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Monday, November 3, 2014

Dinner Tonight - Honey Baked Chicken

This is a month with lots of chicken.  Unfortunately, it's also a month when I got to shop but not finish all the prep before food went into the freezer.  This morning I defrosted 6 chicken breasts and just put them in the oven to bake with a simple sauce.

Honey Baked Chicken

1/3 C butter, melted
1/3 C honey
2 T prepared mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. curry powder

Mix all ingredients together and pour over chicken which has been placed in a 9x13" baking dish. 

I am using 6 of the new "thin sliced" breasts from Costco.  So far they have been great.  They cook evenly and quickly, and stay moist.  I have put them in the over for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F. 

While they are cooking, I've prepared a box of Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf and opened a can of green beans.  Simple, but delicious!  Can't wait for 5:30 when my dinner will be done!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Taste of Summer

My freezer is full of food waiting to become a month of meals while I wait for a break in my schedule to cook.  Until then, I am preparing them one at a time.  It's not my preferred method, but it does give me a chance to refine some recipes.  Tonight we are having a newly discovered favorite, Ginger-Lime Chicken.  Originally found in a Weight Watcher's Weekly, I've tweaked a few things for our family.  I love that it's light and summery, but broiled so that in October, when the days are growing shorter, I can still have sort-of-bar-b-qued food.

Ginger-Lemon-Lime Chicken

8 thin sliced chicken breast (new at Costco!)

Mix in a small bowl and pour over the chicken.
1/2 C soy sauce, reduced sodium
1/3 C plus 1 T total lime juice, or combine with lemon juice based on what's in the fridge
3 T ground ginger
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 T honey
1 T chili sauce or oil, hot if you like

Optional toppings:
sliced green onions
chopped cilantro (1/2 C can also be added to the marinade)

Let marinate in the fridge for several hours. 

Preheat broiler to high.  Place chicken on a foil lined shallow cookie sheet.   Place pan in oven for 4-6 minutes.  Flip chicken and brush with marinade, then discard marinade.  Continue broiling until chicken is cooked entirely.  Sprinkle chicken with sliced green onions and cilantro, if desired. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's That Time Again

Earlier this week I was reminded why I do what I do. 

You see, I have milked the last Once-a-month cooking I prepared to the fullest.  I think it could be two months since I last cooked.  Two weeks ago I made a list of all the meal-type food left in my freezer and those meals that I hadn't yet served.  With a few added ingredients I made that list last those two weeks.  Well, now, the freezer is pitifully empty, and I pray that we are not caught by an earthquake or family tragedy such that we'd be without food.  I was also dreading a cooking day.

Just a few days ago, I saw that Lasagna was on the dinner list for the next day.  Being the rule-follower that I am, I had to make it.  So I defrosted the Ricotta cheese, the Italian sausage, and the mozzarella cheese overnight.  The next morning I got up early to make the sauce - I'd even run out of red sauce - and let the flavors marry all day.  When I got home from work, I cooked the sausage and proceeded to put the Lasagna together.  As soon as I put it in the oven, I took a nap.  That was a lot of work!

It was just the experience I needed to excite me about a coming cooking day.  So, I am picking a day, preparing my shopping list, and looking forward to a freeze full of meals once again!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cheesecake with Cream Topping

Need a simple cheesecake that tastes delicious?  I thought this one was a winner.  I tore it out of a magazine many years ago and just got around to making it for Christmas 2013.  Why did I wait so long?

The original recipe is called Philadelphia Vanilla Mousse Cheesecake and calls for a crust made with vanilla wafer cookies.

You could also use a simple graham cracker crust made with:
14 whole graham crackers, crushed finely
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all the ingredients together for the crust and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Cheesecake Layer:
3-8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 T vanilla
3 eggs

Beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar, vanilla and eggs.
Pour over crust and bake for 50-55 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.

1-8oz. package cream cheese softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Then add the tub of cool whip.  Spread over the cheesecake.  Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Truly Grilled Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Several months ago one of my daughters watched a Youtube video about grilled cheese.  In it, a well-known chef ranted about grilled cheese not really being grilled cheese, only the bread was grilled.  Well, she followed his directions to truly grill the cheese first and then make the sandwich.  She did so on our bar-b-que.  The sandwiches were quite delicious.

Jump ahead to our family vacation in July.  Our group of 29 spends a week together in the local mountains at the lake.  We gather together for dinner each night and the meals vary from take-out to a sit-down restaurant to bar-b-que.  One afternoon as we contemplated dinner, I remembered the grilled cheese and offered to make grilled cheese on the bar-b-que.  So off to the store my daughter and I went.  We bought

several loaves of  sourdough and French bread (the French actually tasted  the best)
shredded cheese (It melts faster.  Try a pepper jack mix for added flavor.)

Now, truth be told, I did not separately grill the cheese in a foil pan.  We prepared the sandwiches as we would at home by buttering the outsides of the bread and filling them with the grated cheese.  Grill away!   The sandwiches cooked over the grey-white coals were the best.  Those grilled early on tended to burn, but overall they were delicious!

