Thursday, October 13, 2016

If it can't be frozen, it's not worth making


Last month I posted my introduction to how we eat, and eat well, without using boxed dinners or depending on the drive-thru.

If you have two adults working outside the home 40+ hours a week, it’s tough to get nutritious meals on the table. If you have two adults working INSIDE the home, it’s tough to get nutritious meals on the table. Single parent? Forget it. Let’s be real – schedules are crazy for everyone. Kids and adults are all involved in lots of activities, volunteer opportunities, full-time jobs, part-time jobs, the list goes on…

Preparation is one of three keys to getting real food, real fast, on the table. Next is using your freezer to the MAX!

When I am planning meals, I always consider if I can plan for leftovers and if those leftovers can be frozen. If it can’t, that recipe likely won’t make it on the list. Most foods can be frozen, but there are certainly some that don’t do so well like lettuce, cucumbers, raw potatoes, and egg whites/meringues. There are others, but I have faith that you know how to use Google.

This might sound like a repeat from last month, but it still holds true for my freezing technique: When cooking proteins such as whole roasts in the slow cooker or ground meat in the skillet, I make sure that I prepare at least two meals worth of the protein. I hate doing dishes, so the more I cook at once, the more time and effort I can save doing dishes and preparing the meal for round 2 (or 3, or 4). My skillet can cook up to 4 pounds of ground meat at a time. Our local grocery store will periodically put ground beef on sale, but only if you buy it in 3+ pound packages. Since our kids don’t eat like teenagers (yet), 3 pounds is a little excessive for one meal. I used to split the packages when I got home and vacuum seal them. No more – I just cook it all (likely adding some chopped onion near the end of the cook time), drain, and then divide the cooked meat into one pound servings (2 cups of cooked ground meat is about 1 pound pre-cooked weight). Frozen oooked ground meat thaws quickly, so you can easily throw together spaghetti or tacos even if you forgot to defrost the meat in the fridge overnight.
Do you have roasts hanging out in your freezer that you were SURE you were going to use…someday… Thaw those puppies out and get them in your slow-cooker! Slice up an onion for the bottom of the slow cooker, set the roast on top, sprinkle with some seasoning and dump a beer (or a cup of broth) on top. Close the lid and don’t peek for 8-10 hours. When it’s done and had a chance to cool, shred the meat and freeze in the serving sizes that work for your family. Use the meat as fajita/taco/burrito filling, BBQ beef sandwich filling, for French Dip sandwiches, or mixed with gravy and served over potatoes or noodles. Comfort food made super simple!

Do you buy a package of onions because they are cheaper…but then they start growing before you have a chance to use them? Save yourself time and money by dicing up several of them at once. Spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Scoop them into freezer bags and use them as needed – minus the tears! This same technique works for bell peppers, too. I like using these frozen onions and peppers on pizza night since we only need it on one side of the pizza. The kids haven’t discovered non-boring pizza yet. We’ll get there someday.
 
Freezer Friendly Twice-Baked Potatoes
If you want to check out a whole month's worth of freezable lunches (including these ultra-delicious twice-baked potatoes), be sure to check out the meal plan I created that will take you three hours or less to create!
I have a whole slew of other freezer tricks to share. I see future blog posts or maybe even an e-book in my future! How do you use your freezer to maximize your time in the kitchen?


Friday, September 30, 2016

Skip the Drive-Thru and Hamburger Helper


Three most-used responses to "How are you?"

Fine.

Good.

BUSY!

My peers are hardworking men and women, leaving the home at 7:00am (or earlier!) and working 8+ hours a day before returning home just in time for kids' activities, volunteer work, or any number of other possible scheduling nightmares.

I recently presented the topic of how to eat well, no matter how busy you are, at a Women in Business luncheon, so I thought I would share my pearls of wisdom for the rest of the world.

Food is often an afterthought, with adults looking for the easiest way to provide themselves and those under their care with some sort of nutrition in the fastest way possible. Unfortunately, “nutrition” is usually buried somewhere underneath a layer of greasy, genetically-modified, and laboratory-produced food look-a-like items. You don’t have to continue this way. Our family doesn’t follow this path.

I’ve heard all the excuses. “You don’t understand – we are just too busy!” “Our kids refuse to eat XYZ.” “Fresh food is too expensive.”

