One week of dinners from One crockpot meal

We have had a bad habit, almost from the day we met, of going out to eat too much.  When it was just the two of us, it was very often.  We're better now, between our want for healthier eating and our newly (better) budgeted life.  Lately the focus has been on getting more out of a meal.  For instance, our Thanksgiving turkey was of course eaten as the usual leftovers, but the bones were used for stock, the leftover turkey and that stock was used to make soup...we ate the last bit of soup from the freezer last week.  A few weeks ago I did something similar with roasted chicken.  Now the game is to find what else we can carry through either a week, or store in the freezer.

Last summer, while on vacation with friends, my buddy Jen served us a delicious dinner salad.  I'm sure there is a fancier name for it, but regardless, it was YUM.  She then shared the magazine she found it in: Every Day with Rachel Ray.  I enjoyed the magazine immediately.  It is rare that I'll find more than two recipes in one of those magazines that I want to try, this one had at least six! I picked up the January/February 2014 issue a week or so ago, and was drawn to "Low & Slow Chipotle Maple Beef."  It was under the "rescue me! I need a do-ahead dish that I can quickly turn into different dinners!"  The idea is you cook an obscene amount of beef in your slow cooker, then use it for one of three or four different meals.  By obscene, I really mean that.  Vegan and vegetarian friends, look away now.

The first day, you make a chile mixture, add it to the slow cooker with the beef, turn beef to coat, and cook on high heat (so that slow and low is a bit of a's more like slow and high, but that just sounds silly) for 6 hours.  I massacred the mixture of pineapple juice, pure maple syrup, chiles, adobo sauce, and tomato paste in the trusty Vitamix.  Nothing like a chile smoothie to get you going in the morning.  Honestly, if Mark had been feeling better that day, I have a suspicion he would have drank some of it. 

 We have already decided to try this again, but with less meat...and perhaps pork next time.  I believe that may even be better...I'll let you know.  At any rate, after slow cooking for 6 hours, we removed the beef, discarded fat, and shredded.  The little stinker shown below was our unofficial taste tester, and she deemed it acceptable.

Caught red handed!

There are three suggested recipes to go along with the above, plus the obvious meat as the main with a veg and starch.  For the first night, we tried the sesame noodle bowl.  I have learned that I have A LOT to learn about cooking rice noodles.  We worked it out in the end, but my friend over at Kitchen Kefuffle may be getting a call for help the next time.  This meal was good, even without extra cooking liquid poured over as the recipe suggests.  It was VERY good the next day as lunch.

Chopsticks are not easy...
...Daddy to the rescue!

The second night, tacos!  This was a plus, because Evie's dance class means we do not get home until around 6:45.  With bed time being 7:30/8:00, dinner needs to be fast.  I heated the beef, Evie prepped the cilantro, and I chopped pineapple, avocado, and onion.  We had a good time with this meal!  The tacos were night four as well, and Daddy added more chilies in adobo, which was an excellent call.  Next time I want to get fresh corn tortillas instead of the hard taco shells, but no one was complaining either. 

We are a cilantro loving family!
I love meals where kids get to choose toppings
A little blurry, but I had to post her face...priceless

The third night we made the raviolis.  What a fun family project!  Evie had a blast "painting" the wonton wrappers, and the sage and brown butter sauce, while decadent, was delicious!  The only thing we encountered, that I do not know how to fix, is that in order to get the wrappers to close as ravioli, you must only put a tablespoon of beef filling in the middle.  This gives you quite a bit of extra "noodle". 

Picking out sage leaves
Painting the wonton wrappers

In the end, we froze a lot of the meat.  Daddy was sick most of the week, so that reduced the amount of food we went through.  Next time we'll probably knock it down to 4 pounds of beef/pork and try again.  But, with leftovers for lunches and no middle of the week grocery runs, we did pretty well budget wise.  The 6lbs of meat was $40, but split over lunches and dinners, that makes the amount a little more, shall we say...palatable?!   I feel pretty good that over a week of snow, ice, delays, make up work, etc...I still managed to keep us fed with food that I made.  No guessing what ingredients we were putting in our bodies, and most of it was pretty healthy!  I definitely recommend trying, or some version of, this recipe.  Try picking up Every Day with Rachel Ray too, I may even subscribe, she hasn't let me down yet!


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