Menu Plan 11/7-11/13

 

It’s that time of year when it starts getting chilly and we will be doing more crock pot meal.  I’ll be posting the boiled chicken recipe I use since I won’t be grilling it this next time around.

I didn’t get around to making the sweet potato pound cake, but I might attempt it this weekend since I’m making my sweet potatoes in the oven tonight. I did make the slab apple pie though and it was good, but I’d leave out the bottom crust next time, because I really didn’t taste it much. We just love the apple crisp (our standby recipe).

Here’s the plan for next week.

I’ll bake my potatoes sometime on Saturday for Sunday’s menu.

Sunday-Potato Soup I’m trying a new recipe without the usual chicken broth I add to my recipe. I’ll let you know what I think and I will still post mine, but frugal girl’s sounded really good. I’m going to load it up like she  and serve it with cornbread.

Monday-talipia (grilled if the weather is permissible and pan sautéed in olive oil if not), baked potatoes, spinach salad

Tuesday-Hebrew National hotdogs, with stir-fried peppers and onions, potato skins

Thursday-pantry soup and grilled cheese for hubby and kids (I’m teaching class)

Friday-Baja Chicken Pizza (Kraft recipe on the back of a cheese bag)

Saturday-grilled hamburgers (if weather permits) backup plan is black bean casserole in the freezer.

Thawing foods in a shoebox

Thawing bags of food can be tricky because moisture is developing as they thaw. I’ve tried to thaw quart size bags on a plate before, but it takes up a lot of space in the fridge and the corners will drip onto the shelves. Have you ever had this problem? Here’s some refrigerator thawing tips.

The answer is to use 5 or 6 quart plastic shoebox (dollar store kind) in your fridge. I keep one handy in my cabinet for thawing purposes.  My current box holds 3 bags of fajita chicken in marinade. I started thawing this out two days ago for dinner on Thursday. Since I had over six pounds of chicken, it needed a good 2 day thaw. The box fits nicely in between shelves.

Guess what? The box catches all the condensation as it is thawing. When I’m ready to grill, I can use the box to transport the chicken and then I wash it in hot soapy water for the next thawing.

If  you forgot to thaw your food in the fridge and you need a quick thaw (2 hours or less), you can immerse your frozen bags in cold water for a while or try microwave thawing. Don’t leave it in the water all day, especially if it’s meat, this is unsafe thawing.

I typically thaw soups, meat, poultry, sauces and broths in my box. What could you thaw in your box?

Freezing Potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas or Anytime

We all love a good buy and potatoes are a great price at Ingles this week through Saturday, 11/6/2010.  A 10-pound bag of russets is just $2.50! The standard price is 3.99 to 4.99.

Most of us think of fresh-baked potatoes on the menu we see a sale like this, but what do you do with the leftover bag. Some might let the bag grow sprouts and eyes and others may wait until they smell something funny. Let’s not be one of those who let the bag of potatoes rot. Let’s make some potato dishes, such as potato skins, twice baked potatoes, my personal favorite, baked potato soup, and hash-browned potatoes. Did you know all of these can be frozen? Cubed potatoes can also be frozen. I’m thinking mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why not at this price?

I found the following method online to help us prep potato cubes for quick meals. I’ll be posting my baked potato soup recipe as soon as I purchase my potatoes. I’ll buy 20 pounds (2 bags) and bake as many potatoes as possible in my oven for many different side dishes throughout the week. Now that’s saving energy, time and money. Happy potato baking or boiling, whichever you prefer.

