories. Alabama Cattleman.


Beef Nutrition: Some Facts on Fat

Here at the farm, we have officially finished harvest. The soybeans are cut, corn picked and milo in the grain bin. For some, this may allow for time to sit back and catch a breath. For others, we will be spending our extra hours giving a little TLC to the cattle.

 

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Stroberg Land and Cattle raises Black Angus cattle.

Calving usually begins in February, and by May, calves (baby cows) are sent to pasture with the respective momma cows. All cattle begin on grass, which is a common misunderstanding. The difference then becomes grass vs grain-finished, not grass vs grain-fed. Lots more on this below!

About this time of the year, cow-calf pairs are brought back to the farm and mommas are separated from the calf. To help soothe the calves during this transition, a bright light and music is on 24-hours a day (surprise, country is their favorite!). Two goats make for pretty great company as well 🙂 These calves will be hand-fed twice per day for the first month to help them build trust and become more comfortable with us.

 

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Momma cows are sent to a pasture of wheat or corn stalks or milo that is close to the farm. They enjoy lounging and grazing on most days. Only a couple more months before calving begins again, another baby is on the way!

Back at the farm, our calves are becoming more and more relaxed. Twice per day, they are fed, and after one month, we begin introducing the feed wagon. Using the feed wagon not only saves us time, but also, better meets the nutrition needs of both calves and cattle through weighing and mixing. The feed wagon is full of the favorites—distillers, cracked corn and hay!

 

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Both male and female caves will continue to be fed a mixture of grains until next May. Males are fed to weight and typically sold, while females will be artificially inseminated (AI’ed) and either sent to pasture for the summer or sold as a pregnant heifer. Just a little background into the day-to-day happenings at Stroberg Land & Cattle!

Now, for a few facts on grass vs grain-finished beef.

Studies show grass-finished beef is lower in total fat than grain-finished. Understandably so, since grass-finished beef have access to a larger area of land, contributing to more exercise and greater muscle tone. Things become a bit more complicated, however, when we consider that about 2/3 of the cuts available from EITHER grass or grain-finished cattle are considered “lean” beef (1).

We must then study the types of fat, as we know that not all fats are equal. Grain-finished beef is higher in monounsaturated fat, while grass-finished is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Both being considered heart healthy fats.

Big picture now—ought we really be relying on beef as a significant source of our heart healthy fats? Probably not. Better sources of monounsaturated fats include nuts and seeds, avocados, olives, olive and canola oil. Better sources of omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Here are a few comparisons by the National Institute of Health:

 

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There are plenty of essential vitamins and minerals that are more unique to beef, but the focus is not so much on monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. That’ll have to be for another post though!

For now, grass vs grain-finished beef is really a personal preference. Both are nutritious and can be included as part of a healthy eating pattern. My only recommendation: choose a lean cut and heart-healthy cooking method (on most days!) for meat or poultry or fish, consume a variety and ENJOY!

 

1. Lean Beef. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/nutrition/lean-beef