During the summer, meals tend to be a lot more relaxed than they are during the school year. That just tends to be the nature of the beast.
With autumn comes routine, as those school days tend to add a lot of activities to the family calendar. Not only do you have to do all of the planning, grocery shopping, chopping, peeling, roasting, boiling, eating, and cleaning related to the evening meal, but you also have to make sure that everyone gets to where they need to go. Not to mention homework.
You’re pulled in hundred directions at once on any given day—wouldn’t it be nice to have a little house elf to take care of dinner?
Now, don’t get all excited. I haven’t found any colonies of house elves. But I do have a secret weapon that helps make meals magically appear on the table. And guess what? You have one, too. It’s called the freezer.
Freezer meals can save you a ton of time in the kitchen on those chaotic school nights. Really. You will not believe how much easier your life can be. All you need is a plan.
Plan around what’s on sale
When you happen upon a fabulous deal on meat, buy a bunch of it. Chicken, pork, beef—whatever’s on sale, buy as much of it as your budget allows. Prep the meat into a variety of meals to pop into the freezer (meatballs, chicken strips, marinated drumsticks, or pork tenderloin). How easy will that be when the time comes to thaw something out for dinner? Exponentially easier than dealing with a frozen stiff chunk of ground chuck, I’ll tell you that much!
Each week, do a meal plan. I find Sundays a good day for this—before the hectic week gets going—, but pick a day that works for you! Identify which nights are going to be too busy to worry about cooking. Make a note on the calendar to pull out one of your freezer meals that morning to thaw. Then, when supper time comes, just cook it! Easy peasy.
You don’t want anyone to get sick, so there are some safety considerations when freezing/thawing/cooking meals like this. I’ve shared these before, but they’re worth sharing again.
- Always wash your hands before and after handling raw food.
- Thaw your food in the fridge and never at room temperature. To quickly defrost your meal, put it in a water tight bag and place the bag in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Changing the water ensures that your meal stays cold, prohibiting any bacterial growth.
- Don’t use the microwave to thaw food. This may be a fast method of defrosting food, but microwave oven power levels vary between different makes and models. This can lead to foods not actually being thawed within safe temperature zones.
- Always use the bottom shelf of your fridge to thaw raw meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. This will prevent juices from dripping down onto other foods. If you can put the item on a plate, even better.
- Always keep raw meat, poultry, and fish away from other foods.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, fish, and poultry.
- Store cooked foods in your fridge below 40 degrees F.
- Foods that are stored in the fridge are safe for up to four days if stored below the recommended temperature. Foods containing seafood can be stored in the fridge up to two days.
- Foods stored in the freezer are best used within two to four months but can be stored longer. Please keep in mind that food quality will suffer greatly the longer the item is kept in the freezer.
- All foods should be heated to an internal temp of 165F.
- Allow cooked foods to cool completely before putting them in the freezer.
- Don’t put glass containers directly from the freezer into the oven.
Don’t forget to look into our freezer menus. You won’t regret it!
My garden went bonkers last year, especially in the tomato department. I’ve made salsas, sauces, sliced them, diced them and cooked with them every which way you could possibly think of.
But the one thing I didn’t do with them was juice them. Until the idea of the ultimate Bloody Mary came to me…fresh tomato juice, I mean just juiced tomato juice. Can you imagine?
Using my very favorite juicer, the Breville Fountain, (and if you didn’t know already, Williams-Sonoma is the place to find this fine appliance), I began juicing the tomatoes. This particular Breville Fountain has a dial on it so you can bring down the speed on the juicer, so for soft fruits like tomatoes, I dialed it down to a 1. Perfect.
I added some jalapenos from my garden as well. Then the lime went in. With everything juiced, it was time to season it up!
Horseradish, Himalayan pink salt, celery salt, freshly ground smoked pepper, a little Worcershire, garlic and onion powder…then add a fresh sprig of rosemary, speared with olives and cocktail onions, a crisp piece of bacon and of course, the mandatory celery stalk and voila, the Ultimate Bloody Mary!
Freshly Juiced Jalapeño Bloody Mary
In a shaker, mix together well all ingredients except the garnishes. Pour into a tall ice filled glass, garnish as you like and enjoy!
Garnishes (as many as you like): celery stalk with leaves, crisp bacon, rosemary stalk, olives, cocktail onions
I shared some tips with you a couple weeks ago about grilling but there’s more to barbecue season than burgers and steaks!
Why turn on the stove to cook your veggies when you have a perfectly good hot grill already prepped? Never mind the fact that grilled veggies and fruits taste like something out of Heaven — if you know how to cook them properly!
Here are 7 of my best produce grilling tips:
1. Don’t use your veggie peeler.
Don’t peel your vegetables before you grill them. Another reason why you need to buy organic produce! You’ll lose the nutrients and much of the flavor if you peel your veggies before they hit the grill. You’ll also get a smokier flavor if you leave the peels on. Remember the clean fifteen list and the dirty dozen when you’re trying to decide where to invest in organic produce.
Some hardier veggies need a bit of precooking to shorten the time they must spend on the grill. These types of vegetables would include: asparagus, broccoli, beets, artichokes, parsnips, carrots, winter squash and potatoes. Steam them or blanch them until they are only slightly tender, then pat them dry and cook them on the grill. That extra step will make sure the outside and inside of those sturdy veggies are cooked evenly. Vegetables like peppers, onions, eggplant, fennel, tomatoes and summer squash can be grilled raw.