I get it. We don’t live in an era when the dutiful wife stays at home, spending all afternoon creating a beautiful meal to serve her adoring family when they return from their day at school and work. Two income families are the norm, often with parents working opposite shifts to ease daycare costs. Gone are the days of gathering around the dining room table as a family unit, no matter how often the benefits of eating as a family are presented to the public. I get it, I really do. We leave the house before 7:00 and don’t get home until 5:30 or later. My husband? Who knows when he will get home from his full-time job or the farm. The kids have activities. The parents have meetings. But my family still eats REAL FOOD because I have made this a priority. Of course the kids would prefer to visit the golden arches or pick up a grease-laden pizza. They get over it and I’m sure someday will appreciate the alternatives they are exposed to everyday. They might be 32 when they appreciate it, but someday they will.

How do we do it?

I focus on three concepts that help me get real food on the table, real fast. Preparation, Freezing, and Kitchen Techniques/Tools. Today’s post will focus on PREPARATION.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” This quote from Benjamin Franklin is overused, I know. But it’s overused because it is true in so many situations. Meal prep should not just be a fad – it is critical to making sure you have healthy meal options whether you are a single career-driven person or a farm family of eight. Even companies that sell exercise programs and nutrition supplements encourage meal planning to make sure you do not sabotage the expensive programs you are purchasing! Meal planning takes all sorts of forms: writing out the meals you plan to make each day of the week and a grocery list to match, batch cooking proteins/grains early in the week to make a small variety of meals, or even just prepping fruits, vegetables, and spices the night before. I encourage you to find the technique that works best for you and your family to make sure you stick to a plan. Without a plan, I guarantee that you will find yourself turning to the foods that are bad for your waistline as well as your pocketbook! (Stay tuned for future posts about how I keep food costs down if you are on a budget.) My friend Kim of Dream Lily Designs is an organization guru. She has implemented this awesome magnetic meal planning kit that makes it fun and easy for this busy young family to stay on track!

Kim said that this plan has eliminated fights about dinner since everyone gets to help make the plan each week. She plans her meals based on the activities they have each night, even making sure that the meal chosen for Dad’s night of cooking include a recipe that he is comfortable creating.

I use several techniques to make sure I am prepared for each day’s meals. Before planning a grocery list for the week, I check out our calendar to determine how much (if any!) time we have at home each night of the week before needing to move on to the next activity of the evening. Some nights we have 30 minutes or less to cook the food AND eat it. These nights will depend on reheated leftovers or a simple scrambled egg sandwich with fresh fruit like grapes or apple slices.

Leftovers are always key to my weekly plan! When cooking proteins such as whole roasts in the slow cooker or ground meat in the skillet, I make sure that I prepare at least two meals worth of the protein. I hate doing dishes, so the more I cook at once, the more time and effort I can save doing dishes and preparing the meal for round 2! My chili recipe always makes leftovers for our family (at least until our boys are teenagers). You can check out that recipe and leftover ideas here: Chili Your Way

If I know that I will need chopped onions (or other veggies like carrots, peppers, or celery) for a couple of recipes this week, I will do all of the chopping at once and store the onions in a tightly closed container. Again, saving on time doing dishes and meal effort later. I always grate my own cheese (I’m not a fan of the extra ingredients like cellulose - aka wood pulp - that can be found in pre-shredded cheese, plus it melts better and tastes better), so I grate all the cheese I need for the week at one time and store it in containers.

Have others in your family help with the prep whenever they are available! Potatoes can be scrubbed by some of the youngest in your family. Wash fruits and veggies like apples and peppers as soon as you bring them home from the market. Having them washed and ready to go will make it far easier for you to decide to cook at home when all you really want to do is buy a bucket of fried chicken.

If a recipe calls for a mixture of spices, I will combine those spices at least the night before I will need them. If pantry items like canned beans or tomato products are listed in the recipe, I will set out what I need the night before or in the morning if I have time. This small step will save you precious minutes when the meal-time crunch hits. No searching the dark corners of your cupboards or pantry for the can of whatever that you THOUGHT you bought a week ago.

My last tip as part of the preparation theme is to have a prepared pantry, fridge, and countertop.

*In my pantry you will always find canned tomatoes and beans, dried pastas, boxed low-sodium broth, and a variety of spices. You can make any number of vegetarian meals with just these ingredients!

