I have a habit of going on binges where I will stock up on groceries and prep as much as I can for when I am super busy, my energy stores are lower than usual or when I am in a flare. The latest binge was back on the 28th of July when I stocked up and prepped for the time period we are in now where I am working 7-day work weeks. Add on the stuff with my back (the recent MRI showed 5 bad discs- two herniated with some leakage and 3 "just" bulging") and as of day before yesterday horrific hives and welts that are most likely stress induced. I worked a "short" day today- only 7:45-1:30 and when I got home I played with the pups for a bit and then crawled into my bed and slept till 4:30. When I got up and made my way downstairs I realized that I was hungry but hadn't planned for dinner tonight. I considered going and getting takeout but I have been doing that FAR too often in the last few months. I went through the fridge, and cleaned it out in the process, realizing that nothing in there sounded particularly fabulous. The more I thought about it and mentally flipped through my options I remembered that I have been hankering for a green bean casserole for quite some time now. I went back to the kitchen to see what I could make to go with one and decided that it was a good day to make a one pan meal. Thanks to my prep, cooking in my oven right now is a chicken, rice, green bean and mushroom casserole, about 10 minutes before the end I can just top with fried onions.
While it's cooking, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks and a couple of recipes that I use when I do my marathon shopping/preparation sessions. They allow me to make really tasty semi-homemade dinners that are fast, easy and require minimum effort on the night's I make them.
When shopping, I watch for sales and coupons and stock up on the following:
Birdseye Steamfresh Pure and Simple line of frozen veggies.
Birdseye Steamfresh Pure and Simple Blends line of frozen veggies
Birdseye Recipe Ready line of frozen veggies
Gorton's 20 under 200 (calorie) fish line
Reames Egg Noodles
Mrs. T's Pierogies
5-lb packages of 80/20, 90/10 or 93/7 ground beef (depending on the sale price)
3-5lb packages of ground chicken
3-5lb packages of Sweet Italian Sausage
99% fat free versions Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Broccoli soups
Long Grain Rice
Pasta: Spaghetti, Fafalle, Orecceti, Orzo
Steel Cut Oats
Tips and Tricks:
- Buy your ground meats in bulk. Chop yellow onion and mix with ground meat then cook off. Cool and divide into recipe size portions. Write the date on freezer bags -so you know when you cooked it off and can rotate. Place portions in freezer bags, remove air and close tightly, lay bag flat and pat to move meat to evenly cover the surface of the bag. Place bags on top of one another and lay flat in the freezer. Once frozen you can move them around the freezer as needed without losing shape.The pre-cooked meats can be used for a myriad of things such as:
- Nachos (just add taco seasoning when re-heating)
- Sloppy Joes
- Pasta dishes
- Pita sandwiches
- Buy Pint Size Ball Canning Jars and wash before using. Cook up large batches of soup (see recipes below) and ladle hot soup into jars. Immediately put on lids and screw rings on tightly. Allow soup to cool slightly to handle the jars safely and then place in freezer. The heat from the soup will seal the jars for you. When you want to eat the soup either thaw in the fridge overnight or remove ring and lid and microwave in 30 second increments until you can pour into a pan to cook. This also work for homemade spaghetti sauce.
- When I want to take frozen soup for lunch, I take it out of the freezer when I am packing my lunch bag. I put it on paper towels when I get to work and leave it at room temp until lunch time. I pour into a bowl and heat in the microwave until hot.
- I use a modified overnight method for my steel cut oats: bring four cups of water and your sweetener of choice (I prefer brown sugar or agave nectar) to a boil. Add 1c Steel Cut Oats and Craisins to taste. Stir well and remove from heat. Leave on the stove overnight. In the morning, toast off chopped walnuts or almonds in stove. Divide any oatmeal that you aren't eating immediately into serving size plastic containers. Reheat today's portion of oatmeal at medium heat. Top the portions for later with nuts and put in the fridge. When today's oatmeal is hot, stir in nuts and enjoy! When re-heating the refrigerated portions later- heat in microwave for one minute, stir to incorporate nuts, and heat another minute.
- My breakfast for next week is Egg Muffins. My muffin tins are medium sized so I made 12 and will have two each day. The recipe I used is from Taste of Home. My only edits are that I used crumbled bacon instead of sausage, added quite a bit of julienned spinach and mushrooms and used 1c of low fat shredded sharp cheddar. The original recipe is here: When they were done, I let them cool and bagged two together in ziploc freezer bags then put those in a gallon sized freezer bag. I will grab a bag in the morning, take them to work (they will be thawed by the time I get there) and microwave 1 min 30sec.
My Tortilla Soup:
1c Chopped Carrots,
1c Chopped Celery,
1c Chopped Onion
5 chicken breasts
8-10 c water
1 four pack of Knorr Homestyle Stock tubs (I use low sodium)
1LG can of corn
5 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Shredded Cheddar (optional)
Cook the celery, carrots and onions in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken breasts, salt, pepper and water (I started with half the water and added the rest later) and cook until the breasts are completely cooked and tender. Remove the breasts to cool.
Add in the Knorr Stock and "melt" then add the remaining water and corn. Chop the tomatoes and cilantro. Shred the chicken by pulling apart with two forks. Add back into soup and bring back to simmer. Add the tomatoes and cilantro and bring just to a low boil. ***This is the point where I freeze the soup****
Cut the tortillas into thin strips and fry until crisp. Cube the avocado. Crumble the queso fresco.
In the bottom of the bowl, put as little or as much queso fresco/shredded cheddar and cubed avocado as you like. Ladle the heated soup over top and wait 2-3 minutes for avocado to heat and cheese to become melty. Top with tortillas and enjoy!
*** I get tortilla soup at a local restaurant a LOT and always have to bring half home. If you refrigerate it overnight, the tortillas become like noodles. Still yummy!
1 1/2 cups onions
1/2 lb bacon
1 lb sweet italian sausage
8 c water
3 -4 minced garlic cloves
1 four-pack of Knorr Homestyle stock base
1 large bunch of Kale chopped into bite size pieces
3 -4 cups cauliflower (cut up in small pieces) ***
1 1/2 cups half and half
Fry bacon in a medium/large size skillet; drain fat, put on plate and let cool.
In the same skillet cook the sausage (or reheat your pre-cooked bags) and set aside.
In a large soup/stew pot use a little of the bacon grease to cook onions until tender and clear. Add in garlic and cook for a minute. Add water and bring to a boil then add stock base (it needs to be hot to melt stock base)
Tear bacon into small pieces and add to pot along with sausage and cauliflower***
Cook for 15 minutes until cauliflower is tender. Add kale and cook until wilted
Add half and half and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
***Notes: This is the low carb version. In regular Kale Soup you would use diced potatoes in place of the cauliflower. When freezing this I do not add the half and half until I heat it up and it's almost ready and if I am taking it to work, I don't bother with the half and half- it's equally good without it.