Category Archives: Time Crunch Tested

Eat- Meal Prep Mondays!

It’s no secret that Keri loves a good menu plan. She loves it almost as much as she loves referring to herself in 3rd person. Ha ha ha (seriously though, I do use 3rd person a lot. Probably has some super deep psychological meaning. OH LOOK, I digress already.)

I am a huge proponent of menu planning as a way to save time and money, and reduce stress on my working mom self.
I have a whole shopping and planning system which I talked about here. I won’t go down that rabbit hole today, as it is deep and long, and probably really scary to innocent onlookers.
BUT in addition to my menu planning, I also love a good round of prep cooking to get my week set up for success.

When I start talking about what I do to prep every week in casual conversation, I get some heavy sideways glances. “Oh Keri, that’s not going to make a difference,” say the non-believers. “I don’t have time to do all of that,” say the negative Nellies.
“That sounds like a lot to do,” say the naysayers.

But nay nay, Naysayers is what I say! (Watch me whip, watch me say nay nay…. couldn’t resist.)
Most Mondays I spend about 1 hour, including clean up,  prepping things I will use to make meals throughout the week. Some prep will actually cover coming weeks as well, as I sometimes grill big batches of chicken breast to freeze for later use, or make a bunch of turkey meatballs and bake them off before freezing.

With my contract writing jobs becoming  more frequent, and my determination to make time every evening to spend with Jr and The Hub, cooking is just NOT something I can devote hours too every night. I know many of you can relate! (Can I get an amen!?)

So,  I thought I’d share this week’s menu and prep with you to show how a quick prep session can make it easy to get dinner on the table lickety-split at night.

This week’s menu:

Monday: Siracha pork and broccoli bowls

Tuesday: Turkey kielbasa with peppers, corn (for the carb lovers in the house.)

Wednesday: Stuffed chicken breast, frozen veggie (probably cauliflower.)

Thursday: Taco casseroles, avocado green salad

Friday: Charcuterie and cheese platter (very typical Friday night fare, I keep a running stash of different ingredients I can throw together after Jr. goes to sleep when The Hub and I finally get to stop and take a breath at the end of the week.0

Saturday: Dinner out at a local spot

Sunday: Pot roast and roasted veggies (I will need to pull this from the freezer on Friday morning, so I make sure it is on the posted menu to help me remember.)

How I prepped:

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Oh look – there’s Keri’s kitchen in the thick of Monday prep time.

– The skillet is full of browning meat for the taco casserole, which I season with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

-I have shredded cheese for the casserole

-The crock pot has 1 lb of pork roast being cooked in a mixture of Pampered Chef Asian Seasoning and Siracha.

-On the back left side of the stove I am also hard-boiling eggs for my breakfasts this week, and (not pictured) there are chicken thighs on the grill for my lunches.

-I am cutting red peppers – 1 half pepper for the taco casserole mixture, the other 1 and 1/2 cut in strips for sautéing with the kielbasa on Tuesday. (Note the plastic bag – I keep a trash bag or bowl right on the counter and pitch everything in there so I am not going back and forth to the trash.  Thanks Rachel Ray, for giving that handy tip years ago!)

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After setting a little bit of the meat aside for Jr. (who is in his extra picky 4 year old phase,) I toss the peppers and cheese into the slightly cooled skillet of seasoned ground turkey, and divide it into individual large ramekins:

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These came with handy lids so I can seal them up and stack in the fridge.  (I do a variation on this type of “casserole” almost every week.  The Bacon Cheeseburger variety is another I have mentioned on ED&BK previously.)

I bag up the pepper strips, divide the eggs and chicken thighs into containers for my daytime meals, and do my dishes.  Just under an hour.

Done and done.

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This leaves only a few quick steps each evening:

Monday: drain and shred the pork, add Siracha to taste, steam broccoli (cut, blanched and frozen during a broccoli hording round of prep a few weeks ago.)

Tuesday: Cut Kielbasa into chunks and quick sauté with red peppers. Heat canned corn. Pull previously grilled chicken breasts from freezer for tomorrow

Wednesday: Turn on oven to 375, slit chicken breasts and stuff with pepperoni and cheese and stick in oven to heat for 110-12 minutes. Steam frozen veggie.

Thursday: Remove casseroles from fridge and allow to come to room temp while oven heats to 375.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Slice avocado. Serve with bagged salad (so lazy, Keri.)

Friday: Take roast for Sunday out of freezer to thaw in fridge.  From there it goes something like this – watch Jr eat ANOTHER PB&J and “GoGurt Simple” for dinner.  Decide to pick battles. Open wine, put Jr to bed. Pull out selection of meat and cheese (it varies,  but there is always a LARGE pile of prosciutto which Keri doesn’t have to share because The Hub doesn’t care for it.) Stack up high on cutting board along with crackers, cheese crisps, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  Sprawl out on floor with aforementioned wine, and exhale.

