Saturday, January 21, 2012

Double Leftovers Love: Baked Stuffed Potato & “Taco Shells” Pasta

My two-prong 2012 resolution was to do more cooking at home, and to end up throwing out fewer leftovers by repurposing them for future dinners and/or work lunches. This resolution seemed like a manageable, money-saving one that will yield some good meals and blogging inspiration. Plus, I figured, if the world is going to end this coming December, there’s no point in resolving to exercise, eat healthy, or quit smoking—amirite, gentle reader?

Anyhoo, I have done pretty well thus far—I've brought lunch to work more days than not, and managed to make some creative use of leftovers. The Taco Night I recently blogged about actually occurred twice over the course of a few weeks—once with corn tortillas, once with flour. And following both occasions, I came up with excellent ways to use up the leftover ground beef filling.

Taco Night Reprise #1: Baked Stuffed Potato
After the first Taco Night, there wasn’t more than 1/2 cup of meat left. So the following night, I baked a foil-enshrouded potato in the toaster oven at 425°, with a foil packet of the leftover meat on top of the toaster oven for the last 10 minutes to warm it.

When the potato was done, I opened up the foil, split the potato, topped it with the leftover taco filling, and topped that with shredded jalapeno jack. Then I loosely tented the foil from the meat over it and returned it to the toaster oven at 350° for about 5 minutes to finish heating the chili and melt the cheese.

I dolloped this with sour cream, and accompanied it with a cup of the cream of broccoli soup I had made while the potato was baking. Again, I was working the resolution, with the plan of bringing the remainder of the soup to work for lunch for the next few days. (BTW, gentle reader, I’ve been doing drafts of a cream of broccoli soup recipe for ages, but can’t settle on a formula I truly want to commit to the Interwebs… Never fear, however; I won’t rest until I do!)

Taco Night Reprise #2: Taco Shells
After the second Taco Night in recent memory, there was maybe a cup or more of beef filling left. A few evenings later, I set salted water to boil for pasta and heated the taco meat in a small saucepan with an 8-oz. can of tomato sauce and maybe 1/2 cup chicken stock. I brought the meat mixture to a high simmer, then turned it down to low to let it cook down so the liquid thickened.

Once the water boiled, I made large (not jumbo) pasta shells—get it? Taco shells!!!—and then tossed them in the sauce and garnished them with grated cheddar, for a dish in what I call the Ignorant American Fusion school of cooking: a Mexican-inpired spin on the classic Italian combo of pasta Bolognese with Parmesan. (Well, I don't know if it's actually classic or just what ignorant Americans do. You see how this school of cooking works.)

The Rob and I were both very happy with this dish; the pasta was a nice foil for the spicy sauce, and it was an awfully easy way to recycle! So far, I feel like this resolution is generating a lot of positive reinforcement. So much more fun than exercising, eating healthy, or quitting smoking!

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