*In my refrigerator, you can find eggs, a wedge of Parmesan cheese and blocks of other cheese, milk, and a number of fruits and veggies that require little or no prep to eat! One of my go-to meals when time is super crunched – scrambled eggs, toast, and fresh fruit like grapes or apple slices. Dinner on the table in 10 minutes or less (and not a lot of dishes)!

*Fresh potatoes, onions, and garlic are always on my countertop (with the potatoes and onions stored in separate areas to prevent the potatoes from rotting prematurely from the fumes of the onions). Potatoes and onions are great for frugal cooking. Baked potatoes are perfect as either a side dish or a filling main dish when topped with chili, broccoli and cheese, bacon, or any number of ways! Fresh onions and garlic add great flavor to most dishes.

These are just a few of the many preparation steps I use to save time in the kitchen. I would love to hear what techniques you use to save both your time and sanity when hunger hits and there seems to be no time to get a healthy meal on the table!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Leftover Makeover

How does your family feel about leftovers? Do they cringe at the thought of two day old meatloaf and mashed potatoes? Or do you have a happy dance to celebrate an easy lunch that heats up at work during the week?
 

One Skillet Spaghetti - 3 cups low sodium broth, 3 cups pasta sauce, 12 oz. dry pasta, and 1 pound of cooked ground meat. Simmer until the pasta is tender and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese. Dinner is done in 20 minutes or less with minimal clean-up!

I LOVE leftovers and often purposely make too much of certain foods to ensure I have leftovers to use later that week or to freeze.  It saves me money by buying foods in bulk that I expect to use within a certain timeframe.  We eat out less if we have quick meals available, again saving money. I also save time in doing dishes - if I can handwash one large greasy skillet just once for several meals, I feel like a rockstar!
 
As a follow-up to my previous post about doing our best to not waste food, here are some suggestions for using up a few typical leftover items:
 
Chili - By design, I always make far more chili for our family than what we are going to eat at a meal.  Chili can be reused in so many ways and it freezes beautifully! Serve leftover chili on baked potatoes, cooked spaghetti, salad greens, and over hot dogs. Leftover chili also makes a fantastic burrito filling for an easy weeknight meal. Fill single serving freezer containers for simple lunches – just add crackers or a peanut butter sandwich and you’ve got a quick meal that doesn’t require a drive-thru!
Cornbread – I usually make cornbread along with chili, but many times I have leftover cornbread along with the chili. Eating it the next day as just cornbread is often a pretty dry experience. Instead, I add mine to a plate of eggs and salsa, use it as stuffing or breadcrumbs, make it a cold salad with corn and black beans, or even use it in a breakfast casserole in place of sandwich bread!

Mashed potatoes – Unless you are a fan of leftover Thanksgiving dinner, you might want to have a few other ideas to use up mashed potatoes. Look up recipes for potato pancakes, use them up in bread machine recipes, or I have even seen mashed potatoes spread over pizza crust as the “sauce”!

Want more great leftover ideas? Head on over to my FREE Facebook Group Real Food, Real Life and check out the guide in the files section.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

No Wasted Food!

"No Wasted Food! No Wasted Food!" This chant will forever be in my memory from my days spent at the Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center. I first visited as a sixth grade student, and my life was changed forever. We learned about the importance of taking care of our world and each other. Even the tiniest mosquito deserves our love and respect (this is still a difficult concept for me). Mealtimes even focused on sustainability - no paper napkins (we each had our own handkerchief), vegetarian options were made available, and we were expected to only put on our plate what we believed we were going to eat. Any food left on plates was scraped into a small bucket, and the goal was to have an amount small enough that would be below a line about an inch tall. Celebrations abounded when this goal was reached, which is no small feat when you gather 100+ students, teachers, and staff for a meal. 

I returned to the Glen as a staff member when I graduated from college. The call of the Pine Forest, the Yellow Springs, and the Raptor Center was strong. 
 


I handled a number of raptors and cared for them as well during my time at Glen Helen. Pictured here is a barred owl.
One of several natural springs in the Glen.
Working hand in hand with other staff members to bring young people to understand their place in our world was an incredible experience. I worked at the Center for a year in different roles. We were all expected to take turns in the kitchen and not surprisingly this was my favorite place to be.