Another week of dinners with exactly ZERO pain in my patoot, thanks to one hour on Monday (or Sunday, or whenever it works for you,) spent prepping!

Hooray!!  We should treat ourselves to another glass of wine, no?

What are your favorite time and sanity saving tricks in the kitchen?  I am always on the hunt for great ideas, so shout them out in the comments below and share with all of us!

 

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Eat, low carb, Meal Prep, Menu Lists, Time Crunch Tested

>Egg topped noodles -Penny Pincher redo

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So when I promised a Penny Pincher version of this fabulous and yummy-sounding recipe from Bon Appetit magazine this week, it was without consulting the magic 8 ball that would have no doubt told me “not likely” or “try again later” or (if it was a REALLY fancy magic 8 ball) “you will be too busy barfing and sipping flat coke this week, Keri.”
I have tummy trouble. 😦
Eating actually sounds like an awful idea to Keri right now – take a picture, this is maybe the 5th moment in my entire 33 years that this has happened.
But the blog must go on, right? So I did it anyway. (Who loves you? Keri does, that’s who!)
What did I do different than the original recipe above? It was all about ingredient substitutions, actually, I followed the same basic steps, but I worked with what I had.
In a pot of boiling water seasoned well with salt, I placed two servings’ worth of Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti (actually, I would have loved to use whole wheat pasta in the place of the buckwheat noodles called for in the original recipe, but I got a great deal on the Smart Taste a couple weeks ago, so it is what we had.)
While the pasta cooked, I heated up a swirl of olive oil in a skillet and added 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic to the oil over medium high heat. Within a minute I also added 4 slices of extra lean turkey bacon (salty and crispy and yummy, but less expensive than prosciutto and ALWAYS on hand in my fridge). The bacon crisped and got some nice color, and then I removed it to a plate.
To the pasta pot I added 1 cup of sliced broccoli stems (I usually save them for soup since The Hub only really likes “the tree part” of broccoli, but their bright green color and firm crunch seemed the perfect substitution for Asparagus, which I will buy if the price is right, but didn’t have in the house.) I let that cook with the pasta for about 2 minutes before draining the pasta and returning to the pan, along with some grated Parmesan cheese. I covered the pot to let the cheese get melty and keep everything warm.
Meanwhile, I cracked two eggs into the pan that I had cooked the bacon and garlic in earlier and let the eggs cook over medium low heat, covered, until the whites were set.
I added the bacon to the pasta mixture and gave everything a good stir before nesting the pasta on to two plates and topping with the eggs.
I snuck a bite. It was worth feeling sick afterwards – the salty tang of the cheese and the bacon, the crisp crunch of the broccoli, and the comforting bite of pasta coated with the rich egg yolk all together? It was the perfect bite.
Simple, economical, and super quick – this one is getting made again when I can dig into a whole plate!

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Penny Pincher, Picture, Time Crunch Tested

>Beefy Mac with Creamy Tomato Sauce

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I know it looks a little um, unimpressive, shall we say – but people, this is tasty as heck!! The secret here really is in the sauce.
While you are boiling your elbow macaroni:
Brown 1/2 lb ground beef and drain
Then add to the beef:
1/4 – 1/2 brick of cream cheese
1 palmful of Basil
12-16 oz of tomato sauce (I buy the 8 oz cans of the cheapy store brand sauce by the tomato paste and doctor it up myself.)
Stir it all together over medium heat, allowing the cream cheese to melt into the sauce. mmmmmm.
Then drain and add your pasta, sprinkle some Mozzarella cheese if desired, and serve in a delicious mound. I repeat: mmmmmm.

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Filed under Penny Pincher, Picture, Time Crunch Tested

