6 Meals For Nearly Nothing

Notice: I’ll not be indulging in the April Fools foolishness of bogus posts.

So, with that out of the way…

On Saturday, I roasted a leg of lamb. Terribly easy to do: Place leg in pot. (Make sure any labels or plastic bone end covers or other alien debris is removed). Sprinkle over with garlic granules ( I bought a 25 oz plastic shaker bottle of McCormic brand at COSTCO a few years ago … and I’m still trying to use it up! – just air dried ground up garlic.) or you can use fresh garlic smeared on the surface if you like. A light sprinkling over of salt and a few grinds of pepper as you like it. Surround it with small to modest sized red or golden potatoes, carrots (leave the skin on for rustic, but scrub clean and trim the ends – break or cut into about 3 to 4 inch sections so they plate nicely) Stuff the whole thing, uncovered, into a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes / pound (rare-ish) to 30 minutes / lb (more the way I like it). That’s basically it.

Now, that’s about $25 to $35 of lamb and vegetables. That’s not the ‘nearly free’ part.

When it’s done, serve slices of lamb and plate the potatoes and carrot chunks, then slice the vegetables in place, gently, into about 1/4 inch thick slices. Put a pat of butter on each as desired. By cutting them on the plate (serrated steak knife is best) you get the look of a whole vegetable and the convenience of “one fork bites”…

Now, you have most of the roast on a cutting board, and the dinner served. Using a slotted spoon, lift the remaining vegetables into a container for the fridge. Slice the lamb for use as leftover / sandwiches / “whatever” and put it in the fridge. What to do with the pot full of interesting juices…

Do NOT remove the fat. Why folks say to do that is beyond me. It’s got the flavor and richness. What you want to do is dilute it with a load of soup…

Into the roasting pan ( I use an enameled pan), add a few inches of water. Set it in an easy to reach place. Chop up an onion and toss it in. You want pieces about 1/4 inch on a side. Small like in soups. “Dice”. Do the same thing with “a few” carrots. I used 3 big ones. About a cup of celery dice. I don’t trim off the leafy ends as they are great in soups. Just chop it up. (Trim any brown ends off though). Toss it all in the pot and set it on a burner set to medium. (My pot is round, if you have a long roasting pot you can still do this but put the burner in the middle – once the bottom is deglazed and things are “on their way” you can pour it into a round pot if you desire easier handling)

At this point you have the basic Mirepoix and broth going. Now you add some body. I toss in a handfull of pearled barley and a handfull of lentils. I’d guess it’s about 2 or 3 ounces of each. This gets to simmer a few minutes as you prep the rest. At some point I’ll add more water. This gets added to about 1/2 gallon total water, or about 2 inches below the top edge of my round roasting pan. Don’t add it all at once, just “as needed” for your ingredients to get a nice vegetable stew going.

Now I raid the fridge.

You are looking for leftover vegetables. Judgement is needed here. So left over fire-breathing jalapeño stuffed Scotch Bonnet peppers probably ought not go in… I had a cup of sweet peas from Thursday and about 1/2 cup of steamed zucchini slices. I diced the zukes and added both to the pot. I also added 2 “not beef” vegetarian bouillon cubes. This has a generally meat like flavor, but without being beef, so you don’t have clashing flavors. I find it very useful for making richer soups since “lamb bouillon” seems unavailable anywhere.

Next I got about 2 cups worth of red potatoes. Scrubbed them and peeled off any imperfect bits. These get diced and added to the pot. (By now I was about 1/2 hour into it and the grain / lentils are starting to cook). When it comes back up to starting to boil, put the lid on and turn it down to a simmer. I let it simmer about 1/2 hour more, then check that there’s no “green” flavor to the spuds and that the grains and lentils are soft enough. At that time, adjust the salt and pepper to suit your tastes. I “sprinkle over” the pot with a good shake of salt (less if more bouillon, more if less bouillon), then put a couple of pepper grinds in the 4 cardinal points of the pot. Stir and taste. Adjust any flavor profile to your liking. (So, for example, you will note I said to use an onion. I didn’t have one this time so added a ‘sprinkle around the pot’ of granulated garlic to give it some allium flavors.)

That’s basically it.

Now, vegetables are NOT free, but compared to everything else they nearly are. A couple of bouillon cubes are also nearly nothing. The pan drippings are free, especially since many folks just pitch them out. The seasonings used are also nearly no cost. My final volume was 3 quarts ( poured with a canning funnel into a 1/2 gallon jar and a one quart jar, so an accurate measure. Solids reach about the 3/4 to 7/8 height of the jar.). These were capped and allowed to cool to ‘just warm’ on the counter then placed in the fridge last night.

I doubt I have $2 in the whole pot of stew.

The lamb roast gave us 2 big dinners, and then 3 tubs of slices. These are Pyrex dishes with clip on lids of 2 cups each. That’s 6 cups of slices.