From-scratch pancakes were always a hit with the kids! I'm pictured here on the left with a co-worker.
I took pride in helping to create food that children would find both tasty and nourishing for the long days spent on the trails.  The "No Wasted Food" chant lived on during these days, and celebrations varied from song and dance to the shaving of staff member heads. We taught the kids about the resources needed to create the food they eat: time, money, fuel, electricity, packaging, and animal life in some cases. It's important that we care for these resources as there are many who don't have enough food to survive and we mustn't create more waste during our production of food.  Even the small amount of food that we had to throw away was not completed wasted. A compost pile was located on site and the luscious soil was eventually worked into the on-site garden with the help of staff and students.

The United Nations Environmental Programme states that about one-third of all food produced in the world is "lost" during production or consumption. Think about that - one in three apples could have been given to those who suffer endlessly from hunger and malnutrition. One in three hamburgers from your favorite fast-food joint is tossed for one reason or another.  Our world has enough food for everyone...but we can't seem to get it to those who need it before it is considered waste.

I encourage you to think through your meals each week. Pick up only the fresh meat and produce that you believe will actually be consumed before it goes bad. Choose items with less packaging and those which traveled a shorter distance. At mealtimes, encourage your family members to only put on their plates that which they are really going to eat. Package up leftovers immediately after meals so that they are appetizing for lunches in the next couple of days. You will save time, money, and countless resources if you find ways to keep from tossing food. Consider composting the inedible parts of fresh fruits and vegetables and use the soil to create beautiful produce in your own garden!

Peppers from our garden!
Glen Helen will forever hold a special place in my heart. I look forward to the time when my own children will discover amazing things about themselves and their world when they visit for their first time in a few years!
We developed our own black and white photography (pre-digital age). I am still in contact with many of my friends I met during this time!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Farmers' Market Tips


Farmers' Market Tips

 
 
 
Opening Day at the Celina Farmers’ Market was buzzing with activity last Saturday! Vendors included farmers selling fresh produce, seamstresses offering gorgeous baby keepsakes, bakers giving out tasty samples of decadent desserts, and many more.  Does your community offer a seasonal (or all year) farmers’ market? If it does, I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity!  Here are some tips to get the most out of your visit to the market:

 
§  Choose your time. The freshest produce and biggest selection is available to those who arrive bright and early. Shopping later in the day may get you the opportunity for big discounts on produce and baked goods – most vendors don’t want to take home perishable foods. Just don’t be disappointed if your favorite food is no longer available at the end of the day!


§  Be prepared. Bring your own bags and containers, since vendors do not always have them on hand. Stash a cooler in the car to keep items cool and fresh. Some markets do not have public restroom access – plan ahead, especially if you have small children with you.


§  Bring small change. While some vendors might be able to accept credit cards (like me!) or checks, purchases will go easier and faster if you have exact (or close to exact) change.

 
§  Make a loop around the market first. Take note of items of interest and return to make your purchases…but remember that your favorites could be gone by the time you return!


§  Chat with the farmer. Many farmers are eager to talk about their growing methods and how they store and prepare their product. Most vendors are happy to give you a sample taste of their products, you just have to ask!


§  Try something new. One of the best parts of farmers markets is sampling new products and foods. Bring along your children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, neighbors – allow them to see food closer to its original state. Allow them to touch when encouraged by the vendors.  There are so many colors, tastes and textures that they can explore at a busy market.


 
I hope you become a regular shopper at your local market.  Everyone wins when you shop for fresh and local products!
 



 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Menu Plan #2

 
Chili is great anytime of year!
I use a number of techniques to save time in the kitchen.  My number one secret? My freezer! The first recipe in Menu #2 is so simple, especially if you have never done much with chicken that isn't already boned and skinned for you! Bone-in chicken pieces are typically less expensive and more flavorful than the old chicken breast standby - plus this recipe can easily be frozen in bulk when whole chicken pieces go on sale! Another time saving secret? Make more than enough chicken so that you can have cooked chicken another day that week (or freeze it for later) in a completely different dish like the Chicken Alfredo in this menu. Chili is another easy dish to make plenty of extra and freeze for later use. Enjoy!

Recipes

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken (4 servings) – Plan ahead!

Ingredients:

3 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks)

Spice Blend:

2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. smoked (or regular) paprika
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. dried rosemary
½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 T. sugar
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground red (cayenne) pepper

Directions:

1.       Night before cooking day: Loosen skin from flesh and place chicken on large cookie sheet. In small bowl combine spice blend and mix well. Sprinkle half of this mixture under the chicken skin and rub in well. Sprinkle remaining mixture on the chicken skin and rub in well. Place chicken in rigid container, separating pieces with waxed paper. (Seal, label and freeze for a later day if you would like!)