Freezing - To freeze large potatoes, begin by washing, peeling, and removing eyes. Cut into ½ inch cubes and blanch for 5 minutes. Immerse in ice water immediately following for same duration of time. For smaller, thin-skinned potatoes, scrub, blanch for 4 minutes, and bathe in ice before placing produce in an airtight freezer bag (from Green Giant Website)

Perfect Baked Potato in the Microwave

Scrub potatoes and pierce with fork. Lightly oil hands with olive oil and rub potatoes generously. Sprinkle kosher or sea salt on potatoes. Microwave on a microwave safe plate for approximately 6 minutes per large potato. I typically nuke 6 potatoes and it requires about 25-30 minutes depending on size. I will check them with a silicone hot pad to see if they are squishy (give gently). When they slightly give when I squeeze them, they are done. I immediately wrap them in a piece of foil to allow them to steam on the counter. Steaming time can vary depending on how much longer until dinner time. Just allow them to sit approximately 5-10 minutes to further soften the interior. Unwrap and enjoy a faux oven baked potato! They are so good with the works just like dining out. Butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese, salt, pepper, green onions or chives. This could be a meal with a salad. Enjoy!

What kind of potato dishes do you enjoy?

Freezer Chicken Fajita Marinade Tutorial

grilled chicken fajita

I’ve been taking advantage of the warmer weather and continue to grill our chicken for various dishes. I’m still buying chicken on sale, $2 or less a pound. I throw the marinade together and freeze the chicken in the marinade for  future grilling.

I’m using two family packs of chicken to marinate.

I butterfly the breasts so they receive a good coating as they thaw. I also trim any excess fat.  The chicken is prepped and set aside.

Next I prepare the recipe below in a large glass measuring cup. This easily pours into three bags. Don’t forget to date and label your bags before you fill them.  Even though I’m grilling it all at the same time, three bags thaw quicker than one gallon size bag.

slightlyadapted from  Our Best Bites

 

Freezer Chicken Fajita Marinade

Yield: Marinade for 8 to 10 boneless chicken breast cutlets

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 garlic cloves pressed or substitute 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons liquid smoke (found in the bbq sauce section of store)
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper (3/4 tsp. ground pepper)
  • 1 t. onion powder

Instructions

  1. Label three quart-size freezer bags with date and contents.
  2. Place upright in a plastic shoebox.
  3. Slice 8-10 boneless chicken breasts into cutlets and divide among three bags.
  4. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a 4-cup measuring glass.
  5. Whisk well and divide among three bags filled with chicken breast cutlets.
  6. Squeeze air out of bags and seal.
  7. Freeze flat in the shoebox. Remove box when the chicken is frozen solid.
  8. Thaw 24 hours in the shoebox in the refrigerator to prevent any contents leaking. Grill until juices run clear. Do not over cook.
  9. Cover with foil and stand 5 minutes before serving. Grilled chicken can be refrozen for convenient future meals.
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I divide the chicken among the three bags along with the marinade. I eyeball it. No exact measuring involved. It appears to be a little under 2 cups total, so around 3/4 cup per bag if you want to get mathematical.

 

I give the marinade a good whirl with the whisk to mix in everything right before I pour. The weight of the chicken holds the bags steady as I pour and then I squeeze as much air out as possible being careful not to squeeze out the marinade.

Now that was easy. The three bags lie flat in my freezer and take up less space than the original packages. I’m going to have moist delicious chicken ready to grill without having to deal with frozen chicken or spices. I’m ready to thaw it all out and grill all three bags and have a grilled chicken dinner one night. I cool, dice and bag the remaining chicken for convenience chicken. 4 cups are reserved for enchiladas the next day. The rest of the diced chicken is portioned in 1-cup portions in quart size bags. I used these throughout the month for various recipes, such as quesadillas, pizza, tacos and more.

What recipes would you use your chicken fajita?

Menu Plan 10/31-11/6

I make chicken enchiladas when chicken goes on sale (under $2 a pound). I’ll marinate the chicken first and grill it as a meal and cut up the rest for enchildas and freeze bags of diced, cooked chicken for other meals. Enchildas can be frozen uncooked and baked for a potluck. This is our family favorite casserole so I make three pans about every 4-6 weeks.

