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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Meat and Potatoes in a Shell

Otherwise known as Italian Shepherd Pie, this meat and potatoes entrée is a favorite of my "carnivores."  You'll love how simple it is!  Additionally, it can be a great way to use your leftover mashed potatoes.

The original recipe came from Taste of Home Magazine, but of course, I've tweaked it to our tastes.  My recipe reflects mashed potatoes prepared as a side dish with milk and butter.  However, the original recipe uses mashed potatoes without added ingredients and then mixes them with cottage cheese, sour cream and salt plus the spices below.

1 unbaked pie shell (I prefer the deep dish)
3/4 pound mild Italian sausage, browned
2 1/2 C mashed potatoes
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 C shredded cheese

To enjoy later:  Cover the bottom of the pie shell with sausage.  Mix potatoes and spices and spread over the sausage.  Put cheese in a Ziploc-style baggie.  Cover the potatoes with foil.  Tape the cheese to the top.  Freeze.  When you are ready to enjoy this meal, defrost and then bake it uncovered at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.  Cover with cheese and return to the oven for a few minutes until cheese melts.

To enjoy tonight:  Bake the pie shell for 7 minutes at 450 degrees F.  Then fill with sausage and potatoes.  Bake as directed above.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Protein Rich Once-a-Month Cooking Plan

For this round of cooking I focused on protein rich entrees and less sauces.  Below is the month-at-a-glance.  You could substitute your own recipes.  I hope this will help you see how to "attack" the food once you are home from shopping.

While the preparation is much easier (simply freezing some items), it will require more work on a daily basis.  Consider that when you choose your recipes.  You may want to sketch out what a week is like at dinner.  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Are there days when you have little time to prepare a meal?  Plan something simple.
Are there days when you have along stretch of time before meal time and could bake something that takes 1-2 hours (lasagna, meatloaf, quiche, chicken bake, chicken cordon bleu for example)? 
How much do you enjoy the preparation of a meal? perhaps you only want to buy in bulk and separate the items for freezing and completely assemble a meal on the day you will eat it.
Plan a "leftovers" day.
Do you have a family member who needs a certain kind of meal before an event?
When do you need to be on the run after a meal?
When are you most likely to be tempted to go out?

Freeze fresh salmon.
Freeze prepared salmon and Tilapia.
Freeze beef roast.
Freeze pork roasts.
Cut steaks into smaller portions and freeze.

Make Spaghetti Sauce and let simmer.

Brown all of the ground turkey and place into separate containers: one for taco salad, two for Lasagna (one will be given away), 1 for turkey chili, 4 to freeze for Friday night pasta.

To the meat for taco salad add 1/3 C taco Seasoning and 3/4 C water.
To the meat for Lasagna I add an Italian Sausage Seasoning (about 4 tsp per pound).
Finish the turkey chili recipe.
Cool and freeze plain turkey meat.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Birthday Party
Huli Chicken with pineapple and rice Pork Roast with steamed veggies Mini-steaks with potatoes, veggies Chicken and broccoli Pasta with Red Sauce and ground turkey Maple Dijon Salmon
Caribbean Chicken and veggies Beef Broccoli Tilapia BBQue Pork Roast leftovers Pasta with Red Sauce and ground turkey Chicken Tacos
Turkey Chili, corn casserole Salmon Mini-Steaks taco salad bean burritos Pasta with Red Sauce and ground turkey mushroom orange pork roast
Lasagna, garlic bread, salad chicken fajita style, beans, veggies veggie omelettes Tilapia cranberry chicken Pasta with Red Sauce and ground turkey leftovers
beef roast, carrots French Dip sandwiches Chicken of some kind   Salmon Pasta with Red Sauce and ground turkey Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza
Freeze chicken in portions for each meal.  Cook 6 chicken breasts and season for chicken tacos and fajitas.
Huli chicken is on my blog.  Cranberry and Caribbean chicken can be adapted your family tastes.
Make omelettes fresh with veggies from the fridge that day.
Freeze Chicken Cordon Bleu (buy pre-made).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cold Entree, Hot Side

