Tag: Weekend Cooking


Prepping for Once a Month Cooking

Posted 1 October, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 27 Comments

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make-ahead-meals

 

For the month of October (OMG it’s October!), I’m undertaking a crazy experiment. The plan is to prep as many meals as I can this coming weekend to use for the month. Once a month cooking!

How did I get started on this path? I was checking out a book in the cooking section of the library when I came across Fix, Freeze, Feast and Once-a-Month Cooking (OAMC). I also grabbed Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead and started researching. At first I thought “NO WAY this is insane!” but the more I thought about it and the more I researched, it started to feel really doable.

I’ll outline the different books in a separate post, but there seems to be different camps when it comes to OAMC. The first method, from Once-a-Month Cooking, is to prep single meals for every day of the month (or a two week block, if preferred) using set menus and a specific prep plan. Each meal is different so by the end of your prep day the freezer should be full of 15-30 meals.

The second method, outlined in Fix, Freeze, Feast, focuses on making meals in bulk–using the large meat trays from warehouse stores (Sam’s and Costco). Each recipe yields 3-4 different meals for the freezer. Another book I have, Don’t Panic- Dinner’s in the Freezer, uses this same method with different ingredient tables for multiples of 2 and 3.

I’ve decided to take an approach in between these two methods. I am leery of cooking 3-4 meals of a recipe I’ve never tried before only to have it be something that my family will not eat. A lot of those Pinterest “make 50 crockpot meals in a day!” type recipes rely on making several bags of the same meal. I would hate for that food to go to waste. On the other hand, making 30 individual meals seems crazy, especially if I’m using someone else’s recipe (like the official Once A Month Meals website, which has paid plans).

The Plan

The most daunting part of the planning process is coming up with a month’s meal plan. I’m terrible at meal planning as it is but generally only like to plan out two months and allow for lots of wiggle room. Planning for an entire month seems like a lot of commitment! But one of the least favorite parts of my day is trying to figure out what to cook for dinner. Hopefully this will help.

I started by taking stock of what’s already in my freezer. I already have one jar of homemade spaghetti meat sauce, pork bolognese, and pulled pork in the freezer. I also have a lot of uncooked meat–meatballs, steak, pork chops, brats, and salmon. Between these items, I already have several meals in the bag.

Once I had a handle of what I already have in the freezer, I made a list of meals I tend to make every single freaking month (those people I live with are creatures of habit). Tacos, salisbury steak, enchiladas, manicotti, rice and beans, fried rice, teriyaki chicken, chicken piccata. Are any of these meals that I can make ahead? In many cases yes!

I listed out 30 days of the month and started filling in the blanks–first with the stuff I had on hand and next with some of our family favorites. I ended up with a list of about 24 meals. I’m leaving some wiggle room for eating out (or take-out) for special treats or dinner with family. Or even just leftovers. If I make lasagna, chances are we’ll be eating it for two nights.

24 meals. Is that doable? Am I insane? And how do I prep these meals? My pork chops are already frozen, so I can’t really prepare them at this point but I can assemble the spices I would use for particular meals. Do I cook the meatloaf before or after freezing? Should I freeze the sauce for the salisbury steak or just make it the day of? Will breaded chicken really freeze well?

Ultimately will prepping all of my meals ahead of time save time?

One of the things that seems to take me a lot of time each evening is chopping vegetables for our sides. While I can’t do this all at the beginning of the month, I’m going to try to do as much nightly prep as I can on Sundays. I usually hate doing stuff like this on Sunday, but I’m beginning to see this as a case of making the time now to save it later.

I’ll report back at the end of the month and let you know how it has gone. And if you have any tips I would LOVE to hear them in the comments. Do you have a favorites that seem to freeze well? Anything that you avoid freezing?

What tips and tricks have you adopted to help your nightly cooking go much more smoothly?

 

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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A Freezer Full of Salmon

Posted 23 September, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 25 Comments

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salmon

 

I currently have a freezer full of salmon.

We aren’t big fish eaters. I like just fine but the other three eaters in my house don’t care for it. Last year I think I cooked salmon three times and it was a fight to get the girls to eat every bite. I’ve never cooked other kinds of fish. Gasp!!