>Teachin’ Ya Tuesdays – Making Menu Planning Work for You

> Last week my fabulous friend Kate repeated the same lament I have heard from girlfriends and ED&BK readers alike: “My freezer is full but I don’t see anything to actually cook!” Every week groceries get bought and put away, and every night full pantries and fridges are met with blank, overwhelmed stares.
The answer to this? Menu planning. Regardless of how you attack your grocery shopping, menu planning can make the most of your time and money and make getting dinner on the table each night oh-so-easy.
Each week I take a peak in the freezer and pantry cabinet to see what I have, I consider any new recipes I have found that I want to try, what favorite recipes we haven’t had in a while, and any time commitments that might affect dinner plans during the week. Then I make a list of meals for the week which hangs on the side of the fridge where I can easily see it.
But there is one more step, and this is a biggie – it can make or break the whole thing: I gather the frozen meat I will need for the week and I put it all in a bottom drawer in my fridge (in a glass dish just in case there is any leaking) so it will at least begin to thaw. (The picture above was from this menu plan.) I pull any canned items I want to use to the front of the pantry cabinet, and I make sure any fresh fruit or veggies are washed and easily seen and accessed in the produce drawer. If I have any other prep that I can do (making bread crumbs, grating cheese, etc, ) I get that done as well.
With all of that done, I know what I am making, and I know I have everything I need to make it. There are no surprises that way, and no excuses needed. Dinners are ready in a snap.
I encouraged Kate to give it a try, and to take it a step further and start out with an “eat from the freezer” week – a week of menus planned using ONLY what they already have in the house.
Taking less than an hour a week to do just a little bit of planning can transform dinner preparation from a dreaded chore to a quick and enjoyable activity each evening.

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Filed under Picture, Teachin' Ya Tuesdays, Time Crunch Tested

>Hamburger Stew really sounds boring…

>Sunflower Market has killer prices on ground meat right now. So I loaded up on ground chicken and extra lean ground beef and stocked the freezer. ( I get excited about the strangest things.)

In addition, King Soopers has Campbell’s Condensed Soups on sale this week, and I had a coupon for them as well – so I snapped up some cans of various types that I can use for bases and sauces.

Last night I browned 3/4 lb of the extra lean ground beef in my big stock pot, and then added in 1/4 cup of red wine to deglaze the pan (add it and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.)
Then I used a can of Campbell’s Beef Consomme made according to the directions on the can, adding that to the pot along with 1/2 of a can of mixed veggies. All of that came to a simmer together and I also shook in a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. Meanwhile I cooked two handfuls of Egg Noodles (I use No Yolks because of The Hub’s Cholesterol issues) in a separate pan of boiling water and sliced some fabulous crusty sourdough bread (shhhh, don’t tell – from the day old rack.)

Using two teaspoons of corn starch and two teaspoons cold water, I made a slurry and added to the boiling stew, mixing rapidly to thicken. Then I added the egg noodles and ladled it into bowls.
SO MUCH FLAVOR! The Hub gave it a bit of the stink-eye because of the simplicity, I think, but he really dug it. Hooray for simple, hearty,delicious, stretch-a-buck meals!!

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Filed under Ground Beef, Penny Pincher, Time Crunch Tested

>Quick and Healthy Chicken Soft Tacos

>Happy 2010, Everyone!

It must be the week after vacation, because here I am nursing some sort of cold/virus/ickiness, just like I always seem to be the first work week of the new year.

In the past feeling crummy has lead to some pretty lazy cooking incidents. (For instance, the Pizzacicle post lives on for all to see. I am impressed that I took time to add a visual aid to it, a least.)
I did a bit better last night, in spite of feeling crummy.

I diced one HUGE b/s chicken breast into small cubes and sauteed it in a big skillet sprayed with cooking spray until it was just brown on the outside. Then I removed it from the heat and stirred in some of my famous special taco sauce, as discussed in this post, although I have graduated to just buying bottles of Taco Bell hot sauce to make it now. I used 1/4 cup of yogurt and 1/4 cup of the hot sauce to season the chicken cubes while they were still in the hot pan.

After which each of 3 large flour tortillas (I used whole wheat) got cut in half, and each half filled with a pile of pre-shredded cabbage and carrot coleslaw mixture, a portion of the chicken, and a shake of Tabasco sauce to kick the heat up a notch.

I confess I didn’t really plate anything, just piled them on a platter and stuck them in between us on the table. The whole dinner took less than 20 minutes from start to “on the table” – and a good chunk of that was chopping up the chicken before cooking.

Sorry, no pictures.. 😦

Off to find my DayQuil stash.

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Filed under Chicken, Lighter Side, Time Crunch Tested

>Tasty and Quick Chicken Tenders

>All of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has Keri a little pooped out, to be honest. Last night I knew I had chicken tenders thawed in the fridge, so I pulled them out and let them marinade in some Ken’s Northern Italian Lite dressing while I shrugged off the uniform of the day and slid on swishy pants and a cozy sweatshirt. (Ok, and maybe made a nice big dirty martini for The Hub and myself too.)
Then I wrapped each tender in a half a piece of prosciutto (cut lengthwise) and baked on a rack at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

On to the plate it went with a mix of medium diced potato and broccoli, steamed in the microwave with a pat of Olivio and generously sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes.

Yum.

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Filed under Picture, Time Crunch Tested