I always enjoyed planning meals when my kids were growing up, but I think it had to come to me more naturally than for some. I have tried many new recipes, and still do, and my family probably wished I would have served some things more often. I would love to share some ideas to help those who tend to have a hard time creating menus for their family.
~Post your weekly menu on the refrigerator door. You don't have to stick to it, but at least you'll have some ideas to choose from when you're hungry for a certain taste. If you have teenagers or younger trustworthy kids, maybe they could help by preparing a dish,or even preparing an item for dinnertime, like mixing/making muffins from a mix.
~Planning ahead the night before is key! Do you need to pull out some meat from the freezer to thaw? Do you need to put out your crockpot on the counter so you remember to put that roast in?Do you need to marinade something? This will make your life a whole lot easier!
~Set your own family traditions - have pasta on Wednesdays or grill burgers every Friday. We love having breakfast for dinner on Sunday evenings.
~Don't be afraid to try new recipes. Ask a friend who you know is a good cook, to share some of their recipes and menu ideas with you. I have to admit - I try many more dishes, because I've been given the recipe by someone I trust. They have helped me 'blossom' and grow in the kitchen - literally (teehee).
~Come up with 3 or 4 weekly menus and rotate them. Keep them simple and learn to substitute fresh veggies and fruit when they are in season. To make things easier, plan a week's menu using the same cookbook.
~Cook a double portion and freeze for a quick meal on a busy night. This website has an awesome plan for making 40 freezer meals for the crockpot in 4 hours. Check it out at www.whoneedsacape.com(Who Needs a Cape)type'crockpot freezer cooking'in the search engine. She even shares a printable shopping list to get you started.
~Whether you are someone who relishes your time in the kitchen or spends as little time cooking as possible, just remember that family bonds and memories are made around the dinner table. Your kids won't remember the meals they were served, nearly as much as they will remember the precious times you spent together. I love that my daughter-in-love, Lyn, makes a habit of asking her kids at dinnertime what their 'rose' and 'thorn' was for the day. Communicating around the table makes a real impact on your family, so take time to talk whenever you're together.
This is one of my favorite crockpot meals. Pork and apples complement each other so nicely. The flavor is awesome.
SLOW COOKER HONEY DIJON PORK CHOPS, APPLES & ONIONS
1-1/2 lbs. pork chops, boneless or bone-in
5 small apples, peeled and sliced
1 onion, sliced
3 Tb. honey
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
generous grinds of black pepper
1/3 c. apple juice
Place pork chops in bottom of crock. In small bowl,combine honey, dijon, salt and pepper together. Pour over apples and onions;toss to coat. Place apples and onions on top of chops in slow cooker. Add apple juice. Cook 5 - 6 hours on high or 7 - 8 hours on low.
This next scrumptious make-ahead recipe makes the house smell so good while they are baking. I have made these marvy meatloaves a couple of times when I have visited my daughter, pre-cooking them partially then putting them in her freezer for quick meals. The recipe comes from"Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms"cookbook by my friend, Jane Doiron.I like adding small chunks of Velveeta cheese before baking.
2# lean ground beef
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. Italian-style or garlic & herb bread crumbs
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese,grated
1/2 c. ketchup
1 large egg
1/4 c. ketchup
2 Tb. light brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
~A Day Ahead~ In large mixing bowl,combine beef, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, ketchup and egg. Press the mixture evenly into four 3" X 5"X 2" mini loaf (foil)pans. Cover and refrigerate.
~Cooking Directions~ Remove meatloaves from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 350. Bake uncovered, for 45 minutes. Combine sauce ingredients and brush on top of loaves if desired. Bake 10 more minutes. (If using muffin pans, they will bake faster).
~Freezer Directions~ Wrap the uncooked meatloaves (without sauce on top )in plastic wrap and place in labeled freezer bags. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw meatloaves in refrigerator 24 hours before heating. Bake as directed.
8 ozs. bittersweet chocolate,chopped
(I used extra dark chocolate chips)
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 c. sugar
3 lg. eggs
1 c. walnuts,chopped, optional
1 c. chocolate chips
1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Coat the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper (or waxed paper) and coat the top of the paper with cooking spray. Melt chocolate and butter together in microwave in microwave-safe bowl, stirring after 30 second intervals, until chocolate is melted. Stir in sugar and mix well. Add eggs; blend til smooth. Set aside. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips and mix well. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Pour into crockpot and smooth top. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes. Insert a knife edge around brownies to loosen and place the crock (if you have a removable one) on a cooling rack to cool for 20-30 minutes. Turn out brownies and re-invert on cooling rack to continue cooling. (May substitute half the sugar with a sugarfree alternative, but keep in mind brownies will bake faster) TIP: When making dessert in my crockpot, I always lay paper towels over the top of the crock before placing the lid on. It catches the moisture that would otherwise fall into the crockpot and make your dessert top wet.