So when my brother-in-law told me that he was going on a fishing trip to Alaska and that he’d bring me back some salmon, I gave him a very blank stare. Sure enough, I came home one day to a freezer full of salmon fillets (to be fair, he’s also storing his portion at our house).

Yesterday I decided it was time to bite the bullet and prepare salmon for dinner. I love salmon (despite my earlier comments about liking fish “just fine”), but I also wasn’t in the mood for dinnertime fighting and nagging. But with a freezer full of salmon, the girls better get used to the idea of eating fish more often. Plus I know that it’s amazingly healthful.

As I pulled the fish out of the packet to marinade it, Elle immediately started talking about how gross it was. Ha! I let her touch the skin, which she loved, and talked about what part of the fish the fillet came from. By this point, she was a little more on board. When it came time to actually sit down and eat, I was surprised at how willingly she ate everything on her plate–salmon first. The last time I cooked salmon was not so easy.

Evie took a little more convincing–she is going through that stage–but by the end of dinner she had eaten all of her salmon if nothing else. It was seriously a dinnertime success where I thought we would have fussing and bribing, and lots of exasperated sighs from my direction.

I took the below picture with the tiny amount of leftovers we had. The piece is about 2 inches big. I’d call that a success! Recipe is from Budget Bytes cookbook (also online).

salmon-and-rice

Really the point of this post is not that I have a freezer full of salmon. I’ve brought you this far because I need to crowdsource ideas on what to do with all of this salmon!

I have a few ideas–I’m dying to try some salmon cakes (though most recipes call for canned salmon) and my friend Katie shared this Buzzfeed post on four ways to cook salmon. There’s the way that I normally prepare salmon, but I’m looking for fun and different ideas. Maybe smoked in Scott’s new smoker!

What else? What else? Please share your favorite salmon recipes with me!

And if you feel so inclined…come on over for dinner.

 

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Most and Least Used Kitchen Items

Posted 2 September, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 25 Comments

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kitchen stuff

 

Lately I’ve been trying to purge my house of extra clutter. Last year I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I still think about Marie Kondo’s credo of keeping the things that bring joy and letting go of the rest.

I was able to apply this principle to my closet and drawers fairly easily and now maybe have too few items to wear? But when it comes to my kitchen, I have a tougher time letting things go. Sure my melon baller doesn’t really bring me joy, but I use it. So even though it is joyless, it stays.

Because the principle of JOY is tough to apply to my kitchen items, instead I’ve been relying on the good old “do I use this” system. Except I’m really good at talking myself into believing that I’ll need an item one day. I know I’m not alone…raise your hand if you’ve kept something around for one day.

Scott and I have been married for ten years and many of the items in our kitchen date back to wedding gifts from our registry. You know, when two twenty-something kids still in college go into the big box store with a laser gun tagging all of the things they think they might need for their lives together.

 

Least Used Kitchen Items

martini glasses

For some reason I needed a Martini set with pretty swirly patterns. Nevermind that I don’t drink martinis and have had an unopened bottle of vodka in my pantry since the day I found out I was pregnant with Elle (six years ago). I keep thinking that I’ll use these one day for ice cream desserts?

The Shake Maker, used once in ten years, has recently gone to Salvation Army. Ok, truthfully it’s still in my cupboard while I type this but I’m going to get it right now…

My China. But I’m not getting rid of it and refuse to feel guilty about it. Now…I’m not sure why I thought I needed ALL of those fancy wine and champagne glasses.

The Blender. I’m thinking about ditching this in favor of my immersion blender. Please tell me why I would regret getting rid of my big bulky blender that I use maybe once a year.

Basically any piece of entertaining-ware in my cupboards. The cheese tray/knife set that I’ve never used. The buffet pieces. My Arthur Court collection. I don’t entertain at my house (ahem, three kids who have destroyed it!), but maybe one day? One day. We eat buffet style, so I don’t even use serving bowls/plates unless we have company.

 

Sometimes Used Kitchen Items

fondue

The Fondue Pot. This is used exclusively for queso. Except that one time I made chocolate fondue the day after Valentine’s Day this year.

Our George Foreman Grill is falling apart, though these days we go through phases where we use it a lot and then don’t use it for months. I love cooking pork chops on it and we recently discovered it’s the best way to cook fajita chicken without it charring on the grill. We aren’t big grillers.

