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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Taking Back the Kitchen: "Planned-Over" Meals

By Guest Blogger, Summer R

We all know how important family dinners are. The only guesswork in our house is what we will cook that night. Well, guess what? I have four kids, none of which go to school. I work in the afternoons from 4 to 6 pm as a high school coach, Mondays I teach a little playschool, Wednesday we have Bible Study, Thursdays the kids have ballet and gym. And recently I forged a very strong attachment to the YMCA. So, like every other mother--when I get to the end of our day.. the last thing I want to be worrying about is what’s for dinner.

I got a brief taste of what a stress-free dinner feels like when I had a baby followed closely by a back surgery. Nearly every evening for weeks, some sort of dinner would arrive via Casserole Cavalry. One lasagna and macaroni and cheese pie at a time, the casserole brigade saved my life, and taught me that a little prep and organization puts a rainbow of hope on the other side of the armpit hours of my day. (Don’t pretend pre-dinner hours don’t make you want to tear your hair out, and if you’re not pretending, perhaps you would like to share your triumphs at the end of this blog!).

Here's where I came up with the idea of the "planned-over" meal...

Otherwise known as the left-over you PLAN to turn into tomorrow’s dinner. You can effectively chop the cooking prep time (and CLEAN UP time) in half. These are the meals that create two meals for the work of one without having to just serve plain “leftovers”. Ummm okay. AWESOME.

Thus far in my time efficiency adventure I have developed a few staple planned-overs that our family gobbles up. Some of which I list here to tantalize you...

- Roasted Pork Tenderloin and veggies Gives Two meals as BBQ pork sandwiches and mashed sweet potatoes.

- Lentil soup Gives Two meals as Lentil Lie-sagna (cause your hubby won’t believe it’s not meat!!)

- Black Bean and Corn Salad Gives Two meals and can be better than "Welcome to Moe’s."

- Baked Salmon and sauteed Green Beans Gives Two meals as Spinach Salmon Orzo Almond Salad.

- Chicken tortilla soup Gives Two meals as "Not My Mother’s Enchilada’s."

I will share two sets of the recipes here, and you can click over to my blog for Menu Monday. I will also use Menu Monday to share some of my time saving shopping and cooking in bulk tips, as well as how I plan and organize our meals for the week.

Planned Over Recipe #1
Black Bean Corn Salad...which turns into Better Than Moe's

1 lb dried black beans
1 lb frozen corn
1 red onion chopped fine
2 colorful peppers diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes washed and quartered
1/2 cup favorite salsa (We love Jack’s medium)
1/4 cup favorite italian dressing (or 2 TBL lemon juice 1 tsp water 1 TBL olive oil)
Optional--One ripe avocado cubed

Better than Moe’s--additional ingredients..
1 Cup shredded cheddar
4 cooked chicken breasts diced
2 cups cooked brown rice (I have a slight addiction to Steam Fresh brown rice which is in the frozen food section, but maybe you were organized enough to remember to freeze some the last time you had 1 hour to cook it.)
1 avocado
1 cup salsa
tortillas (we use ten inch, but... you know you could live wildly and go 12 or 8!)

One night, put the dried black beans in your crock pot and fill it up with water. Do not add salt. Turn the pot on low and go to bed.

At breakfast time, when you are reading TSP and letting the kids watch “just one more” cartoon, toss the frozen corn in the pot with the beans and let it sit there for about five minutes. Then drain and rinse the beans and corn and toss it in a large bowl or container that you can seal and place in fridge. If you have time right now toss the other items in except the avocado, shake it all about, seal it up, refridgerate and dinner is done. Don’t have time right now? You can wait until lunch time and it still turns out great. Don’t you feel better?

Right before dinner slice the avocado toss it in the bowl and season with pepper to taste.

During dinner, put breasts (chicken breasts that is!) into the oven to bake. (I add a smidge of oil, and season with pepper, and bake on 375 until done)

Following dinner.. dice up chicken, refridgerate. Guess what.. dinner for tomorrow is done too!! (Well except you have that rice problem to solve)

Planned Over "Better Than Moe's" Dinner -
Put chopped up chicken (heat it up if you like), cheese, cooked rice, and leftover Black Bean corn salad in cute little dishes with serving spoons. Mash up 1 avocado with 1/2 cup favorite salsa (easiest guac ever!!) put in cute little dish. Let everyone make their own burritos, naked or otherwise, serve chips if you so desire.

Planned Over Recipe #2
Salmon with Sauteed Green Beans...which turns into Orzo Salad

Boneless Skinless Salmon Fillets (We buy them in a seven pack at Costco they are frozen)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 TB sesame seed oil
fresh french green beans washed and trimmed (we also buy these at Costco)
1 Tb balsamic vinegar

Additional ingredients for Orzo salad
1 cup roasted salted almonds rough chopped
2 cups fresh baby spinach (washed) (guess where you can get this)
2 TB additional sesame seed oil
1 lb Orzo pasta cooked

Planned Over Meal for Orzo Salad:
Put Salmon Fillets for dinner plus 2 extra into a glass baking dish, slosh worcestershire sauce over the top. Toss in oven at 375 until fish flakes apart easily. (This is a great time to cook the orzo since you are in the kitchen anyway)

In a medium pan heat sesame oil on medium until it is mediummmy hot. Toss in green beans.. squizzle them around (that’s a cooking term for move em so they don’t burn) until they are tender. Remove from pan, put in serving dish and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

While you are standing there, toss the chopped almonds and spinach in the pan you took the green beans out of, and squizzle them around until the spinach is wilted and kinda glistening. Drain pasta ('cause it’s totally done at just the right time.) Put it in a refridgerable container, toss spinach and almonds on top, when the salmon is done (which will be any minute) flake apart the 2 extra fillets and toss them in the refridgerable container with the other stuff and the additional sesame seed oil. Put the lid on and shake the container. Refridgerate.. Dinner take two.. Done! Make your husband clean up.. you must be exhausted from all this organization.

So remember if you like these I’ll post the others on Menu Monday along with other tips I’ve highjacked, er, “discovered” from friends.

Do you have other "planned-over" recipes you can share?

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Rachel H said...

I love this idea, Summer. I constantly struggle with dinner ideas. I'm going to give these a shot!

Jessica said...

I'm always looking for new easy dinner ideas - thanks!

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