Freezer cooking is one of the most brilliant thing ever invented. I love that I can pull something out of the freezer in the morning and it is defrosted by noon for lunch. At lunch I pull something out of the freezer. And, naturally, it's defrosted dinner.
Are you tired of the fight it takes to get your kids to eat vegetables? What about the fight you have with yourself, forcing yourself to eat them just because they are good for you? Do you ever just give up?
We aren't wired to enjoy vegetables plain. They have an odd flavor that makes them less than appetizing. That's why I researched recipes that would make vegetables more appealing. After all, it's a lot easier to convince my kids to eat vegetables when they taste edible and not like they belong in the compost bin.
It's cornbread and chili season! Of course, few would believe that if they saw the greenery outside my front door. But in Florida where there's a small chance you can still get a good tomato, there's this wonderful mixture of white beans, tomatoes, and herbs under a mountain of cornbread spiked with the best olive oil I've ever had. Kalamata from Trader Joe's.
I'm happy to announce that you can now find my recipes twice a month at $5 Dinners.com.
Here is the first recipe: a freezer-friendly, make-ahead meal that combines two of my kids' favorite things. (Because no one would believe peas are one of them.) Pizza and Burritos. Wait, those are two of my favorite things, too, right?
I am a guest blogger for Full Plate Living. Here's my first blog post: Five 5-Minute Recipes, geared to getting you out the door quickly while giving you the tools to feel energized through your day and jump-start your weight loss.
All that for only 5 minutes of your time? Why, you're practically cheating!
Here are some pictures to simply describe what kind of vegetarians there are and what different types of vegetarians eat. Special thanks to my mother for making the felt pasta and to the kids for loaning us their kitchen toys.
Don't ask me why the beans insisted on sinking to the bottom for this photo. But don't worry, they were properly shared in the meal.
Recipe for Butternut Squash Minestrone
1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, diced
1 pound white beans, cooked (retain cooking liquid for soup)
1 pound pasta (preferably smaller in shape, but Nora liked this corkscrew)
1 cup 5-minute soup base
2 Tablespoons McKay's Vegetarian Chicken Broth
5 oz. fresh spinach (optional)
Salt, Black Pepper, and Pecorino Cheese optional at the table
Step 1Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat squash with oil and lay out, single layer, on a jelly roll pan. Roast 20 minutes or until squash is soft and browning on the edges. This can be made ahead. Once cool, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate.
Step 2 Cook the pasta according to package directions. It is optional to retain the cooking liquid for the soup. This can be made ahead. Cool the pasta and place in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Keep cooking liquid separate.
Step 3 Combine all ingredients with 4 cups of cooking liquid or water. Warm through, stirring often and gently. Add more liquid if necessary. Add spinach just before serving.
OK, I'm going to be frank. If I make this soup in parts, I don't stress over rewarming in a pot. I mix the ingredients cold in a bowl (just leaving the vegetable cubes to defrost earlier in the day and ladle out the soup into mugs before microwaving. That's why I think it's so easy. But find out for yourself!
I packed 5 books to go on a recent family trip to California. My husband, the techy, pointed out that I could easily have read them on my phone. I shrugged. With two car seats, a stroller, and camera gear and formals for a wedding, we weren't exactly traveling light to begin with.
At the end of the "P" dinner, I asked Nora what letter she'd like to do next. Naturally, she picked a letter she knew well "O". My heart sank. It sounded really hard. My husband said "Good. We can have okra." Oh no! Something else to be a challenge! Fresh okra isn't available where I shop regularly. I thought I had created a mess. But as you can see from the menu I pulled together, I survived.
I love food centerpieces at Thanksgiving. After all, food was such a big reason why Thanksgiving was celebrated. This tomato centerpiece cost me all of $5 to make because that's how much the colored gourmet tomatoes cost. It took about 5 minutes to put it together because I gently dumped the tomatoes into the bowl. And the best part to me is that it's edible! I don't have to store it until next year!
I'm not a fan of boxed vegetable broths. They're too expensive and too sweet. (Why do some of them add pear juice?) Instead, I use these vegetable cubes in every soup I make these days. This is not a broth because it isn't clear. But I love the flavor. It's a great secret for a mom of a picky eater because it leaves the veggies in for food value, but they're too chopped up to be easily recognized and picked out!
If you're hosting the Thanksgiving dinner this year, you might have started your menu in the last couple of weeks. But then you found out one of your guests is *gulp* a vegetarian. You think everything has just blown up in your face. How do you impress your brother's girlfriend (if indeed you want to impress her) when she doesn't like turkey?
I've been to 31 Thanksgiving dinners in my lifetime. I'm happy to say I have progressed from the only-olives-on-the-fingers stage. And I have some advice to offer.
I love my homemade bread recipe. I know the recipe by heart. And I know how long it takes me in the kitchen to make it. But. . .this time, it just didn't seem right to serve loaves of bread to our guests. After all, it's Thanksgiving. And rolls are the traditional thing to do. So, I got to work and made homemade brown-and-serve rolls from my same bread recipe to be frozen for just a week until Thanksgiving Day.
Wheat Roll Recipe
a little over a cup warm water
3 1/2 T brown sugar
4 T oil
3 cups high gluten bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour (white whole wheat is nice)
2 t salt
3 t yeast
Put ingredients in bread machine in order. Put salt in one corner and yeast in opposite corner. Turn machine to mix only setting. After the first rise has completed, the machine will beep. Remove the dough and knead for a second time, about 5 minutes. Roll out dough into a thick square. Use a pastry scraper to cut the dough into 35 pieces (5x7). Line a tray with parchment paper or a Silpat. Roll each piece of dough lightly between your hands and place on the tray. Let rise 1 (one) hour.
Complete baking day of: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake rolls for 30-35 minutes until nicely brown on top. Remove to racks to cool. To do this, place a clean pan or an extra cooling rack on top of the rolls and flip them over. Then place the intended cooling rack on the back of the rolls and flip them back over. Cool slightly and serve.
For Brown-and-Serve Rolls: Preheat the oven to 275°F. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes until set. Remove pan from oven, but leave the rolls on the pan for 20 minutes as they will continue to bake a bit. Remove to racks to cool. To do this, place a clean pan or an extra cooling rack on top of the rolls and flip them over. Then place the intended cooling rack on the back of the rolls and flip them back over. Cool completely. Wrap in foil or freezer-safe plastic bags to refrigerate or freeze. To brown, preheat oven to 400°F. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.
Not very long ago I realized how invaluable a blender can be in mixing batters. And so I started making blender pancakes. I mix the entire batter in the blender in a couple minutes while the griddle is warming up. Then, the pancakes cook on the griddle while I clean up and maybe cook some oatmeal to go with them. My Blendtec takes a triple batch that feeds my family from the freezer for 2 weeks.
Life is hectic with two kids. So I borrowed a book from the library called "The Family Dinner". The author, Laurie David, gained inspiration for an organized family dinner by looking for a way to bring calm and connection to her hectic life with two daughters.
We already have dinner together most nights. And luckily, with a work from home daddy, we have an option for breakfast and lunch, too. The problem is the occasionally-working-out-of-the-home-mommy.