Cook Once, Eat Thrice with a Slow Cooker Beef Roast (GF & DF-Adaptable)

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By Alison Diven, Contributing Author

Are you having one of those weeks? Do you need an action plan for a few days of no-stress, family-pleasing, yet healthful meals? After multiple rounds of illness in our household, I sure do! Picture this: cook (very) simply tomorrow night, then have the next two nights virtually off, while enjoying 3 different dinners—BBQ loaded baked potatoes, deluxe taco bowls, and portobello mushroom pizzas.

We’re following this plan ourselves right now, and it’s such a relief. The flavors are familiar, the cooking simple, and I know we’re all still eating healthy meat, nourishing fats, and even vegetables. For a pregnant mama coddling a sick toddler and exhausted husband, this is very good news, indeed.

It all starts with slow cooking a beef roast, then shredding the meat and seasoning it three simple ways. First, it gets smothered in BBQ sauce atop baked potatoes with all the fixings and a side salad. Then, it joins fresh vegetables, beans, and rice with salsa and sour cream for a Tex-Mex treat. Finally, it meets Italian herbs, portobello mushrooms, and cheese (if you like) for a quick broil, with leftover side salad. Simple and satisfying.

It’s a fabulous way to stretch an already affordable cut of beef, and without a single complaint about leftovers. I’ve written the instructions for a family of 4, but it would also work for a family of 6 without using a bigger roast; just scale up the other ingredients. For those on a no-dairy diet, it’s easy to leave out the cheese, sour cream, and butter.

Because I’m so intimately acquainted with the brain fog that comes with challenging seasons—first trimester, anyone?—I’ve made this plan as user friendly as possible. You’ll find a printable shopping list and explicit step-by-step instructions for each night. So just print and go, girl! You can do this.

Recipe Notes

  • Because my goal is ease, I call for store-bought BBQ sauce and salsa, canned beans, and an optional box of baby greens. You’ll want to look for ingredient lists that are free of GMOs, corn syrup, yucky food additives, and your family’s allergens. Of course, you’re welcome to make your own and save money that way! Kimi notes: I keep (affiliate link) Eden’s beans on hand for recipes such as this. It’s cooked with kombu, a nutritious seaweed that makes them digestible. 
  • The one condiment I do call for making at home is salad dressing. It’s just SO easy and far superior (and cheaper) to what’s available even in health food stores, especially the fats, which are important to me.
  • A whole chicken or pork shoulder would be excellent substitutes for the beef pot roast. The flavors will still work beautifully.
  • I always recommend grass-fed beef and dairy products, when possible. Not only are they healthier for you, the cow, and the planet, they often just taste better. You won’t believe the magic grass-fed beef, slow cooking, and salt and pepper make together! Be sure to save the bones and extra cooking liquids for your next batch of bone broth.
  • If you end up with leftover odds and ends, you can mix and match them to make a couple of fabulous breakfast frittatas or omelets.

Shopping List & Recipes

Click to download the Cook Once, Eat Thrice Shopping List PDF. You’ll also want to print all three step-by-step recipes below.