2.       Thaw chicken overnight in refrigerator (if frozen). Use aluminum foil to make 5 balls about 2 inches in diameter and place these in the bottom of a 4-to 5-quart slow cooker. Place chicken in slow cooker, resting on the aluminum balls. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, until chicken is very tender and glazed.

3.       Save a few pieces for later! Let the pieces cool and shred the meat off the bone with your fingers or a fork. Reserve for the Chicken Alfredo later this week.

Serve with a boxed rice pilaf mix (as "natural as you can find) and
Maple Glazed Carrots (4 servings):

Ingredients:

16 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into baby-carrot sized pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions:

1.       In a large skillet, cook the carrots, covered, in a small amount of boiling, salted water for 8-10 minutes, or just until the carrots are tender; drain. Set carrots aside.

2.       For the glaze, in the same skillet, melt the butter. Stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir the mixture over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or just until the syrup is thickened and bubbly. Add the carrots, tossing gently until the carrots are coated with the glaze and heated through. Transfer the carrots to a serving bowl. Serves 4.

Cassie’s Chili (6-8 servings)

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef, venison or turkey
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 large can (46 ounces) plain tomato juice
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 ½ to 2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (opt)

Lime wedges, sour cream, and fresh grated cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions:

1.       Brown beef in Dutch oven or other large pot over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes, stirring to separate meat. Reduce heat to medium. Pour off drippings. Add onions and garlic; cook and stir 5 minutes or until onions are softened.

2.       Stir in cans of tomato products and the spices. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges.

3.       Serve with peanut butter sandwiches, if desired.

If your family likes kidney beans in their chili, feel free to add a can or two at the same time as the tomatoes. This will extend this pot of chili even further! Leftovers? Freeze in serving size containers or use them for a super-easy supper this weekend over baked potatoes, spaghetti, nachos, or even as burrito filling!

Chicken Alfredo (4-6 servings)

Ingredients:

Leftover cooked chicken
8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
½ c. (1 stick) butter (or margarine if you must)
½ cup whipping (heavy) cream or evaporated milk
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not from the green can!)
½ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1.       Fill a large pot about half full of water. Add ½ teaspoon salt if desired. Cover and heat over high heat until the water is boiling rapidly. Add the fettuccine. Heat to boiling again. Boil uncovered 11-13 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. While fettuccine is cooking, continue with the recipe to make the sauce.

2.       Heat the butter and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper until the mixture is smooth. Add cooked chicken until warmed through (or warm chicken in the microwave).

3.       Drain the fettuccine in a colander, and place in a large serving bowl or back in the large pot. Pour the sauce and chicken over the hot fettuccine, and stir until fettuccine is well coated. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Also great served as a vegetarian dish, as a side dish, or with cooked shrimp!
 
Serve with a green salad (add chopped tomatoes and carrots) and garlic bread/toast (toast a few pieces of sandwich bread, spread lightly with butter and sprinkle with garlic powder).

Chunky Broccoli Soup (4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 large or 2 small stalks of broccoli (about ¾ pound) – can also substitute one 10 oz. package of frozen chopped broccoli
1 small peeled carrot
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 can (14 ounces) ready-to-serve reduced sodium chicken broth (not condensed!)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup cold water
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese, optional

Directions:

1.       Have a helper begin work on the grilled ham and Swiss sandwiches (directions below).

2.       Rinse broccoli with cool water. Cut flower end from stalk, and cut flowerets into bite-size pieces. Cut the stalk into small pieces, about ¼ - ½ inch cubes. You should have about 3 cups of broccoli, including the flowerets, but having a little more or less is fine.

3.       Peel and shred the carrot (the Microplane Adjustable Coarse Grater from Pampered Chef is perfect!).

4.       Heat the broccoli, shredded carrot, salt, pepper and chicken broth to boiling in a 3-quart saucepan over high heat. Once mkixture is boiling, reduce heat just enough so mixture bubbles gently. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes or until broccoli is tender when pierced with a fork.

5.       Mix the flour and water in a small bowl or measuring cup with a fork or wire whisk until the flour is dissolved. Pour this mixture gradually into the broccoli mixture, stirring broccoli mixture constantly while pouring.

