Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Test Kitchen of Emily Meier

My little sis recently got married and moved to NYC!
She has been doing all the "wifely" things like cooking and laundry etc and I get daily text messages/phone calls from her asking questions which I love since I have almost 5 years under my belt and of course that makes me an expert (NOT!).  

Some of the stories of her adventures in the Big City about grocery shopping and her cooking adventures are hilarious.  After a long text message last night of her many mishaps over the course of the day I told her she needed to write a blog about it because it was very entertaining!

My sis has her own Test Kitchen of sorts because she tries all kinds of new recipes out on her hubs that he loves!  Maybe we can convince her to do a guest blog post here because she has told me about a couple of recipes that sound amazing like a Garlic Shrimp Pasta and Cajun Chicken Pasta... Let's see if we can get her to share these recipes with us!!

Check out her blog post The Test Kitchen of Emily Meier to read about some of her fun adventures in cooking!  Leave her a comment and maybe she will agree to do a guest blog post on here with one of her delicious recipes she has been making!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Freezer Cooking #3 - Sauce-a-Palooza!!

My Freezer!
We are about a month and a half away from baby boys due date and I decided it was about time to stock up the freezer with some easy to "pull out & serve" meals!  Some of my favorite fall recipes are my moms which include her Spaghetti Sauce, Beef Stroganoff and her Homemade Marinara.   I decided to have an afternoon of cooking last weekend to prep all these sauces and I ended up with 19 "bags" of sauce!!

It is sooo easy to pull out a sauce and defrost it in the sink for 20 minutes and then transfer to a pot to warm while the noodles are cooking so I figured stocking up on these "comfort meals" would be perfect for once baby is here and for the cool fall/winter weather!

As I pointed out in my Freezer Cooking # 2 post,  I prepare my “bags” to be for “2 servings.”  Since there are only 2 of us eating…this helps with waste & portion control.  If you will be serving more than 2 people with your freezer meals then you can cut the # of bags I tell you to prep for each sauce in half so that each bag has more sauce. ( i.e. – I will tell you to label 6 bags for “spaghetti sauce”, these bags will have enough for 2-3 servings each in them when the prepared sauce is divided equally between them, so if you would like your bags to have 4-6 servings, then divide the sauce evenly between 3 bags instead of 6.)

Also, I will be using my FoodSaver system to seal/store all of the sauces.  For the sake of the instructions and so no one gets confused I will still refer to everything as “bags.”  For this round of recipes you will need quart sized freezer bags if you follow my instructions how they are OR gallon sized bags if you are increasing serving sizes to (4).   

Here is the menu for Freezer Cooking Round 3 “Sauce-A-Palooza”:
·         Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce  (6)
·         Tomato Marinara Sauce  (7)

Here is my grocery list:  (don’t be alarmed!  The list looks a bit long but most of the ingredients were already in my cabinet and are probably in yours!  Everything in italics was already in my cabinet.   Compare this list to your cabinets and cross out the items you won’t need to buy at the store. =)  )
Fresh Produce:
·          Sweet Onions (7 small) I bought a “bag” of sweet onions- it was less $
·          Head of Garlic (1)
·          Fresh Sliced Mushrooms (24 oz)
·          2.5 pounds Ground Beef
·          4-5 Ibs Beef Sirloin Tips ( I buy steaks and cut them down into tips/strips - less expensive!)   
·          ¾ cup Butter (1.5 sticks)
·          4.5 cups Beef Broth
·          Worcestershire Sauce
·          Flour
·          Sour Cream (This is added to the Beef Stroganoff LATER when you defrost it and are ready to eat so you may not want to buy this yet!)
·          Yellow Mustard
·          Tomato Paste ( 7)- 12 oz cans
·          Crushed Tomatoes (4) – 28 oz cans
·          20 oz Chicken Broth
·          32 oz can Tomato Sauce
·          Diced Tomatoes (2)-32 oz cans
·          1.5 cups milk
·          ½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
·          6 Eggs
·          6 Slices White Bread
·          White Sugar
·          Oregano Leaves
·          Bay Leaf (2)
·          Salt & Pepper
·          Garlic Salt
·          Parsley Flakes
·          Flour
·          Dried Basil
·          Vegetable Oil & Olive Oil
·          Freezer Bags
Don't worry!  I recycle!!
·          *You may also want to go ahead and buy a couple of packages of spaghetti noodles & egg noodles to have on hand for when you thaw the sauces- I usually stock up when they are on sale & when I have coupons*