As a side, we grilled squash, onions and peppers with garlic salt, pepper and butter.  I used a foil cookie sheet for this purpose.  What a yummy meal!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Lazy Days of Summer

Are there any lazy days of summer?  Sometimes it seems that the pace of life picks up during the summer months.  Kids may not be in school but they get involved in all kinds of activities, probably have more play dates than usual, and parents spend more time as taxi than relaxing.  Having meals in the freezer makes meal time even better in the summer.  Need some easy things?

Pick up a few of your favorite cuts of meat.  Rinse and place in a gallon-sized Ziploc-style storage bag.  Pour a bottle of your favorite marinade over the meat and freeze.  The meat will marinate while freezing and defrosting.  Perfect for a summer bbq!

It's also the perfect time to try your hand at Once-a-month-Cooking. Use that time waiting for your child's practice-lesson-event to finish perusing cooking magazines and create a simple 1-2 week menu.  Next stop, write the grocery list.  Then, plan a play-date so you can cook!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Taco Filled Pasta Shells

Taco-filled Pasta Shells are a family favorite for dinner and as leftovers.  I love the combination of two yummy cuisines - Mexican and Italian.

Set out 12oz. cream cheese to soften.

Prepare one box of jumbo pasta shells according to directions, but shorten the cooking time by 2 minutes.  Rinse in cold water and set aside.

Brown 1 1/2 lbs. of ground turkey or beef.  Drain the fat.
Add 1/2 C taco seasoning. Mix well.
Add 12 oz. cream cheese, mixing well after the addition.

Pour 1 C of salsa (Picante, mild) into the bottom of a 9x13" pan.
Spoon meat mixture into 25 shells and place them in the pan.
Pour 1 bottle of red taco sauce over the shells.
Sprinkle generously with shredded cheese.
Cover and freeze.

On eating day, defrost.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes until salsa is bubbly and cheese melts.  Sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips and serve.
Add your favorite optional toppings: avocado, sour cream, green onions and more cheese.

A New-to-me Freshly Made Dish

On my most recent cooking day, I actually ran out of room in my freezer.  I made the quick decision to simply separate the boneless chicken breasts into gallon-sized freezer bags knowing I'd need to allow more time to prepare those meals on the eating day.  Today was one of those days, and so I began to follow a newly found recipe for Chicken Marsala.  It was actually quite easy. 

I followed the recipe, a few of the written tips and of course, my family's tastes.

Thaw four large chicken breasts, cut in half and pound to about 1/4" thick.  Truthfully, mine are 3/4" thick.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the following in which to dredge the chicken.
1/2 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a deep frying pan, melt 1/4 C butter with 1/4 C olive oil.
After dredging the chicken, place it in the pan to lightly brown.  Turn over.

Cover the chicken with 1-2 C of mushrooms.  I used 3 - 8oz. cans of sliced mushrooms.
Pour the following over the chicken:
1 C chicken broth
1/2 C Marsala wine
Cover the pan and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook chicken until the juices run clear.

Our meal is simmering on the stove as I write, but it looked delicious when I snapped this photo.  Can't wait to try it with a side of rice and steamed veggies!

Originally found on 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Twenty Year Anniversary

This month marks twenty years of Once-a-month cooking in the Theodore kitchen.  One thing I especially love about OAM cooking at this time of year is that the meals last much longer than I ever plan due to all the celebrations and special events that happen in May, June and July.  In fact, we have just finished the last of the meals from the OAM cooking that I did for the month of May and it is June 27.  That's quite a good return on my investment of a day in the kitchen!

Tomorrow I will invest another day in preparing meals and expect to have 35 meals in the freezer before dinnertime, actually before 3pm so that I can attend a last minute going-away party.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Hands down, our favorite summer meal is Taco Salad.  I've posted the recipe before, but tonight I tried a new twist for a summer picnic at the park.  I used leftover meat from Chicken Tacos served earlier this week to make our dinner.  Yum, delicious!

To prepare the chicken, simply boil 3 large chicken breasts until cooked.  Shred with two forks and mix in 1/4 C Taco Seasoning and 1 cup of chicken broth.  (You can freeze this mixture for another night, or use it fresh.)

Or if you have more time, put 6 frozen breasts in a crock-pot and cook on low all day.  The shredding will be much easier!  Keep it in the pot to shred and add 1/2 C Taco Seasoning.  Use half for chicken tacos or burritos and save the other half for Taco Salad.  It's  a perfect meal for a summer day!

3 heads romaine lettuce, cleaned and cut/torn
1 C baby spinach, cleaned and cut/torn
2 C shredded cheese
1 can black or kidney beans, rinsed
2-3 tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, chopped
diced onion, if desired
3 shredded chicken breasts, seasoned with Taco spices
1 bottle (I use about 3/4) 1,000 Island Dressing

Toss well.  Serve immediately.

Garnish with crushed tortilla chips.  It's also great served in a large flour tortilla and eaten like a burrito.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sweet and Sour Crock-Pot Chicken

Life has been very crazy lately.  Of course, you know that, as my blogs have been few and far between.  However, something that hasn't changed is my pleasure in pulling meals out of the freezer each day. 