6.       Heat to boiling over high heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 1 minute, stirring constantly.

7.       Stir in the half and half. Cook, stirring occasionally, until hot. The soup should look hot and steam, but do not let it boil again.

Serve with Grilled Ham and Swiss Sandwiches:

1.       Preheat griddle to medium.

2.       Spread 8 slices of bread with softened butter.

3.       Top 4 slices of bread with 1 slice of thin deli ham and 1 slice Swiss cheese.

4.       Top with remaining bread slice and toast each side on griddle until both sides are lightly browned.

Mexicali Pizza (4 servings)
 
Ingredients:

2 large flour tortillas or 4 small flour tortillas
1 pound ground beef, venison or turkey
1 package (1 oz) taco seasoning
¾ cup water
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) freshly grated Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese
2 medium tomatoes, slices
1 can (2 ¼ oz) sliced ripe olives, drained
½ cup salsa

Directions:

1.       Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.       In medium skillet, brown ground beef until crumbly; drain fat. Add taco seasoning and water; blend well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.

3.       Place tortillas on pizza pans or large baking sheet. Layer taco meat, ½ of the cheese, tomatoes, remaining cheese, olives and salsa on each tortilla. Bake, uncovered, in oven 15 minutes for large pizzas or 7-8 minutes for small pizzas.

Serve with corn (frozen, canned or fresh corn on the cob)

Brownies with Raspberry Sauce (8 servings)

Ingredients:

Baked brownies
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1 package (10 oz) frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed and undrained
Vanilla ice cream
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Directions:

1.       Cut brownies into squares.

2.       Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir in water and raspberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Continue boiling 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3.       Remove the saucepan from the heat. Strain the sauce through a strainer to remove the raspberry seeds if desired.

4.       Serve sauce slightly warm or cool over vanilla ice cream and brownies.

Grocery List (don’t forget – the higher quality the ingredients, the more likely your dishes will taste great!)
 
Produce
Romaine Lettuce bunch
2-3 medium tomatoes
1 large onion
Fresh garlic
1 lime
2 lbs carrots
¾ lb broccoli
Fresh parsley bunch
Small container fresh red raspberries
 
Meat
3# ground meat (lean beef or your choice)
3# meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drums)
1 lb. thin deli ham
 
Pantry
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
46 oz. plain tomato juice
6 oz. tomato paste
*5 oz. can evaporated milk
1# fettucine noodles
14.5 oz low sodium chicken broth
Creamy peanut butter
Flour tortilla shells (your favorite size)
Taco seasoning packet
2.5 oz. can sliced ripe black olives (opt)
Salsa
Pure maple syrup
Bread
Boxed Rice Pilaf
Brownie mix (or ingredients for your favorite recipe)
 
Dairy
½ lb. butter (2 sticks)
5 oz. parmesan cheese wedge
8 oz. cheddar cheese block
8 oz. Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese block
4 oz. heavy (whipping) cream*
8 oz. half & half
8-10 slices thin Swiss cheese
Sour cream
 
Frozen
Corn (whatever it takes to feed your family)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen raspberries in syrup
Vanilla ice cream
 
Check fridge and pantry for:
Eggs
Oil
Salt
Pepper
Flour
Cornstarch
Onion salt
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Ground red pepper
Paprika (smoked is preferred)
Rosemary
Thyme
Sugar
Salad dressing
foil
 
*choose either whipping cream or evaporated milk for use in the broccoli soup
 
 Tips for easier weeknight prep! Do these items when you have extra time on Sunday or the night before you need the ingredients:
 
When you make the ground meat for the chili or the pizza, fry all 3 pounds plus the onions/garlic in a large skillet (the garlic and onions will taste great on the pizza, too). 
 
Set aside what you need for the remaining recipe and freeze or refrigerate as appropriate. Saves time cooking and cleaning later that week!
 
Make the chili seasoning and chicken seasoning ahead of time and store in a small airtight container. It’s amazing how much time it takes to find all the spices and measuring spoons you need!
 
Peel your carrots and store in a container in the refrigerator. Easier to use and more likely to snack on when you are feeling too tired to cook.
 
 
Chop onion and store in airtight container. Use what you need and save the rest. The
Pampered Chef Food Chopper helps keep some of the tears at bay and makes quick work of a large onion. (#2585)
 
Grate 8 oz. cheddar cheese and 8 oz. Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese using Microplane Adjustable Coarse Grater (#1129).
 
