Today I thought I'd give you a REAL glimpse into my style of cooking in the hopes that you too will see how easy it is to cook more than one meal at a time in the kitchen. A lot of the tips and tricks I use can be found in The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet. Excellent book for anyone who'd love to learn how to cook meals in advance and store it away in their freezer! And for only $10.17 on Amazon... it practically pays for itself with the money you'll save buying food in bulk.
One of the great things I took from this book was the quote, "If you aren't using your crock pot, you're wasting time." Reason? Because you can easily have your crock pot going while you're cooking something else that requires more attention. I've taken this advice to heart, and now I use my crock pot at least 3 times a week, often while I cook other meals.
Of course you don't have to cook an entire month of meals in one day. Generally, I just cook more than we need at every meal and simply freeze the left overs. Or, like yesterday, I take one big bulk package of meat and cook it up several ways on one day. I prefer this over making a month of meals for several reasons. 1) I end up with a larger variety of meals stocked up in my freezer. And most importantly 2) It takes just about the same amount of time and effort as it does to cook just one meal. Plus 3) It enables me to pull food out of my freezer when I don't feel like cooking.
Win WIN if you ask me! There are so many advantages to cooking this way, and very few if any negatives. You really should give it a try!
Yesterday I cooked up an entire large family pack of ground turkey using two separate recipes. The entire process took me about an hour, but I was also trying to take pictures of myself as I was going along. My guess is that it would take you about 30-45 minutes.
My two recipes were a Taco Dip (which could also be used as an enchilada filling, or baked potato topping... this really has so many possible uses) and Italian Turkey Meatballs.
Lets get started shall we!
I didn't notice how large my package was, I'm guessing it was about 3-4 lbs. I took a third of it and tossed it in a large skillet on the stove. I didn't plan ahead very well so I defrosted it in the microwave, which is why the corners ended up a bit cooked. But for the Taco Dip it really didn't matter. The rest of the meat (I carefully chose the uncooked parts) went into a large mixing bowl.
I put about a cup of frozen corn into the crock.
Chopped up an onion. Half of it went into the skillet.
The other half went into the mixing bowl.
Then while the meat & onions in the skillet were browning I went to work adding more ingredients to the meat in the mixing bowl.
The first thing I added was 1/2 a cup of Panko bread crumbs.
Then a heaping 1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese.
By then the meat on the stove was cooked.
So I added it to the corn in the crock pot.
Then I tossed in some canned black beans.
I love black beans. I try to use them whenever a recipe gives me an excuse. The original recipe didn't call for them, but somehow a Taco Dip just wouldn't be right without some beans.
There are so many amazing salsas now a days. I stood in front of the salsa display for like... 5 minutes... before I decided to go with this one. Remember how indecisive I am?? Yeah... it was a tough choice. There were so many good ones that were just begging to be tried. I put 1/2 a cup into the crock pot.
And then taco sauce. You can totally use a hotter one if your taste buds will allow. But I was planning to take this dip to my Mother of Multiples meeting so I decided to go with mild. As it was several people told me, "My! This is a spicy one!" Half a cup goes into the crock.
And then a can each of sliced black olives and diced mild green chilies. These two are best buddies I tell ya...
I also added a pinch of red pepper flakes. Because I like a little extra something. Don't you?
Then I mixed all up.
Put the lid on and let it simmer on low for 2-3 hours.
Then back to the meatballs. They need a little more extra love.
I added a teaspoon of garlic.
And then I squeezed in some ketchup. I'm guessing I used about a 1/2 a cup or so.
And an egg. Gotta have something to bind it all together.
And then one of my favorite spice mixes, Italian seasoning.
I swear, I should have been born Italian.
I tossed in 2 large palmfuls of it.
Then a palmful of salt. I'd rather over season than under season, so I used a lot. There's a lot of meat in there remember.
And then pepper, another palmful. Please excuse my blurry picture... I'm not a professional photographer. I probably shouldn't even hold a camera, but I do.
I also added a pinch of red pepper flakes. Trust me, you'll want to. It just adds that little zip that makes them totally irresistible.
Then you take off your rings and dig in with both hands, mix and mush until it's thoroughly combined. I understandably don't have pictures of this part.
Next you form the meatballs and place them on a lined cookie sheet. I used a mini ice cream scoop to keep them uniform.
Cook them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until they start to turn brown.
And Ta Da! Delicious meat balls that you can freeze away for future use in spaghetti sauce or... you can just heat them up and eat them the way they are.
The girls ate these for dinner last night, and they were so good that Ziva stole one off of Anya's tray!
My parents babysat the girls last night, and while Mom and I were chatting we kept sneaking those meatballs! They were cold when we were eating them, but they were GOOD anyway!
Cooking 2 meals at once requires a little bit of multi-tasking, but don't be afraid to give it a try! You'll really save yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run. When I was done with these recipes I had a beautiful and tasty dip to take to my meeting, plus the girls had meatballs for dinner and I was able to freeze 2 meals worth of meatballs for later!
Italian Turkey Meatballs
Roughly 2 lbs. of ground turkey
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 an onion, diced
1/2 cup of ketchup
2 large palmfuls of Italian seasoning (I'm guessing 3-4 tablespoons)
1 palmful of salt (2 teaspoons)
1 palmful of pepper (1 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon of garlic
a pinch of red pepper flakes
Mix all ingredients. Form into meatballs (or use a mini ice cream scoop) and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until they turn slightly brown.
Adapted from The Crock-Pot Recipe Collection
1 lbs. of ground turkey
1/2 a chopped onion
1 cup of frozen corn
1 can of black beans, drained
1/2 cup of salsa
1/2 cup of mild taco sauce
1 can (4 oz) diced mild green chilies
1 can (4 oz) sliced ripe olives
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (optional)
Sour Cream (garnish)
Brown ground turkey and onion in a large skillet. Combine with remaining ingredients in the crock pot, reserving cheese and sour cream. Right before serving you may add cheese. Serve sour cream on the side or as a garnish.