Today, for lunch, we had the quart jar. I added about 1/4 of the tub (or about 1/2 cup) of lamb dices from one of the tubs. This was the most rough bits (that didn’t slice well) to make this particular batch “lamb stew” instead of vegetable stew. I make that about $1 to $1.50 of lamb; but it is optional. As a vegetable stew it’s still quite good.

in Conclusion

So there you have it. Today, for lunch, we had more stew than we needed at about $1/2 to $1 per person including the crackers and added lamb dice

We’ve still got 2 more meals like that to go, already in the jar, along with enough lamb slices for about 4 to 6 of more meals – like lamb sandwiches or re-heated roast; just add side vegetables or salad. All up, I’ll get about a dozen meals out of this one roast + stew. This was a small boneless leg of about 4.4 lbs. Were it a full sized bone in leg, I’d get a lot more; but for reasons beyond my ken, the local markets have shifted to these small roasts.

Now this same process can be used with roast chickens, turkey, beef, “whatever”. When it’s chicken, I’ll use rice instead of barley, or sometimes toss in “soup pasta” when reheating it and simmer about 10 minutes. (If put in the first cooking, then cooled in the fridge and then reheated, it swells too much and soaks up too much soup!) Most any mild grain can be used, and several kinds of pasta, along with many different beans or peas. Just realize dry beans need a long slow cook, so ought to be cooked in a couple of changes of water and then added to the soup as already cooked beans. Beans work especially well if you use a Ham or Pork roast base for the soup.

When cooled, a layer of fat will form on top of the soup. Some folks are paranoid about fat, others just don’t want the calories. You can just lift it off the soup and toss it. I prefer to just let it melt as the soup reheats. It adds a richness to the soup that’s delightful and adds flavor depth. It soaks into the crackers and is no “worse” than butter on cracker (or the oil cooked into rich flavored crackers like Ritz).

Between the various possible grains, legumes, and noodles; the various leftover vegetables, and the 5 or 6 main meat choices (beef, pork, ham, chicken, turkey, duck, lamb,…) you have a huge number of variations possible. Then you can vary the spices too. Add a bit of Italian spice mix, or some Greek…

As long as you don’t use any leftovers that have “gone off”, it’s pretty fool proof. I’ve never yet had a soup that was bad. A few were ‘thin’, and some added bouillon fixes that. Some are a bit bland – that’s when the spice cabinet comes into play, or just leaving the bay leaf from the roast beef in the pan for a while while simmering… I like a bit more salt than the spouse, and she wants nearly no pepper, so my bowl gets some added of both.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! If it’s not to your liking, you are out “nearly nothing” anyway! Some pan drippings, a bit of bouillon, a few cups of vegetables and some leftovers… But really, I’ve never had to pitch a batch.

So that’s the way you can get 6 meals for nearly nothing. By doing this, you can make a “too expensive’ roast very affordable.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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8 Responses to 6 Meals For Nearly Nothing

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    I usually do a similar trick with a roasted turkey. After turkey dinner and sandwich cuts. Everything else goes into the big stewing pot for a night of simmering with enough water to cover it.
    First thing in the morning shut it down, pour off the liquid into another big pot and let the remains cool enough to be able to separate the meat from the bones and big skin pieces. Add the meat to the stew pot of decanted liquid that is simmering. I also add a container of broth, onions & garlic and LOTS of potatoes. Clean out the vegetable left overs in the fridg. and any fresh or frozen vegetables available. If MSG bothers you, DO-NOT salt the cooking meat! Add salt to taste in your serving bowl. If you have access to Summer Savory add a small hand full to the stew pot. It really punches up the flavors of the stew!
    Old timers way to preserve the stew in its’ pot from heating to heating, is to bring it to a low boil after serving and cover with lid before shutting off the heat and cooling. Remember! if you open the lid you must reboil to sanitize it. Not everyone has access to refrigeration for 2 to 4 quarts of stew. This will give you several days to consume your stew. Plenty of time to get really tired of turkey stew.
    Making a stew of anything purity much follows the same sequence. Prepare the meat saving any juices that cook out, add Onion&garlic, spices, then the toughest vegetables first. The longer the meat cooks the better. Add any pasta, or grain last, Maybe even biscuits or dumplings. I find the second cooking of the stew is generally better the the first…pg

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @Sabertoothed:

    I’m a supportive friend and family member. Friends and Family have gone on all sorts of diets. Due to this, I’ve gone on them with the friends to “support” them. (I.e. not order fries and shake in front of my buddy on an all meat diet; nor order steak in front of my vegan family…)

    So a couple of times I’ve done the ketogenic (all meat) diet. It works fine. It’s boring. Other than that the only problem is the first few days it’s a bit stressful as the ketone body metabolism has not ramped up yet while the lack of sugars is causing a bit of hunger and food cravings. Get past that bit and it’s easy.

    It’s also nice to have some fiber in your diet for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is having an easier time in the bathroom…). For this reason, having non-starch plants with the meat works just as well as the all-meat diet for ketogenisis, while being a bit easier on the lower colon. So things like lettuce, salads, celery, carrots, turnips, greens, even green beans; all good. This helps relieve the boredom of chicken and pork every day… (Even if you have beef steak for dinner, you’ll end up with chicken or pork for breakfast or lunch). Eggs can be added too.