Today marks one year of writing this blog about once a month cooking.  It's been an adventure, a challenge, and a lot of fun to do.  How appropriate that tomorrow I will prepare a month's worth of meals.  I got an early start tonight by making one of the "make fresh" meals for our dinner - Club Quesadillas.  They are super easy to make, unless you have to watch dietary concerns as I did tonight.  In that case, I had five plates laid out and a sticky note attached to each plate with the person's initial for whom I was making it.  I forgot to put a second tortilla on my hubby's!  Oops!  I covered the completed "sandwich" with a second plate and set them at the table.

Gather the following:
flour tortillas
provolone cheese, sliced
ham and turkey lunch meat
crumbled bacon
tomatoes, sliced
red onion, thinly sliced (optional)

Lightly spread mayo on several tortillas, unless you have someone who doesn't care for mayo.  Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.  Place four slices of turkey lunchmeat over the bacon.  Then four slices of ham over the turkey.  Top this with 2 slices of cheeses cut in half and arranged to cover most of the meat.  Add the sliced tomatoes and lettuce and cover with a second tortilla.  Cut with a pizza cutter into 4 pieces.  I served mine with guacamole.

For a hot side, I sautéed green and
yellow squash with mushrooms.
Slice the squash and mushrooms. Put about 1 tsp. butter in a frying pan or you can use a spray such as Pam.  Add the veggies.  Sprinkle with Molly McButter and Mrs. Dash.  Stir frequently until squash slices are nearly translucent.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fall I Cooking Day

Fall is in the air.  I wake up each morning and the patio furniture is wet, but most of all cool evenings are back and so I can cook and bake warm meals once again.  Some of our favorite meals are in this rotation and I can hardly wait to begin cooking.  However, I "inherited" several pails of ice cream from a recent event and will have to adjust my menu with all that ice cream in the freezer!

Here's what I'll be making and freezing:
Swedish Meatballs
Chicken Pattie Burgers
Ginger-lime chicken
Honey Baked Chicken
Zucchini Slice
Smothered Chicken
Italian Shepherd Pie
Beef Stew
Corn Casserole
Slow-cooked Lemon Chicken
Widow-maker Pie
Chicken Parmesan
Hawaiian Pot Roast
Beef Broccoli
Italian Style Sausage with Rigatoni

Making Fresh:
Chicken Sumi Salad
Club Quesadillas
Broccoli Soup
Peanut Butter Chicken
Taco Salad
Overnight Salad
Chicken Divan
Rigatoni with Spinach sauce
Spaghetti with Red Sauce

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Super Quick Potluck Salad aka Chinese Chicken Salad

Last night we hosted 32 people for a potluck dinner and quickly ran short on salad.  So I whipped up a semi-Sumi Salad with ingredients in the fridge, and it was a hit.  Here's my quick version of a favorite salad.

Toss the following together in a large bowl:
  • Large bad of coleslaw cabbage (colorful is good)
  • Feast from the East Sesame Dressing (about 1 C or to taste)
  • sliced almonds (a good handful)
  • sesame seeds (about 1/8 C)

For a more authentic Chinese Chicken Salad:
1 large bag of pre-cut salad or cabbage
1/2 C sliced almonds
1/4 C sesame seeds
chopped cilantro to taste
2 cans of cooked chicken breast (or 1 large chicken breast boiled and shredded)
Chinese noodles
Feast from the East Sesame Dressing

A Twist on Taco-Filled Pasta Shells or Creamy Taco Pasta

Recently I posted a blog about mixing cuisines with Taco-Filled Pasta Shells.  Tonight, I gave that recipe a twist. 

In preparation for a Once-a-month cooking day on Saturday, I am trying to clean out all those leftovers that accumulate in the refrigerator.  Things like dilled-cream cheese from the ADX Tea, pasta from a pasta party, pizza from the potluck, and my experiment with a homemade taco seasoning.  I didn't want to start a fresh big meal tonight.  So many boundaries I set!  Here's what I came up with.