Cook Once, Eat Thrice Night #1: BBQ Loaded Baked Potatoes
 
Author:
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
 
Cook once today and enjoy ultra easy meals for two more nights. The simple tasks for today include 1) slow cooking the beef roast, 2) baking potatoes, 3) cooking rice, 4) seasoning the beef, 5) preparing a simple salad and dressing, and 6) assembling tonight's dinner. Tasks 1-5 can be fit in at any time of day, as you have time. Total active time is less than 30 minutes!
Ingredients
For the Meat
  • 3 lbs bone-in beef pot roast, preferably grass-fed
  • 1½ to 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
For the Rice
  • 1½ cups rice, white or brown
  • water or broth as directed by package or rice cooker
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
For the Salad (Nights 1 & 3)
  • 1-2 heads lettuce OR 1 large box baby greens
  • Your favorite salad vegetables, like carrots & celery or tomatoes & cucumbers
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
For Baked Potatoes
  • 4 large baking potatoes, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Butter for serving (optional)
  • Sour cream for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook meat. In the morning, place the roast in the slow cooker and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, until very tender and “shreddable.”
  2. Bake potatoes. 1-1/2 hours before dinner, turn the oven to 400. While pre-heating, scrub potatoes, pat dry, prick skin, and rub with olive oil. When oven is hot, place potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, turning over midway, or until the flesh is soft when tested with a fork.
  3. Cook Rice. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package or rice cooker directions, adding salt and chili powder before cooking. Place cooked rice in storage container and refrigerate.
  4. Flavor meat. When meat is done, remove meat to large bowl and shred with two forks. Spoon some of the cooking juices into the meat to moisten it. Put one third of the shredded meat into a small saucepan, one third into a storage container, and one third into another storage container. To the saucepan, add ½ cup BBQ sauce and set aside. To the first storage container, add ½ teaspoon cumin and combine. Cover and refrigerate. To the second storage container, add ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Combine, adding more cooking juices as needed to incorporate tomato paste. Cover and refrigerate.
  5. Prepare salad and dressing. Wash and cut up vegetable toppings. Set aside. Combine 1 cup olive oil, ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, etc and emulsify with whisk, blender, or immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  6. Assemble Meal. Warm BBQ sauce and meat reserved in saucepan. Slice green onions. Serve potatoes topped with butter, BBQ beef, sour cream, shredded cheese, and green onions. Serve ½ the salad greens topped with ½ the vegetable toppings with the homemade salad dressing.

Cook Once, Eat Thrice Night #2: Shredded Beef Taco Bowls
 
Author:
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
 
If you followed the plan for Night #1, you'll have dinner on the table in 15 minutes tonight! Be sure to save any leftover vegetables and toppings.
Ingredients
  • Prepared cumin-flavored beef from Night #1
  • Prepared rice from Night #1
  • 1 can black, pinto, or kidney beans
  • ½ cup frozen organic corn kernels
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes (if in season)
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • ½ cup salsa
  • ½ cup sour cream (optional)
  • Leftover sliced green onions
Instructions
  1. Rinse and drain beans. Rinse frozen corn in warm water and set aside for a few minutes to thaw. Chop bell pepper, tomatoes (if using), and cilantro. Slice avocados.
  2. Meanwhile, gently warm shredded cumin beef and rice. You can use a single large skillet on low and place the beef on one half and the rice on the other half.
  3. Assemble taco bowls, layering rice, beans, beef, vegetables, avocado, sour cream, and salsa.

Cook Once, Eat Thrice Night #3: Portobello Mushroom Pizzas
 
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
 
Tonight's the last night of the 3-day plan. Enjoy another speedy, delicious dinner that requires only a quick broil to get on the table. Have leftover odds and ends after the 3 days? Most ingredients will go toward an absolutely killer breakfast frittata or omelet tomorrow morning. Have fun!
Ingredients
  • Prepared oregano-tomato shredded beef from Night #1
  • 4 large or 6-8 smaller portobello mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces Italian melting cheese (like mozzarella), sheep-milk feta, or goat chevre
  • Leftover chopped bell pepper and/or tomato (optional)
  • Leftover green onions (optional)
  • Leftover salad greens from Night #1
  • Leftover salad vegetable toppings from Night #1
  • Leftover salad dressing from Night #1
Instructions
  1. Set oven to broil.
  2. Gently brush dirt off mushrooms. Cut out mushroom stems. Brush tops (smooth side) of mushrooms with olive oil and place top side up on baking sheet.
  3. Broil mushrooms for 3 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.
  4. Turn over mushrooms and spread shredded beef over the shallow cavity. If you have any left over, add chopped bell pepper and/or tomato. Top with cheese.
  5. Broil for 2-4 more minutes, watching very carefully to prevent burning.
  6. Serve immediately alongside salad greens, salad vegetable toppings, and salad dressing. Sprinkle green onions on top, if you have any leftover.

Looking for More Easy Family Dinners?

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Easy Thai Curry Noodle Soup
14 Easy Dinner Recipes (That Are Healthy and Frugal Too!)
Cucumber Tuna Boats
3 Ingredient Teriyaki Pan Fried Chicken (Easiest Recipe Ever!)
Sriracha-Lime Salmon One-Pot Meal

How to Make Mini Meatloaves (healthy, paleo, and allergen-friendly)

Mini Meatloaves that are grain, dairy, and egg-free and super simple to make! Kids love them.

Moist and flavorful, these uber simple mini meatloaves are a quick and easy dinner that is greatly enjoyed around here – especially when served with baked fries and homemade ketchup!