One night this week I reviewed the choices for dinner the next day and chose to cook a whole chicken in the crock-pot.  In spite of the warmish weather, it was going to be a busy day and I knew I'd be grateful to come home to a dinner that was mostly prepared.

I found this recipe in the booklet that came with one of our crock-pots as a wedding gift.   Of course, I've tweaked it and love this version shared below.

Put a cleaned, washed whole chicken in the crock-pot.

In a bowl, mix together the following and pour over the chicken.
1 C orange juice
2 T brown sugar
1 tsp. leaf basil
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 T apple cider vinegar

Sprinkle the chicken with dried parsley.  Turn crock-pot to low and cook for 9 hours.  Pour a 15oz. can of sliced peaches, un-drained, in the crock and continue cooking for about 15 more minutes.  This is a good time to make a side dish of rice.

Remove chicken from crock.  Arrange peaches around the chicken and enjoy!

Freeze the chicken cleaned and washed in a Ziploc bag.  Prepare sauce fresh on the day of cooking.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Italian Shepherd Pie

Hello again, my blog!  While there has been so much activity that has taken over my writing time, I have been extremely grateful for a freezer full of meals to go to each day. 

This afternoon I put an Italian Shepherd Pie in the oven to bake.  So far, it's been eaten by one, but that's 100% of who was home at dinner time today.  However, I had a strong hunch that it would be that way today and made sure to choose a dish that would make good leftovers. 

What is Italian Shepherd Pie?  Start with a pie shell.  Generously cover the bottom with cooked Italian sausage.  Cover that with leftover mashed potatoes.  At this point you can freeze it.  When it's time to bake, defrost and then bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese and return to the oven (it can be turned off) for a few minutes to melt.

Spice it up with sautéed bell peppers or onions in the meat or keep it plain and add those on the side.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Patty Melts

It's always good to have an easy meal in the line-up that can be swapped with another if cooking time will be short one day.  Patty Melts are just that for me.  One bag of pre-made patties will make two meals at our house - hamburgers and Patty Melts.

pre-made hamburger patties, one per person
one slice of cheddar cheese per patty
Dill or Rye bread, 2 slices per person
1 large onion

Slice the onion and sauté in a frying pan with butter until translucent.

Meanwhile, cook the hamburger patties seasoning them with garlic salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and cover with cheese.

Butter one side of each slice of bread.

Assemble the sandwich.


  • Bread, butter side down.
  • Hamburger patty
  • Onions
  • Second piece of bread, butter side up.
Brown as with a grilled cheese sandwich, on or in a fresh griddle or pan.
Cut in half.  Enjoy!

To Freeze ahead - freeze the bread and patties separately.
Cook fresh.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Fool's Dinner was Delicious, No Joke!

Several weeks ago a friend put a food magazine in front of me.  As I flipped through it, one article caught my eye, entrees for an April Fool's Day Dinner.  I read them pretty carefully and made a mental note to serve them come April 1. 

That would be something new for me as I'd not participated in the joking since the late 1980's when a prank backfired on me.  I'd put whole cloves of garlic in my boyfriend's sandwich, and he loved it!  Since then, I've come to love garlic, too - minced and in smaller quantities.  I'd also sworn off of any more April Fool's jokes.  However, all that changed with the magazine article, and I set out to prepare an unforgettable meal for my family.

Freshly made pasta with red sauce and meatballs
Freshly baked bread (from the store bakery)
Salad - Romaine and Spinach with Light Champagne dressing (Girard's)

Sounds good, right?  Even looks good!  In fact, I sent a photo of the cake to my son to entice him home for dinner.

Well, the frosting pasta was a little too sweet for some pasta-lovers.  And the malted milk ball meatballs as little too crunchy and the red (raspberry) sauce was sweet, not savory.  Perhaps it was really dessert...

Then I offered my family the cake.  Some flat-out said, "No!"  One of my daughters who'd seen me assembling it quickly said, "Yes!"  And so I cut it and served it.  Carrot cake?  Meatloaf?  It was confusing.  It was so very delicious!

Make your favorite meatloaf recipe. Mine is Souperior Meatloaf on the Lipton Onion Soup Mix box.  Divide it in half and bake in two 9" round pans.  Cool slightly and remove from pans. 

Make your favorite mashed potatoes.  You will use them like frosting.  I actually made them the day before and used the leftovers, but it took about 4lbs worth of potatoes to frost the "cake."

Place one meatloaf on a cake plate.  Cover the top of it with potatoes.  Place the second meatloaf on top.  Cover the top and sides generously with potatoes for a delicious meatloaf cake.  It was a hit and we've been fighting over the leftovers.  I may even make it this way again soon just because it was so good!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fresh Calzones

This month's rotation of meals has started off with several "make fresh" items using something that was frozen.  One of them was Calzones, and they were delicious!

On shopping day I had purchased the meats and cheese for this entrée.  The cheese had been part of a 5-pound bag and so was divided into 4 smaller bags and frozen.  One went into a gallon Ziploc bag along with the small bag of pepperoni and a bag of salami.  The Ziploc was then marked "Calzones."  The can of olives was stored in the pantry with "save" written on the top of the can and the veggies (red onion and mushrooms) were stored in the fridge until baking day.

