Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cook Once...Eat Twice?

We all know the old saying, "Measure twice, cut once," well I like to do a version of that with cooking.

I LOVE to cook, but I am a really busy Mom with three young kids who all become needy little vultures between 4 p.m. and dinner time so sometimes it has to be easy.  Here is the thing though...often easy means bad and bad for you and I am not a fan.

How do I deal with it?

I find great recipes that freeze really well.  In fact, when I started to think about what kind of cookbook I wanted to write I often thought that maybe a freezer friendly cookbook would be the answer.

I will try freezing almost anything once and you should too...

How do we eat twice?  Some people do this with leftovers, but they are not very popular in my house so instead I make something for dinner one night and I either split the recipe in two (or sometimes three...that really makes me happy) or double it depending on how much I think that my family will eat.  I take the portion that is not for that night, cover it in plastic wrap and foil, label it and put it in the freezer.

Here are a few tips having to do with freezing...

1. Always remember to remove the plastic wrap before you cook it.  My lasagna recipe cooks with the pan covered for the first hour and once I left the plastic wrap on by mistake...when I discovered it the words that came out of my mouth were neither lady-like or appropriate for this blog.  Needless to say, the lasagna was ruined.  Do not do this to yourself.

2. Keep an inventory somewhere of what you have in the freezer.  I am too lazy to do this, but it is a really great idea.  It really irritates me when I have to throw out a tasty dish because I forgot about it in my freezer for a year.

3. Sometimes it is good to leave off a topping like bread crumbs or cheese and add it the night that you cook it.

4. Unless something specifies that it can go right from the freezer to the oven (like a lasagna or baked ziti) make sure that you thaw it overnight.  Thawing on your counter IS NOT SAFE.  That said, I have done it and will do it again because I am really forgetful (see comment re: being a busy mom).  Every time that I do it though I wonder if this is the time that we will all get really sick...plan not be me.

5. Decide when the best "phase" of the recipe would be for freezing.  This requires some thought in some cases like with a lasagna (freeze it uncooked) and very little thought in others like a quiche (freeze it cooked).  There is a little risk taking in this step, but with time you will learn what works and what does not and your judgments will become better every time.

Here are some of my favorite freezer meals...try one this weekend...

Williams Sonoma Three-Cheese Manicotti (freeze before cooking, thaw before cooking)

Baked Ziti IV (freeze before cooking, thaw before cooking)

Pioneer Woman BBQ Comfort Meatballs (freeze after browning, thaw before cooking)

French Women Don't Get Fat Chicken Marinade (do this with many chicken breasts at a time and freeze in portions in Ziploc bags...we eat this at least once a week in the summer...thaw before cooking)

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Quesadillas My Husband Did Not Appreciate...

Let me start with this: my husband loves and appreciates my cooking. He has many friends with wives who either do not cook, or who do not cook well, so he knows that he has a good thing. As you might imagine though, he is my guinea pig and my first line critic, which means that he does not always get the best of what comes off of my stove. Usually, if he does not like it I probably do not like it either (with some exceptions because he is a picky eater: no fish, no food on the bone, etc.). However, sometimes he is just wrong.

Yeah, I said it honey, sometimes you are wrong. (Sorry).

One such instance: the BEST quesadilla that I have ever made/had.

These quesadillas were so good and so perfectly full of fall flavor that they literally make my mouth water every time I think about them. Brie, caramelized onions, apples, chicken...they were amazing! So, I am sharing the recipe with you. Cook them and enjoy them! If you do not think that your spouse/partner/friend will enjoy it as much as you will, do yourself a favor and invite someone over who will...

Jim's (least favorite) Quesadillas (makes 2, double to make 4)

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. of butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 small wheel of brie cheese, sliced
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 apple (preferably something crispy like honeycrisp or granny smith), sliced
4 large flour tortillas

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the thinly sliced onions and toss to coat in the fat mixture. When fully coated, add the sugar. Stir the onions occasionally until they become very soft and deeper in color (20-30 minutes). Place the onions on a plate and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.

Return the pan to the heat.

Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in the pan. Place one tortilla in the pan and swirl around in the butter. Remove the tortilla and set aside. Place a second tortilla in the pan and top with the cheese, chicken breast, apple, and caramelized onions. Place the first tortilla on the top and press down on it with a spatula. When the cheese has begun to melt and the bottom tortilla has become a light brown, carefully flip the quesadilla and cook on the other side until it is also light brown. Remove, and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

When both quesadillas have been removed, slice each into four pieces and serve.