Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pasta Oh My

When Drew found out we were having a pasta dish for dinner tonight, I could tell he was not that enthused.  When we had taken this same meal to another family from church and stopped by the grocery store on our way home and he said, "I am psyching myself up for pasta tonight, " I was a little worried.  You see, we had this conversation a few days back about the proverbial tightening of the belt.  I told him I would like to cut our grocery budget as my part in saving money around the house and that may include having pasta more often.  He nodded some sort of agreement and I thought we were on the same page.  Then came the "psyching up" comment.  I was nervous.
Well, we have eaten dinner and cleaned the kitchen and I can report that Drew is doing just fine.  He made it through dinner mostly unscathed and said of our pasta dish, "I would not be upset if we had it again."  This, fair readers, is what we call success around here!  I even teased Drew that the leftovers were what he is having for lunch tomorrow. 
The menu for tonight was part of the fix-once, eat-a-bazillion-times make ahead meal plan I told you about a couple days ago.  This dish was Pasta Roll-Ups, which is like a lasagna in a lasagna noodle roll with sauce around and on top.  I was already eating dinner, when I realized I had not taken a picture, so your imagination will have to conjure what the results look like.  It was a fairly easy recipe to follow and I enjoyed the roll-up process.  I think the recipe could have called for a bit more of the filling, but that may just by my insatiable love of cheese talking.  The meat sauce I cooked up on Monday definitely lends itself better to this Italian application.  I would make this again and I do think it makes a great meal to take to another family, should you need to.  That brings the grand total of meals made from this recipe to three.  Not bad.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: PC 29 Minutes to Dinner 2

I figure it may be helpful for my readers to get a summary after I "finish" cooking through a cookbook.  You know the usual what was good, what was not, and my general thoughts on the cookbook.  So what do I mean by "finish?" Obviously, it does not mean I will never pull out this cookbook again, but it does mean I have pretty well cooked what sounded good to me at the time I was meal planning. What sounded good was likely based on just that, but also on creating variety in my dishes (e.g., no pasta more than once or twice a month).  Note: I am doing this review based on the fact that I am moving on to another "primary" cookbook.  I will be cooking something from this one next week when basketball season gets going!

So here goes for the Pampered Chef's 29 Minutes to Dinner 2 (by the numbers):
56 - number of recipes in the book
13 - number of recipes tried thus far (way below my regular average per cookbook)
15 - number of recipes that would never make it in our household (again not a normal number)
28 - number of recipes left to try (that is exactly half - I did well in math...once)

Favorite recipes: Corn & Poblano Chowder, Mexican Sausage Skillet, Moroccan-Spiced Apricot Chicken with Couscous
Not so Favorite: Seared Scallops with Creamy Parsley Pesto

One of the things I do like about this cookbook is the simplicity of the procedures. This is really a beginner to moderate cookbook. Recipes like these go to show you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen to get great tasting and often sophisticated results.
Although the numbers don't mete this out, I would recommend this cookbook based on the variety of dishes.  You could literally tour the globe without stepping out your front door by cooking through this cookbook.  In fact, that is a great idea for menu planning next time - a different country each night of the week.  What do you think?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Big Batch Cooking

Normally, I do not make large quantities of food.  This is due, in large part, to our small family.  The other reason: we are not leftover friendly (by we, I mean, one of us).  At least that is what one of us thinks.  Tonight's dinner is proof that leftovers can be different for each meal.  This is often called morphing or cook once, eat twice meal planning. I did a lot of this type of meal planning while cooking through Robin Miller's cookbooks.  I highly recommend her cookbooks to all the mom readers out there.  She has really simple, flavorful recipes that save time and money in the kitchen.  She has a new cookbook I don't have yet and the next time I need a cookbook, I have a pretty good idea what I will choose.  
Tonight's dinner plan includes a plan for 2 meals this week and one next week.  I am so pleased to know there is a Master Planner in control of the meal plans I make.  I am thankful to find that, though this week offers much to do and limited time to do it all, I had already planned to make this cook once, eat 3 times meal.  What a blessing!

Here's the rundown:  PC's Stoneware Inspirations Make Ahead Get Ahead menu plan for Hearty Meat Sauce.  The meals made from this meat sauce: Beef Tostadas, Pasta Roll-ups, and Chili Bread Bowls.  We had the tostadas tonight, will have the pasta roll-ups on Wednesday, and will have the chili bread bowls early next week.  The beef tostadas left a little to be desired in the flavor department, but I know the flavors of the meat sauce will lend themselves better to the chili and pasta roll ups.  I am looking forward to the pasta on Wednesday.  You might notice in the picture that there are 3 containers ready for the fridge/freezer.  Bonus:  this freezes for up to 3 months and I have a head start on a meal for the holiday season!  Gotta love it!
By the way, Drew stopped by the store and got the items necessary to make the meat sauce and I was pleased to find out that all these ingredients cost about $14.00 (no sales, no coupons).  We will eat 4 times on this and I am planning to bless another family with a meal later this week.  That breaks down to about $3.00 a meal.  Not bad!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Slow Cooker Success!

It has finally happened!  My slow cooker has produced an edible and enjoyable meal!  I have been doing some soul searching in regards to the slow cooker and I came up with a solution to the problems I have been experiencing.  The solution: fill the slow cooker at least two thirds full and make sure there is plenty of liquid for the food.  Applying this newfound strategy to tonight's dinner produced a success!!! Yea!

The recipe from Fix it and Forget It Slow Cooker Magic: Cream of Broccoli soup.  I served this, as you can see, in a bread bowl for two.  We are large fans of the soup/bread bowl combo.  This soup was no exception.  I would say I followed this recipe as a guide rather than following it verbatim.  I changed almost every ingredient in the list.  The changes included using different soups (I mean they are really mostly the same), different cheese, and different milk (fat-free milk...are you kidding me?).  In the future, I would blend the final result so the broccoli is much smaller a la Panera Bread.  Overall, a pretty foolproof recipe.   As always, I was happy to cook while doing other things around the house.  Gotta love the slow cooker...when it is good, it is oh so good; when it is is bad...well, lets not revisit that.