Sunday, January 9, 2011

Easy does it!

A new year is a great occasion to clean out the pantry and the refrigerator.
To organize, simplify and streamline your cooking duties.
While you are at it, think of everyone's favorite  recipes.  Identify the basic ingredients you need to have around and stock up. 

Cooking can be daunting and frustrating.  Get a plan for one week's worth of meals that can change if inspiration and energy are high.  On the weekend, cook a more elaborate meal and save leftovers.

My secret? A bit of preparation after I bring home groceries.
I cut and separate meats and fish in serving sizes before freezing.
I buy wonderful breads and rolls,  and freeze.
I cook big batches of meat sauce, bbq's, chicken breasts, roasts on weekends.  Leftovers are labeled and available to add to pasta, rice, casseroles, or for sandwiches at the last moment.

Here they are, my easy-does-it meals, all healthy and delicious, and with addition of fruit, and crusty bread, a filling meal. With a few variations, this plan  takes the frustration out of planning meals.

1. Main Meal Salads---greens and leftover meats marinated in salad dressing before the greens are added. Add something different every time you serve this as a main meal, nuts, dried fruit, chunks of  cheeses.

2. Minestrone-put together in no time with canned beans, cabbage,  tomatoes and a bit of pesto sauce you made ahead.

3. Pasta and...I put the water on for the pasta before I even know what to serve with it. I may add broccoli florets to the water at the last minute. I saute' crushed garlic and crushed red peppers with olive oil before I add the cooked pasta and veggies.  Serve with lots of cheese on top.

4. Shrimp and veggies baked in a cream sauce while rice is cooking.  Half a glass of wine with half a can of Cream of Celery will make a great sauce for your seafood. Bake for 30' at 350F.

5. Casserole-My all time favorite is pork chops and potatoes. In a shallow, oven proof pan, saute the pork chops. Layer cut potatoes that have been salted and oiled. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the whole thing. Add 3/4 cup of water. Cover and bake for 30' at 400F. Remove the foil and bake for another ten minutes to color the potatoes.

You need a basic plan that works for you, for your schedule, for your tastes. If every meal is a big production, I guarantee you will fall apart and give up.
Have meats and chees and tuna for sandwiches when nobody wants to deal with dishes.


  1. Thanks so much. I am really trying to cook again after years of really not doing much cooking at all. I feel like a young bride who is trying to learn to cook again. You are my inspiration. I feel like I need to print out your posts to keep in the kitchen. I think I'll do that!

  2. I never realized how much cooking can be a creative outlet until I was retired. Improvise is a favorite word in my house. However, I often forget what I put together to make a particular dish and when my husband asks me to repeat it, I draw a blank! Like your idea for pork chops and potatoes!

  3. Patricia, it works just as well for lamb chops or chicken pieces. The dish is so simple that it became the first thing each of my children put together on his/her own. Almost foolproof.

    You know that one day, one of us ex teachers will come with a cookbook that will beat any other, for practicality, for taste, for all kinds of reasons that teachers know instinctively.

  4. Rosaria, I caught your comment on Stony River blog and was interested in your WWII stories so came over to see what you were writing. Your recipes caught my eye. The shrimp and veggies with the wine and cream of celery, what an easy idea. I'd still be interested in your WWII stories if you have them posted.