Friday, July 2, 2010

Eat In and Save; Crock pots and Friends

Another way we can avoid eating out is to plan to use our kitchen tools to our advantage.  The ones I rely on most in this way are my crock pot, freezer, and microwave oven.  With a little planning, crock pot meals take only minutes to assemble, and greet us at the end of the day with promising aromas and instant hot food.  They are also great in the summer time, not overly heating the kitchen.  I find the little instruction booklet that came with my crock pots to be full of yummy recipes and hints on how to use the device.  You can also use it for about any meal that calls for simmering.  Just transfer to the crock pot, set the temperature and go.  Crock pots with removable crockery are the easiest to clean and they come in fun colors and all sizes. They also have the advantage of preparing the food ahead, right in the crockery.  Refrigerate until time to start cooking. I had a tiny crock pot given to me at high school graduation which I used for my college years, and four of them given to us at our wedding.  (We took all four back and traded for one with removable crockery, which was a little more expensive back then.)  Now we have grown out of that one too.  I may own the granddaddy of crock pots at this point!

The microwave is also my friend.  Just about any casserole that calls for baking in the oven can be micro-cooked for 10 min. Almost all my vegetables are steamed in it, and leftovers for lunch are always heated there.  There are some desserts you can make in the microwave too!  It has the added advantage of being capable of taking cold dishes from the refrigerator or freezer and heating right away.  You can assemble your casserole in advance and refrigerate, then pop it in the microwave for its 10 min. any time you are ready to eat.

The freezer is my main source of quick meal tools.  It allows you to save your work for another day.  Freeze breakfast foods like waffles and pancakes which can be toasted or microwaved.  Make double batches of muffins and freeze what you don't eat immediately.  Seconds in the microwave and you have breakfast on the run. Freeze cooked meats in recipe size portions: browned ground beef, chunks of chicken or turkey, pre-cooked meatballs, seasoned pork; all make into meals so fast!  If your freezer has a few of these, you have options.  Breads (including tortillas) freeze well for short periods, quick breads too freeze well.  Cheese can be frozen, but will crumble, so the way to freeze cheese is to shred it first, then top casseroles or pizza with the frozen shreds before baking.  Leftover or planned over soups will freeze well (providing they are not full of potatoes, which tend to lose body in the freezer) Just Good Chili and Chicken Sausage Gumbo are good examples.  You can also make lasagna in two smaller containers and bake one and freeze one.  Another that freezes nicely is enchiladas.  Really your imagination is the limit. (And those pesky potatoes....)  I love to buy green peppers when they are cheap or free from my garden, wash and slice, then freeze.  I've been told you can do the same with onions, but I haven't tried.

Also, though I haven't mentioned it yet, the freezer is the main stock of easy-peasy meals like frozen burritos, cardboard pizzas (our name for the thin, frozen ones), chicken nuggets and frozen fries.  Stocking these can be a life saver!  Buy when they are on sale or use coupons and they are going to feed you for less than that restaurant bill!  In fact, I'm pretty sure we can eat like this on less than we would need to leave for a tip!

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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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A clearing house for all my favorite recipes. All my food musings. All my favorite cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. If you enjoy it here, and find it useful, welcome!