3. Oil them.
Rub a tiny little bit of olive oil (not extra virgin) or coconut oil on your veggies before you grill them. This will help prevent them from sticking to the grill, and it will also help keep them from drying out. Just a little bit because if there’s oil dripping from the food, you’ll experience flare ups.
4. Soak your fruits.
Before grilling fruits, try drizzling them with honey or maple syrup, or soaking them in liquor. Talk about a flavor burst! Especially if you’ll be serving grilled pineapple or pears for dessert. Yes you can grill pears! You can also grill apples, watermelon and peaches. Reach for fruit that is firm and just barely ripe for your best options in fruit grilling.
5. Indirect heat.
When grilling fruits and veggies, you want moderately hot coals or indirect heat. You may need to move them around throughout the cooking process to make sure they cook evenly.
6. Stick it to them.
Skewers are great tools for grilling veggies. It’s tempting to make beautiful kabobs out of meat and veggies but if you want to ensure even cooking, skewer all the same type of veggie per skewer. Cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chunks of onion and pineapple are all wonderful cooked on skewers.
7. Use packets.
Some veggies don’t lend themselves well to skewers or grill baskets. Peas, beans, sliced peppers, etc. For these lovely foods, try making a packet out of tin foil and cook them that way. This is also a good way to cook potatoes, or to cook other veggies with a sauce or topping of some sort.
There you have it!
It’s artichoke season, so today we’re going to focus on this spiky green veggie. After reading this post, you’re going to have a great tip, a trick and a brand new recipe focusing on this edible flower that grows mainly in California and in the Mediterranean.
Though artichokes are sharp and thorny and quite intimidating, the work you have to do to get to the good stuff is worth it. (The good stuff, by the way, is the heart of the artichoke, found beneath the hairy, inedible, ugly choke.)
Artichokes are delicious and they’re also rich in magnesium—a vital mineral that many of us don’t get enough of. (We need 300 milligrams of magnesium in our diets each day to maintain good health, and an artichoke provides you with 77 of those milligrams).
Not only are artichokes high in magnesium, but they’re also linked to reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer and leukemia. They’re high in fiber and they also aid in liver health.
Artichokes might look strange, but when you taste the sweet tender meat, you’ll know what all the fuss is about.
Now, it’s time for your Trick:
Use a set of kitchen shears to trim the thorny tips off the leaves (or the petals, whatever you want to call them) of the artichoke. Chop about an inch from the top of the artichoke and put the veggie in a pot of boiling water for about 40 minutes. You could also steam the artichoke for 15 or 20 minutes, which is how I prefer to prepare them.
Don’t discard the delicious tender petals of the artichoke to get to the heart. Use the leaves for scooping up your favorite dip! Or dip them in a mixture of lemon juice and melted butter. Mmm!
And your Artichoke Recipe:
Spanish Paleo Lasagna
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup Paleo marinara sauce
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
3 cups arugula
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, place first 9 ingredients (ground beef through black pepper). Using your very clean hands, blend well. Press mixture evenly into a 9- x 13-inch baking pan coated with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes or until beef has browned on the outside and is cooked through.
Remove from oven, draining off excess fat. Spread marinara sauce, artichokes, olives and sun-dried tomatoes in even layers over the meat. Return to the oven and bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until sauce has set and toppings have softened. Remove from oven, top immediately with arugula then and serve.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a peach tree, you might quickly find yourself surrounded by more peaches than you can realistically eat before they go bad. Here are a few ways to cook with peaches that you might not have thought of.
One of nature’s best accomplishments in the summer, peaches are also quite healthy. A ripe peach is loaded with beta carotene, potassium and a smattering of B vitamins. Further, there are quite a few good folks who believe peaches are good for lowering the cholesterol level in the blood, helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases, anemia and renal diseases.
Most people tend to think of peach ice cream and peach pie but there are some healthier ways to eat peaches. Grilling peaches brings out an incredible depth of flavor. You can cut a peach in half and rub the cut sides with brown sugar before grilling, or else top with whipped cream (homemade so you can control the sweetness) and a few sliced almonds. A dash of cinnamon or nutmeg adds a warm touch to this healthy dessert.
Some of the best uses for peaches aren’t desserts at all. Peach is a wonderful complement to the flavor of pork. You can toss some diced peaches in a slow cooker along with a pork loin roast and chopped onions. If you’re using pork chops, brown them in a pan and then brown the peaches in the same pan along with some sliced red onions. Combine and bake until the pork is cooked and the peaches are tender.
Peach salsa is the perfect accompaniment to any type of grilled meat, especially chicken or fish. Combine the following ingredients (amounts according to taste) and then chill: diced fresh peaches, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, vinegar, and olive oil. You can even serve this peach salsa with tortilla chips as a snack.
Add some sliced peaches to a green dinner salad. For example, try some baby spinach, sliced peaches, sliced avocado, pistachios, and a few chopped green onions. Drizzle with sherry vinegar and a bit of olive oil to make a memorable salad. You could even throw in leftover chicken or feta cheese to make it more meal-like.
The important thing to remember is that with a little extra planning and thought you can enjoy a huge variety of flavors with your abundance of peaches.