I have decided while I am not working I am going to seriously try and develop some additional one-dish meal recipes that we all like.
Even though I am a stay-at-home mom, for the moment, it's good to have these recipes handy, because when I go back to work I'd like some crock pot things I can put on to cook before I leave in the morning, and they will be ready when I get home.
The genesis of this is that Mother and I have gotten into the habit of eating lunch every day while watching Ina Garten's show, Barefoot Contessa, and sometimes some Rachel Ray, too. Rachel makes some strange food sometimes, but Ina always has us going "oooh" and "aaah" and "wow, I bet that's good!" while we watch. Besides, we like a cook who is chubby; and Ina just seems very down-to-earth. I know she lives in the Hamptons but she seems very nice anyway.
So today, while Mother finished her sandwich, I decided to try a variation on my new favorite meal, Crock Pot Chicken and rice - and vegetables. I put about 4 tablespoons of Plugra butter in the bottom of the crockpot, and added half a cup of white wine, and about a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence. I also added some fresh black pepper and a good hard squeeze of fresh lime. I salted my chicken filets carefully and left them on paper towels to absorb the salt. That makes them extra soft and flavorful.
While the chicken was resting in the salt, I chopped up a bunch of baby carrots, portobello mushrooms, and a stalk of celery and threw them in. I am not crazy about any of these items cooked, but if they are cooked until mushy in a delightful broth of butter, wine, and chicken stock and herbs - yummy. They also retain their vitamins in the broth, Mother says. I then covered everything with chicken stock [Kitchen Basics is my fave brand] and put the lid on them. That will cook down for about 7-8 hours. The last hour or two, while I am watching Michael's baseball game, I will call and get Alesia to throw in a cup of rice and probably some water, and let it boil on high for about 15 minutes.
You can't beat chicken and rice for an easy, comforting dinner.
I made Shepherd's Pie about a week ago, and I didn't have the usual ingredients, so I improvised. The result was quite yummy, Spinach Shepherd's Pie. Not a crock pot dinner, but easy easy.
I started by browning ground beef in a little olive oil. We buy ground sirloin. The cheaper ground beef is never as good. Sirloin doesn't all just melt away in fat - it's real beef. Of course, you can use ground turkey or chicken if you prefer.
I got out the pre-made mashed potatoes. These are compromise - not as easy as instant potatoes in a box, but much faster than boiling and mashing the potatoes yourself.
Next, prepare the spinach. That means get it out of the freezer and take the film off the top. We used two packages, but one would be OK, too.
Run the spinach souffles in the microwave for about 2 minutes, on high, then take them out and stir in some cheese and onion powder. Stick them back in the microwave for 3-6 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave. When they're about 2/3 done, pull them out. Take a cup of cottage cheese or Ricotta cheese [I like Sorrento] and add in lots of garlic powder, fresh black pepper, and whatever other seasonings y'all like. Season it up because cheese and potatoes are bland, bland.
Now make your stratas. Bottom layer is the ground beef. Next take spoonfulls of spinach and dot them over the beef, then take the back of a spoon and gently connect the dots. Do the same with the potatoes. I use this method with lasagna, too. It helps to gently keep the layers separated.Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes, or until cheese on top is bubbling. You just need everything to be heated thoroughly.
My kids won't eat fresh spinach too well, but they love Stouffers.
You could always make this dish on Sunday afternoon and stick it in the fridge, pulling it out to cook after work, while you supervise homework.
Here's a third dish, which I think I have talked about here before, but in case not... it's Veggie Beef soup, and it can be made and put on the back of the stove in a heavy pot all day on low. Use a lb. of ground beef, browned; throw in a jar of Classico tomato sauce, a package or can or two of Veg-All, and enough beef broth to make it as thin or as thick as you like. About an hour before eating, throw in a couple of handfulls of dried pasta and bring it to a boil. Cook until pasta is done.
Here's a great site that shows all the different Classico sauces.
We had gotten a while back where we ate this soup so much I got thoroughly sick of it. If you don't like or don't want to use Veg-all, use whatever canned veggies are in the pantry. A can of green beans and a can of niblets corn are also great. Season it well. We throw in Soy Sauce, pepper, garlic, whatever else looks savory.
Michael loves this soup. LOVES it.
Oh, I should share this, since I am talking about easy things to cook all day. Barbequed Pork Chops are so yummy. Yesterday, I took some nice thick boneless pork chops, salted and peppered both sides, and put them in a small dish. I put some Bulls Eye barbeque sauce on top and covered the chops thinly, then covered the dish with foil tightly. I baked it on 250 for about 7 hours. The meat was melt in your mouth good.