Sunday-Crockpot turkey Chili got pushed from Sat. to Sun, cornbread

Monday-breakfast bar-eggs, frozen homemade biscuits, applesauce, turkey sausage

Tuesday-Tacos, carrots, pintos (from the freezer) and cheese

Wednesday-soup, grilled cheese, carrot sticks

Thursday-Grilled Chicken, sweet potatoes, salad, garlic bread

Friday-PNO potluck-taking enchildas and undecided dessert

Saturday-manicotti from the freezer, green beans, garlic bread

Snacks: Cinnamon rolls http://cookandplay.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/freezer-baking-47-cinnamon-rolls/(freeze some)

Weekly Dessert: Sweet Potato poundcake or slab apple pie?

How to freezer cook 8 Dozen Italian Meatballs

When is the best time to make meatballs? When your preferred meat goes on sale, of course. The average price per pound for ground beef in our area is $1.77 at Harris Teeter and $1.88 at Ingles this week so I’m making a double bubble batch. If you go early in the morning you ma get a reduced price from the day before (which is perfectly safe) if you make your meatballs and freeze them within 24 hours. Don’t let it sit in your fridge a while and then do it. If you don’t have time to make meatballs, you can freeze the meat and then thaw, cook and refreeze cooked.

I had two 3.5 pound packages of meat so I divided one into three pounds with a knife. Then I split one of the 1 pound parts in half and added it to my large 3,5 package and I had 4 pounds of meat for a double batch. The other two parts were devoted to tacos for the kids (went into the freezer).

First I measure  dry seasonings and beaten eggs and add this to the mixer. Then I mix until the oatmeal is moistened. You can also use bread.

I add the beef  and you can tell my mixer is full so I carefully mix it slow-just on the stir mode in short intervals (stopping and starting) until the beef starts to mix. Mix it until the fat is distributed. Gross, huh? You could do this by hand, if you’re not afraid of fat and lots of dishwashing liquid and hot water at the end.

Then I use my handy dandy notebook (just kidding); I’ve been hearing too many blues clues episodes. I love this scoop for everything. I never roll my meatballs or measure. I just use the scoop and scrape off the excess on the side of the bowl.

This step could be omitted, but foil catches the grease and you can throw it away when you’re done. It’s harsh on your septic pipes, especially without hot, hot water rinsing it down. It makes clean-up easier (I should work for a Reynolds).

I’ve scooped about eight dozen onto a rimmed cookie sheet and a 9×13 baking dish (you need it to be rimmed to keep the grease contained).

 I label and date my freezer bags while the meatballs are baking. I prefer the non-slider bags because they squeeze out more air, but this is what I had for some reason.

 Remove meatballs when they are done. I baked a double recipe for about 25 minutes (use a timer). Then allow them to cool  completely (cool to the touch-about 20 minutes or longer if you have time) on a plate with paper towels to drain excess fat. I’m using cloth napkins because I don’t use paper towels. I love using a tong because I can easily grab several meatballs at a time and it’s a great tool for loading them into the freezer bag.

 I put approximately 12 meatballs (4 per person) in a bag. I roll the air out by rolling the meatballs toward the zipper and then I seal the zipper. It’s almost like a vacuum seal. Like I said earlier, the slider bags don’t get as much of the air out :(

 I have eight bags for various meals throughout the month! See the meal ideas below and add your own. Double the ingredients below if you plan to make a double bubble recipe (it’s worth the effort and it requires no extra time).

 

How to freezer cook 8 Dozen Italian Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup soft breadcrumbs (about 1 slice) or ¾ cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey or beef

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients, except meat in a mixing bowl.
  2. Mix on low speed for about 1 minute.
  3. Add meat and mix on low pulses to mix thoroughly.
  4. Shape meatballs using a 1” scoop. Place all on a single layer pan or 9x13 pans with rims.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove and drain on paper towels and let cool about 30 minutes until cool to the touch.
  7. Label and date quart size bags. Divide approximately 40 meatballs among bags; 4-5 meatballs person.
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Meal ideas:

What is your favorite way to serve meatballs?