In the morning of baking day, I pulled the Calzone bag out of the fridge to defrost.  That afternoon I prepared the Calzones, making two different flavors.

2 C water, warm
4 1/2 tsp. or 2 packages active dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
4 T oil
5 C flour

Warm the water.  Add the yeast, salt and sugar and mix well.  Then add the flour and oil.  When a stiff dough has been formed, turn the dough out on a flour surface and knead briefly until smooth.  Let set for 5 minutes.

Prepare the pans by lightly spraying 2 pizza pans.  Also prepare the pizza sauce by mixing the following ingredients together.

1 15oz. can tomato sauce
4 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
couple of dashes of black pepper

Cut the dough in half.  Briefly knead and roll-out into a large circle.  Carefully lift the crust onto one of the pizza pans.  Repeat for the second crust.

Spread half of the sauce on each pizza crust.  Generously sprinkle with cheese on half.  Cover the same half with your favorite pizza toppings.  I used the following for one Calzone:
1/2 lb. sliced pepperoni
1/4 lb. sliced salami
generous 1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 red onion, sliced
1-4oz. can sliced olives
4-5 fresh mushrooms, sliced

Calzone number two had only cheese and pepperoni.

Fold the saucy half over the pizza toppings.  With a dinner fork, press the edges together.

Separate one egg, reserving the egg white.  Beat it.  Brush the egg white on the top of each Calzone.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-22 minutes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Journal of a Cooking Day

As I prepared yet another month of menus which included 35 meals, I decided to journal my steps.  Here's what it took to prepare those meals for freezing.  As each meal is "eaten" I'll consult the recipe to finish it.  (My next step is to add the completed recipes to my blog.)
First Day

Shop for groceries (Costco, Target and Ralphs worked well for this OAMC menu)


·         Freeze Salmon, Fish, Pork Shoulder, and Hamburger patties.

·         Cut apart the 3-pack of hot dogs.  Write "save" on one.  Freeze all.

·         2 whole chickens, cleaned and rinsed and placed into two separate ziploc bags.  One for Sweet and Sour Chicken and one for 40-Clove Garlic Chicken.

·         Boil all of the  chicken.  Save the broth.   Cool and separate the meat as follows:

o   3 for Chicken Packets

o   7 for Chili Sans Verde

o   4 for chicken tacos

o   3 for BBQ Ranch Chicken Pizza

o   3 for Penne Gorgonzola Pasta

o   3 for chicken soup

o   5 shred and freeze as extra

·         Quiches - Make one Aztec and one Cheese.  Cover with foil and freeze on plates.

Aztec Quiche

2 Deep dish frozen pie shells

1 4oz. can diced green chilies - spread over the bottom of one pie crust.

2 cups of shredded cheese per pie


Mix together and pour over the cheese:

6 eggs

2 C heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cumin


Defrost and remove foil.  Lay it gently over the top of pies.  Bake on a cookie sheet at 3235 degrees F for about 1 hour.  Serves 8 per pie.


Divide Mozzarella Cheese into 4 bags.  Freeze two.  Freeze a third with the pepperoni for the Calzone.


Cooking Day

1. Make Red Sauce.

2. Shred all the chicken by container and finish the chicken meals.



Chicken Taco Filling

Boil, cool and shred 4 large chicken breasts.

Reserve broth and mix the following for the sauce;

3/4 C chicken broth

1/2 C water

1/3 C Taco Seasoning Mix  (McCormick is my favorite)

Put in an 7-cup Rubbermaid container, label and freeze.


Chicken Packets

Boil and shred 3 large chicken breasts.  Freeze.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Boil, cool and shred 7 large chicken breasts.

Toss with 2 tsp. garlic salt and 4 cups shredded cheese.

Add 1-2 cans of diced green chilies if desired.

Lay 6 corn tortillas on the bottom of a 9x13" pan.  Cover with half of the mixture.

Lay 6 more tortillas over mixture and cover with remaining chicken mix.

Mix together 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and 1 C milk.  Pour most of it over the mixture.

Cover with 6 more tortillas and remaining sauce. 

Cover tightly and freeze.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes when defrosted.


Chicken Soup

In a 14-Cup Rubbermaid container combine the following:

8 C reserved chicken broth

2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/4 tsp. ground thyme

1 tsp. onion powder or 1 onion diced

4 stalks celery chopped

4 carrots sliced

Label the container and freeze.

            On the day you will eat:

1 bag of egg noodles

1 12oz. can evaporated milk

  1. Heat the soup over medium until the veggies are soft.
  2. Add the cooked chicken, egg noodles, and evaporated milk into the soup; cook until the noodles are cooked through, another 7 to 10 minutes.

Penne Chicken Gorgonzola

Shred and freeze 2 large chicken breasts.  Assemble the rest on the day of eating.

BBQ Ranch Chicken Pizza

Shred and freeze 3 large chicken breasts.  Assemble pizza fresh on the day of eating.