Grate ¾ cup parmesan cheese using Microplane Adjustable Fine Grater (#1105)
 
Use leftover raspberries in your cereal, oatmeal, in a smoothie, in pancakes, or just as a yummy snack!
 
Prep is so much easier when you have at LEAST a good quality 5-7” knife, 12” non-stick skillet, and large nylon cutting board

Friday, March 4, 2016

Menu Plan #1


Menu:

One Skillet Spaghetti
Teriyaki Turkey Burgers with Potato Wedges
Rush Hour Chicken Fajitas
Microwave Bacon Potato Soup
Tuna Pizza

Grocery List (don’t forget – the higher quality the ingredients, the more likely your dishes will taste great!)
 
Produce
Romaine Lettuce bunch
Apples
2-3 Roma Tomatoes
Celery
1 bunch Green Onion
3-5# Baking Potatoes (Russet or Idaho)
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Red Bell Pepper
Yellow onions
Fresh garlic
 
Meat
1# ground turkey
1.5# boneless chicken breasts
1# bacon
 
Pantry
1# spaghetti
14.5 oz low sodium chicken broth
24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
10oz -12oz high quality pizza pre-baked pizza crust
12 oz canned tuna in water (3 – 4 oz. cans)
Favorite salsa
Mayonnaise
8 oz. can sliced pineapple
Green Beans
Teriyaki sauce (your favorite or Honey Teriyaki from Pampered Chef)
Plain bread crumbs
12 (6-7inch) fajita-size tortilla shells
Fajita seasoning (Cassie’s Fiesta seasoning or Pampered Chef Southwest/TexMex/Chipotle seasonings work great!)
Cornbread mix (or make your own!) or other favorite muffin mix
Bread
Buns
  
Dairy
Milk (2.5 cups)
5 oz. parmesan cheese wedge
8 oz. cheddar cheese block
Sour cream
 
Frozen
Meatballs
Corn
 
Check fridge and pantry for:
Eggs
Milk
Salt
Pepper
Flour
Onion salt
Garlic powder
 
Tips for easier weeknight prep! Do these items when you have extra time on Sunday or the night before you need the ingredients:
 
Scrub potatoes and allow to dry (great job for the kiddos!). Do not peel or cut potatoes until just ready to use.
Grate 8 oz. cheddar cheese using Microplane Adjustable Coarse Grater (#1129). Save at least a ½ cup for the pizza.
Grate 2 oz. parmesan cheese using Microplane Adjustable Fine Grater (#1105)
Wash and finely chop 2 celery stalks (potato soup). Chop more if you would like some for salads.
Mince ½ c. onion                                                                                                   
Slice bell peppers and 2 onions for chicken fajitas
Cook the entire pound of bacon. Eat some for Sunday morning breakfast, but be sure to save half of the cooked slices (4 for potato soup, and crumble the rest on green beans, salad, etc.)
 
Extra celery? Make ants on a log! Clean and thoroughly dry the celery. Spread with peanut butter and top with raisins.
 
Extra potatoes? Fry slices for an easy side or “bake” them in the microwave for a quick meal topped with steamed broccoli and cheese.
 
Prep is so much easier when you have at LEAST a good quality 5-7” knife, 12” non-stick skillet, and large nylon cutting board.
 
Recipes

 One Skillet Spaghetti (4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 (24 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth, low sodium
½ c. water
8 oz. spaghetti, broken in pieces
1 – 2 oz. parmesan cheese
Frozen meatballs (purchased or homemade)
Salad fixings (lettuce, celery, tomato – save 1 for the pizza!)
Garlic Bread (frozen or use sandwich bread, butter and garlic powder)

Directions:

Preheat oven according to package directions if making frozen garlic bread. Heat jar of sauce, chicken broth and water in large non-stick skillet or pot.  Add up to 20 meatballs.  Stir in the spaghetti. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Let simmer 15-20 minutes until the spaghetti and meatballs are cooked, stirring occasionally.  While spaghetti is simmering, grate the parmesan cheese using a microplane grater.  Stir in the parmesan cheese when spaghetti is done and serve. 

While spaghetti is simmering, chop salad greens and vegetables.

