Monday, February 18, 2008

Investment Cooking Part 2

I hope the concept of Investment Cooking isn't overwhelming to some of you. It has really been a life-saver, well, at least a dollar and sanity saver for our family many times. As I was doing some cooking over the last few weeks, I remembered that one of my favorite things about Investment Cooking is that I use all my big pots and dishes over the weekend, when I have plenty of time to wash them. It actually helps me keep my kitchen cleaner! All we run through the dishwasher on the days we eat the prepared food are plates, cups and utensils. Sometimes we have a pot or pan, but mostly, it is just less stuff to clean. Now that is a great investment of my time!
We have taken care of The Daddy's car situation, so I have been given back a couple of hours every day. However, spring sports, birthday parties and my job have taken off. Oh, and there's that little job of getting our house ready to put on the market. We are still busy. And these people who live in my house still want meals. Go figure. To prepare for a busy work week, I spent a few hours in the kitchen and once again, we have plenty of food for the week....and some in the freezer for later, too!

Shredded Pork Barbecue
4-6 pound pork roast (I used a bone-in Boston Butt, the bone adds flavor!)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. paprika (I used Penzey's Smoked Paprika)
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
Barbecue Sauce of Choice

Preheat oven to 325°. Mix brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a small dish. Rub spices on roast, covering completely. Heat dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and pork roast. Brown roast on each side, being careful not to burn. Place lid on dutch oven and place in preheated oven. Roast covered 3 1/2 - 4 hours. Pork is done when meat is easily pulled away from the center bone. Remove from oven, place pork on a plate and allow to cool. Pour pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve. Allow juices to completely cool, then place in the freezer to allow fat to separate and harden on the top.
Remove bone from pork and either shred with two forks, or chop.
Serve pork on buns with your favorite barbecue sauce or add some of the pan juices to it and serve on baked potatoes or use as a taco or tamale pie filling.
**This method allows the pork to have incredible flavor because it isn't diluted by adding any liquids. That's why I do it in the oven and not the crockpot.

Homemade Croutons

Okay, this isn't really a recipe, but I like to save all my leftover bread and buns for garlic toast on spaghetti night. Since I was cooking up some chicken for Chicken Caesar Salads, I used some of my stash to make some homemade croutons to put on the salads. I just cut the buns into crouton-sized pieces, brush them lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle them with Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle. What? You don't order from the best spice place ever??? Seriously, it is good stuff...and The Daddy knows it! He gave me a nice gift card from there for Christmas. Getting the package of goodies was like Christmas all over again!
Okay, back to the croutons. So, you've brushed them and seasoned them. If you don't have Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle, just use a little garlic powder or whatever you usually use to season your garlic bread. Then bake them at 350° until they are golden brown and crispy. I keep them in a Ziploc bag until I need them for a salad.

Pizza Crust Dough and Cooked Chicken for Chicken Caesar Salads

Before I get to the Pizza Crusts, I'll finish up the comments on the Chicken Caesar Salads. I simply seasoned some boneless, skinless chicken breasts with Cavendar's Greek Seasoning and baked them at 350° until they were JUST done. I was careful not to overcook them. These were very thin cutlets that I buy from Gordon Foodservice Marketplace. I like them because they are well-priced and they are already trimmed and cut into the thin cutlets. Anyway, I let those cool, and put them in the fridge in a bag.
Then I made the following dressing. I will warn you, if you like Caesar Salad at all, you will love this dressing. It keeps well for about two weeks I'm told, it never lasts that long here. Once that is done, I have all the components for a quick and tasty lunch or light dinner of Chicken Caesar Salads.

Caesar Salad Dressing
(adapted from
from Diane SSSoapworks

Single Recipe: Doubled:
3 cloves garlic, peeled 5 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use low-fat) 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
5 anchovy fillets 1 generous tblsp. anchovy paste
6 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce 2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice 4 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt to taste Omit Salt (add directly to salad if desired)
Ground Black Pepper to taste Healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic in your blender. (**I add the lemon juice at this point) Blend to make a paste. Add all the remaining ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Now I usually add a lot more lemon juice because I like a thinner dressing. You do as you please. Pour into a jar and store in fridge until needed.