3. Pasta dishes.  Put away all pastas except the Manicotti.  Boil it now.

Set aside 3 cups of sauce for the Manicotti.

Divide the remaining sauce among several 3-cup freezer containers. (about 8).  Cool completely.  Label and freeze.

Prepare Manicotti filling.

Manicotti Filling

Mix the following in a medium sized bowl. 

15 oz. Ricotta cheese

16 oz. cottage cheese

2 eggs

1 C grated mozzarella cheese

1/3 C shredded parmesan cheese

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 T dried parsley


To fill the manicotti shells, spoon filling into a pastry bag.  Use this to squeeze filling into the shells.  Lay in a 9x13' pan.  Cover with reserved sauce and additional mozzarella cheese.  Cool completely, label and freeze.


Write "save" on the following dry ingredients:

Nacho Potato Soup

Patty MElts - dill bread

Cornmeal for Polenta

Corn bread Mixes

TUna Casserole ingredients

Mac n cheese

BBQ sauce and ranch dressing




4. Prepare Hash Brown Casserole and freeze.


Hash Brown Casserole


In a greased 9x13"pan, arrange the shredded hash brown potatoes.

Cover with 2 cups shredded cheese.

Dice 1 Cup of ham lunchmeat and sprinkle over the cheese.


In a separate bowl combine:

4 eggs

1 12-oz can evaporated milk

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. salt


5. Prepare the dishes containing ground turkey.

Set aside 3 packages of ground turkey for 2 meatloaves (one to keep, one to give away)


Brown each package of turkey individually, drain any fat and place into containers for freezing.

·         Joe's to Go in a 9-cup container.

·         Taco Mac n Cheese in a

·         Chili Burritos

·         Beef Taco Skillet in a 9" square, covered casserole

·         Taco Cornbread Casserole


Finish each recipe.


Joe's to Go

To the ground turkey add:

3/4 C chopped onion or 3/4 tsp. onion powder

1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 jar Homemade Chili Sauce

1/4 C brown sugar

1 T white vinegar

1 T prepared mustard

1C tomato sauce


Serve on hamburger buns with a sprinkling of cheese.


Taco Mac n Cheese

To the ground turkey add:

1/3 C salsa

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder


On eating day, you'll add 2 C elbow noodles and 8 oz. Velveeta cheese.


Chili Burritos


1/3 C taco seasoning

1- 16oz. can baked beans


On eating day, serve in flour tortillas with shredded cheese and salsa.


Beef Taco Skillet

To the ground turkey add:

1/3 C Taco Seasoning

1 10oz. can tomato soup

1/2 C water


On eating day, cut up 6 corn tortillas into 1' pieces.  Stir into warmed meat mixture.  sprinkle with 1/2 C shredded cheese.


Taco Cornbread Casserole (Taste of Home, new to me 2014)

To the ground turkey add:

1/3 C taco seasoning

2-15oz cans diced tomatoes

1 C water

1-4oz can green chilies


on eating day, cook 1 cup of rice and add to meat mixture.  Follow the rest of the recipe.

6.  Now make two meatloaves.  Do so in separate bowls.

In each bowl place 1 package of ground turkey and half of another.

1 package dry onion soup mix

2 eggs

1/3 C ketchup

1 1/2 C Italian Seasoned bread crumbs

3/4 C water


Mix very well.  Lightly grease a loaf pan.  Pour mixture into pan and spread smooth.  Cover with foil, label and freeze.


7.  Lastly, prepare the Lentil-Ham Soup in a 5-cup container.


4 C reserved chicken broth

1/2 C chopped celery

1/2 tsp. onion powder (or 1/2 C diced onion)

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 C dried lentils

1/2 tsp. each of basil, oregano and rosemary

1/4 tsp. pepper


As items cool, add them to the freezer.

Follow the recipes for each meal on eating day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Preparing for a Once-a-Month Cooking Day

Yesterday was my day to prepare the grocery list for a month of meals.  I took a look at my next menu and added a few meals to make a total of 35.  With four adult children living at home while in college, the meals are going faster than they once did.  It is my hope that this will get us to early May. 
Today, my hubby and I went shopping.  We were able to get most of the ingredients at Costco and Target, but I will need to shop at another grocery store to get a few more specialty items.  That can wait until morning!
Here's my kitchen this afternoon.  I never like putting it all away, but it's also good to split the shopping from the cooking.
 My freezer is quite empty as I go into this cooking day.
The refrigerator, on the other hand, becomes quite full as it is the holding space for all those groceries until morning!
 A few items are ingredients for meals that are best made fresh, such as Pigs in a Blanket which will be made with fresh bread dough, so I identified one package that must be saved!

I did prepare a few items today that just make sense before freezing.  Here's what I did:
  • Froze the pre-seasoned Salmon
  • Cleaned two chickens and froze them separately
  • Cooked all the boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Made two quiches, one Aztec, one plain
  • Cut the 3-pack of hot dogs into individual packages, labeled one and froze all
  • Froze the hamburger patties
Tonight I am baking the last meal from the last round of cooking, a Lasagna.  Tomorrow the cooking begins!

