Meal Prep for Country Cooks

Meal prep is something that many of us leave until the last moment. I’m not talking about taking the meat out of the freezer or refrigerator. I’m talking about chopping up all the vegetables that go in that soup, stew, one-pot meal. I’m talking celery, carrots, peppers, onions. (Onions are the worst in my humble opinion!)

Why not just buy it?

Before you jump up and tell me that you can just buy those items already chopped up, stop and think about it. What is cheaper, buying the already chopped up items and having to take what is available, or doing it yourself and including the items that your family likes? Last time I checked prices in the grocery store, it was cheaper to buy the produce in the produce section or at the produce market than to pay someone else to do all that chopping.

There are tons of books/pins/blogs that detail how to accomplish this. I love to look through these places for ideas. I don’t have a problem with the ideas they present, just the quantities!

It’s just my husband and myself, that’s it! I don’t need to cook a meal for more than 2 unless we are talking about soups. So what’s more convenient for me is ingredients that are prepped in such a way that I can simply measure out how much I need.

I don’t have time!

I got this idea the second time I bought a bag of celery stalks and part of them went bad before I could use them all. I grabbed a small cookie tray that would fit in my Side-by-side freezer and lined it with parchment paper. Then I grabbed my celery, cutting board and knife before starting to chop. 5 – 10 minutes later I had the tray filled with chopped celery. I popped it in the freezer and waited. About 2 hours later, I came back, and the celery was frozen enough that I could dump it from there into a freezer container. The pieces remained separated enough that I could easily just get what I needed out. I repeated this until I had all the celery done.

I took one large onion and cut it up using a mandolin slicer. It took maybe 5 minutes to do. This is going into the refrigerator for use. I’ll cut a few more up and freeze them to use later.

This is sliced Starfruit. A friend of mine has a tree in her backyard. She has started freezing the slices and then adding them to drinks instead of ice cubes.

Think about what you want to store the frozen vegetables in. I use a mixture of freezer bags and freezer containers. This makes it easier for me to see what is in the bags. Just remember to date the bags/containers so you know when you froze them.

My recipe calls for a different type of measurement!

Yeah, so do mine. My favorite cooking magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, once tackled this question. According to their tests, a small onion = 1/2 cup of diced onions, a medium onion = 1 cup, and a large onion = 2 cups!

Now, of course, you probably won’t only be dealing with just onions. Which led me to another website, https://www.howmuchisin.com/produce_converters Great website! Having found this, I plan to go back through my favorite recipes and make notes.

Now that I gave you some ideas, go forth and conquer! With all those vegetables already prepared, cooking becomes so much more enjoyable!

Egg Bite Quick Snacks

Have you ever found yourself in need of a quick snack for kids or friends? Try this quick snack made in Egg Bite molds for your Instant Pot!

Items needed:

  • Single layer cake mix
  • Egg
  • Water
  • C raisins or Chocolate chips
  • Baking spray

This is the cake mix I used. It will fill two egg bite molds. Mix everything together. Use some baking spray to coat the egg bite molds. Carefully portion out the batter into the molds. Add raisins, chips or whatever to the batter. Place silicone lids on the molds and stack on a trivet.

Add at least 1 cup of water to the IP liner before transferring the trivet and molds to the pot. Seal the lid on the IP and set the timer for 8 minutes. After the time is up, do a NR for 5 minutes before unsealing the lid. Take the molds out and let them cool for 5 – 10 minutes before removing the bites from the mold. Enjoy!

Downsizing Lasagna

We all have a favorite recipe we love to use for lasagna. I have to admit that the first recipe I tried came from a book included with a microwave. It made good lasagna so I kept it. Only problem was that it made a 9 x 13 pan of lasagna.

Now if you have a larger family, or they are big eaters, this size isn’t a problem. This size is also great for taking to potluck dinners. If you don’t eat all of it, there is usually enough to store for later consumption. Win – win, right?

Or is it? At this point in life, it’s just me and my husband. The kids are grown and married. Trying to make a 9 x 13 pan of anything just results in too much food. Most people can only stand leftovers so long before they grow tired of them. So how can you cut things down?

Change the Pasta

Rather than using the typical lasagna noodles, swap to an oven ready version. These are much easier to use and fit in smaller pans. A single piece fits in a loaf pan, while 2 can fit side by side in an 8 x 8 pan. As a plus, you don’t have to spend all that time boiling the lasagna noodles before you assemble your meal!

Change the Pan

As I mentioned, switch to smaller pans. A loaf pan will make 2 generous servings, while the 8 x 8 pan will make 4 servings. Since your original recipe make a much larger pan, you will in all likely-hood be able to make multiple pans.