Of course, once you get everything home and you are ready to cook put it on the counter and admire what you are about to do!! =) 

I label everything with name, date and instructions BEFORE I start:
·          Mom’s Spaghetti (6 bags):  Thaw in Fridge or Sink, Heat & Serve over Noodles
·          Beef Stroganoff (6 bags):  Thaw in Fridge or Sink, Heat, Add 8 oz Sour Cream before serving over Egg Noodles
·          Tomato Marinara (7 bags):  Thaw in Fridge or Sink, Heat & Serve over Chicken Parmesan, Noodles OR make Baked Ziti.

Now it’s time to get started on the sauces!
1.      First, you want to assess your “pot” situation.  You will need (3) LARGE pots to make these sauces.  I only have (2) large pots so I actually ended up prepping the marinara in (1) large pot and then transferred it into my 3qt and 5qt crock pots to simmer while the spaghetti sauce & beef stroganoff occupied the pots on the stove.   Get  your pots/crockpots ready on the counter/stove.
2.      Prep the meat for the Beef Stroganoff:  Make sure the beef sirloin is cut into strips or tips and place in a large bowl.  Coat evenly with ¾ cup flour, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper.  Set aside.
3.      In Marinara Pot warm 2 tbsp olive iil.  In Beef Stroganoff Pot melt ¾ cup butter and in Spaghetti Pot warm 2 tbsp vegetable oil.  **MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT LET ANY OF THESE BURN!* Keep on LOW HEAT until you are ready to add onion.  (If you will be using crock pots like I did for the Marinara Sauce then hold off on Spaghetti instructions until Marinara is transferred to crock pots.)
4.      Next, chop all 7 onions- I have an onion chopper I used for this which made things a little easier.   You will want to distribute (3) of the chopped onions into the melted butter/Beef Stroganoff pot, (2) of the chopped onions into the Marinara pot and (2) of the chopped onions into the Spaghetti Pot.  Also, at this time add the beef tips coated in flour to the Beef Stroganoff pot.  Add (6)cloves garlic minced to the Marinara Pot.  Sauté all onions until translucent.  Sauté beef & onions in Beef Stroganoff pot until beef is cooked through.
5.      Once Onions are done it is time to assemble the sauces:
a.       Marinara Sauce Pot:
                                                   i.       Add 4- 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
                                                 ii.       Add 20 oz chicken broth
                                               iii.       Add 32 oz tomato sauce
                                               iv.      Add 36 ounces tomato paste
                                                 v.      Add 3 tbsp oregano
                                               vi.      Add 3 tbsp basil
                                             vii.      Add 2 tsp salt
                                           viii.      Add ½ tsp pepper
                                               ix.      Add ½ cup sugar (or more to taste)
                                                 x.      Mix all together well and simmer for 1.5 hours OR transfer to crock pots at this time to simmer.
b.      Beef Stroganoff Pot:
                                                   i.      Add 4.5 cups beef broth
                                                 ii.      Add 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
                                               iii.      Add 2 tbsp yellow mustard
                                               iv.      Add 6 oz tomato paste
                                                 v.      Add 24 oz sliced mushrooms
                                               vi.      Mix all together well and simmer 1.5 hours  
c.       Spaghetti Pot:
                                                   i.      Add 36 oz tomato paste
                                                 ii.      Add 64 oz diced tomatoes
                                               iii.      Add 1 tbsp oregano leaves
                                               iv.      Add (2) bay leafs
                                                 v.      Add ½ cup sugar (or more to taste)
                                               vi.      Add 2 cups water
                                             vii.      Mix all together well and simmer 1.5 hours  *if it seems to thick, add more water*
6.      While Sauces are simmering, you will need to prep the “meat” part of the spaghetti sauce.  In a bowl mix the following ingredients together:
a.       2-2.5 pounds of ground beef
b.      1.5 cups milk
c.       1 tsp pepper
d.      ½ cup parmesan cheese
e.       6 eggs (beaten with fork)
f.         6 slices white bread torn into tiny pieces
g.       1 tsp garlic salt
h.      2 tsp parsley flakes
Brown the above ingredients in a skillet well.    Add to Spaghetti Sauce pot after sauce has simmered at least an hour- mix well and let simmer an additional 30 minutes.

