This is no love story.
In fact, my husband hates leftovers.
It used to mean a lot of food got filed away in the trash... a concept I, in turn, hate. And no time has that been truer than now. Why?
- Our food bill has increased with the addition of children
- Have you checked your grocery receipt lately?
Over the years, I have certainly developed a strategy to use many foods in a second-serving manner - the cornerstone of Make Ahead Mom has to be the leftover chicken breast, no?
But one food I have always struggled with is the hamburger.
I’m not a big burger eat... a good home grilled version every now and again is fine, but it’s not my go-to if I’m cooking.
My husband, however, has this new, super special grill that has sparked within him a new interest in grilling (...and the angels rejoice! I’m frankly thrilled to have the food prep help.)
His repertoire is increasing, but burgers certainly fall into the category of go-to meals. Lucky for me, they showed up on the menu this week at his hands (angels continue rejoicing! After traveling most of last week, help in the kitchen is always welcome.)
The problem - What to do with the leftover patties? Day old burgers are a natural choice for most people. Now, please go back and read the first sentence of this post.
I decided to put the recipe community via the WWW to the test. The overwhelming consensus: crumble into a spaghetti sauce.
Okay... I’ll bite.
What I ended up with was a surprisingly good variation on spaghetti sauce. Nothing fancy. Not what you’re going to serve at your next dinner party. But a second call for burgers that would’ve otherwise ended up discarded. Would a traditional bolognese have been better? Most likely. But for a quick-and-easy (and frugal) dinner on a Wednesday night, it was pretty darn good.
This wasn’t a complete “make ahead” meal, but my freezer did come to the rescue, sprucing things up a bit & making it an even quicker option:
Meat - These were very lean patties. The consensus was to crumble into a sauce. I actually cubed them. Texture wise the crumbled may have been better, but this worked. It was sorta like a square meatball. (Did I just say that?) I placed in a small pan, topped with sauce, doctored a little and let simmer.
Sauce - The base of the sauce was a very simple marinara variation I made a month or so ago (and popped into individual servings in the freezer) using 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can diced tomatoes and a little refrigerated pesto. You would NOT believe how simple this is. It’s like instant marinara. Nutritionally, the best choice would be to look for no-salt-added tomatoes.
Extras - I keep a stack of roasted red bell pepper quarters in my freezer at all times now. I stack between sheets of deli paper coated with cooking spray, for easy removal. Roasted bells can be cubed even when frozen, no need to thaw. Roasting yourself and freezing is less expensive than buying from the jar and eliminates the extra salt of the jarred version (which are admittedly quite good in a pinch.)
I also “doctored” the overall sauce a little with a few kalamata olives, and when it was all served, added a few fresh curls of high quality, dry aged cheese. My friends at Cabot Creamery clearly have my favorite with their Clothbound Cheddar. If you’ve never tried it, please look for it. It’s unlike any “cheddar” you’ve ever tasted. If you aren’t lucky enough to snag some, a true Parmesan or good high quality domestic variation will do just fine.
Pasta - I used up the last of my pre-cooked pasta a week earlier. So rather than cooking just enough for last night’s dinner, I cooked an entire package of whole wheat spaghetti. I portioned the rest in freezer bags and popped into the freezer for a future meal. <--- But that’s a story for another day.