Assemble your lasagna in your normal manner. The only change I would recommend is to leave off any toppings that you may add to the pans that are destined for the freezer. Put a lid on the pan if you have one, or wrap it tightly in freezer paper.

When you start to pull out that frozen lasagna to make for the night, defrost it first overnight in the refrigerator. Then increase the baking time to 1 hr. If you just made it ahead and the pan has been in the refrigerator, no defrosting is needed. But you will still need to bake it longer.

And there you have it!

Your favorite lasagna recipe, now sized to fit your family as it exists today. It wasn’t all that hard, and only needed to change a few things.

Enjoy!

November Wrap Up

Since I wasn’t doing as many posts in a month, I decided to temporarily suspend the weekly Sunday Post. But I still wanted to wrap up the month, so here’s a listing of the posts and books from the month of November.

Book Reviews:

Silent Predator by Delta James.

Touch of Light by Delta James.

Touch of Fire by Delta James.

Claimed by the Cyborgs by Grace Goodwin

Lifestyle Posts

Fixing the Bike Trail

Remembering the Casserole!

Rethinking Audiobooks

So that was my month. How was yours? I’ve made it through Thanksgiving surrounded by friends. We’ve all made sure to get our vaccinations, boosters, and flu shots. If you are choosing to not be vaccinated, at least do everything you can to protect others. Whether that is by wearing a mask, getting a test the day before, or something else, think of your family and loved ones before yourself.

See you in December!

Remembering the Casserole!

It’s that time of the year again. In the next few months we have several holidays to celebrate. Holiday celebrations generally also include cooking for friends and family. All that cooking can be a bit overwhelming if you like me, cook all the meals anyway. Some nights I just don’t want to cook anything!

That’s when having a casserole or two in the freezer comes in handy. Having been raised in PA just outside of what generally gets called “Amish” country, I know several one pot meals that I can use. Sometimes you just want more. So, I make casseroles and freeze them. I don’t mean Tuna Noodle casserole either!

Why make your own casserole?

Yep, there are lots of made casseroles available in the freezer section of your local grocery store. Take a second though, and look at the nutritional information on that package. I looked through the offerings at Walmart and just randomly checked a package. While the calories were acceptable, the sodium was not. The recommended amount for an adult is around 2500 mg per day. This random package, which serves 1 person, had 1250. That’s half of the RDA! If you make it yourself, you can cut that number down.

The second reason for making your own casserole is leftovers. It’s the perfect solution to the problem of what to do with the leftovers. Just chop them up into bite size pieces and make a casserole! For that, you don’t need a recipe. What you need is a basic formula.

Basic Formula

Okay, I found this article on Allrecipes on making a casserole. As you can read, it can be really easy to make one without a specific recipe. So let’s go through the steps together.

  1. 3 – 4 cups of protein. Recently I made some boneless pork chops that turned out to be bigger than my husband and I could eat. I plan to cut it up and measure the amount. If I don’t have enough , I’ll add something else to bring it up to the amount needed.
  2. 2 cups of Carbs. Did you make too much pasta, potatoes or rice? Perfect! Measure them up and throw them in. If needed, mix the carbs together.
  3. 1 cup of aromatics. I tend to keep some of these chopped in the fridge. Think onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, etc.
  4. 1 – 2 cups of vegetables. I tend to use frozen vegetables because it’s easier for me. You can also use canned vegetables or even fresh if you want.
  5. 1-2 cups of binder. I’ve started keeping cans of cream of “whatever” soup in my cupboard just for this reason. I usually mix a can with 1/2 can of milk for this.

This makes a 9 x 13 pan. If you making it to bake later, try using a tinfoil pan. That way you can save on clean-up later by just throwing it away. I have a small family so I divide it between several smaller pans. I either use 8 x 8 pans or loaf pans. Both are readily available, think Dollar Tree for these! Make sure that you have lids for them.

Baking the Casserole

I tend to use a cookie sheet under the pan to make it easier to get in and out of the oven.

Time For A Change

It’s been one of those weeks here at my house. Actually, to be honest, it’s been that way for a few weeks. RL has taken me away from doing more than just blasé book reviews for a while now.

That’s going to change. I’m tired of going back through old book series. For example, Milly Taiden’s Paranormal Dating Agency. These last few books are ones that I just can’t seem to force myself to even finish. After looking at the reviews, it looks like I’m not the only one having problems with it.

Julia Mills’s Dragon Guard is another series that I seem to have a “love-hate” relationship with. The last few books feature the MacAllen clan which is okay. It looks like she is spinning them off into a new series, Dragon Intelligence Agency. I will admit, I don’t do books with cartoon covers so there are several of her holiday Dragon Guard books that I won’t be reading.