Once all sauce has simmered for 1.5 hours- let cool before placing in bags.

Distribute sauces evenly amongst # of prepped bags.

I usually put them in the freezer stacked as flat as possible on top of each other for easy storing.

Here is how I typically serve my sauces:
Spaghetti Sauce:  Typically I just serve this over plain ole’ spaghetti noodles with salad & garlic bread.
Beef Stroganoff:   I serve this over egg noodles with some sort of bread.
Marinara Sauce:  I use this for all sorts of things!  You can make baked ziti with it, serve it plain over noodles, over frozen ravioli or manicotti and my favorite way to serve this is over chicken parmesan.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Black Bean & Corn Salsa

I LOVE anything I can dip tortilla chips into!  Salsa, Bean Dip, Onion Dip,  ANY DIP!!  I wanted to make something new & refreshing for labor day weekend so I found a recipe this Black Bean Salsa recipe on Food Network that I adapted a bit!  Thanks Paula Dean for a "healthy" recipe with no butter.. haha!
The salsa was a hit so I wanted to share...

Black Bean Salsa
approximately 12 servings


  • (2) 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed & drained
  • (1) 17 oz bag of sweet white frozen corn
  • (3) large tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • (1) small onion diced
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves chopped
  • Juice from 1 whole lime
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl/container than can be covered.  Cover and chill overnight.  You can taste and add more lime juice, salt & pepper to your liking.  ENJOY!
*  I used my onion chopper for the onion & tomatoes and it helped make the prep process go faster!

Chicken with Broccoli

I had a pack of chicken in the fridge and some broccoli that I needed to use so I decided to attempt a "Chinese Flair" dish-- Chicken & Broccoli!   You are seeing it on the blog because the hubs LOVED it and asks for me to make it all the time...  and I have to admit it was fairly easy!   Most of the recipes I found for chicken & broccoli required a bunch of different pans etc but I tried to combine the essentials for "ease of dishes" at the end and it worked well!!

Chicken with Broccoli
I forgot to take a pic before I dug in so this one isn't so pretty!
approx. 3 servings


to velvet chicken:

  • 3/4- 1 Ib Chicken Breast
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
to cook broccoli:
  • 2 broccoli crowns
  • 1 Tbs Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Water
other ingredients:
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp Water
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Cut chicken into thin strips.  Mix together egg whites, cornstarch & salt.  Add chicken to mixture, making sure it is coated well.  Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  This is called "velveting the chicken."
  2. Prep sauce & broccoli while chicken is velveting.  For sauce combine oyster sauce, soy sauce and water in a small bowl- set aside.  Chop garlic & set aside.  Wash & drain broccoli- cut florets into 3-4 pieces or to a size of your liking.  Also, cut some of the broccoli stalk diagonally and thin- set aside.
  3. Preheat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat.  Add garlic 10-20 seconds to saute and then add the velveted chicken.  Make sure chicken pieces are separated- stir often.
  4. In another skillet heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add broccoli, salt and sugar.  Stir fry broccoli for approx 1 minute and then add 1/2 cup water.  Cover & cook 4 minutes.  Drain broccoli and add to chicken mixture (when chicken is cooked through.)  Stir fry briefly.
  5. Mix cornstarch & water mixture into soy mixture and then dump over chicken & broccoli.  Toss until thickened.
  6. Serve over rice & ENJOY!  =)