Using coconut flour instead of bread crumbs make this meatloaf recipe grain-free (and egg and dairy-free!) and even easier to make than the typical version. I love having easy dinner recipes, and this is definitely one of them. I am a firm believer in having a list of simple dinners that you can easily make, but are nutritious and welcomed by your family. It’s a great way to keep on track in feeding your family well, a help in keeping within your food budget, and important for making  real food realistic.

When buying meat from the store, and not in bulk directly from a farmer, grassfed beef can get really expensive. (Look for an upcoming post on the benefits of grassfed beef.) Ground beef is almost always the most frugal choice, and so I like recipes, – like this one – to help keep our food budget low. Meatloaf is known as a frugal main dish, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious!

Here are a couple other easy and inexpensive dinners using beef:

When grassfed beef is bought directly from farmers, it is generally very lean, and thus, is very easy to use in recipes like this. We’ve eaten up our ¼ of a cow from a local farmer, so I’ve been buying my meat from a local store. Their grassfed beef is 20% fat (I assume because they process some of the fat with the meat when making it). If you use fatty ground beef, you will have a lot of drainage during the cooking process, but that’s okay. It’s very easy to simply leave all the drained fat behind, as once cooked, you can lift the mini meatloaves right out of the pan, and the fat is left behind. Just be forewarned that your mini meatloaves will shrink a lot!

To make this even more nutritious, you can hide some ground liver in the meat for the meatloaf. (It sounds gross to some, but is hardly noticeable in taste). I also have a planned post on that topic in the upcoming weeks!

A word about coconut flour: They can absorb moisture differently. I’ve been using Let’s Do Organic’s coconut flour lately, just because it’s widely available. (They are also available here at my affiliates Amazon and Vitacost. If you aren’t up to making your own ketchup, you can also find organic and corn syrup-free ketchups there – Vitacost has a lot of options.) You may need to adjust the recipe slightly when using other brands of coconut flour. If it seems too dry, just add a little milk, or more ketchup. If it seems a little too wet, add a bit more coconut flour. Meatloaf is very forgivable, thankfully, so any little adjusting you need to do should be fine.

How to Make Mini Meatloaves (healthy, paleo, and allergen-friendly)
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
I’ve made this a couple different ways. Sometimes I’ll grate about ½ a small onion and add it to the mix. That’s delicious too, and adds a bit more moisture.
Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ pounds ground beef (grassfed, lean beef preferred)
  • 2 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
  • ½ cup homemade ketchup (or best quality you can find/buy)
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon each dried thyme, oregano, and basil (or 1 ½ teaspoon of Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely minced or put through a garlic press
Instructions
  1. Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Put aside half the ketchup, and dump ¼ cup of it, and the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and mash together with your hands. Divide into 12 balls and press into a muffin tin (if you are working with very lean meat, oil the pan before, but with most ground beef you don’t need to worry about it sticking because of the fat content).
  3. Divide the rest of the ketchup over the top of the meatloaves, and spread evenly.
  4. Place in the oven and cook for 20- 25 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle. Remove from pan and serve.
  5. Serve 2 to 3 per person.

 

14 Easy Dinner Recipes (That are healthy & frugal too!)

14 easy recipes that are healthy and frugal too!

When eating a healthy diet, I think it’s important to have a list of quick and inexpensive meal ideas and easy dinner recipes to have on hand. Even in the most well-balanced and calm life, there will be nights when you don’t feel like cooking elaborate meals, or times when you need an especially frugal meal to stretch out your budget.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite easy and frugal recipes together in one place!

Easy and Frugal Dinner Recipes

Simple Baked Mini Meatballs that are paleo, and frugal too!

1. Paleo Meatballs

These grain-free meatballs (egg- and dairy-free too!) are some of the easiest ones to makes, but they are also a great frugal way to enjoy meat in many meals. These are on my $1 dollar menu, as a serving costs about 1 dollar! I use them in a variety of ways, including serving them with a mushroom sauce.

2. Persian Lentil Soup

Lentils are low in phytic acid, making the soaking process optional. This recipe for Persian Lentil Soup is gently flavored and the ingredients kept basic for an especially frugal and easy meal. To make it even more flavorful and nutritious, use my almost free chicken broth! 

3. Curried Lentils with Apples and Onions

Another lentil dish is this lovely lentil curry,  gently sweetened with apples, and flavorful from curry powder and garam masala.