Anna Lowe and Heather Long are another two authors that seem to be slowing down and failing to keep my interest. For both of them, their most recent series seems to be dragging on with no end in sight.

So where does that leave me???

For awhile at least, you can expect fewer actual book reviews. Delta James has several new series started that have captured my interest. The packs and families that she began in “Wayward Mates” and “Tangled Vines” have had children. The story of this next generation is being told in “Fated Legacy.” I was amused to see that a number of the clubs mentioned in these series also show up in other series by her.

I want to post a few more “Lifestyle” posts. Cooking, decorating, just general “what’s going on in my world” posts. It’s fall now and for most of country, our focus is changing. The weather is changing and there are major holidays coming up. I’d like to capitalize on those.

So stick around, and we’ll all enjoy a new phase of the journey together.

Key Lime Pie

So many people think that making pies is difficult. That’s not necessarily true. Take this pie for instance. Believe it or not, it only takes 3 ingredients besides the pie crust!

This recipe was given to me when we first moved into the place where we live now. I don’t know who created it originally but since it was freely given to me, I am freely passing it on.

Key Lime Pie

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 (15 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup Key Lime Juice
  • 1 graham cracker crust (use the 9 inch one)

Combine the egg yolks, milk and juice. Mix gently without beating air in mixture. Pour into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Let cool and top with Whipped topping if desired.

This is the brand I use, Nellie and Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice. Recently I was able to find it at either Costco or Sam’s Club. You can also add in lime zest.

Char-Broil Everybody Grills!

200 Prize-Worthy Recipes to Put Sizzle on Your Grill (Creative Homeowner) Includes Easy-to-Follow Tips & Tricks for Grilling, Smoking, & Low-and-Slow BBQ, and 250 Photos

Char-Broil’s Everybody Grills! is the definitive cookbook and how-to guide for everyone who loves preparing meals in the great outdoors!

  • 200 prize-worthy recipes for grilled and barbecued appetizers, main courses, salads, veggies, marinades—even desserts on the grill! 
  • 250 color photos illustrate each recipe in mouth-watering detail 
  • Expert tips & techniques from Sizzle on the Grill Web writer Barry “CB” Martin for brining, marinating, and grilling that yield juicy steaks, ribs, and chicken 
  • Developed in partnership with Char-Broil, one of North America’s leading grill manufacturers 

Sumptuous spreads of exquisitely grilled food; step-by-step prize-winning recipes; lists of ingredients plus preparation and grill/cook times; expert tips on techniques and the latest equipment; delectable marinades, sauces, and rubs: Char-Broil Everybody Grills! is the definitive cookbook and how-to guide for everyone—from the beginner to the seasoned barbecue enthusiast—who loves preparing meals in the great outdoors. 

This book was developed by editors at Creative Homeowner in partnership with Char-Broil, one of North America’s leading grill manufacturers. For 60 years, millions of folks have relied on the Char-Broil name for great backyard cooking. Now, this trusted grill company presents Everybody Grills!, a cookbook filled with everything you need to know to get outside and join the fun. You’ll find hundreds of recipes for grilling, smoking, low-and-slow BBQ, and frying a whole turkey for the holidays—without oil! 

Filled with more than 200 easy-to-follow recipes and tips for delicious grilled and barbecued beef, lamb, veal, pork, poultry, seafood, vegetables, sides, salads, appetizers, snacks, marinades, sauces, rubs, and desserts, plus more than 250 mouthwatering color photos, Everybody Grills! will help you grill, barbecue, and cook delicious meals outdoors that will have family and friends licking their fingers! 

Char-Broil Everybody Grills! has been recognized for: 

  • 2009 Benjamin Franklin AwardPublishers Marketing Association
  • 2009 IPPY, Bronze, Recognizing Excellence in Independent Publishing, Independent Publisher Book Awards
  • 2008 USA Best Books Awards Winner (Cookbooks: Grilling & BBQ), USA Book News
  • 2008 Indies Finalist, Book of the Year AwardForeward Magazine

You see all those little blue pieces of paper sticking out of the book in the photo? Those are all the recipes that my husband and I want to try. Whether it’s a full (new) recipe to try, or just a new sauce for your favorite dish that you already make, there’s something for everyone in this book. Yes, you may find duplicate information but this is definitely a keeper!

Erica S D
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
nice bookReviewed in the United States on January 2, 2021
full of great recipes with nice pictures that make me unsure what I should try first.

James Anderson

5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Gotta have it!Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2018
This is a very nicely done paperback. Glossy pages. Recipes are mostly single-page with picture (love that) and simple and "normal" ingredients".

pkkmmokelly

4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
decent grillin guideReviewed in the United States on July 8, 2020
if you like to cook your dinner outside especially in the summer/spring/fall you'll enjoy this book great pictures and nice ideas well photographed...

