Two Easy Dinners

I like leftovers. Most of the time. Sometimes they feel dauntingly boring. But usually, I welcome the easy meal – no planning, no thinking, just reheating. Often, I enjoyed the food the first night, so an encore is just fine by me. However, I always have admired people who manage to take leftovers and ingeniously, seemingly magically, produce a different meal from them.

That’s what I tried to do this week. A trip to the grocery revealed a sale on London Broil. Right, that’s a big chunk of meat for the two of us plus the little munchkins – they still don’t eat all that much, usually. I picked up about 1.75 lbs of London Broil (but any similar cut would work), which happened to be the smallest they had.

At home, I dumped the meat, unceremoniously, into my slow cooker. I’ve long since given up on pre-browning meats as I find there is rarely much difference. But if you like to pre-brown, have at it. I like saving a step. I salted and peppered my chunk of meat, flipped it, and did the same to the other side.

Then, I added half a bag of baby carrots, two ribs of celery, and two peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks. In went two bay leafs, a squirt of dijon mustard, a splash of balsamic, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze from my honey bear, and enough water to just cover the mess.

On went the lid to the Crock Pot and I dialed it to low, where it sat for 8 hours until it was dinner time. How much do I love that I don’t have to cook after at the end of the day if I’m using a slow cooker? A lot. A whole, stinkin’ lot.

Dinner was delicious and all in one. We each had plenty of veggies and I cut up half the meat for that dinner (it was super tender and even my daughter, who often turns her nose up at steak and such, ate it quite happily). I served it au-jus style, with just a bit of the cooking broth on top.

The broth and remaining meat were put away for another night.

Dinner tonight: leftovers with a twist: Beef Stroganoff-ish. This is my version and not really exactly sticking to any recipe, but rather a dish inspired by a foggy memory of some version of stroganoff I’d had in the past. But it tasted good!

I started by getting a pot of water over high heat to bring to the boil. Meanwhile, in a pan, I melted about a tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. One onion, halved and sliced went into the pan next, with some salt and pepper. It was cooked until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, I cleaned and sliced about 6-8 oz of baby portabello mushrooms (although I am sure white mushrooms would work, too). As soon as the onions were golden, I added the mushrooms and another tablespoon of butter to the pan. I continued to cook the onions and mushrooms and added a sprinkling of garlic powder. Of course, garlic would be great, but I didn’t have any on hand and the store’s garlic had sprouted by, oh, 5 or 6 inches, so I skipped them.

When the water boiled, I added egg noodles. A few handfuls. Whatever you imagine is ‘right’ for the size appetites in your home. Those bad boys cook in 7 minutes, so we were looking good to finish up shortly.

Once the mushrooms were looking like they were softened, I added a tablespoon or two of cornstarch to the cold juice from last night’s slow cooker meal and whisked it in. The broth went down over the onions and mushrooms and I brought it up to a simmer. Meanwhile, I cut the remaining London Broil into chunks and added them to the pan.

When the timer said the noodles were done, I drained them. Then I removed the pan of stroganoff from the burner (mine had been on plenty long to simmer the gravy and the beef so they were fully reheated – if yours need more time, the noodles will be fine for a few minutes in the strainer). Into the gravy went a nice dollop of sour cream – between 1/3 and 1/2 cup – stirred up to combine.

Noodles were topped with the “Stroganoff-ish” mixture and served. It was a very hearty meal. It also felt like a very different meal from the slow cooker meat-and-veg affair from the other night.

In true MamaNut fashion, I did not think to snap any photos. I have to get used to taking pictures of my everyday life! What’s more, I now wish I’d bought a second London Broil to set up as a freezer meal. Live and learn! Here are my recipes (feel free to wing it as that’s what I did):

Slow Cooker London Broil and Veggies
serves 4 plus leftovers for second recipe, following

1 x 1.5-2 lb London Broil or similar cut

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 ribs of celery, washed and cut in large chunks

1/2 small bag of baby carrots

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

dash of Mrs Dash Original (1-2 tbsp)

Instructions: Put all items into the slow cooker and add enough water to just cover the meat and veggies – it’s okay if some are just barely sticking out. Cook on low for 8 hours. Always check your meat is cooked through. Serve all veggies and half the meat with a bit of the juices. Cool the remaining juices and the meat and store in the fridge for a day or two until you’re ready to make the “part two” meal.

For freezing: If you have more foresight than I did and your meat counter has a big sale on London Broil, pick up a 2nd one. Put all the above items (except the water) into a freezer bag along with your meat, push out the air, and seal it tight. Then, stick that baby into the freezer. In a few weeks, you can pull it out, thaw it overnight in the fridge (I’ve heard that’s not necessary, but I do it to be safe), and dump it into the crock pot, adding the water and setting it to cook for the day – zip-o work!

Part Two: Beef Stroganoff-ish
serves 4, using the broth and cooked meat from the previous recipe

2 tbsp butter

1 small onion, halved and sliced

6-8 oz baby portabello mushrooms, cleaned, de-stemmed and sliced

1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic minced

1-2 tbsp cornstarch

1/3-1/2 cup sour cream

egg noodles

leftover broth and meat from the previous recipe

Instructions: Bring a pot of water to the boil. Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown. Add sliced mushrooms and additional tbsp of butter. Add garlic powder and stir.

When water is ready, add egg noodles (we used 1/2 a bag, but use what you think is right for you family), and cook according to instructions.

Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch into leftover juices from the crock pot meal. Add the gravy to the pan with the onions and mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Cut the leftover London Broil into cubes and add to the onions, mushrooms, and gravy. Make sure you fully reheat your gravy and meat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream.

Serve Stroganoff-ish over the egg noodles.

There you have it – a two-fer without having to eat the same, exact meal twice. I’m sure plenty of people manage this on a regular basis, but I’m pretty straight-forward when it comes to leftovers most of the time. What are your favorite two-fer meals?

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