The Immersion Blender is growing on me. It’s been too hot to eat soup lately, but I’m hoping it will get more use in the winter. I’ve also heard it’s great for scrambled eggs! I tried whipped cream, but still prefer the hand-mixer for this.

While we don’t use it often, the Ice Cream Maker is so much fun. I’d probably use it more often if I didn’t love custard based ice creams so much and could whip up a frozen treat more quickly!

 

Most Used Kitchen Items

le creuset dutch oven

Even if they don’t get used all the time, I love my crockpot, waffle maker, Le Creuset dutch oven, and Kitchenaid Mixer. I couldn’t live without my liquid measuring cups and cutting boards (I have three of each in varying sizes).

After 10 years, I still adore our everyday plates, though I do wonder if I would regret getting rid of all those tea cups and saucers. Why do plateware sets still come with those extras? On the other hand, where do all the spoons go? I’m missing about 4 from our original collection and have no idea where they disappeared to.

And there’s the list of non-essential kitchen essentials–the stuff that you wouldn’t think you need but that I use all the time. Yes, I cannot live without a meat thermometer.

 

Kitchen Items I Wish I Used More

Instant Pot

Number 1–the Instant Pot. I know this pressure cooker could do wonders for my busy schedule but I’m still so very intimidated by it. My favorite ways to use it so far are to make a family favorite bean dish (no more babysitting my dutch oven) and to make chicken stock.

When I was looking into pressure cookers, Scott decided we had to have a deep fryer and bought one. We’ve never used it. I keep thinking that something like egg rolls would be fun to make, but otherwise I need at least one thing to cook in the deep fryer!

Our dehydrator could use some love as well but I wonder if I even need this item or if I could ditch it in favor of a low heat setting in the oven.

 

hearts

Sitting down to write this post ended up being a good exercise in evaluating my kitchen things. I said goodbye to the swirly martini glasses. Surely someone else could love them more than I can. I also ditched the sandwich maker that was Scott’s college roommate’s and a couple other extras that I don’t need.

All I have to say is thank goodness I took the hot dog roaster off the registry when Scott wasn’t looking. Can you imagine an Operation Use My Kitchen Stuff for that?!

Update: Scott noticed the shake maker in the SalArmy box. “We have a shake maker?!” Me: “yes, one that hasn’t been used in ten years.” Him: “Because I didn’t know we had one!” Me: “Well, we won’t after today.” Him: “But that was the one thing that I really wanted when we got married. Besides you.” (I am not making this up. I did not mention the hot dog roaster).

 

What are your most beloved and least loved kitchen items?

 

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Family Favorite Meals Around the Web

Posted 19 August, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 21 Comments

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Family Favorite Meals Around the Web

 

The other morning Scott was making waffles for breakfast and he asked if I had a recipe. I immediately pulled out the sheet from my recipe scrapbook. He took one look at the worn page and said “wow, you must really like this one.” There are about a dozen recipes that I’ve found online that my family loves loves loves, so I thought I would share our favorite family meals from around the web. I’m not sure why so many of them come from Allrecipes–I’m guessing that several of these are from way before I discovered Pinterest!

Breakfast Favorites

Fluffy Pancakes from allrecipes.com – Confession: I love Aunt Jemima buttermilk pancake mix, but if I’m in the mood for making pancakes from scratch, these are my go-to.  On Pinterest

Fluffy French Toast from allrecipes.com – I used to make French Toast the way that my mom taught me–just throwing together ingredients in a bowl and hoping for the best. The result was alway edible, but then Scott found this recipe and ruined my French Toast forever. It must be the addition of flour? It’s now one of the kids’ favorites for breakfast. On Pinterest

Banana Muffins from allrecipes.com – My favorite is actually banana bread, but I love making these banana muffins in mini cups for the girls’ breakfast when we are on the go. I usually cut the sugar down by half and they’re still delicious. On Pinterest

Dinner Favorites

Fried Rice from food.com – Truthfully this recipe acts more like a gateway and I don’t refer to it anymore. I don’t measure any of the ingredients, skip the sesame oil and bean sprouts, add different veggies, use a combo of oil and butter but don’t know how much, etc. And instead of adding meat which would probably dry out on my watch, I pair it with sweet and sour pork balls. Mmmm!  On Pinterest