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Dinner

If the ingredients have anything to do with it, dinner is going to be scrumptious.  That is, if there is any left after the nibbling I've allowed myself to do.  I found two recipes for Reuben bakes using corned beef and decided to try them both.  Check them out:

Reuben Crescent Bake

Reuben Loaf

Both are on  One uses Pillsbury Crescent rolls and one makes a bread from scratch.  Can't wait to cut into them tonight!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I made both fresh.  As for incorporating it into a once-a-month cooking day, I'd buy the ingredients but store them separately.  Freeze the meat, save the other ingredients as appropriate and marked "save."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Day I Fell in Love with Garlic

It's been nearly 30 years since that afternoon that I went to visit my boyfriend, and he fed me his brother's Fettuccine Alfredo, his style.  I couldn't stop eating it!  The flavor was addicting.  And then I learned that it was full of garlic.  It was a most unusual variation of Alfredo including ground hamburger.

Today I pulled out a container of chicken from the freezer to make Garlic Parmesan Noodles. It was wonderful to have prepared the chicken ahead and frozen it.  I simply cooked the noodles and added few more fresh ingredients to create a delicious dinner for my family.

Garlic Parmesan Noodles
Cook a 16oz. package of noodles in salted water.

Cook and shred 3-4 cups of chicken (do this ahead and freeze)

1 quart of heavy whipping cream with
4 tsp. minced garlic (or more) and
1/2 tsp. (to taste) garlic salt.

Toss noodles with chicken and sauce.  Serve immediately.

For a simple primavera, add a bag of peas or broccoli, pre-cooked, to the mix.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Six Cheese White Pizza

It was a quiet, rainy day and I was not expecting any one home for dinner and so had decided to bank on leftovers.  Easy, right?  Well, then a son asked for dinner, but it had to be vegetarian for his guest.  I decided to make them a pizza using items from my pantry and freezer.

Pizza Dough
2 C warm water
4 1/2 tsp. or 2 packages yeast
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 T vegetable oil
5 C flour

Swiss cheese
mozzarella cheese
4-cheese Italian Blend

Any other toppings you wish.

To the warm water add the yeast, salt and sugar.  Mix well.  Add the oil and flour mixing until the dough is smooth.  Let rest for 5 minutes. 

With well greased hands, spread dough into a jelly roll pan.  Cover with a layer of Alfredo sauce (I like Ragu and use about 1/2 jar). 

Dice about 8 ounces of Swiss cheese and sprinkle over the sauce.
Then about 1 C of shredded mozzarella cheese followed by a cup or so of 4-Cheese Italian Blend shredded cheeses.  Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes.  Watch that the cheese does not burn.

I had actually hoped to make a Chicken Cordon Bleu pizza but we were out of ham.  I did through diced chicken nuggets on half of the pizza.  It was a hit!

As for once-a-month cooking this is a recipe I always make from scratch because of the yeast.  I "stole" the Alfredo sauce from a pasta recipe, and I always have shredded mozzarella in the freezer because I buy the 5 lb. bag pre-shredded and divide it into 4-5 Ziploc bags.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Super Quick Corn Chowder

It's pouring rain, like it rarely does in Southern California, and I am enjoying listening to it as I sit here on the sofa digitally scrapbooking and sort of watching a favorite movie.  My reverie is broken when I realize that it is 3:30 pm and I have not done  anything about dinner tonight.  Then I remember we were going to have leftovers, but decided they weren't quite right for this weather, we really should have soup.

I sprang from the sofa and now, twenty minutes later, literally, the soup is in the crock pot and I'm writing about it.  It does help that I had all the ingredients on hand thanks to my once-a-month cooking preparations, they just hadn't been combined yet because it was much easier to store them in their original packaging.

I grabbed the bag of hash browns from the freezer and threw them into the microwave for 5 minutes.  Pulled out the crock pot and began to assemble the soup.

Double Corn Chowder
16 oz. shredded hash browns, frozen, but defrosted
1 can (15ish ounces) creamed corn
1 can (15ish ounces) corn
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
3/4 C crumbled bacon
1/2 tsp. onion powder or 1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Pour all ingredients into a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours to help all the flavors mix.

Now for the my hurry I didn't notice that I had a 30-ounce bag of hash browns and so had to quickly double everything.  And that was still within the 20 minutes!  Oh, I'll be serving it in 2 1/2 hours. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dr. Seuss and the Missionaries

I've been thinking about this blog entry all day.  I feel a little bit like Marco in Dr. Seuss' book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  Marco's dad asks him about all the sights he sees walking to and from school each day.  On this particular day, Marco lets his imagination run wild with all the things he could see becoming a fantastic parade down Mulberry Street and yet when he arrives home he confesses to only seeing a simple horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.

As for me I have thousands of recipes waiting for blogging, but none seem just right today.  What I am thinking of is one of the side benefits of preparing meals ahead.  You see, I've received two emails this week alerting me of friends in need.  One has a newborn and one had emergency surgery.  Both families are in need of some extra care, and one way to give that care is through a meal.  All day long I've thought through my list of meals and what I can do.  And then it hits me!  That lasagna will do nicely for the family with teens and meatball sandwich fixings for the newly enlarged family.  All I need to do is add some fruit or a salad for a complete meal.