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette, plus seven more tasty, nourishing salad dressings

4. Main Dish Salads

I love throwing together a main dish salad with extra cut up vegetables, leftover roasted chicken, Bpa-free canned or precooked beans, or canned salmon or low-mercury tuna, nuts or seeds, and a homemade salad dressing. It’s a very fast meal, and can be very frugal as well!

5. Thai Broth with Chicken

One of my popular recipes from my cookbook, Ladled, is this Simple Thai broth. Make is a main dish by serving it over rice noodles and cooking some chopped chicken in it too. Sooo good! It’s also very frugal if you use homemade broth, and don’t use too many “extras”. If you have broth on hand, it’s extremely easy and fast to put together.

6. Sloppy Joe’s in a Bowl

This unusual way to enjoy Sloppy Joe’s is a super easy meal that is also inexpensive to make!

7. Congee

Congee is an Asian-styled rice porridge. I have a section in my cookbook, Ladled, for them, but here is a Miso version. I especially like the broth based ones – such a fun way to get in that nutritious, inexpensive broth! This is a filling meal, and can be made with the most basic ingredients.

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8. Chicken Noodle Soup

This chicken noodle soup makes its own broth while it cooks. Yes, it does take a couple hours to simmer, but it’s a ten-minute operation before that point.

9. Roasted Meats and Vegetables

This simple, one pan meal can be put together quickly and makes an easy dinner, and you get to relax during the roasting time.

10. Bacon Frittata

This basic, but delicious frittata is a great simple meal to make for any of the three main meals of the day! This version is dairy-free.

Sweet Potato Crusted Frittata

11. Sweet Potato Crusted Spinach Frittata

Or, why not try this sweet potato crusted version? It’s gotten rave reviews, and is just a little more work.

12. Oatmeal

Truth be told, we love oatmeal. It makes a stick-to-your-ribs type meal, especially when served with butter and pure maple syrup. So yummy. And yes, we eat it for dinner sometimes. We just did last night, in fact! And you can’t beat it for simplicity and frugality!

13. Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

To make oatmeal a special treat, try out this baked, pumpkin oatmeal!  It only takes a few minutes the night before/in the morning, and then a few minutes before you stick it in the oven to make.

14. Soups

And of course, soups are on the top of my list for easy, simple dinners. One example out of many is this German Dumpling Soup. Yum!

I’d love to hear your easy dinner recipes using healthy ingredients too!

6 Tips for Adding Flavor to Any Dish for Less

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By Katie, Contributing Writer

Do you believe that cooking delicious and nourishing foods is possible even on a tight budget? Sometimes we overlook how much flavor some of the humblest foods in our pantry can add to our dishes. These 6 simple and frugal tips are practical and have been used by our ancestors and different cultures for generations. Unfortunately some of these have become a lost art in today’s modern society. You might even be surprised to find most – if not all – of these ingredients already in your kitchen.

Let’s celebrate the simple, flavorful additions we all can have access to on any budget.

Use homemade broth for better flavor 

It seems that we are always talking about broth here at The Nourishing Gourmet. It is just so good that we just can’t keep sharing about it! Chicken stock is my favorite of all broths. It is light, delicate and the perfect base for soup, stews, stir frys and sauces. It’s considered a cornerstone of many cuisines because of it’s wonderful flavor. And who hasn’t been told to eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup to cure a cold? It’s often called the “Jewish Penicillin” because of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in it.

Homemade broth (stocks) are essential for making delicious and nourishing soups (Kimi wrote a whole book on soups and broths). They are easy to make and are a way for you to use up kitchen scraps that might have otherwise been tossed. Have you ever used a can or carton of broth from the store? Not only are they expensive but they also lack flavor. If that is what you are used to, I understand that you probably see nothing wrong with the flavor as our palates get used to certain flavors. Unfortunately broth from the store not only lacks flavor and nutrients found in the bones but it also has unnecessary added ingredients like sugar.

You can make a delicious chicken broth practically for free when you use bones and vegetable scraps. You can also follow this method for using whole pieces of chicken and vegetables which is still a more fugal and flavorful option than buying the pre-made verity.

Adding flavor with spices

The world of spices add variety and tremendous flavor to dishes. It can be as simple as a grind of pepper over chicken, to multi-spice curry creations. Many, many spices have also been found to hold incredible health and healing benefits, showing us once again how our tongue can guide us to good eating habits.