Pork or Turkey Italian Sausage
I prefer to buy lean ground pork or lean ground turkey (um...on sale, of course!) and make my own Italian Sausage for our pizzas. I add 1 tablespoon of Penzey's Italian Sausage Seasoning per pound and a light shake of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. Then brown it up while smushing it with a fork to break it up. I often to quite a few pounds at once, freezing them in bags for later use.

Homemade Pizzas...Love in a pan!
I've been making homemade pizzas on a regular basis for a long time. They are so much less expensive than the local take-out places and they really taste better. I really like to make them on Sunday night so there are leftovers for lunches on Monday. I am still working on how to parbake the crusts so that they are a quick weeknight option. For now, I'll give you the recipe and when you have a little time, give it a try. It is truly worth it!

Pizza Crust Recipe
from AMOM Pam on AOL, 1999

12 oz. beer
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. dry yeast (or 2 of the little packages)
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt or 2 tsp. Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle for a flavored crust
5 cups all-purpose flour
Extra flour for rolling

Pour beer into 4-cup glass measuring cup or a microwavable bowl. Add water. Heat beer and water in microwave until it is just warm to the touch. It shouldn't be HOT, but slightly higher than your body temp. Okay, like 110°. If you heat it too much, it will kill the little yeasties. Now, add the yeast to your water-beer mixture. Let that sit while you mix the rest. It should bubble up well. That is proofing the yeast.
Now, in either a large mixing bowl or your KitchenAid bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients except the extra flour for rolling. Add the bubbly yeast mixture and mix well. The dough should come together and be smooth pretty quickly. Cover the bowl will a towel and set in a warm place (the top of the running dryer here) to rise. It will take about an hour to rise well.
Once it is doubled in bulk, remove from the bowl, place on floured countertop and knead lightly, just to punch down. This recipe will make two very large pizzas or four regular-sized ones. If you don't want to make that much at once, place the dough in wax paper and freeze until firm. Then place in freezer bags. Just thaw and use.
Roll the crusts out to desired size. Place in pan that has been greased and dusted with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 400°. Top crusts with marinara sauce (see previous post), pizza cheese and desired toppings. Bake 25 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and browned to your liking.
**This is also great calzone dough!...or make bread sticks....or Ham and Cheese Rolls. Well, you get the idea. It's good stuff!

Mini Meatloaves

I never make a single recipe of Meatloaves. I always double it and freeze half for a quick meal or to take to a friend if needed. This is the doubled recipe. Halve it if you want.

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 onion, finely minced
1 cup rolled oats
2 eggs
16 oz. no-salt-added tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Ketchup for topping (yes, I hate the stuff, but it works here)

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients lightly. Pat into standard-size muffin pans and smooth the tops. Top with ketchup. Bake 25-30 minutes. Serve hot or remove from pans and let cool completely. Place meatloaves on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid, then repackage in freezer bags, being sure to remove as much air as possible.
To reheat, place in frozen meatloaves in foil and bake 35 minutes at 350°.

Cheesey-Jalepeno Corn Muffins
I just made a batch of corn muffins to go with our Calico Beans. I mixed according to package directions and added 6 chopped, pickled jalepenos (use 1 if using fresh!) and a handful of sharp cheddar cheese. Bake as directed.

Calico Beans and Jalepeno Corn Muffins
Yes, I now know that using a flash for food photos is a no-no, but indulge me for a moment. This was a great dinner.

Calico Beans
adapted from Carol's recipe as posted on LDD
serves 9

4-6 slices bacon, cooked, but not crisp, then chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1-28 oz. can regular baked beans
1-15 oz. can kidney beans
1-15 oz. can baby lima beans
1-15 oz. can navy or white beans
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Place bacon, ground beef and onion in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, breaking up meat with a fork, until evenly browned. Drain off fat. Mix all ingredients and place in a 4-quart casserole. Cover and bake one hour.
**I only baked half of the mixture. I froze the other half for later use. I did use a smaller casserole dish.
If you want this to be lower in salt and cost, use cooked, dried beans. I like to use those 15-bean mixtures, but I cook them without the seasoning packet....and I pick out the black beans. They color the whole mixture and it doesn't look right.

That's it! I know it's a lot and a long post, but you don't have to do it all. Try one recipe and go from there. Whatever you make, I hope it gets you back to your table tonight!