Accessories for Your Instant Pot

Why Accessories?

While there are plenty of recipes that you can make in your Instant Pot without using any thing more than the pot and a trivet. You don’t need more than that for soups or stews. However, there are so many more recipes that just need an accessory or two to expand your use of it. I’m going to list a few of them with reasons why you might need it.

Egg Bite Molds

If you’re a fan of Starbucks, you have undoubtedly noticed their little egg bites. Now I don’t go to Starbucks, and couldn’t begin to tell you what is in them. Using a silicon egg bite mold will let you make egg bites of your own! Now besides your basic egg bites, I’ve seen cheesecake bites, meatballs, pancake bites, to name just a few. My favorite is muffin bites. If you buy the Martha White brand of muffin mix, it will make 7 bites, which is how many fits on a mold. I’ve been collecting recipe pins on my Pinterest Board, From My Kitchen and Instant Pot Recipes.

6 Inch Springform Pan

I didn’t quite believe it when I saw recipes for cheesecake that could be made in this smaller pan. I just didn’t believe you could cook a cheesecake in an Instant Pot. Then I did a little checking. It seems that custard recipes such as cheesecake, need a water to enable them to cook more evenly and slowly. The traditional method is to use boiling water in a roasting pan. Doing it this way, you would need to wrap tinfoil around the bottom of the springform pan to keep the water from leaking in. Now contrast that with placing your smaller springform pan on a trivet inside the Instant Pot. You get all the benefits of the water bath while still keeping the pan above the water! For a empty nest couple like ours, 6 inch pans are perfect.

6 cup Bundt Pan

This is another potential work horse in your kitchen. There are fabulous recipes out there for pound cakes that are sized for a 6 cup pan. In our current economic climate, wouldn’t it be better to make smaller cakes that will serve your family for one or two meals instead of three or four? I’ve even come across a recipe for “Monkey Bread” that is made in a 6 cup Bundt Pan in an Instant Pot! What a great treat!

6 cup Round Bowls, Cake Pans

These are great for making all kinds of things, casseroles, cakes. Just use your imagination. You may have to reduce the number of servings you are making, but wow, it is fabulous.

Steamer baskets

These should be another given accessory. There are any number of foods that are steamed. Steamer baskets come in a number of sizes. I even have one with a divider so that you can steam 3 different foods at the same time.

Hard Boiled Egg Rack

Easter is coming, folks. For those of you with small children and grandchildren, that means Easter Eggs. Now no one seems to argue that you need to boil the eggs for around 9 – 13 minutes. The problem comes in how long it takes that water to boil in the first place! The more eggs you need to make, the more water since you need to have water covering the eggs by 1 inch. BUT if you are doing them in a Instant Pot, you only need 1 cup of water no matter how many eggs you are making. Set the timer to 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off, let the IP release naturally for 5 minutes before doing a quick release. Scoop the eggs out and place in ice bath for 5 minutes. No matter how many eggs you are making, they are all cooked completely! So much easier!

The “I Love My Instant Pot®” 5-Ingredient Recipe Book

Today, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. This cookbook hasn’t been released yet, so I’m urging you to pre-order it. I truly do love my Instant Pot. So much so, I ordered my youngest daughter one for Christmas, besides getting her some of the accessories. This book is really great. I’ve already made 2 of the recipes from it, making things I’ve never tried before. One of the many things I enjoyed about it is that they don’t just stick to recipes that you can make using the insert pot. They include recipes for the egg bites tray, the steamer, a glass baking bowl plus others. That extends the usefulness of this book. So try a few and enjoy!

 From Pot Roast, Potatoes, and Gravy to Simple Lemon Cheesecake, 175 Quick and Easy Recipes (“I Love My” Series)

175 must-have 5-ingredient recipes perfect for anyone looking to save time and effort—all while using your favorite appliance the Instant Pot.

Now using the Instant Pot is easier and more convenient than ever with these 175 delicious, simple, and straightforward recipes using just five ingredients or less. Perfect for people on the go, this cookbook will help you make mouthwatering dishes for every meal of the day that the whole family will love.

Using ingredients that you probably already have on hand, The “I Love My Instant Pot” 5-Ingredient Cookbook features fast and affordable recipes that don’t require a lot of prep or shopping. And best of all, they’re satisfying, flavorful recipes you will want to make over and over again!

Including an easy-to-understand overview of your Instant Pot, this cookbook has you covered for every occasion. From breakfast to dinner and desserts and snacks in between, you will save more time (and money) than ever while enjoying tasty food all day long.

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