    So what’s being avoided? Sugars, starches (cereals, breads, rice, grain dishes), starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. Basically the core of the “modern” American diet…

    So I’ve done both the “only meat” and the “meat and non-starchy vegetables” with about the same results. The second one is a bit easier to stay on. Oh, and things like cheese and butter are also allowed.

    Now, about a week into it, you end up not very hungry at all. You eat a little, and stop.

    FWIW, I’ve been working back toward that sort of diet in the last few weeks. Not jumping in whole hog (though that’s how you are “supposed” to do it…) but just cutting out starches and putting in proteins a few at a time. No sodas, no sugar in my coffee, no breakfast cereal but sausages and eggs (still having the toast some days), etc. More salads, less starchy vegetables (peas, beans, potatoes…) In a few months I may make the leap to zero carbs, but we’ll see. It’s easier to just slowly ramp down for me, and as I run out of something not buy more of it.

    The only fly in this ointment is the spouse who eats mostly carbs at most meals, given the choice… So breakfast was an easy convert as I do the “short order cook” thing with eggs and sausages and can choose to skip toast, then black coffee. While the spouse having a bowl of cereal and toast has no bearing on me. It’s when I’ve got mashed potatoes with roast chicken it’s hard not to take a big scoop ;-) Oh Well.

  3. andysaurus says:

    For my taste, you missed the bay leaves. I have a forty foot tree so they are cheap for me. IMHO they add a great depth and warmth to any stew. They are also good in milk puddings (like creamed rice or tapioca).

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Andy; you are so right! The whole object of stew is build on what you have available at the time.
    The mark of a real cook is to be able to turn out good eatins with what ever is at hand…pg

  5. Neil Fisher says:

    One thing that used to be very common in my neck of the woods was lamb fritters for breakfast on the morning after the roast dinner – just all the bits that don’t make a “good” slice of lamb (including all the bits you can scrape off the bone) dipped in batter and shallow fried in a pan – yum! Except for the odd occasion when either myself or friends did this for nostalgic reasons, I’ve very rarely seen this done any more.

    You can also use your ice-cube tray to keep those juices from the roast in the freezer – complete with fat. Very useful for the long, slow broiling of ribs, brisket and such. It ends up like a sourdough – the original is lost in the dim past, but you’ve kept (and improved!) it all these years. You use the ice-cube tray because once they freeze, you can empty the tray into a self-seal plastic bag (put it back in the freezer – duh!) and you have a supply of already sub-divided stock ready to go.

  6. waterside4 says:

    Mr Smith,
    If I did not know better I would have thought you lived in our house.
    What you describe above is exactly like our domestic situation.
    My beautiful ex fiance of near 50 years ago has a diet like your “boss”.
    I have been a low carb person for 20 years since my 56th birthday.
    She recently has been indulging in some South American miracle food called chia seeds or something.
    Should I try smoking them do you think?

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Andysaurus:

    I mentioned bay leaves in the context of beef. I’ve never tried them with lamb. This is entirely due to my family habits, and I’m willing to learn… so a question from ignorance:

    Does bay improve lamb too?

    @P.G.:

    Anyone who’s had pickled pigs feet (and like them) or menudo (tripe soup) has a first hand example of just that. (And yes, I’ve eaten both… and liked it…)

    One of my big complaints about the current chain supermarket process is all the interesting bits end up in pet food. We used to get lamb kidneys and sweetbreads at the local grocery butchers counter. Now you can’t even find them. One saving grace is the local Mexican and Asian grocers still have a more traditional process (carve the whole animal into bits). I go to them for things like kidneys and such.

    How can you make steak & kidney pie without kidneys? Or “savory innards” without a bucket of chicken livers, gizzards, and hearts? Or tongue sandwich? Or heart in gravy? Or… God, so much delectable stuff no longer on offer…

    @Neil:

    Oooh! Those lamb fritters sound good! Only problem is I tend to nibble all the “kibbly bits” before they make it off the carving board ;-)

    I put excess stock into cup sized freezer jars in the freezer. Works well, though a bit harder to use as it must defrost before you can get it out. The microwave can make that happen fast if needed.

    @Waterside4:

    I suspect there is some residue of millions of years of selection for hunter men vs gatherer women in our food preferences. I just can’t eat as much sweet stuff as SWMBO can. She can’t stomach a diet with mostly meat and leaves and lacking sweets and starches.

    Chia is not going to smoke well… There’s also north American chia, but not common in markets. Some grows in a park near me. It’s a decent grain, but not a miracle. I’ve grown some in the back yard just for fun. The S. American type doesn’t set seed here (something wrong in the light / heat cycle so it doesn’t trigger grain formation prior to running out of warm season). The very young leaves are edible / tasty even; then as it ages gets a stronger less attractive flavor. The “Chia Pet” has these seeds glued onto a ceramic base…

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