Sure it will shorten the list of meals for my family, but in giving them away I will be following in the footsteps of the women (missionaries) who wrote the book, Once-a-Month Cooking.  These were women who kept extra meals on hand to meet the needs of their communities.  I will find great joy in the giving for it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oregano Chicken

Several years ago I searched through some low fat and low cholesterol cookbooks for recipes that I could adapt for once-a-month cooking.  One that I found was Oregano Chicken.  It sounded easy enough, too.  After making it several times with mixed results, I believe that I've finally nailed the freezing and preparation for a yummy meal.

On the OAM cooking day, put 4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a Ziploc-style plastic bag.  Mix up the spices and place in a smaller bag. Put the small bag in the large bag and freeze together.

It's the day to eat and so take the bag out of the freezer and let it defrost.  Pour off all the juices.  Cut each breast in half.

Based on a recent discovery, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on one side of each breast.   This will keep it moist.  (The original recipe called for Dijon mustard which is great for mustard eaters!)

Mix the spices very well and coat the chicken on both sides.  Place them in a lightly-greased or sprayed 9"x13" pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes for thinner pieces, and about 40-45 for thicker cuts.  (350 degrees F)

4 Costco sized chicken breasts
1/2 C dry bread crumbs
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Serve with Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes.
Asparagus and Mushrooms
Clean the veggies and slice the mushrooms, thickly.
Place on a jelly roll pan.
Drizzle generously with olive oil.
Sprinkle with McCormick Vegetable Grill Mates

Roast in a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sweet Valentine Dessert

My current favorite dessert is Red Velvet anything - yogurt at Yogurtland, in a blizzard at Dairy Queen or cake heaped with cream cheese frosting.  I prefer at least a 50-50 ratio of cake to frosting to satisfy my sweet tooth.

In January 2015 our decorating theme for the Honduran Women's Bible Conference will be hearts.  February is the perfect month to practice with heart desserts which brought me to Red Velvet cupcakes today.

My co-leader had found some darling cupcake cups - no cupcake pan needed - and I needed to try them out.  How to bake with them, how full to fill them, how many can one box of cake mix make and of course, how to frost them.  I found the answers:
  • A jelly roll pan will hold 35 of these self-supporting cupcake cups.
  • They do not change color when baked as do some of the wrappers due to the color of the cake batter.
  • Fill them with about 1/3 C of batter.
  • One box made 22 unevenly sized cupcakes.  Next time, plan on 16-18.
  • I used Duncan Hines and have been happy with the results.
  • And then the frosting.  It is to "die for!"

I wish I had recorded where I found this recipe so that I could give credit to them.

2 8oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 sticks or 1 C butter also at room temperature
1 lb. powdered sugar (3 3/4 C)
2-3 T heavy cream (I had used fat-free milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and continue beating until smooth and slightly fluffy.  My didn't "fluff" because I didn't have cream on hand.

Use a large frosting bag and pipe the frosting on in a snail-fashion starting on the outside.  Place a candy heart on top.

Bag at least 12", tip 5FT (giant)

I should probably add that I have made this recipe from scratch with good success, but I have also found that it's cheaper to buy a box of mix than a bottle of red food coloring. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mexicali Pork Chops

 This is a very easy meal to prepare fresh the day you want to eat it.  Simply rinse your pork, I like boneless chops, and toss in a generous portion of Taco Seasoning in a Ziploc-style bag until well-coated.
Warm a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and cook several minutes on both sides until the meat reaches the proper temperature.
Serve with warm corn tortillas, refried beans and Mexican cheese.

A recipe?  Four pork chops with one packet of seasoning mix is a good ratio.  I prefer to buy the Costco-sized bottles of seasoning and just dumped a good portion of seasoning in the bag. 
For a "freezer" meal, simply freeze the pork.

Cheddar-Ranch-Bacon Dip is a Party Favorite

Superbowl Sunday and what should you bring to the party?  Ideas were all over the internet from chicken wings to sweets to salty munchies all in an effort to satisfy the need to eat while watching football.  Our favorite party appetizer is Cheddar-Ranch-Bacon Dip served with a thick-cut, salty potato chip.

Party-sized recipe
2 lbs. (32 oz.) sour cream
7 T dry Ranch dressing mix
1/4 C milk (I used fat-free)
4 C shredded cheese
1 1/4 C crumbled bacon

Mix the sour cream and dressing mix thoroughly.  Add the other ingredients and stir well.  This can be served immediately, but also works well if the flavors have a chance to "marry."  I prefer Ruffles chips with this dip.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

We Should Make Something Yummy - Cheesecake? Could it be chocolate?

Cheesecake is not usually something that can be successfully made on a whim.  For starters, the cream cheese really needs to be a room temperature so that it can be beaten smooth.  However, I ignored all of that when my son's girlfriend wanted to make chocolate cheesecake on a whim.  The result was quite tasty, although speckled.  Next time, I will wait for or force a warmer cream cheese.