I warmed the bag of cooked pasta (Ziti).  You can do this by microwave or by dropping the Ziploc-style in a pot of boiling water, bag included.  You don't want to cook it, just warm it.

In a saucepan, I warmed the taco meat (ground turkey cooked with taco seasoning) and then added 8 oz. cream cheese (cold) and stirred until the mixture was smooth.  To this I added about 2/3 C taco sauce (happened to be Taco Bell Brand in a bottle).

When the pasta was warm, I mixed it with the meat sauce for a yummy, flavorful entrée.  Yahoo!  Two leftovers used up, and I know my family will devour this tonight.  Serve it with a salad or fresh fruit.

Follow this meal with desserts from the freezer.  :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mixing Cuisines in Taco Filled Pasta Shells

When I first saw this recipe (I believe in Taste of Home Magazine) I was intrigued and a little curious about mixing taco flavors with pasta, but it quickly became a family favorite.  It's best served early in a monthly rotation, or even first or second.  You could also use it as an appetizer as each jumbo shell is an appropriate size for hors'd'oeuvres. 

2 lbs. of ground beef (I use ground turkey)
2 envelopes or 1/2 C taco seasoning
1- 8oz. package cream cheese, cubed
1 box jumbo pasta shells
1/4 C butter, melted

1 C salsa
1 C taco sauce
2 C shredded cheese (cheddar and Jack)
1 1/2 C crushed tortilla chips
sour cream, optional
3-4 green onions, sliced, optional

Cook meat until no longer pink; drain the fat.  Add taco seasoning. To this, add the cream cheese and simmer until melted.  Transfer to a bowl and chill (I did not do this!) 

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain the water.  Gently toss with the melted butter.  Fill each shell with about 3 T meat mixture.

Place shells in a greased 9x12" pan. 

To enjoy later:  Cover a freeze for up to three months.

To enjoy tonight:  Spoon 1 C salsa into a 9x12" baking dish.  Top with stuffed shells and drizzle with 1 C taco sauce.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover.  Sprinkle with 2 C shredded cheese and crushed chips.  Bake 15 minutes more.  Serve with sour cream and green onions.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Memories of Meatloaf

As a young child I fell in love with meatloaf.  Not just for dinner either!  It was my favorite sandwich sliced thin with ketchup on sliced bread.  As an adult, I indulge a few times a year with this easy-make-ahead meal served with mashed potatoes and veggies, and yes, still with ketchup.  My family likes it best with Bab-b-que sauce, but it is so moist it really does not require additional sauces.

My current favorite recipe is that on the box of Lipton Onion Soup Mix - Souperior Meatloaf.  I make it with ground turkey and love the results.

1 1/2 lbs. (ish) ground turkey or up to 2 lbs.
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix, dry (I've used store brands with success, too)
1 1/2 C bread crumbs (I buy Wal-Mart or Target brand and store them in the freezer)
2 eggs
3/4 C water
1/3 C ketchup

Mix everything in a large bowl.  Shape into a loaf and place in a loaf pan (5x7"). 

To enjoy tonight: Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F.

To enjoy later:  Cover with heavy duty foil and freeze.  Defrost a bit, and bake at 350 degrees F for up to 2 hours, covered.  Let set for 5-10 minutes before removing from pan and slicing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chicken Tacos - A Quick Summer Fix

On my most recent once-a-month cooking day I prepared the chicken filling for these chicken tacos.  Here's what I did:

Place 4-5 large, frozen chicken breasts in a crock-pot. Generously sprinkle with taco seasoning and let simmer for about 6 hours.  Shred with two forks.  Stir well and serve as the filling for tacos, burritos or even make into enchiladas.

I froze the meat and pulled it out during a recent heat wave to serve for dinner because I could use the microwave to warm the meat.  It could even be warmed over a low heat in a saucepan on the stove.  Top the chicken with your favorite condiments: lettuce, tomatoes, onion, sour cream, salsa or taco sauce and enjoy a cool, easy dinner that can almost stand on it's own with all the food groups represented.  Or serve refried beans, Spanish rice or tortilla chips on the side.