Spices found in the jars on the shelves of your local supermarket are a bit lackluster. By the time they’ve made it to your humble abode they can be void of flavor, potency and nutrition. When possible, it is best to buy high quality whole spices in bulk and grind/grate them yourself. One excellent company to buy spices and herbs from is our affiliate, Mountain Rose Herbs. (Kimi notes: I just found a bag of dried peppermint I bought from them several years ago, and it’s still incredibly flavorful! They have some of the freshest herbs and spices I’ve ever bought.)

There are some spices I prefer to buy whole in bulk and others I tend to buy pre-ground. When it comes to some spices such as cinnamon I keep both the whole sticks and ground on hand. (When you are searching for cinnamon be sure to purchase Ceylon and not cassia.) A few pre-ground spices I buy are curry powders, turmeric and cumin.

Dishes such as curries and many Indian dishes benefit from frying the spices for a few minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. It brings out a fragrant smell and rich flavor that would other wise be missing. Two great example of this technic are this garam marsala lentil soup with coconut milk and this simple Indian daalh (lentil) dish.

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Adding flavor with fresh herbs

I love fresh herbs! I try to keep some of my favorite growing year round in my garden. If it’s too cold to grow herbs outside year round or if you don’t have space try growing a few small pots of herbs like basil, peppermint and oregano on a window seal. They add a complexity of flavor that is lacking in dried herbs. Adding add a bit of freshly chopped herbs on top dishes like this nourishing Thai noodle soup or fresh garden pasta give the dish added nutrition, flavor and beauty.

Adding flavor with traditional fats

Healthy fats are must in a nourishing diet for health, but  they are also important flavor components. I love olive oil, pastured/raw butter and coconut oil like any other real foodie. Sadly they can be a bit pricey even in bulk. I count myself blessed to live in a Mediterranean climate so I am able to buy local olive oil for a reasonable price.

When I think of frugal fats I am immediately dawn into my grandma’s kitchen. I can see her pull her tin can out of the small cupboard by her stove that she used to to save leftover grease from frying bacon or sausage. Nothing went to waste. Back then I was squeamish over the thought, but now I see the wisdom she had. Whenever I make chicken stock I also skim the fat off the top after it is cooled. I buy pork fat to render my own lard. The best tamales and refried beans are made with fresh lard. There is a depth of flavor that just can’t be beat. If I’m roasting beef bones I scoop off the fat after it’s cooled to make tallow. If you have never tasted french fries made in tallow and sprinkled with real salt then you are missing out!  Let’s not forget popcorn popped in a little bacon grease! To die for! If you ever have eaten much low-fat food, you know the lose of flavor that happens. Keeping healthy, traditional fats in our diets allows us not only to fill our body’s fat needs, but also makes our food absolutely delicious.

Adding flavor with unrefined salt

Yes, you heard me right, salt. It is that simple ingredient that allows a dish to shine. Once again, if you have ever eaten low-salt or saltless foods, you know much we rely on salt for well balanced flavor in our food. I tend to be a bit heavy handed on the salt shaker (actually I have a salt well) but I’m not that worried about it since I use a mineral rich high quality salt, Redmond’s Real Salt. Another excellent brand is Celtic Sea Salt or HimalaSalt. The body needs salt. Just a pinch (or few) goes a long way in adding drawing out the flavors in your dishes.

It’s easy in our modern days to take salt for granted, but wars were fought in the past over access to salt because it was traditionally held in such high regard. Our bodies need salt for health, and our food is more vibrant in flavor when well salted. It makes the sweet, sweeter, the spice, spicier, and is needed for a well balanced dish.

Adding flavor with onions and garlic

I cook with onions and garlic almost everyday. They are a simple, frugal, and delicious way to add flavor to dishes. I use them in salsa, stir fries, pasta, soups – you get the idea. Unless I am using them in salsa,  I normally saute the onions and garlic in a bit of fat and sprinkle with with salt. They add a delicious taste that can’t be achieved in with raw. Caramalized onions take extra time but they are worth the effort to add that extra special touch to a dish. Both onions and garlic lay down a flavorful foundation for many dishes, from a simple salad dressing, to a complex stew. Don’t overlook the simple, frugal things in your pantry that, when proper used, add depth of flavor, and make your food shine.

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