Most of you that have followed me for a while know for much of my youth, I grew up on a sustainable farm. I grew up below the poverty level and living sustain-ably was not just a mantra but a way of life. Before any meal, if we were lucky, my Daddy would have “bagged” a quail, or rabbit, or best of all, a deer. When I was a child, my father was a house painter, which afforded him a schedule where he could go out hunting just about everyday. During the rainy winters of the southern section of the United States, Dad would be out all day hunting or fishing, because that is how we survived.
I can still hear his loud diesel engine driving up in the yard. With rapid honks of his horn, we all knew that he was back with the days catch. Squinting through the sunbeams in the breezeway, a shadow of an animal strung up by their back legs sways ever so slightly. My father pauses over the body and I hear him muttering a prayer. The mood is melancholy busy-ness. He places a five gallon bucket under the limp hanging head to catch the draining blood. With the precision of a surgeon, the skin makes slight ripping sounds as the sharpened blade of his buck knife slices through the abdominal area. Small plumes of steam rising and evaporating. A light smell of iron hangs in the air as the blood starts to coagulate on the cool concrete. Grabbing a steel bristled push broom, I would sweep the run off blood away, while he carefully pulled out each internal organ, placing them into a bowl of water to soak out any excess blood and impurities. As a rule, we never wasted anything.
In the back yard, were two huge wooden spindles that had housed telephone cables in another life. After Daddy “gutted” the animal, he would haul the body to the one spindle that was used for tanning the hide. Once the hide had been removed, he would move the body to next station to begin the butchering process of breaking it down into various cuts of meat. The portions of the animal that were exercised, such as legs, are naturally tougher and would immediately go into a BBQ pit to smoke over the low slow heat of a tended fire until the next day. Other parts would be carefully sealed and placed into a deep freezer for later use. My brother and I watched with the interest that is only born out of a child’s sweet adoration for their parent. Sure, there was the natural nauseous pangs of grief that I experienced every time Daddy brought a freshly killed animal home. It would be inhumane to not own the emotions of responsibility and remorse over a life lost no matter what the conditions are. Out of this dark reality was the beautiful offering of love that every good man expresses through providing for their family. Our Dad expressed this in his own way.
As an adult I am so thankful that I am not disconnected when I go into a market and see rows of meat sitting in pretty little saran wrap packages lined up as harmlessly as freshly picked fruits and vegetables under the fuzzy glow of the refrigerated cases. I fully understand an animal’s life was lost and I still make sure that I do not waste anything. This includes, dare I say, perhaps holding back on buying and eating meat as often and when available, buying a whole animal from a butcher or farm, if that isn’t available, I like to buy the ground meat that has the lesser cuts in the package. I know, I know, “pink slime” has been all over the news lately, but I honestly do not have a problem with eating the “lesser” parts. Sure I don’t like the idea of eating “modified” foods, that have additional unwanted ingredients such as hormones, have been chemically treated or have unnatural preservatives, but I have respect for the butcher or farm that cleanly grinds up unadulterated trimmings into my meat.
Obviously, this is just my opinion and I have no ax to grind or agenda to drive, but I just wanted to give a more clear picture of my upbringing and how it affects my food choices and style of cooking as a whole. With that said, for me, “using it up” isn’t enough to get the food cooked, but to also consume every bit of it. For my family, this means creative uses of ingredients and leftovers. Today I bring you a step by step, day by day guide to making 4 different meals out of one meal preparation. It will save you time, money and make you a little less wasteful; while, most importantly, keeping your palate enticed.
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb sausage, if in casing, remove from casing
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup fresh plain breadcrumbs
1/8 cup -1/4 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flake
In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 min. to soften. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula or your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.
Day One: Meatballs and Form Meatloaf
1/2 lb pasta cooked to package specifications
Over medium heat, in a large skillet, add about an inch of olive oil. Roll meat mixture into about 20 2-inch balls. (I use a large ice cream scoop for this task.) Pan fry until fully cooked and dark brown. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in a large pot until bubbling. Add meatballs and simmer for 2 hours. Serve over your favorite pasta and top with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
and Form Meatloaf:
Oil a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan, turn the remaining meat mixture out onto the pan, and shape it into a large loaf (I like mine to look like a slightly oval loaf of bread). Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Note: Keeping safe food handling practices in mind, you will want to cook the meat loaf by day two.
Day 2: Meatloaf
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP hot sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Take meatloaf out of refrigerator and take plastic wrap off. Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 60 min. for a large loaf. Take loaf out of oven. Turn the broiler on. In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients listed above. Baste the meatloaf with ketchup mixture. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes. Take out of oven. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 min. to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Enjoy with your favorite side dishes!
Day 3: Open Face Meatball Sandwich
Note: I eat open face because I find the submarine version too messy for me. By all means adapt this to a meatball sub if that is your preference.
slice of bread
Leftover meatballs, reheated
slices of mozzarella or provolone
Turn on broiler. On a pan, assemble bread, meatballs and cheese. Stick under broiler until cheese melts, 1-2 minutes. Enjoy!
Day 4: Meatloaf Sandwich
2 slices of bread, toasted
leftover meatloaf (heated or unheated, whatever your preference)
Assemble sandwich and enjoy!
And there you have it, 4 different meals out of one preparation! A pretty good way to keep it interesting and on budget. Enjoy!