October Freezing Cooking Plan

This month I’m working on using up some odds and ends, making weeknight meals a little easier, and trying very hard to get some food into my 20-month-old, who just doesn’t want to take the time to eat. I recently picked up three bunches of organic bananas at Harris Teeter for about $2, so I’m definitely making some banana bread as well.

  • Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree (from The Sneaky Chef)
  • Skillet Baked Beans (from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook)
  • Black Bean Enchiladas mix
  • Sweet Potato Pancakes (recipe coming soon)
  • Spinach and Lentil Pasta (from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook)
  • Banana Bread x 2 (from Baking Illustrated)
  • pizza dough
  • chop up as many onions as I can stand
  • prep 2 bags black beans in the slow cooker
  • prep 2 bags chickpeas in the slow cooker
  • prep 2 bags navy beans in the slow cooker

Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

The pan that I use for my enchiladas only holds eight at a time, but I go ahead and prepare enough filling for two batches. You could easily cut this in half if you need to. I’ve called for 8 tortillas below, but if you want to use up all the filling, you’ll need about 16. This is a pretty free-form recipe, so you may need to experiment a little.

In case you’re not familiar with chipotle chiles, you buy them in a can. This recipe calls for 2 or 3 chiles from that can. Put the rest of them into a little container and refrigerate – they will keep for a long time. If you have time (and fresh tomatillos), you can make salsa verde. Lately, I’ve been using the Trader Joe’s brand and I keep forgetting to measure exactly how much I use. You want to pour on enough to cover the enchiladas, but not so much that they’re swimming in salsa.

If you’re making this using refrigerated beans and/or sweet potatoes, I recommend warming them up first, as this dish doesn’t spend very much time in the oven.

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes
2-3 chipotle chiles
olive oil
1 onion
2-3 jalapenos
2 cans black beans, or the equivalent
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste
8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
1-2 cups prepared salsa verde

1. Cook sweet potato using your preferred method: oven or microwave.
2. Dice or shred onion and jalapenos, and saute in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan (or your preferred amount). Cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes.
3. During this time, dice the chipotles.
4. Add tomato paste and mix well.
5. Drain and rinse black beans, and add to onion/jalapeno mixture, along with salt. Mash about half the beans and mix it all up. Turn down the heat, but keep the mixture warm.
6. Once sweet potatoes are cooked, mash, and mix in diced chipotles.
7. Warm the tortillas for about 20-30 seconds.
8. Add a little salsa verde to the bottom of the baking dish.
9. Put a heaping spoonful of the bean mixture in the middle of a tortilla, and fold both sides over to the middle. Put seam side down in the baking dish. Prepare three more bean enchiladas, and line those up. Then repeat the same procedure with the sweet potato mixture.
10. Pour on some salsa verde, enough to cover but not dowse the enchiladas. Add the shredded cheese on top.
11. Broil on high until cheese is bubbling and has maybe a few small brown patches. This will only take a couple of minutes.

June Freezer Cooking Plan

My plan this month revolves around doing advance prep. I’m a little short of time this weekend, so I’m not planning to make up any meals to freeze. I’m going to chop up a bunch of onions, as well as a huge bag of jalapenos that I got at Kroger for 68¢. Additionally I’ll cook up several batches of beans, some of which I’ll use to make enchiladas for a friend who recently had a baby.

Our son (16 months old) has a newly discovered love for baked beans – but not the kind I typically make, the kind from the can. So I looked around for a recipe for something similar and found one to give a try.

Meals:
Skillet Baked Beans (from the Vegetarian Family Cookbook)
Black Bean Enchiladas x 2

Chop and freeze:
at least 4 onions
1.5 pounds red jalapenos
5 green jalapenos

Prepare and freeze:
1 head cauliflower
2 bags dried black beans
1 bag dried chickpeas

Last Week’s Meal Plan

I put together a meal plan for last week that I’d planned to share, but didn’t. I thought I’d go ahead and post it and include my commentary on what actually ended up happening each night for supper. Most nights we also had the standard salad that we make around here: red or green leaf lettuce (organic), Craisins, sliced almonds, croutons, Parmesan or goat cheese, and dressing.

The Plan
Sunday – baked beans, deviled eggs, pasta salad
Monday – Saag Paneer
Tuesday – Vegetable Lasagna
Wednesday – Beet Risotto with Marinated Tofu
Thursday – White Bean Gratin
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – fend for ourselves

What Really Happened

Sunday: I stuck to the plan. (I’ll be sharing my recipes for pasta salad and deviled eggs in the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend.) I also steamed all the greens for Saag Paneer, getting an early start on the next night’s cooking. Way to go, me!

