Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weekend Cookin' and Prepwork- July 9 and 10, 2011

Hi everyone!  Or hello to the three of you who may still be reading this!  :-)  I know it's been awhile since my last post.  I took a vacation and went completely unplugged.  It was so nice not checking email, looking at my phone or being on facebook or blogger.  I needed that break.

Now that I've had it and I'm back home in the routine again, I feel re-energized about cooking and preparing meals again.  As I was sitting here at my computer desk thinking about what I want to do this weekend in the kitchen, I realized that I haven't really shared my meal plans that I compose for weekend cooking.  I often will do the prepwork for 3 to 5 meals on a Saturday and Sunday.  Then I freeze half or most of the recipes for a later time.  It saves me stress and worry about what to cook later on.  This helps me feel more balanced. 

Therefore, I wanted to gain a jump start on this weekend.  So I just stuck my head in the freezer and cupboards to take inventory of my supplies. I look for what vegetables that I need to use up and any meats I have on hand too.  I look at my ingredients and think.... "What am I in the mood for?"  I try to think of one chicken dish, one meat dish, one vegetarian dish (if I can).  I think of a meal with rice or perhaps one with pasta or both.  I think of a breakfast item that I can make - i.e., muffins, pancakes or make-ahead burritos, etc.  I think of an Italian-style, Mexican-style and Cajun style dish.  I will often think of a dessert or snack item that I can prepare as well, based on what I have on my shelves. 

This is how my mind works anway.  Yours may be different but I'm a regular creative cook when it comes to using up what I have these days.  I have cut back greatly on my weekly grocery trips and just make monthly or even ever other month bulk buying trips to the store (at places like Sam's Club, etc).

So with all that above being said, here's what I am hoping to accomplish, cook or make this weekend.  See my below list. It's ambitious but I think I can do it~!  I've done it before in the past, after all.  :-) 

I have a ton of carrots and potatoes to use up so I let those veggies inspire me for this below prep list.  I thought to myself.... what can I make with potoatoes?  What can I make and do with an abundance of carrots?  Feed Bugs Bunny?  No!  Then it hit me.... I knew just what to do....

Weekend Cookin' and Prepwork for July 9 and 10, 2011:  

1. Better for you Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs - This makes a ton so I portion this out and freeze them in small containers for my daughter's lunches and for us to enjoy at future dinners.

2. Puree three pounds of carrots using my awesome new food processor - Yes, you heard that right!  I'll be pureeing a lot of carrots.  I portion them out into 1/2 cup and 1 cup sizes and place them in plastic storage freezer-safe bags, like in this photo.   The timing is perfect because I will use them in the above spaghetti and meatballs recipe and in the carrot cake pancakes below!  :-)

2. Carrot "cake" pancakes - Thanks Kate for this recipe!  Your post comes at a great time as I intend to puree all those carrots and replenish our breakfast meals in the freezer.  Pancakes are one of the easiest things you can make and freeze for later.  Microwave them for a minute and you've got a quick, delicious and healthy (if made right) meal for busy days or lazy weekends.

3. Fiesta Style Shepherds Pie - My mom's neighbor gave her a bunch of fresh potatoes from his garden.  She gave some to me.  So I couldn't wait to come up with something to use them in.  I remembered this great recipe of mine.  I haven't made it since the falltime so it's time to enjoy this one again!  I'm going to freeze most of it for later. 

4.  Low-fat Potato Salad - To use up the rest of the potatoes I've been given, I'm going to make my famous, delicious and light potato salad to go with a barbecue we'll enjoy on Sunday.  I will cut this recipe in half or maybe even 1/3 since my original one makes a ton! 

5.  Crockpot Jambalaya - I remembered seeing this on Alison's website awhile back.  I have some leftover smoked chicken in my freezer now along with some turkey sausage so I know this is a great way to not waste those wonderful ingredients.  I'm trying to use my slow cooker more often.  The great thing about a machine like this is that it requires minimal work and no supervision normally.  So it's an easy choice to cook something in it while you're busy cooking something else or doing yardwork or whatever else.  That way, you've automatically prepared two meals at once and can save time later on.  I'm going to do this one and freeze most of it for later too! 

6.  No-Bake Granola Bars - I developed a craving for these over the weekend and thankfully I already have the ingredients on hand for them.  I love this lighter, lower in fat version of granola bars compared to others I see out there.  I love using Kashi cereal in these too.  I try to keep one box of it around at all times. 

Well, that's all I have on my meal planning agenda for now!  Now, I must be honest, I don't cook like this every weekend but at least once per month, I make the time to do bulk preparation.  It takes anywhere from 3 to 6 hours of my weekend but it's well worth the trouble when I'm well stocked for weeks to come!   Whenever I do this type of preparation in the future, I'll be sure to share what I'm making and how I do it right here with you....

Happy weekend and Happy Cookin' to you all!  I'll be back on Sunday to share my meal plan for the upcoming week.  I also have a great gluten-free dessert recipe and a yummy dip appetizer that I'll be sharing in a few days too! 

I hope you had a great Fourth of July!  I also hope you're having a fabulous summer.  I know I am! 

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