Thursday, January 12, 2012

Puttin on the Gritz

Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper (Super Duper)
Sorry- but you know I had to go there. That was one of the silly songs of my 80's youth and I had to share.
No- it is not a typo. I said puttin on the gritz because I have two new easy peasy recipes to share that have made my supper life easier. I love sitting down to supper with one handsome hubby and one begging doodle-bug, paws propped on the edge of the chair with a pitiful look on her face. Unfortunately, getting home at 6:30 or 7:00 means tired which means no thank you to dirty dishes and standing by the stove. So, my goal this year is to create an arsenal of easy and healthy meals that will allow us to do have a nice dinner with as little hassle as possible during the week. I am willing to put in the extra effort one or two Saturday per month to have weeknights be easy.
Crock pot chili was one of our suppers this week. Something we have all probably had hundreds of times but I love this recipe because if you forget to put everything together the night before you can do it in 15 minutes in the morning.
The ingredients are-
1/2 cup of black beans
1/2 cup of kidney beans
1/4 cup of speckled beans (Heck- I don't know what they are called but they look like speckled eggs and I love them.)
1 14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
1/4 c of salsa (I used the HT brand cilantro. It tastes yummy and has a little kick.)
Now- here is the tricky part, as in I tried to trick my hubby. 1 link of smoked turkey sausage sliced.
I was going to make it sans meat but I decided to not throw him into shock just yet. Let's just say one bite in and he asked did I use real sausage. Dang it man. But he did like it. I promise. No, really he did.
If you prefer ground beef, brown it in the skillet the night before and put in with thother ingredients.
2 chipotle bullion cubes
1 onion- chopped to the size you prefer
Hot sauce to taste
Put all ingredients in the crock pot. Cover the ingredients with water, there should be about 1/2 inch over the ingredients. Turn on low and go to work. You will come home to a yummy smelling house and pretty darn good pot of chili. It tends toward a thinner consistency but hubby likes to put his cornbread in it so that works perfectly for us. If you prefer a thicker chili, you can always add a little cornstarch slurry.
I did find the next day for lunch it had thickened a little and was even better. Yum.
The next great thing was a knock spaghetti and meatball frozen meal like the ones you find in the grocery store $8.
Items needed:
Ice Trays
Zip top bags
Tomato/Spaghetti Sauce
Spaghetti/Penne/Angel Hair whatever pasta you prefer
I made a batch of tomato sauce:
1 pint jar (16 oz) of roasted garlic tomato sauce I canned this summer
1 14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes (I will definitely be canning more those this summer)
And any other ingredients you would like in you sauce. Dice the ingredients. They will need to be in small pieces.
I let that simmer for a while to develop a good flavor. If you really want to save time and effort crack open a jar of your favorite jarred sauce.
I would love to tell you I then made homemade meatballs but that would be a fib the size of Texas. I had pre-made frozen meatballs in the freezer from a great sale a few weeks ago, so in they went. If you do not have pre-frozen, BUY THEM, um I mean please feel free to make your own. Truthfully, they will be less expensive and can be used for lots of other meals.
I recommend doing this in steps, it makes it easier to handle and clean up. Once your sauce has the flavor you like, turn it off and let it cool. Take your ice tray and spray each cup with a quick blast of cooking spray or rub with a paper towel dipped in just a little oil. Fill each cup 1/4 to half way and stick in the freezer until frozen. I find one ice tray per bag works perfectly for Brad and I. Just saucy enough without being to much. However, this is your bag put as many cubes as you would like.
If you made homemade meatballs, cook them thoroughly in what ever manner works best for you, skillet or oven. You want to make sure they are completely done. The frozen dish is only reheated so the meatballs need to be thoroughly cooked. Take a cookie sheet or whatever size pan will fit in your freezer, line with parchment and place your meatballs on it. Place it in the freezer until your meatballs are frozen.
Cook your pasta. The key to this dish being successful is freezing each component separately and that you do not over cook your pasta. It needs to be al dente. Due to additional cooking time from the freezer to heat your meal, if you cook it too much it will be a soft mushy mess when you heat your dinner. Once your pasta is ready, drain, cool and spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze.
The reason I said steps worked best is I did not have room in my freezer for 2 cookie sheets and lots of ice trays. When my sauce froze, I pulled it out and put in my freezer bag along with my meatballs. If you have homemade meatballs, just put your sauce in the bag and put in the freezer. Add your meatballs once they are frozen. Once your pasta is frozen, add it to your bag and you now have a complete meal. I double bag mine in one gallon bags to prevent freezer burn, which is silly since I do not think they are going to last that long. :)
You may be tempted to throw all of the ingredients in at once and not freeze in separate steps. DO NOT do this. You will have one big clump in your bag that will take forever to heat. Your pasta will be over cooked and it will be eehhh. Eehhh meals are not a good thing.
I plan on trying different varieties of the dinner over the next few weeks. I will let you know what works and what does not and hopefully have pictures.
If you try it, let me know how it works for you. I would love to hear how you tweak things to match your tastes or to make the recipes better.
Thanks and Happy New Year!

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