Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blackened Corn Spicy Potato Salad

I love when the school supplies show up in the stores, but it always means you had better hurry and get your summer activities in while you still have a chance! For me, that includes eating lots of summer-time food!

I got this recipe for Blackened Corn Spicy Potato Salad from Prudence Penny Wise and it was so good! Although I didn't follow the recipe to a "t"...we didn't have any green chilies, and used a small amount of mayo and no sour cream, but it was still the highlight of our dinner. The combination of the cool mayo, tang of the lime & cilantro, plus the spice of the cumin and chili powder was awesome. The blackened corn added such a great flavor!

This is a great change up from "regular" potato salad, and would be great at a picnic, potluck, or summer get-together. You still have time before Labor Day!

Blackened Corn Spicy Potato Salad

3 lbs. russett potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups corn, thawed if frozen
1 large onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or use more sour cream)
juice of two limes
1/2 teaspoon cumin
a pinch or two of chipotle chili powder OR tabasco
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves

Place whole potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes are just tender when pricked with a fork, about 14-18 minutes. Remove from heat and drain in a colander; cut into bite sized pieces when cool enough to handle. Place same pot over medium high heat. Add oil and warm. Add onions and cook for five minutes. Crank the heat up to high and add corn and green chilies. Cook, stirring every minute or so, until corn is blackened in places, about 5 minutes. Place potatoes and corn mixture in a large bowl. Add sour cream, mayo, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Chill for at least two hours before serving. Adjust seasonings just before serving.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Here's a Quick Weeknight Meal: Easy Lemon Chicken

School and soccer have officially started for our family. That means quick weeknight meals are once again in high demand! I rely on my slow cooker or freezer meals, but it's still nice to have some variety to keep dinner interesting.

Once I got this recipe going, the dinner came together very quickly.  I started the butter melting, and got some Roasted Asparagus going in the toaster oven in between steps, and it was all done at the same time. I pulled some pre-cooked rice out of the microwave while my husband was serving up the plates.

The adults were more impressed with the chicken than the kiddos, but it was still a good dish.

Easy Lemon Chicken
recipe adapted from The Queen Bee's Hive

1/4 cup butter
1.5 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, or chicken tenders
1 pkg. Italian Seasoning Salad Dressing Mix
Juice of 2 lemons.

Melt butter in frying pan on medium-high heat, and sear the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with dressing mix, and add the lemon juice. Top the frying pan with a lid, bring mixture to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is combined or the rest of your dinner is ready! Remove the lid for the last few minutes to reduce the sauce.

What are your favorite go-to busy weeknight meals?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

The ability to make meatloaf without turning on the oven would open up a new list of foods to my summer cooking list, so when I saw this at A Year of Crockpotting, I knew I would give it a try.

This worked really well. The meatloaf ended up resting in the crockpot after being fully cooked for almost an hour, so it was the perfect consistency to remove from the crock and slice on a cutting board. My husband said it was the best meatloaf he's ever had, which of course, is the best compliment I could ever ask for.

I don't know what percentage fat my meat was because it was from my local farm, but it must have been pretty lean, because I didn't have a lot of fat floating. This made yummy leftovers for the next day, so it's a great technique that I'll use again.

Meatloaf in the Crockpot
technique adapted from A Year of Crockpotting

Your favorite meatloaf recipe or:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup quick oats
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 egg
 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (or less) milk
Ketchup for garnish on top of meatloaf

Combine all ingredients, except milk. Add milk, a little at a time, until it is a smoother consistency, but not goopy.

You can use a 6 quart crock with a meatloaf pan inside it, or if your meatloaf pan won't fit, use a 4 quart and put the meat directly into the crock. (which is what I did) Spray the crock with non-stick spray, and either put your meatloaf pan or meatloaf itself into the cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8.  Let the meat sit for about 30 minutes before you slice and serve.

I cooked mine on Low for 3 hours 30 minutes, and the temp was at 170, so I turned it off and let it set for about an hour until we ate.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Start Making Freezer Meals: 5 Excuses Busted!

Freezer meals save my sanity, and they are utilized every week in my kitchen. When I talk to other people about freezing meals for their family, most are excited by the idea, but have a lot of excuses why they don't do it:

1. It seems too expensive. 
Some freezer meal sites show you huge counters full of groceries, ready to be made into meals. This amount of food shocks most first timers and their grocery budget, but you do not need to use up all that money in one big sha-bang to make freezer meals.

Just double ONE meal each week. This is easy to do because most ingredients have leftover portions anyway. I like to use whole 16 ounce boxes of pasta at a time, (random half-ful boxes in the pantry drive me psycho) so if a recipe only calls for 8 ounces of dried noodles, I double the recipe and freeze half. Every meal does not need to be an expensive, meat-heavy recipe. Freezing black bean enchiladas can stock your freezer without breaking your budget, either.

2. I can't afford to buy all those disposable pans.
So don't! Glass Pyrex dishes are extremely reasonable at thrift stores and work great in the freezer. Another option is to freeze the casserole in the foil-lined pan, and pop it out once it's frozen so you can re-use your dish. Just place the dish back into it's original pan when you are ready to cook it.

I buy my freezer bags when they are on sale: my buy price is about $1 a box. I also like to use "free" bags (i.e. bread bags) when I am only keeping items together (like Breakfast Burritos or foil wrapped Ham & Cheese Sandwiches).  All the meals in my freezer are in glass pans or freezer bags. I only use disposable foil pans when I want to drop a meal off to someone.

3. My family doesn't eat casseroles.
There are many different types of freezer meals out there, not just casseroles. One of our family favorites, Peanut Chicken, is not a casserole. Take an existing family favorite recipe that you know your family will eat, and freeze it. You don't even have to freeze the whole recipe, just a portion of it, and that will give you an idea of how it will survive the thawing/freezing process.

4. I can't make 30 meals in one day.
Some people follow the logic "If I'm cooking, let's cook once and I won't have to do it for the rest of the month." I think that's great if it works for them. I don't have the motivation or attention span to cook all day. I have a lot of more flexibility in my schedule, so I like to cook some meals from scratch during the week, but still like to take some nights off and use a freezer meal.

5. I'm not that organized. 
I am not either. Multiplying recipes by six gives me hives, let alone shopping for all those ingredients get me overwhelmed! I like to double one meal a week: that seems manageable to me. Find your level where you still feel in the control and start there. Maybe it's buying extra ingredients one week, and cooking them the next week.

It doesn't have to be a big ordeal to start utilizing freezer meals: just start small and see what works for you and your family!

Check out my Freezer Meal ebook, available for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Organization for School Lunches

 My 4 year old is getting ready to start full day VPK (Voluntary Pre Kindergarten) this fall and I need to pack him a lunch everyday. To start getting organized now, I set up a simple system inspired from $5 Dinner in One Hour.

I put one bin into the pantry, and one in the frig to hold the food specifically for lunches.

The goal for the bins is to seperate the "lunch" food from the "everyday snacky what-do-we-have-to-eat " food. If it's in the bin, it's off limits. If it's in the pantry or frig outside of the bin, it's fair game.

Since we have some time before school starts, right now the pantry bin is only holding applesauce

Pantry "Lunch Bin"
and the frig bin is holding cheese sticks (cut them yourself from a block of cheese and save serious moo-lah).
Cheese sticks in my Frig "Lunch Bin"
These bins should also help me do the majority of the work over the weekend and save time in the morning. I am also planning on utilizing my freezer PB&J's this fall also!