Cooking Like I Mean It, Month 1

image courtesy preschoolsnacks.blogspot.comI am not a a terrible cook, but I am an unenthusiastic one.  The only time I really take pleasure in cooking is around holidays.  I love Christmas baking, and I enjoy putting together a big holiday dinner.  But the day in and day out work of feeding my family?  Not so much.  Also, I’m disorganized, and a procrastinator, and I have a crazy schedule.  That means, many days it’s nearly supper time and I have no food and no plan.  We have a lot of weeks when the menu looks something like this:

Monday – frozen pizza
Tuesday – fried chicken from the deli
Wednesday – a box of tacos from Taco Bell
Thursday – spaghetti and meatballs
Friday – subs from the deli
Saturday – leftover anything
Sunday – eat out

It is neither healthy nor economical.  It’s barely appetizing.

So one of my resolutions this year is to plan ahead, by the month, and cook more frequently.  I’m planning five dinners per week, which, if I stick to the plan, will be a major improvement.  I’m not attempting to become a foodie overnight.  We have one of those in our family, but we sent him to England.  When he gets back, I demand Beef Wellington and Pork Chili Verde.  Until then, I’m just aiming for easy and palatable.  If I try a recipe and it’s good enough to be a keeper, I’ll post the recipe on the blog.

I’m looking for accountability, and I’ve learned from last year’s resolutions that the blog  actually does provide some.

So here’s the report from month one.  I cooked far more meals than I usually do, but I also  had some days when our schedule kicked my fanny.  I’ve been trying to make Hoedown Meatballs for a few days now, but life won’t let me.  Today I used the ground beef to make a fast batch of sloppy joes, instead.  It’s food, but it’s not the food I wanted.  I also had a few meals that were not worth repeating.  But here are the keepers, just the best of the best:

Easy Pleasing Meatloaf.  I mean, really easy, as meatloaf goes.  It was fast assembly, and everyone liked it, so that’s good enough for me.

2 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg. stuffing mix for chicken
1 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. barbecue sauce, divided

Heat oven to 375.  Mix all ingredients except 1/4 c. barbecue sauce.  Shape mixture into loaf in a 13×9 baking dish.  Top with remaining barbecue sauce.  Bake 1 hour or until done (160 degrees).  See?  Easy.

Cuban Chicken  Good, and again, it was a hit with the family.  I wish it had more kick, though.  Maybe I can add something for that affect.  BONUS – it’s a slow cooker recipe.

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic
12 chicken drumsticks and/or thighs, skin removed
1/2 cup each lime juice and orange juice
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp each, salt and pepper
chopped cilantro (optional)

Place onion and garlic in slow cooker, arrange chicken on top.  Stir juices, cumin, paprika, salt & pepper together; pour over chicken.  Cook on low 5-8 hours until chicken is cooked through.  Serve over rice, spooning juices and onions on top.

Pecorino Chicken Fingers  Good enough, though I wish they had more flavor, too.

1 c. panko, toasted
1/3 c. freshly grated Pecarino (or other) Romano cheese
1/4 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1 clove garlic, crusched with press
1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenders

Preheat oven to 475.  Place rack on a jelly roll pan; spray pan and rack with cooking spray.  On a plate combine panko, romano cheese, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Set aside.  In a pie plate or other container whisk egg whites or whole eggs with garlic until well mixed.  Dip chicken tenderloins first in egg mixture then in panko mixture to coat evenly.  Press firmly so that mixture adheres.  Arrange chicken on rack in jelly roll pan.  Spray chicken lightly with cooking spray.  Back chicken 10-12 minutes until crust is golden brown and chicken is no longer pink throughout.  Marinara or other sauce may be used for dipping.

image courtesy opposed to the usual kind

Simple Sausage Lasagna  This is one of my favorite recipes, and it produced enough to feed the entire family, plus two guests, and every had seconds.  Fattening, but yummo.

1 lb. bulk pork sausage (preferably salciccia)
1 26 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 c. water
2 eggs, beaten
1 24 oz. carton cottage cheese
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. each garlic powder, peeper, dried basil and oregano
9 uncooked lasagna noodles
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook and crumble sausage until no longer pink’ drain.  Stir in the spaghetti sauce and water.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley and seasonings.  Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce into greased 9×13 baking dish.  Layer with three noodles and a third of the cheese mixture, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers twice.  Cover and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.  Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until noodles are tender.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Hungarian Goulash  Mr. Right loved it.  Bee thought it had too much onion, but she has an issue with onions.  BONUS – Slow cooker recipe.

