Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Two-Supper Disaster

It was evening. Darren walked through the door, said hello, and was informed that after the kids finished their supper and we dropped them off at AWANA, he and I (and Daphne) were going out to eat. He didn't argue: I'd earned it.

That morning, I'd got a frozen meal started in the crockpot. It was "teriyaki porkchops," one of ten freezer-bag meals I'd put together at a Homemade Gourmet party back in the summer. These meals were handy, but overall I wasn't very impressed, especially considering what Homemade Gourmet seasonings and spices cost. It was about 5:00 when I checked the meat to see how it was coming along. It was cooked through, and the sauce was, as usual, adequate. Something about the taste bothered me, however, and for the next half-hour I kept going back to taste the chops again. I finally admitted that the meat tasted a little off, and I couldn't serve it.

Saving my family from the dire affects of bad pork may have given me a glow of virtue, but a family can't live on virtue alone. I still had to scrounge up something for supper. I called Darren and explained the problem, and asked if he would mind having leftover salmon steak instead. To some people, salmon steak is a perfectly reasonable leftover. But Darren and I don't like fish very much, and the fact that I'd cooked salmon at all was an adventure. We liked it, but I didn't want to press our luck by serving it too much. However, he said it sounded fine to him.

I took out the salmon and began heating it in a pan. Somewhere it lurked in my mind that you shouldn't serve leftovers in the same form as their debut, so I pondered how to spruce it up a bit. Inspiration came in the form of cream of chicken soup: I flaked up the fish and added the soup, then heated it through.

It is now a new rule in my kitchen: Thou shalt not mix the fish with the chicken soup, for it is an abomination.

We took Addie and Stuart to AWANA, then enjoyed a restaurant-cooked meal of gyro and stromboli. Darren agreed that I had enough credit to my account to afford two supper disasters. "But it's a shame they both cashed in on the same day."

-- SJ

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Looking for a new dessert for the Thanksgiving buffet? I made this for my MIL's birthday and it got rave reviews! Plus, it's easy!

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 cup whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Freezer Cooking

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Review: Freezer Cooking, Taste of Home Style

Earlier this summer, my friend, Jen, and I started freezer cooking. (Yes, that is how tardy I am in writing this post.) Since then, we’ve done it several times using different methods. I’ll try to post a little review of each, plus some pictures.

Since we are new to this freezer cooking thing, we started small. We still have yet to do more than two weeks of meals at a time. If you are scared of freezer cooking or think you have too small of a freezer, be brave and give it a try! You can do it! The afternoon of work is well worth the time and money saved later.

Another method worth trying is to prepare two of a casserole every time you cook. Eat one and freeze the other for another day. After a while, you will have a decent stash of meals in your freezer.

For our first session we used recipes from Taste of Home’s online freezer recipes and created our own “plan”. You can find TOH freezer recipes here.

Our menu

Pizza Pasta Casserole (2-9x13 pans each)
Colorful Chicken Casserole (1-2 qt casserole each)
Mexican Casserole (1-2 qt casserole each)
Hamburger Stew (5- 2 generous serving containers each)

I'll post recipes if anyone is interested.

Time spent

5 hours, including a run to my house to get more pots and cleaning up the kitchen/dishes

Pros, Cons and Tips

*Taste of Home recipes typically have a very low chance of being duds. All of the above recipes we would make again and are husband approved. (You’ll see why I say this in my next review.)

*Using meals with a variety of meats as main ingredients takes more time than doing all of one kind of meat. This saves time because you can cook all of your meat at once. I think if we had to do this session over again we would have skipped the chicken casserole and done all hamburger dishes to save time.

*When creating your own menu, sit down and make a plan. Think about cook times. Does something need to boil or simmer for a while? Do that first. Cook main ingredients together and assemble like dishes together.

*We used a George Foreman grill to cook all of our boneless, skinless chicken breast.. Most once a month cooking methods recommend cooking and processing whole chickens the day before to get your chicken meat. While I’m sure this is probably cheaper, saving time was more important to us, and, in the end, we may have even ended up even cost wise since we bought in bulk.

*Don’t worry about having leftover ingredients. Just freeze them for later use or make a soup.

*Have lots of pots, bowls and measuring cups!

*Cooking with a friend helps you persevere, gets you out of cooking tasks you dislike, and saves prep time. I hate handling meat and Jen hates chopping veggies, so she did meat and I did veggies. We were both happy!

*Freezing your meals insures that you use all your food and that it won’t spoil waiting for you to eat it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Honor of Fall Weather

Crockpot Potato Soup

from my friend Jen, who's husband loves this recipe

8 c. coarsely chopped peeled potatoes
1 small onion, chopped (1/3 c.)
1/2 lb. bacon, crisped, drained and crumbled
1-8oz. pkg. cream cheese softened
3 cans reduced sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz. cans) (or subsitute any chicken broth)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (10.75 oz. can)
1/4 t. pepper

In a 4 qt. crockpot, stir together thee potatoes and onion. Stir in the bacon.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, and pepper. Add the mixture to the crockpot.

Cover and cook the soup on low heat for 8-10 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours. If you like, mash the potatoes for a slightly thicken consistency before serving.