I grew up with a respect for everything I received, and that meant that we didn’t waste anything. Over the years it’s been a challenge to get the family to eat leftovers. Not wanting anything to spoil, I learned to improvise.
In college I worked at a grocery store in San Diego. I worked in a lot of departments, and I learned about health codes. I’ll have you know, health codes are not respected everywhere. Today I still live by many of the rules, and that means that food items in the refrigerator have an expiration.
Something else I learned, way before college and San Diego, is that the best tasting game meat is dependent on how you place your shot and how you take care of the animal after it’s down. Watch the YouTube video below to learn more about those details.
Hunting is hard work, and the real work happens after an animal is down and the hunting license is notched. There is an amazing sense of accomplishment when we work hard for something. More people should learn about this concept these days. We hand too much to our children (and others).
After preparing, working out, camping, hiking, spotting, stalking, making the shot, field dressing, cooling down the meat, packing it out, packing camp out, getting the meat into the walk in cooler, cleaning our selves up, unpacking gear, cleaning gear, tending to horses, cutting meat, sealing meat, labeling meat, freezing meat… The list goes on.
Hunting for your own food is a lot of work. I don’t want an ounce of it to go to waste.
Back to the left overs.
When the daughter headed off to college, the number of mouths to feed obviously became smaller. That meant learning how to cook like a single mom again. It also meant that some of the meat we’d packaged, planning on more mouths, would be too much for two people.
You can’t unthaw only half of a package. I had to defrost the sealed bags as we’d prepared them. I also had to plan meals around them but without left overs.
You’d think with an empty nest, we’d have a lot of time on our hands. That isn’t the case. We became busier than ever. At times I had one meal cooked and another planned for the next day, but we wouldn’t make it home before dark. We’d eat on the run, and the plan would change, and food would spoil.
I became better!
Here’s the deal. Yes, the next animal I tagged I packaged differently, but I also cooked differently. I made the regular size batches of pazole, tortilla soup, carnitas, steaks, and so on. I learned to freeze the left overs and use them when we were in a pinch for a dinner idea when it’s too hot out or when we didn’t feel like cooking.
Cook up your meal, serve enough for your family members, and after it’s cool freeze the remainder in applicable sized portions.
You’ve created your own TV dinners. I’ve done this with all sorts of meals and with the fixings for them. If you’re making fajitas, cut up all of the bell peppers and onions. Use only what you need for who’s there. Freeze the rest in a zippered freezer bag (peppers all in one bag, onions in another). If you have leftover steak, do the same thing. Slice it, dice it, or chop it, and put it in a freezer bag. The next time you’re thinking, “We don’t have anything to eat” you’ll be able to grab, dump, season and go.
I know that sometimes the meat isn’t the “proper cut” for the meal, but HEY! We spend too much time working on perfection. (This coming from a perfectionist! Oh my — Perfectly imperfect, I am!) If you don’t have the strips you’re “supposed to have” for fajitas, it’s okay.
If that’s not okay with you, here’s another quick and easy recipe, whick may have been the first thing I learned how to cook.
ELK STEAK QUESADILLA (Using leftovers)
Start to finish: 5 minutes
2 – 12″ Flour tortillas
2 – 1/2 Cup shredded Mexican cheese
1 – 8 oz. elk steak, cooked and diced (Thawed)
1 – Small avocado
2 – Tablespoons salsa
1 – Pat of butter
Dash of salt
Add half of a pat of butter to and preheat a comal (flat cast iron skillet) on medium heat. After the pan is hot and the butter is melted, lay one tortilla on the pan. sprinkle half of your cheese on that tortilla making sure to get as close to the edges without spilling over the side. Spread your diced steak on top of the cheese. Leave this to heat and go peal and dice your avocado. Sprinkle the avocado on top of the cheese and meat. Use a spoon to sprinkle the salsa around on top of the other ingredients, then sprinkle the remainder of the cheese. Again, take care to get the ingredients evenly distributed and as close to the edge as you can. Place the second tortilla on top of your stack of ingredients. Press it down and then spread the remaining portion of butter on top of that tortilla. Sprinkle it with salt. Check the bottom tortilla. When it’s turning golden-brown, flip your entire quesadilla over. Sprinkle the top with salt. Allow it to cook until the now bottom tortilla turns golden brown. Use a a chef’s knife to cut the quesadilla into pizza-shaped slices. Serve the slices while they’re hot.
Note: I always encourage people to make recipes their own and one of the good things about a quesadilla is just about anything goes. Some ideas of things you can add are beans, lettuce, sour cream, shrimp, mushrooms… Hey! You can throw you fajitas in there. Add what you love.
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