Thursday, October 29, 2009

Once A Month Cooking Spaghetti Sauce

Last night we had lasagna for dinner with sauce prepared from page 20 of the Once a Month Cooking book. This is my new go to sauce for spaghetti and lasagna. I did change the recipe a bit and added 1 pound of ground beef in addition to the pound of bulk Italian sausage since we like meaty sauces--and it was excellent. I also browned the meat, drained it and put all the ingredients in my slow cooker to simmer overnight, which made it even easier and added a slow simmered flavor.

With the sauce prepared, I put one cup of sauce on the bottom of a generously buttered 9"x13" baking pan and covered that with a layer of dried lasagna noodles.

Why dry? Doesn't the package say boil until tender? Well, yes it does, but let me let you in on a secret. First, boiling the noodles is a pain and a step I don't have the patience for. I always tear the soft noodles. Since the noodles are going to be covered with sauce, then cooked in a covered pan, they will be tender when it is time to pull the dish out and not soggy. The dried noodles will absorb any excess liquids during the cooking process, which cuts down on the possibility for a soggy entree. Second, you might have to break up the noodles to cover any bare spots. One thing I discovered was the corners of my pans were rounded, which made a 1/4 " gap if I tried to lay the noodles in it. So I snapped of a little of the corner of the noodles at the edge and they tucked into the rounded corners perfectly. Play with it to make it work for you,

Next, put a layer of sauce over the noodles. Mix together 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of small curd cottage cheese (trust me on this--it is good). layer it on top the sauce, then put a layer of dried noodles over that, with another layer of sauce. repeat this to make the lasagna as thick as the pan. Make sure the last layer of noodles are completely covered with sauce, then cover and put in a 350 degree oven for approx 45 minutes. Test noodles to see if they are done by putting a knife into a noodle. If it offers no resistance, the dish is done. Take it out and let it sit for 15 minutes so it is easier to slice and serve.

Serve with french bread, salad and fruit. YUM!

Baked Jambalya From "Once a Month Cooking"

In my previous post, I had tried the 12 Boy Curry from The Once A Month Cooking book by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Langerborg. Tuesday I decided to try the Baked Jambalaya on page 22. I love jambalaya and had high hopes for this dish.

I prepared the sauce and it smell outrageously good. Then I added the rice, covered it and baked it. Unfortunately the rice was a bit soggy and mushy when it came out of the oven. Maybe I overcooked it, however the taste of the rest of it was spectacular and the prep work was not too intense. Actually it was downright easy, so I am glad I prepared a double batch (the rice is not frozen with the sauce, it is added before baking) and froze one for later.

As I said, the actual taste of the jambalaya was great, the mushy rice was not, so next time I will prepare the rice separately from the sauce, simmer the sauce in the crockpot and then add the cooked rice right before I serve it to keep the rice from getting mushy or pour the heated sauce over the cooked rice in bowls. Normally I shy away from recipes that don't turn out the first time, but I was please with the taste of the sauce, so I am going to try it again with minor changes. Prepared this way, the sauce can simmer all day in a crockpot on low and be ladled over the rice that is prepared right before serving.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Once A Month Cooking Manual 12 Boy Curry

I am trying my hand at cooking at home more in order to save a little hard earned cash that is normally used to eat out. My eventual goal is to buy a small chest freezer so I can start doing "freezer cooking" or "once a month cooking". That is where you spend an afternoon once a month or every two weeks making enough entrees for 15 or 30 meals that will be frozen for future meals. When I heard about it initially, I thought it sounded like a lot of work and perhaps a bit odd.

But one evening as I was pulling a prepackaged commercially prepared Lasagna out of the freezer, I thought "DUH! What am I doing paying $10 for a meal I could have made and frozen myself for a lot less. "

Not to mention I would be avoiding preservatives and other stuff common in frozen foods. I had attended a workshop session many years ago in Tulsa by the authors of "30 Day Gourmet" and even went as far as to purchase their book. To give you an idea, I have a copy of the first and second edition, they are currently on the 10th or 11th edition. I have to admit that I haven't tried any recipes out of it, however the worksheets and the instructions are worth their weight in gold if you haven't done this kind of mass food prep before. I started collecting a couple other books like this with the intention of cooking from them.

Recently I dusted them all off and decided to try recipes from these books.

I decided I will take 2 books and work through them for a period of 3-4 months. This month I will be working through the Once A Month Cooking Manual by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg and More Don't Panic Dinner's in the Freezer by Sue Martinez, Vanda Howell and Bonnie Garcia. Both of these books are easily available through

Tonight I made the 12 Boy Curry From the Once a Month Cooking Manual.

The prep work was pretty darn easy. Sauteing the chicken in butter, removing then sauteing the chopped onion celery and garlic in additional butter. Combining the dry ingredients, adding to the cooking veggies, adding the liquids and then the cooked chicken. Since our family is not big on celery, I was tempted to leave it out, but decided to go ahead and do the recipe as printed this time. I'm glad I did. The celery is not noticeable by itself, but is definitely a key player in the fabulous flavor of this dish. My only departure from the recipe is that I used the beef soup base I have in the cabinet instead of the canned beef broth, but that is splitting hairs since it is all the same stuff. I just used what I had on hand. I did add a little hot curry powder (1/2 tsp) since our family likes things pretty spicy, but I would advise caution on that. I ALMOST overdid that. Nobody in my family will get cold tonight! LOL!

The prep work on this dish was pretty minimal, it went together fast and tastes unbelievable! If I didn't know I had prepared it, I would say it competes head to head with my favorite Indian eatery.

This one is a definite keeper! When spooned over Jasmine (That was all I had on hand) or Basmati rice, which would have been the most appropriate rice, it is unbelievable.

Since it is night and the light from the overhead light would give the picture a weird orange/yellow glow, I will wait to post pictures of the dish until next time I make it. AND I WILL BE MAKING IT AGAIN SOON! It is fabulous.

I am looking forward to trying other dishes from this book.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Is this CUTE or what?

I had thought about getting chickens for quite some time. This week, I finally acted on it.

Actually, I think it was more like divine intervention. Not sure husband agrees, but that's the story I'm sticking to.

I had originally gone into Atwoods looking for an apple peeler to peel a large amount of apples to make an apple crisp. While they didn't have the kind of apple peeler that will work for me, I wandered into the feed section and found the Fall chicks. I knew they had chicks and other animals for sale in the Spring, but never thought about them selling in the Fall. I guess that makes sense. By the time Spring rolls around, it will be time for them to start laying eggs. I am looking forward to just having to go to my own back yard for fresh eggs! We only have a couple, which will be fine for our sized family and the size lot we have. It is also easier for me to keep a couple chickens clean. They are all pullets (females) since roosters aren't allowed in our city for obvious reasons.

The girls are currently housed in a large cage in our guest bedroom until the coop is in place and they are old enough to go outside. The kids and I love to watch the girls' antics. They are so funny to watch and I can tell they have interesting personalities already.

The reasons for keeping chickens becomes glaringly obvious the first time you have a fresh egg. Not the kind you buy at the grocery store, but a real egg from chickens that are fed real food and allowed room to move around. When we homeschooled the boys many years ago, we went to the home of another homeschooler that had chickens. She sent everyone home with a dozen fresh eggs. The boys and I were amazed at how orange the yolks were and how high the yolks set in the whites. It was amazing! And the taste was incomparable! Ever since then, we have thought about getting chickens. While the cost of keeping chickens does not make it cheaper than store bought when you figure in the cost of food and other things, the benefits are obvious.

And now we have chickens...