Bake garlic bread according to package directions, or toast appropriate number of bread slices.  Butter lightly and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers and Potato Wedges (4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 egg
½ c. dry bread crumbs
3 green onions, chopped
4 Tablespoons teriyaki sauce, divided
¼ tsp. onion powder
1 pound ground turkey
1 can (8 oz) sliced pineapple, drained
4 hamburger buns
Canned green beans
3 medium baking potatoes (8-10 oz each) – Russet or Idaho
Seasoning salt
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Scrub potatoes if necessary, but do not peel. Cut each potato lengthwise in half. Turn potatoes cut sides down and cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges. Place potato wedges, skin sides down, in 13x9 shallow pan (I suggest the Large Stone Bar Pan). Spray potato wedges with cooking spray until lightly coated. Sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with fork. Baking time will vary depending on the size and type of potato used.

While potatoes are baking, combine egg, bread crumbs, onions, 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce and onion powder in large bowl.  Add turkey and mix well. Shape into 4 patties. If using outdoor grill, coat grill rack with cooking spray before starting the grill. Preheat grill. Grill patties over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, brushing with remaining teriyaki sauce during the last 5 minutes. I recommend using the Executive Nonstick Square Grill Pan for indoor cooking on the stove top – less chance of charring and drying out the turkey.

Grill pineapple slices for 3-4 minutes on each side or until heated through. Serve burgers and pineapple on buns.

Heat canned green beans as directed and serve with burgers and potato wedges.

Tuna Pizza (8 slices)

Ingredients:

1 (10-12 oz) bread-style prepared pizza crust
12 oz. canned tuna, packed in water, drained
½ c. minced onion
1/3 c. mayonnaise
Salt and pepper, to taste
9 thin plum tomato slices
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Apples

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pizza crust on pizza pan (or Large Round Stone). Combine tuna, onion and mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir until blended. Spread mixture over pizza crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Arrange tomato slices on tuna mixture in three rows, leaving space between rows. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until heated through. Remove pizza from oven. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Slice apples just before serving.

Rush Hour Chicken Fajitas (6 servings of 2 fajitas each)

Ingredients:

2 medium bell peppers (any color combo – I like red and green)
2 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 T. fajita seasoning
12 (6-7 inch) flour tortillas
1 ½ c. shredded cheddar cheese
Fajita fixings like: sour cream, salsa, chopped lettuce, guacamole
Frozen corn

Cut bell peppers into strips and thinly slice onions lengthwise. Press garlic cloves with Garlic Press or finely mince with knife after removing skin. Place vegetables in Deep Covered Baker (or other large microwave safe dish with lid). Combine chicken and seasoning in Classic Batter Bowl (or other large bowl); turn to coat. Place chicken over vegetables. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 12-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in thickest part of chicken and juices run clear. While microwaving, prepare fixings as desired. Remove chicken from baker and slice on cutting board or chop chicken in baker with Salad Choppers. Stir chicken into vegetable mixture.

Fajitas can also be prepared on the stovetop. Slice vegetables as directed and slice chicken into ½ inch strips. Heat oil in skillet. Add chicken; cook 4-6 minutes or until cooked through. Add ¼ c. water, vegetables and seasoning. Cover; simmer 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Cook corn according to package directions.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Serve with cheese and fixings.

Need more side dishes? Rice and/or refried beans would be great!

Microwave Bacon Potato Soup (4 servings)

Ingredients:

4 slices bacon, chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
¼ c. water
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 ½ c. milk, divided
¼ c. flour
1 tsp. onion salt (or ¼ tsp. onion powder and ¾ tsp. salt)
Muffin/Cornbread mix and ingredients as directed

Directions:

Preheat oven and prepare muffin/cornbread mix. Bake as directed. Place bacon in Dutch Oven RockCrok (or other 4 quart microwave dish with lid). Cover and microwave on HIGH for 4 ½ - 5 ½ minutes until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Add potatoes, celery, onions, water and pepper to dish. Cover and microwave again on HIGH for 5 minutes, then stir. Microwave covered on HIGH until vegetables are tender (5-7 minutes). Add the flour to ½ c. milk, stirring well. Stir flour/milk mixture into the vegetable mixture. Add remaining milk and onion salt. Microwave uncovered on high 3 minutes, stir. Microwave again uncovered on HIGH for 3 more minutes, stir. Microwave uncovered one more time for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon. Serve with muffins.