Friday, April 16, 2010

Simplicity- Cook Once, Eat twice

This week began my three week Spring Cleaning around here. And, despite the fact that I completely took apart the living room, dining room and kitchen, scrubbed, rearranged decorations and accessories, completely filled our office with excess stuff (oh, goodness, here we go again with an office clean out!). played with and taught Addie, had tea parties in the middle of the kitchen floor with Addie complete with marshmallows and cheese sticks, and had an empty hamper for about ten minutes (I was beside myself for a bit!), my family had a hot meal on the table every night.

How? Let me take you back a few weeks to a visit I had with my Aunt Elsa. As she was getting ready to leave, I asked her I could send her home with some dinner so she wouldn't have to cook. She thanked me and said that she already had dinner set for the evening. When she cooks something, she always cooks more than she needs for that evening, freezes the rest, and when she has a particularly busy day, she pulls out her precooked, frozen dinner, and she and Uncle Johnny have a hot dinner.

So I decided to give it a try for myself (I'm sure you have learned by now that when I see a great idea, I put it into practice immediately). Last week, I didn't make a menu plan for the week. I did it for two weeks. I then planned, based on what I had on hand, what our meals would be and what could be made in bulk one evening that could be used as a base for another meal. Here is our menu for that last two weeks with my notes attached.
  • Monday- Chili on top of Sweet Potato- For our family Easter gathering, Titi Elsie had made her wonderful chili, and she sent us home with some. I put a few sweet potatoes in the oven, heated up the chili, opened the cooked sweet potatoes, put the chili right on the potatoes, added a dollop of sour cream, and wallah! One of our favorites around here.
  • Tuesday- Chicken & Chick Pea Soup- This was actually a soup I had made the previous week that had yielded so much I was able to get 2 frozen containers worth of it after we had all eaten. It was actually very good, despite the fact that I nearly smoked our house cooking the chicken at the beginning of the whole process and had to open up all the windows to keep the fire alarm from going off.
  • Wednesday- Hamburger Helper Lasagna- Winn Dixie had a BOGO free sale.
  • Thursday- Semi-Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Rigatoni Noodles- I made a double batch of my Semi Homemade Spaghetti Sauce and a double batch of the Rigatoni noodles. After dinner, I put them in containers and put them in the fridge since I knew I would be using them within the week. I already planned to make baked ziti for the following week.
  • Friday- Leftovers- Brian doesn't mind leftovers as long as I arrange them on a plate and he doesn't have to see the containers. Leftovers just aren't appetizing when looked at in a container!
  • Saturday- Delicious Meal with Ernest and Nancy!
  • Sunday- McDonald's- Addie was so well behaved in church on Sunday that we took her to McDonald's where she ate half a cheeseburger! She really liked it, and she loved waving at the couple at the table behind us.
  • Monday- Chicken Drumsticks with Uncle Ben's Brown Rice- I had a package of 16 drumsticks. I cooked all of it, and after everyone ate as much as they wanted, I took apart the meat from the bone, put it in a container and put it in the fridge for Wednesday's meal.
  • Tuesday- Baked Ziti- My quick recipe for the Baked Ziti will be on tomorrow's Recipe Swap. And remember I used previously cooked ingredients for the two main parts of the dish.
  • Wednesday- South-of-the-Border Chicken and Pasta Skillet- I didn't have to worry about cooking the meat needed for this recipe since it was already made two days before. I was able to completely eliminate one of the steps from the recipe.
  • Thursday- Pizza with BLT Topping- Pre-cooked a lot of bacon and put the chopped up pieces in the freezer. I was already going to cook the bacon so why not cook a little more and eliminate a step in the future.
  • Friday- Leftovers

I hope this was able to help you look at cooking a little differently. By precooking some of the ingredients ahead of time, you are able to eliminate steps, save time, and and enjoy a few more moments with our families.

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