Salisbury Steak from allrecipes.com – Scott would eat this meal for dinner every night if I’d make it for him. I stick pretty close the recipe but add mushrooms to the sauce. The girls love it and the patties without gravy was one of Evie’s first favorite meats. On Pinterest

Parmesan Crusted Chicken from Hellmanns – I feel sinful including this recipe in the round-up, but my family doesn’t have the best track record with chicken. However, everyone will devour this chicken and the leftovers taste pretty good as well. On Pinterest

Vegetable Beef Stew from allrecipes.com – I love this beef stew for two reasons–it makes a ton of stew and the leftovers freeze well. It’s also a great way to dump in all the vegetables. Comfort in a bowl. On Pinterest

Creamy Tomato and Bacon Linguine from Foodie with Family – This is a newer one in our rotation but it’s so delicious and I love that it cooks in all one pot. The leftovers the next day are even better. On Pinterest

Garlic Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops from Big Oven – A meat thermometer is key for this recipe or any pork chop dish. It’s so easy to over cook chops, but done correctly and this recipe has a great outside crust with a tender and juicy inside.

Cookie Favorite

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies from allrecipes.com. They’re so amazing. Though I cut the recipe in half because this makes a billion and I can’t resist them. I also add a bit of salt because what kind of cookie recipe doesn’t have salt?! On Pinterest

 

I’d love to hear what recipes you make over and over again that can be found online! Share your links below.

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Sweet and Sour Pork Balls

Sweet and Sour Pork Balls

  Trying new recipes is always a gamble with kids. I love experimenting in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s tough to get little ones to buy into something different. Even with mashed potatoes (what IS it with kids and mashed potatoes!). A few years ago I found a recipe for sweet and sour pork balls that we really enjoyed, and it’s one of those that I’m shocked everytime my kids gobble it up. Mom and […]

Posted 23 July, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 13 Comments
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A Blue Apron Experience

A Blue Apron Experience

For the past couple of years I’ve seen so many pictures on social media of my friends cooking up delicious sounding meals from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and the likes. If you’re not familiar with these food/meal delivery systems, the idea is a simple one–the company sends all of the ingredients needed to make an entire meal along with the recipe and helpful hints. I was thrilled when a friend told me she wanted to […]

Posted 15 July, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 38 Comments
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A Trip to Trader Joe’s

A Trip to Trader Joe’s

  Trader Joe’s has a bit of a cult-like following, it seems. People, especially on the west coast, are quite fanatical about the chain. If you’re not familiar (and I’m not an expert), it’s a small grocery store that specializes in it’s own food brand which keeps costs low. We didn’t get our first Trader Joe’s until a year or so ago, and before then all I really knew of them was the low prices […]

Posted 25 June, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 34 Comments
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Perfect Cherry Cheesecake

Perfect Cherry Cheesecake

  Cheesecake is the best, isn’t it? But it can also be such a personal dessert–some like a stiffer cheesecake while others prefer creamy. As cheesecake is one of our favorite desserts, I’ve made several throughout the years with varying success. I’ve had some crack nastily across the top, some that turned out dry and mealy, others that required cooking in a water bath, and others that just didn’t fit the bill. A few years ago, I […]

Posted 18 June, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 19 Comments
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Nonessential Kitchen Essentials

Nonessential Kitchen Essentials

  A few months ago I read an article on The Kitchn about the wedding registry gifts that really get used and those that don’t. I started thinking about my own registry and the things that are still in our cupboards (I love my Mikasa Italian Countryside dinnerware so much!), and I realized that with the exception of a few items, most of my kitchen essentials are things I’ve picked up along the way. And […]

Posted 5 March, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 37 Comments
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Tracking a Year of Meals

Tracking a Year of Meals

  Near the end of 2014 I was reading Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Rosenstrach started keeping track of her nightly meals in 1998 and has kept up with her food diaries through meticulous journaling. I’m notorious for being a failure at keeping a journal, but I wondered if I could keep up with a monthly calendar of what we ate each night. I printed out a blank calendar for the month and […]

Posted 23 January, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 29 Comments
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