Monday: I started making the cheese for Saag Paneer, then quickly realized that based on the prep time, we wouldn’t be eating until at least 9:30. Made Trader Joe’s frozen tamales instead with jarred salsa verde. But I did finish up making the cheese. I also took the sauce and shredded Jack cheese out of the freezer in preparation for the next night.

Tuesday: Made lasagna as planned. However, it got a little derailed when I realized I’d bought sour cream instead of cottage cheese. Had to send husband to the store.

Wednesday: Got a late start when it came time to work on supper, and heated up leftover lasagna.

Thursday: I had to work late unexpectedly, and didn’t get home until nearly 10:30pm. Don’t know what Jason had for supper. I made a hummus, avocado, and cheese sandwich and then went to bed.

Friday: Finally made Saag Paneer!

Saturday: Wanted to make White Bean Gratin, but did not have any canned white beans or any in the freezer. Rather than going out to the store again, we had more tamales. I improvised the sauce, mixing together hot sauce and leftover tomato sauce and salsa. It came out pretty well!

May Freezer Cooking Wrap-Up

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger

Overall, things went great! Or at least I think they did… I guess I won’t know for sure until I successfully use up what I’ve just frozen.

I did have one massive flop: the yummy-sounding Oatmeal Banana Raisin waffles. The batter seemed normal enough, and the first waffle was tasty (we’d planned to eat them for breakfast and freeze the leftovers). The second waffle split in half when I opened the waffle maker, but it was fairly easy to pull both halves out. The third waffle, however, stuck and burned to the waffle maker, necessitating an abrupt end to deliciousness as I picked out burned waffle bits for twenty minutes. Maybe the waffle maker was too hot or next time I could try some cooking spray.

To console myself, I made a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread that I’d been wanting to try. It came out perfectly, but, ah, did not make it to the freezer.

Everything else went as planned, with the small deviation of finishing up several things on Sunday instead of Saturday. It took a lot longer to cook the black beans in the slow cooker than it should have because of how I accidentally turned it off at one point. So I finished that up on Sunday, along with the pizza dough. I also made an extra batch of marinated tofu for Sunday’s supper, and cooked up a batch of white beans that I hadn’t planned on.

Here’s what I’ve got:

one batch of Carrot-Raisin Muffins
one loaf of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (very similar recipe on Orangette – I used the one from her book, though)
enough filling for two batches of Black Bean Enchiladas (recipe coming soon)
dough for three pizzas
sauce made for Vegetable Lasagna
onions and beans ready for Pasta with Beans and Greens (recipe coming soon)
4 extra onions chopped (and later double-bagged because the freezer and refrigerator stank of onions)
one batch of tofu marinating (and one batch eaten!)

Carrot-Raisin Muffins

Carrot-Raisin Muffins

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger

Marinating Tofu

Tofu in Italian Marinade

May Freezer Cooking Plan

Freezer, before the day of cooking.

I’d been planning for nearly  a week to spend a good part of this weekend filling our freezer with prepped food, like chopped onions, and a few complete meals. This evening, as I cleaned up the kitchen, I took a real look inside the freezer, and what do you know, it’s already pretty full. So I may scale back a little from what I was thinking about doing, which was probably too ambitious anyway.

Prep Work
chopped onions, around 6, or until I get tired of chopping onions
make black beans in crockpot
grate 4 carrots
slice and drain 1 pound tofu

Cooking / Mixing
black bean filling
make lasagna sauce
mix Italian marinade and bag with tofu
3 batches pizza dough
mix batter and make waffles
mix batter for muffins

Meals Available from Freezer
2 pans of Black Bean Enchiladas
Vegetable Lasagna
3 pizzas
Italian baked tofu
Oatmeal Banana Raisin Waffles (12)
Carrot-Raisin Muffins (12)

Since I already have waffles in the freezer, I might skip the Oatmeal Banana Raisin Waffles, though they sure sound tasty. That particular recipe and the one for Carrot-Raisin Muffins come from Vegan with a Vengeance. I’m going to try substituting almond milk for soy milk, since I have it on hand.

I haven’t had much experience in freezing tofu, so trying it in marinade will definitely be an experiment.

April 28 CSA Share

Full share from April 28, 2010

Full share from April 28, 2010

Wow! This is my fifth year as a CSA member! I’m super-excited about the coming season for several reasons.

One, my feeble attempt at a vegetable garden last summer was pretty much a fail. I only had a 4X4 plot, and though it was in the sunniest part of our yard, it just wasn’t enough. I got a few tomatoes and cucumbers, and some basil, but it wasn’t a particularly productive garden. The hot peppers that I planted in pots on the back desk did pretty well, though.

