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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tofu Parmesan and BBQ Mushroom Quesadillas

It's a twofer!  What unites these recipes is the sauteed onion-and-mushroom component of each...it's a small element of the Tofu Parmesan sauce and a main part of the BBQ Mushroom Quesadilla filling.  If you're slicing, chopping and sauteeing for one dish, you might as well do enough for both.  Both recipes are adapted from the 28 Day Diabetic Meal Plan from diabeticconnect.com.  I apologize for no finished product pictures...I cooked these two meals on two of my busiest nights (and they cooked up FAST!) and consequently forgot to photograph. 

Tofu scares a lot of people, but in this dish it's nothing to be frightened of.  Freezing "toughens" the tofu, usually a problem with other foods, but a bonus here.  It gives the tofu "steaks" a toothier, meatier texture, so making this one into a freezer kit suits the recipe extremely well. 

I will say though that my Dear Husband and I decided we prefer the tofu unfrozen for this recipe, so in future, I will fridge the 'fu rather than freezing it as part of a freezer kit.  If do you freeze the tofu, pat the cutlets dry gently rather than pressing hard...you want moisture to remain in the cutlet to allow the crumb coating to stick.  I think I'd also go for more, thinner cutlets for freezing...6 instead of 4...for a more appealing texture.  Carry on!

Quesadillas are wonderfully fast to put together and cook.  You can assemble the quesadilla in its entirety (as I do) to freeze, or just the filling to thaw and assemble later.  It simply depends on whether you have more time on the front end (in prep) or on the back end (in actual cooking).  If you make the quesadillas up fully, you can bake them off from their frozen state for a super-fast, no-plan dinner.

To make both dinner kits, start with:

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Coca Cola BBQ Chicken Crockpot version

As promised, the results of my home experimentation.  I don't think I'll make this recipe any way but in the crockpot from now on!

This version of this recipe double-ups the goodness by 1) becoming crockpot-friendly and 2) reducing the amount of fat in the recipe. 

You'll need to buy skinless bone-in chicken parts, or more likely yank the skin off your cut-up chicken.  It's not hard.  Hold the chicken in one hand (my left, since I'm a rightie), and use a paper towel to get a better grip on the skin with your other hand (my right, since I'm a rightie).  Pull.  Don't be afraid.  Just do it.  Yank.  Yank some more.  It will come off.  Don't sweat getting every tiny bit of skin off. 

Skinned chicken, chicken skin and sauce
Now what to do with that skin?  You can fling it, or if you want to be extremely resourceful and frugal, you can a) render it like bacon for chicken fat, a.k.a. schmaltz or b) spread it flat on a rack placed over a baking sheet and bake it until crisp to make a poultry version of pork rinds.  Or you can chop it up, saute it quickly and feed it to your dogs.

If we're taking the skin off, why don't we just use boneless chicken and save ourselves the fuss of working around bones in the cooked dish?  Because i) the bones will fall right out after a day of crockpot cookery and really not present much of a problem and ii) the bone-in structure will help keep your crockpot from way-overcooking these bad boys.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Tuna Bean Salad

I don't like canned tuna.  It's one of those foods, like "potted meat" and pickled eggs, that just creep me out.  I do, however, LOVE a few recipes that use canned tuna.  This is one of them.

It's a shop-ahead recipe at heart...a can of corn, a can of beans, 2 cans of tuna, salad dressing and some cheese.  All live happily in the pantry or freezer for several months.  Fresh onions/scallions are optional if you're planning this as a "rescue" meal (you know those nights, when all other plans have fallen through and you just need *something* for dinner without going to the store or carrying in).  It's also a great meal to plan on nights when you don't know for sure that dinner at home will happen...if it doesn't, your ingredients will keep and not go to waste.

It's also a make-ahead recipe...in fact, it tastes better after blending overnight (and therefore is delicious as leftovers).  If you want to serve it immediately, you can do that too, and it takes about 5 minutes to put together.  This is also pretty inexpensive at less than $1 per serving for the filling when I buy the ingredients at normal grocery store prices and even cheaper when you strike good sales on canned goods or cheese.

I usually serve it as a sandwich, but you could also use it as a stuffed veggie filling...whole tomatoes, cucumber "boats", well-steamed eggplant halves, boiled whole onions or lightly steamed zucchini halves.  Hollow out the veggies (after cooking, if they need cooked) with a spoon and fill with the salad.  If you are low-carbing, you could substitute 1/2 cup of edamame (frozen, for shop-ahead planning) for the can of corn.  And thanks to the increasing availability of low-sodium or no-salt-added products, a meal made of canned goods doesn't need to carry a huge sodium tab.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Hungarian Stuffed Peppers: Quick-style

Baked sausage and chard casserole
I love the Frugal Gourmet's Hungarian Stuffed Peppers, but when I was at the store today and saw red bells unexpectedly on sale, I couldn't summon enough wits to remember all the ingredients for that recipe.  And it takes a lot of steps which I just didn't feel like knocking out today.  So I'm borrowing the elements that I think make that recipe distinctive--notably the use of paprika and sauteed parsley--and sliding them into a "regular" stuffed pepper recipe.

Because I just bought ingredients willy-nilly today ::blush::, I wound up with a boatload of filling for 4 peppers.  Which worked out well because it yielded a second bonus dish!  You could also halve the filling recipe to just make 4 peppers, or use all the filling for 8 peppers.

The peppers are freezable and crockpot-able; the bonus casserole is freezable (possibly crockpot-able, too, but someone will have to experiment and report back to me on that one).  By the way, my kids LOVED this casserole, even the one who doesn't like veggies.

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Fish Tacos

Seasoned fillets
I am in love with fish tacos right now.  It's a different way to get fish into the menu and a really nice way to make use of whatever fish happens to be on sale at the market...tilapia, catfish, cod, halibut, mahi, just about any firm fleshed mild-tasting fish will work. 

It's ridonkulously easy to put together, cooks fast and allows each family member to build their preferred plate (ever the joy of Taco Night).  I'm putting it on my freezer kit list because you can shop ahead for the taco components (tortillas, salsa, cheese) and freeze them/store them in the pantry to have on hand for last minute taco dinner.  You can put a dry rub on the fish and freeze the spiced fillets as well.  The addition of final fresh ingredients like shredded lettuce and diced tomato are optional. 

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