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 large onion, sliced
1 14 1/2 oz. can beef broth
1  6 oz. can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. caraway seed, if desired
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. cold water
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 medium bell pepper, cut into strips
8 c. hot cooked noodles, for serving

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook beef in oil about 10 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until brown; drain.  Place beef and onion in slow cooker.  Mix broth, tomato paste, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, carraway seed, and pepper; stir into beef mixture.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 4-5 hours, until beef is tender.  Mix water and flour; gradually stir into beef mixture.  Stir in bell pepper.  Cover and cook on high setting for 30 minutes.  Serve goulash over noodles.

Onion Chicken Rice Bowls  This might be my favorite for the month.  So easy, and so good.  I doubled the recipe for our family.  The only thing I’d do differently is increase the amount of dressing/juice mix.  I’d like it a bit saucierTastes even better the next day.

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 cup Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Heat large nonstick skillet on medium high heat.  Add chicken, stir-fry 5 to 7 minutes or until done.  Stir in dressing and juice.  Bring to a boil.  Add vegetables, cook 5-7 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.  Serve over rice.  Sprinkle with nuts.

Pesto Crusted Grilled Cheese Sandwiches  An old favorite recipe, taking grilled cheese up a notch. Cheesy worships at the altar of grilled cheese.

1/3 c. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. jarred pesto sauce
8 sourdough bread slices (or French or Italian, or whatever is handy)
4 fontina or mozzarella cheese slices
1 12 oz. jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
4 cheddar cheese slices

Stir together mayo and pesto sauce.  Spread evenly on one side of each slice of bread.  Layer bread (pesto side out) with 1 fontina cheese slice, bell peppers, and 1 cheddar cheese slice, then another slice of bread.  Cook sandwiches on a griddle or in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown and cheese is melting.

Sausage with Peppers and Pasta  Very, very good, and visually pleasing as well.

3 cups rigatoni pasta, uncooked
1 lb. Italian sausage, sliced
1 each red, green and yellow pepper, coursely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta as directed on package.  Meanwhile cook sausage in large skillet on medium heat, 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add peppers, cook and stir 7 minutes or until sausage is done and peppers are crisp-tender.  Stir in tomatoes.  Cook 2 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.  Drain pasta.  Add to sausage mixture with shredded cheese; mix well.  Top with Parmesan.

Crockpot Chicken and Vegetables  After we’d eaten this for dinner I deboned and shredded the remaining chicken and added the leftover rice for a great chicken and rice soup.  Will ate it like crazy.  BONUS – slow cooker recipe

1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped carrots
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. chicken soup base
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence or other seasoning, as you like
2 lbs. chicken thighs, skin removed
3 c. water

Put the ingredients in a crockpot in the order in which they are listed.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with cooked rice.

Savory Lentil and Ham Soup – The recipe calls for Canadian Bacon, but I’d served ham one night and had some leftovers to work with.  Tess and I loved this soup.  No one else in our family does lentils, apparently.  Tastes even better the second day.  BONUS – slow cooker recipe

1 16 oz. package dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 14 /12 oz. cans ready-to-serve vegetable broth
1 6 oz. package sliced Canadian bacon, coursely chopped – or chopped ham
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium stalk celery, chopped
4 c. water
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low setting 8-9 hours, or high setting 3-5 hours, until lentils are tender.  Still well before serving.

Salsiccia Stuffed Shells  I can actually get certain picky children to eat spinach when I fix these.  Score.

1 12 oz. package jumbo pasta shells
1 1/4 lbs. fresh ground salsiccia or other bulk Italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
1 9-10 oz. package frozen creamed spinach
8 oz. shredded Italian style or mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 c. grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
1/2 c. Italian style breadcrumbs
1 26 oz. jar pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 400.  Cook shells according to directions on package.  Meanwhile, in large skillet, cook sausage and onion 10-12 minutes, or until sausage is not longer pink.  Add frozen spinach and cook 5-6 minutes until well blended and heated through.  Remove skillet from heat.  Stir in 1/2 c. Italian style cheese, Parmesan and breadcrumbs.  Spread 1 c. pasta sauce in bottom of ungreased 9×13 baking dish.  When noodles are cool enough to handle, fill each with rounded Tbsp. of sausage mixture.  Pack shells tightly in dish, stacking if necessary.  Spread remaining pasta sauce over shells; sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce bubbles at side of pan.


About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Daily Life, recipes, resolutions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cooking Like I Mean It, Month 1

  1. emmycooks says:

    I agree! Life is better when you cook & eat well. 🙂


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