The second reason I’m looking forward to my weekly shares is that we’ve had some changes in our family’s financial situation. Getting in a batch of produce each week that was paid for a long time ago is going to be a huge plus in meal planning and saving on groceries – something that I’m planning to start blogging a little more about in general.

I have to say, I wish there were more strawberries this week. As in previous years, we are splitting this share with another couple, and half a pint of strawberries is pretty much just a handful. (But they were delicious!) Here’s what we received: one big bunch spinach, one pint of strawberries, two baby bok choi, one big bunch turnips, one bunch French breakfast radishes, and two enormous heads of lettuce – one Romaine, one red-leaf.

Hummus

Every year at Thanksgiving, my dad’s side of the family partakes in a delicious mishmash of semi-traditional dishes and Middle Eastern cuisine. We have tabbouleh, grape leaves, hushwi (sadly, not vegetarian… yet), kibbe (ditto), spinach (and meat) pies, and Syrian bread (i.e. pita). For my part, I bring The Hummus.

I guess I’m a bit of a snob about hummus. Real hummus is made from chick-peas… none of this black bean hummus business. Though I dearly love black beans, that’s called dip. Not hummus. And using peanut butter? That’s just wrong.

Ingredients

2 cans (or equivalent cooked) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 to 2/3 cup lemon juice (start with less and add more if you like)
3-5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1 tsp salt

Add all ingredients to your food processor and blend until smooth. This will likely take a few minutes. Be patient – you don’t want your hummus to be full of chick-pea skins. You can add a little water in small increments if the hummus is too thick, but I prefer extra lemon juice instead.

My New Series: What Can I Do With…?

In my Pantry Challenge wrap-up, I laid out my idea for identifying certain ingredients that have been, shall we say, lingering for a while and need to be used up. Or used at all. Rather than limiting this to just February, I decided to make it an ongoing series, called What Can I Do With…? (I thought about trying to do one every Wednesday, and calling it What Can I Do With…? Wednesdays, but that just seemed a little too convoluted.)

Naturally, I bought all of these for a reason originally (well, almost all of them). I know exactly why I bought pomegranate molasses, but I use it for one recipe and one recipe only. This is about creativity. I’m not suggesting that I have no idea how to use Arborio rice, for example, but, rather, I want to explore both common and inventive uses.

What Can I Do With...?

My first batch of What Can I Do With...? ingredients

Here’s a list of what I’m going to start with (in the photo, left to right, back to front):

  • Arborio rice
  • panko
  • fava beans
  • pomegranate molasses
  • quinoa
  • bean threads
  • tempura batter mix
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • golden raisins
  • crystallized ginger
  • sushi rice

Pantry Challenge Final Update and Lessons Learned

Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper, and Artichoke Heart Pizza

I was out of commission for three days (sick), so I’m not including a list of what we ate to finish off the month. But it was primarily leftovers and “convenience” foods like Boca burgers and veggie dogs. I did do some cooking this weekend since we were snowed in. Last night I made a delicious goat cheese, roasted red pepper, and artichoke heart pizza using this crust recipe.

As January comes to a close, I’m reflecting on how and in what form to take what I learned into the next month. What did I learn? Let’s see…

  • I seem to cook in fairly large quantities. Or maybe it’s just that right now, there are only two of us eating my cooking. Either way, I should be stashing leftovers in the freezer more quickly, rather than eating them day after day.
  • As a vegetarian, much of what I tend to buy at the store is fresh produce, dairy, and eggs – all things that were not off-limits for this month. I don’t actually feel as though I made much of a dent in what I have in the pantry. Most of my meals ended up using one or two things from there, and fresh ingredients for the rest.
  • I did save money on groceries, but not as much as I hoped. I should probably have set an amount to spend each week, rather than going wild with cheese. Not that I went wilder than usual with cheese. (Just a note that I didn’t buy the goat cheese this month – I already had it from December. So there.)
  • Having some kind of parameter, such as not buying any canned goods, turned out to be just the thing I needed to reinvigorate my cooking. I brought back several meals I hadn’t made in years, tried out new ones (seven!), and even made a huge batch of pancakes, which are normally full of fail for me. I busted out my bread machine, and used it several times as well – something else I’d never done before.

Based on all this, what I’m planning to do for February is to identify ingredients that I have in the pantry that I will use up (or at least use some of) by the end of the month. This will be a slightly different challenge, as I will be free to buy whatever I need. It’s more of a creative challenge than a frugal one. I’ll try to come up with a clever name for this, but I’m not promising anything…