Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Busy cook's plan ahead for December meals

12/1/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

December is a hectic month for the chief cook and bottle washers in most households. Planning meals in the chaos of everyday life is difficult enough without factoring in holiday activities. My advice? Right now — before craziness escalates to the point of madness — is the time to plan everyday meals for the rest of the month.

Planning is mandatory. Otherwise, fast food madness takes over and soon everyone is grouchy and sluggish because they’re on carbohydrate, salt and fat overload. A flexible weekly menu will work for an entire month. Here’s a sample:

Monday: Meatloaf, roast beef, chicken or pork
Tuesday: Soup or stew
Wednesday: Pasta (macaroni and cheese)
Thursday: Simple supper (breakfast; hot dogs ‘n beans)
Friday: Stir fry; Fish (salmon patties)
Saturday: Mexican (tacos, enchiladas, casserole)
Sunday: Leftovers

I like to start out the week with a meat entrée that can be used in other meals. Leftover meatloaf makes great hot or cold sandwiches. Leftover roast beef, chicken or pork can be used in soups, stews and Mexican dishes. Always make enough soups, stews or casseroles for two meals; and be sure and use your crock pot!

Once you decide on an entrée the rest of the meal is ‘a piece of cake.’ Mash or bake potatoes for meat entrees. Be sure that vegetables and fruit somehow find their way into dinners. Add a green salad to go with soups and casseroles. Change up the taste by tossing in some mandarin oranges and nuts. No lettuce? Put together a platter of carrots and celery with some ranch dressing and a few scattered olives to entice the kids. Enjoy!

Breakfast Frittata for Dinner

4 medium potatoes, cooked and grated
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
3/4 cup green and red bell pepper, diced
1 cup cooked ham, diced
8 eggs, beaten with 3 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated and divided
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated and divided
Sour cream

In a large (oven-proof) skillet, heat oil and butter. Sauté potatoes until light brown. Add more oil if needed and add onion, peppers and ham. Cook until vegetables are translucent. Stir in eggs and 1/4 cup of each of the cheeses; cook until firm on the bottom about 5 min. Top frittata with remainder of cheese and place in oven until cheese is melted and eggs are set; about 10 min. Garnish as desired. Serves 4 generously.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

8 ounces angel hair pasta, uncooked
2 cups broccoli florets
1 pound skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips
1/2 cup toasted Asian sesame dressing
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon each ginger, garlic powder, crushed red pepper
1/3 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 minutes of cooking time.

Meanwhile, spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat on medium high heat. Add chicken; cook 6-8 min. or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper; cook and stir 1 min.

Drain pasta mixture; place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture and mix lightly. Spoon evenly into 4 serving bowls; sprinkle with peanuts. (Makes 2-cup servings.)

Pasta Fagioli

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 carrot, chopped small
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups reserved water from cooking pasta
2 16 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained
½ pound small farfalle pasta
½ cup fresh, flat leaf Italian parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup basil leaves, torn roughly (optional)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Pour pasta in and stir. Boil for 5 minutes and drain reserving 2 cups of the pasta water. Pasta will be very firm but will continue to cook when combined with other ingredients. Rinse and set aside.

In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add onion and carrot and sauté on medium heat until vegetables are soft but not brown, (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute more. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and cannellini beans. Stir in parsley, reserved pasta water and pasta and bring to a simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle generously with cheese. Top with basil leaves and serve with bread and a simple green salad with vinaigrette dressing. Serves 6-8.

Taco Bake

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 envelope (1 1/4 ounces) taco seasoning mix
1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (16 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar or process American cheese (8 ounces)
2 cups Original Bisquick®
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Sour cream, chopped tomato and shredded lettuce, if desired

1. Pre-heat oven to 325° F. Grease 13x9x2 inches baking pan.

2. Cook ground beef and onion in 10-inch skillet, stirring frequently, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in dry seasoning mix, tomato sauce and corn. Spoon into pan; sprinkle with cheese. In mixing bowl, combine Bisquick, milk and eggs until smooth. Pour over beef mixture.

3. Bake about 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before cutting.

Top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and sour cream. To make it extra-special, add sliced ripe olives, guacamole and something spicy like chopped jalapeno chilies or chunky salsa.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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