Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Once-A-Month Cooking: November

I’ve been digging a mommy blog lately called Mama and Baby Love, by a local Tallahassee mommy.  I mostly love it because her daughter, Penelope, is so stinking cute, and mostly because she posts delicious ideas from her favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.  She recently inspired me to take on once-a-month cooking. 
The time between when Miss A and I get home and when Steve gets home always feels like a very hectic time.  Miss A is usually ready for dinner by 6-6:30, which leaves me anywhere from 20min to 40min to try and whip something up.  And, no matter how much prep or planning I do in advance, it always seems that the days in which I have a more “involved” meal planned are the days when Miss A demands my full attention.  I can’t really blame her, as she only gets about 20min of “mommy and daddy time” before school, and then after dinner we whisk her away for bath time and bedtime routine.  She’s typically in bed by 8pm (on a good day).   So really 5:30-6:30 is her best shot at having some one-on-one time with her parents in the evenings. 
So, in order to alleviate weeknight stress on my end (because, trying to cook ANYTHING with a toddler who can reach the stove knobs or wants to hang out by the oven because mommy is there is a HUGE struggle) and to give Abby some more of my attention (which she seems to really need these days), I took on the incredible stress of cooking up 16 days worth of meals in less than 24 hours.  And, it was actually less than that, because I started at about 6:30pm (well, 5pm if you count getting the chicken stock on the stove before we left for dinner) on Saturday, and finished up about 1pm on Sunday – which included sleeping 11pm-6:30am (time change accounted for), and then making/eating breakfast Sunday morning and then going out for lunch on Sunday.  Thankfully, Steve took Abby for a long walk on Sunday morning before lunch which really helped, and then she napped right on schedule which was also perfect for me to finish up the last of it and also get to take a rarely enjoyed weekend shower before the Bills game.
 The breakdown of meals I plan to make each month will include:
·         1 soup, 4 servings for a total of 2 meals.  Just need to pick up some salad mix on these nights.
·         3 crock pot meals, 2 nights each meal, for a total of 6 meals.  I bought buttermilk biscuits and quinoa to go along with these.
·         2 one-dish meals, double portions, for a total of 4 meals.
·         2 main-dish components, double portions, for 4 night’s worth of meals.  On these nights, I’ll have to cook up sides (a starch and a veg usually) so it shouldn’t be too bad to handle.
This month I made (follow links for recipes):
One-Dish Meals:  Chicken Enchiladas, Baked Rotini
Main-Dish Components:  Meatloaf, Chicken Nuggets
Now, technically the chicken enchiladas is a main-dish component, but, I really considered it a one-dish meal, as all I have to do is heat up the mix and open some tortillas and grate some cheese.  None of that I consider “cooking” so that’s why I considered it a one-dish meal.  The rest are garnishes.  J
The meatloaf is a recipe that came from an old issue of Men’s Health magazine.  Steve had a subscription back in the day, and would tear out pages of recipes he thought looked good.  So far, this recipe has held up for several years, and it always turns out great.  I made a double batch, and split the meat up into 4-mini loaf pans to help speed up the baking time needed.  Here is the recipe:
½ lb ground beef
½ lb ground turkey
½ onion, diced
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup BBQ sauce (whichever is your favorite), plus extra for top of loaf
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt & pepper as desired

Preheat oven to 375.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Transfer mix to a loaf pan (ungreased).  Spread the remaining BBQ sauce on top of loaf before cooking.  Cook in oven for approximately 45min-1hr.

The baked rotini recipe I made up myself.  I divided it up into 2 aluminum pans for freezing.  It’s basically a lasagna recipe:

1 box whole wheat rotini (or any other pasta)
1lb ground beef
2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 ½ jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce
15oz ricotta
1 egg
¼ cup parmesan
1 tbsp parsley

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Brown beef and drain.   Add spaghetti sauce and keep warm.  Mix ricotta, egg, parmesan and 1c. mozzarella together in a small bowl.  Mix noodles into beef and sauce mixture and pour into pan.  Add ricotta mixture, and mix up well.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees until hot & bubbly and cheese has melted.

Oh, and, since the chicken enchilada recipe called for meat from an already roasted chicken, I decided to take the time to make my own stock.  I used Mama and Baby Love’s recipe which she again took from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook.  It was super easy, and it just sat on the stove overnight.  The only thing I learned from this process is to NEVER skimp on Ziploc bags again.  I used a generic brand bag, and even though they were ‘snapped’ fully, they still leaked out the sides in the freezer.  So, I had to double bag them.  And STILL one of them leaked, again.  So, I am now on the hunt for the best freezer bags.  Anyone have any recommendations?  Maybe I need to stock up on the Lansinoh bags again!  Never had a problem with them!

These meals should last me til Thanksgiving (at least week nights).  I’m sure we’ll still eat out some on the weekends, as we’re almost always out & about.  But hopefully my week nights will be a lot less stressful.  Last night we had the Morroccan Lamb and it was delicious!  Tonight, I’m cooking up two of the meatloaves, and will be making mashed potatoes and probably some corn to go along with it.  Can’t wait to try the rest!



  1. Love being impressed by your writing ability. Its about time you added to your blog. Was it expensive to cook a months worth of food in one weekend?

  2. Thanks for the inspiration on this one, Jes. I modified the cranberry chicken recipe just a bit, prepped it yesterday morning and popped it in the oven last night. The leftovers are about to reappear in the form of a wild rice salad. Can't wait to hear about how tackling a whole month's worth of cooking works for you!

  3. Good job! I'm thinking something like this would kill me. Though I'm sure the hard work pays off! I have a friend who does something similar - every night for 2 weeks she cooks double batches of food and freezes the other half so that the following 2 weeks they eat the frozen leftovers. Seems to work pretty well for her.

    After I had S my mom made me a ton of Korean soup and stored it in tupperware. But, I haven't had trouble with Hefty freezer bags. Right now I have Ziplock freezer bags and I don't like the way they seal, and I've closed them wrong before so they really don't close. In short, it takes too much effort. Hefty bags are easier to slide closed and I don't recall them ever leaking.

  4. Christina, I actually bought the Hefty bags the second time around! So far, no leaks, even with soups & broths!

    And, I think I spend about 6hrs cooking total. The crock meals really make it easy cuz all you're doing is prep work & then freezing. No actual "cooking" - maybe you could try doing a few of those to save time over the month?