Monday, November 11, 2013

First things first - easy dinners.

Are you tired of fast food?  Tired of spending too much on so-so food?  At this time of year going through the fast food line is the easiest thing to do, especially for those who work outside the home.  With a bit of planning and some easy recipes having a home cooked meal can be a snap. Below is one of my go to recipes that is delicious and quick to fix.  My orginal recipe used regular soup and cheese but in trying to cut back on calories and fat I have started using the healthier versions of these items.

Chicken Tetrazzini

2 – 10 oz cans Chicken (all white)                              1 – can Cream of Chicken
1 – 8 oz can water chestnuts (drained/chopped)        1 – can Cream of Celery
1# linguine (cooked & drained)                                   ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, grated                         1 Tbs dried onion

Heat oven to 350 degress.  Cook pasta el dente, do not overcook, and drain.  In a large bowl combine both cans of soups, dried onion and Parmesan cheese.  Mix thoroughly then add the broth from the cans of chicken.  Add the cheddar cheese reserving ¼ c for the top.  Finally add the cooked pasta and mix very well.  Pour into a 9x13 pan, sprayed with cooking spray.  Spread out well and top with reserved cheddar.  Bake 25 - 30 minutes until bubbly.  Some do not like water chestnuts, they can be omitted.
****You can add 1 Tbs of Mrs. Dash, but I don’t add any salt.
****You can use Healthy Choice soup, low fat cheddar to save on the fat/calorie content.
This is a great recipe to make the night before, refrigerate and just pop in the oven the next day.  Also, you can have minimum clean-up because you can use one large bowl to prepare and one pan to bake.

I know there are a lot of "soup" snobs out there but if you were born in the late 50's and early 60's you grew up with lots of cream of something recipes. I promise I'll have other easy entries without the soups as a main ingredient. Campbell's soups are my favorite. I purchase most of my groceries as generic brands but I won't skimp on my soups, they have to be Campbell's.  **No paid endorsement of Campbell's products, just my opinion**  

Two ways to save time on home cooked meals is taking time on the weekends. In just a few hours, you can have several meals made, frozen and ready to cook when you get home.  Also making a dish the night before like this recipe or using a crock pot will make the week night easier.  OK, I"m a child of the 60's and it's showing but there are thousands of great crock pot receipes out there too.

The second process that helps with meals is planning.  Whether you shop weekly, bi-weekly or monthly for groceries if you at least plan 3-4 meals a week this will not only save you time but money.  Anytime you step into a grocery store you will spend money on things you don't need or that are not on your list.  If you will print a calendar for the week or the month, note the meals you plan to make then create your grocery list this will save a good amount of time.

I am going to list some of my favorite dishes found on Pinterest that are easy to cook:

I have an Easy Food board on Pinterest and if you follow any of these links you'll get to my board with 277 recipes on it so far.  If you haven't become addicted to Pinterest this may or may not be the time of year you want to but it is a fantastic tool for all kinds of ideas. Please join me and if you'd like leave your Pinterest ID in the comments, I'll follow you.

To summarize:
  • Plan meals in advanced whether weekly or bi-weekly.
  • Use your meal plan to create your grocery list.
  • Check ads on Wednesdays for bargains on main course items.
  • Use recipes that can be made the night before, quickly so they can be popped into the oven when you return home.
  • Prepare several freezer ready meals on the weekend. In just a few hours on Saturday or Sunday you can have 2-3 meals ready for the week.
  • Use only recipes that you know everyone likes the ingredients.
  • Use to store your recipes.  This is an online recipe "box" that will store your recipes and then help you create grocery lists using the ingrediants of the recipes you choose.
Ziplist is a wonderful tool and also has mobile apps that will sync with your laptop, tablet, etc.  This means you won't have to "write" down your grocery list, it will follow you on your mobile app and be there when you need it.

I use a couple of different note taking apps to keep lists at hand for other things too.  To-do lists and lists for stores other than groceries.  If your grocery store has an app they will probably have a list feature that will work well also.  While I haven't gone totally paper-less I am more organized when I keep it all on my phone.

Tomorrow, easy cookie recipes to get your baking on for holiday gifts and parties.