Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cook Once, Eat Twice

There can be more to leftovers than reheating last night's fare in the microwave. Being efficient in the kitchen is more than heating up a frozen pizza. Learning to cook once and eat twice is not about leftovers, it's about planning ahead.

When planning your weekly menu, think of some ways to prepare a step or two ahead of the day you need it. When baking or preparing for a dinner party, I call this "cooking in stages". I found this particularly useful when there are small kids running around. Who has time to make a whole batch of cookies? When baking something like cookies, one day I would make the batter. It would probably end up in the fridge while cleaned up, I picked up the kids from school, and did a couple loads of laundry. When I had another 8-10 minutes, I could scoop up enough cookie dough for what I wanted at the time, maybe a dozen. The rest goes in the freezer until the next cookie craving. To freeze the cookie dough, there are several options. You can scoop them into balls, freeze them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and place the frozen cookie dough balls into a freezer bag. You can put all the cookie dough into a tub or freezer bag, or lastly, roll into a roll and slice off what you need when you need it.

You can apply this "cooking in stages" method to everyday cooking as well. You can prepare a step or two in advance to make dinner a piece of cake... or cookie.

For example, today is pasta Thursday. (Not all pasta is on Thursdays and not all Thursdays have pasta, it just worked out that way this week) The package of ground beef I used was almost 2 pounds. That is more than my family needs in one meal. I could have cooked half and frozen the rest, or wrapped it tightly for the next day, but I opted to cook the whole thing. Once the ground beef was cooked, I removed half of it and placed it in a container in the fridge, labelled "Taco Friday". So, tomorrow's dinner starts with the ground beef already cooked.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

This is pretty standard I think. Everyone has their own version; but before I give you mine let me say this... all tomato sauce is NOT created equal. Read your labels, people!! Pick up a jar labelled "Pasta Sauce" verses one that sauce "Tomato Sauce". The one labelled "Pasta Sauce" has sugar and salt and who knows what else. "Tomato Sauce" is just that. Tomatoes.. maybe some water. So, if you are watching sodium and/or sugar make sure you are getting the real thing.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

1 onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef (I use lean or extra lean)
1 large jar tomato sauce
1 small jar tomato paste
1/4 - 1/2 C wine (I use marsala, but any will do)
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried marjorum
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1 package spaghetti - whole wheat

Heat the oil in a large pot, add onions and garlic. When they have softened, add the beef. Ass it cooks, break it into small pieces with a spoon or spatula. Once the beef is cooked, add everything else. Give it a stir. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat. Let it simmer for as long as you can. (This can also be done in a slow cooker)

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Drain pasta and serve with sauce.

By the way, if you have any extra sauce put it in the (you guessed it) freezer. Place it in a resealable freezer bag, remove the air and lay it flat in the freezer. Next week, your sauce is already done. (Don't forget to label it)

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