Monday, September 9, 2013

O Where, O Where did that Recipe Go?

Last fall I decided to update my Once-a-month cooking collection.  After all the notebook was falling apart and had become much too small for my 8 rotations.  I separated the rotations into 1/2 inch notebooks, made cute covers, and was quite pleased with the results.  But then I needed a recipe and I could not find it.  Which month was it in?  You see, I had not yet made a table of contents that cross-referenced the recipes with the rotations.

Come spring, I invested in a heavy duty 3-ring binder and put them back together in one notebook.  And, I typed up a new table of contents.  I put my recipes in page protectors and so I used my P-Touch label maker to make page numbers.  I have found that Sharpie pen does wear off, and I am enjoying the bright white behind the page number.  It's very easy to get around in my notebook.

One separate notebook that I did keep is that of my favorite side dishes.

Throughout the next 8 rotations, I'll be tweaking each menu and changing recipes; taking out those that we do not enjoy and replacing them with some new dishes.  I'll also update the shopping lists to reflect those changes.  For all of these tasks, I use Excel.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Indoor Picnic

It is 85 degrees F INSIDE my house!  That is much too hot to cook a meal.  However, the once-a-month chef in me just cannot give in to a meal out so I challenged myself to come up with a cool, easy-to-prepare meal from what was in the fridge/freezer.  Tonight's menu:
  • Hawaiian Sweet Bread Mini Sandwiches
  • Canteloupe
  • Sumi Salad (leftover from a previous dinner)
  • Chips
  • Fresh lemonade

Mini Sandwiches from a package of Hawaiian Sweet Bread Rolls
Remove the whole dozen rolls from the package in one large piece.  Slice horizontally as one piece and carefully lay the top off to the side.  Lay 6 slices of American cheese (or your favorite) over the rolls.  Cover this with sliced lunchmeat (I used deli sliced ham).  Replace the top of the rolls.  Then cut into 12 pieces not too worried about the lines of the rolls.  I serve them "dry" but have condiments available for personal choice.  We like honey mustard.

Sumi Salad
There are many versions of this summer salad.  Here's how I make it.

1 large head of cabbage or 3 bags of shredded cabbage
1-2 packaged of Ramen noodles, kept dry and crushed, without seasoning
1/3 C sliced almonds
1/4 C sesame seeds
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Mix those 5 items together in a large bowl.  Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients below.  Then pour over salad and mix well.  If possible, chill for several hours before serving.  These flavors need to marry.  However, even if you can't chill ahead, this salad makes great leftovers!

1/2 C oil
1/2 C water
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
6 T Rice vinegar

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

No A/C in the OC means BBQ

I've lost track of the number of days in this current heat wave.  Even the ocean breeze has disappeared.  Admittedly, I've been spoiled with having central air and that lovely breeze to the extent that I never worry about "heating up the house" with the ovens as I did when breezes and a/c were not available.  However, all that changed today.

When it's 82 degrees F in the house, the oven just shouldn't be turned on.  So tonight the menu was Huli Chicken on the BBQ, a quick and easy Sumi Salad and Hawaiian Sweet Bread with Root Beer floats for dessert.  Yummy!  Easy!  No heat added to the house!

Huli Chicken:
Put 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs into each of 2 Ziploc freezer bags.
Cover with half the marinade in each bag and freeze.  When you are ready to  serve this meal, simply defrost and the meat will marinate at the same time.  The meat can be broiled or bar-b-cued.

For the marinade mix together:
3/4 C ketchup
1 C brown sugar, packed
3/4 C soy sauce, reduced sodium
1/ C chicken broth or sherry
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 - 2 1/2 tsp. ginger, ground

Grill 6-8 minutes on each side or until no longer pink. Discard marinade.

Originally from Sharon Boling in Taste of Home magazine.  She uses fresh ginger, but I substituted ground.