I have a few different cookbooks which we consulted looking for a recipe that would work with my limited ingredients which were only 16oz. of cream cheese and butter shortbread-style cookies, no graham crackers were to be found in the pantry.  We found a recipe for marbled cheesecake that required 32oz. of cream cheese and so roughly halved it and made up our own recipe which doubled the original amount of chocolate.  I will definitely make it again with an Oreo crust!

At 8" it's a perfect size for a small gathering or a gift. 

For the crust:
Finely crush shortbread cookies to 1 1/2 C (mine were from Honduras)
Add 6 T melted butter and 1/4 C sugar.  Mix well and press into a 8" springform pan.  Set aside.

For the filling:
In a double boiler melt:
4 oz. semi-sweet unsweetened chocolate
Add 1/2 C sugar
Set aside.

Beat 16 oz. of cream cheese until smooth. Then add:
2 eggs
1/2 C sour cream
1/3 C sugar

Now add the chocolate mixture to the cream cheese, beating until smooth.
Pour over the crust and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Turn off the oven and open the door to begin cooling.  Completely cool before refrigerating. 

Once again we rushed it, and I served it lukewarm with a good squirt of whipped cream and a few chocolate chips.  The flavor was great, but cheesecake is best cold.

I Don't Want to Cook Today

Saturday had been set aside as my day for a Once-a-Month Cooking.  Thursday night we shopped, and I had all that I needed to prepare a month of meals.  When Saturday came, I had everything but motivation.

I have not spent that much time preparing meals in a long time, but it did give me some insights to share.

Just start!  Do something.  You did set aside the time!

Pick one meat and make all the recipes which include it.  I started with the Italian Sausage.  I divided it into 3 equal groups of 8 links each and then browned each group.  One was set aside to use in a Lasagna.  One was set aside for a Sausage Skillet Pasta which will be finished fresh.  And the third, set aside for a Sausage Polenta Lasagna. 

Then I prepared a batch of red sauce, which is posted on my blog.  I use the 106oz. cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Part of it was used to complete the Lasagna.  The rest was divided into 3-cup containers and frozen.

Keep going!

Make Lentil Soup.  Let it cool before freezing.

Next meat!  You can do this!  You'll be so happy when it's done.

Chicken.  I had 28 a frozen, boneless, skinless breasts to deal with. 
5 became Creamy Chicken Bake
4 became Oregano Chicken
5 for Crock-pot Chicken Cordon Bleu
Those were frozen right away.

I cooked the rest by boiling in a 16 quart stock pot.  After the meat cooled I divided it into containers by the following list and then shredded or diced each group based on the recipe it would be used for.
3 for Chicken Pesto Pasta
3 for chicken tacos
4 for Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Noodles
2 for Chicken Enchiladas
2 for a Chicken Pot Pie

I am so slow today!  Not feeling at all efficient.

Freeze the beef for stroganoff.  Cook it fresh.  That's okay.

Pork.  Save it until Monday when I'm cooking it anyway.

Ground Turkey.  Hmmm.  Save this, too. 

It can always be frozen, it will just be a pain to defrost.

And so my day went.  While it wasn't the best day of cooking, I did accomplish much, and am glad that I did so.  Tomorrow I'll finish the turkey meat.  I think it will be browned for tacos and taco soup, and some will become my favorite meatloaf. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lessons from Honduras - Tortilla Making

As a fourth grade teacher I incorporated making tortillas from scratch into our lessons about early California.  It was fairly easy to make the dough and shape it, but getting it off of the tortilla press in one piece was often difficult unless I doused it in flour.  I kept an electric skillet in my classroom and we'd fry them and then eat them.  They were good, if they weren't covered in flour!

Homemade tortillas are part of the menu for one of the lunches that we serve in Honduras.  They accompany Picadillo and Ashley's Corn and Bean Salad.  It's a delicious combination, especially when piled on the tortillas.  We've tried different ways to get the tortillas, and found that the most successful is to have our Honduran counterparts in the kitchen make them.  And, we get lessons!

This week I bought some Masa (corn flour) and made a batch at home.  Some were used for Pupusas as I have yet to master the technique of making a more authentic Pupusa. I followed the directions on the bag, but did need to add more water to keep the dough moist.  Here's what we learned in Honduras:

Roll the dough into small balls, not quite golf ball size.
Line the tortilla press with circles of waxed paper or parchment paper or plastic bags that you've cut.
Flatten the ball some and then place into a tortilla press.


Remove upper paper/plastic.
Peel off the lower paper and lay on a greased griddle.

Flip to cook both sides until lightly browned.
Served with your favorite tortilla toppings.

OR turn a few into Pupusas by crumbling cheese on the tortilla after the first flip.  Cover it with a second tortilla and continue cooking until cheese is melted.

 My favorite cheese for Pupusas:

The Honduran ladies made beautiful, flat tortillas without the aid of a press.  It seems to be something that they grow up learning.  Our hands and fingers have a long way to go in mastering their technique, hence the need for a press.  Several of us bought them at Wal-Mart in Honduras although they are available here quite readily.