Monday, January 14, 2013

Creamy Linguine Casserole

I'm trying hard to motivate myself to cook more, but it's hard. Luckily a friend introduced me to emeals awhile ago and I'm back on the bandwagon. It's a subscription site that matches up menus to what's on sale at your selected supermarket that week. The meals are always pretty simple, few ingredients, and inexpensive. You can pick from a wide array of menus to fit your needs, including Natural/Organic, Paleo, Meals for 2, etc. Dave Ramsey-approved. All around winner. You owe it to yourself to at least check out their sample menus.

But I've touted my love of emeals before. Enough of that.

This dinner was 90% emeals and 10% poor planning on my part. Luckily, it all turned out good anyway. Here's my slightly revised recipe.

Creamy Linguine Casserole

1 lb ground turkey

1 t minced garlic
24 oz jar pasta sauce
8 oz linguine
16 oz sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 c shredded mozzarella (Or more. We like cheese.)
1/4 c parmesan (the real stuff or the stuff in the can, whichever you have on hand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start heating water for pasta.

Brown turkey with garlic until turkey is crumbly & no longer pink. Drain if necessary (I find that extra lean ground turkey doesn't have much to drain). Stir in pasta sauce; simmer 10 minutes or until you're ready for it.

Prepare linguine to package directions. 

Combine sour cream and cream cheese, set aside.

Drain pasta, return to pot. Incorporate sour cream and cream cheese mixture until well coated. Spread in sprayed 13 x 9 inch dish (or my lovely Rachael Ray bubble and brown set). Pour meat sauce on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 min until heated. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan and bake 5 minutes more to melt cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side salad and dinner is ready! Hands on time was about 15 minutes, plus 30 for baking. Not too bad for a work night. Plus we have TONS of leftovers, which is a must in our house. Easy peasy and my big kid AND little kid loved it! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meal Planning

I don't know about you, but meal planning is so hard for me. I've tried lots of different strategies- some work, some don't. I thought I'd share some of my approaches with you!

I would rather try a new recipe that make an old standby any day. I just get really tired of the same old meat and potatoes. Luckily, Pinterest provides a plethora of inventive dinners just waiting to be tried out! How do I filter them all? It goes something like this:

"Take four chicken breasts and pound to a 1/4 inch thick..."

Fresh Rosemary...

"In your double broiler..."

I usually look for meals that are five ingredients or less, 15 minutes prep time, and less than an hour from idea to conception. I don't do the "plan ahead" thing very well these days, so running to the grocery store or roasting a whole chicken for several hours are out of the question.

The thing I don't like about Pinterest is there's often little feedback on whether the recipe was good or not. AllRecipes is an app and website that I LOVE for this very reason. It's worth looking at the user reviews because often they have comments that really improve the recipe.

I've tried sorting my Pinterest boards into categories that help me find meals faster. One of the approaches we've tried in our house is the "Sheldon Plan." This was inspired by our favorite show, The Big Bang Theory. If you're not familiar with it, the main character is autistic and has to have the same meal for each day of the week; Thai food on Mondays, Cheesecake Factory on Tuesdays, etc. So in our house it's Italian on Mondays, comfort food on Tuesdays, freezer meal on Wednesdays (I have faculty meetings and usually get home late, so the hubby can throw one in the oven), "Exotic" foods (Mexican, Chinese, Indian, etc. To my husband, that's exotic.) on Thursdays, leftovers on Fridays, and pizza on Saturdays. I can just click on one of those boards and find something to try.

Lately I haven't done much grocery shopping, so we're pretty limited to what's in the house. I started boards based on a main ingredient, so if I have a pound of chicken, I click on the "I have chicken" board and see what I can make. That's working well too.

I'm also trying to stockpile the freezer for after the baby comes. I did that last time (all in one week) and we ate them throughout the summer. Ironically, I ran out of freezer meals the week I went back to work. Yeah, life's funny like that.

And finally, I've paid for a subscription to emeals, which is really nice if you want to take all the decision making out of the process AND want to save money without having to coupon. I've gone through spurts of utilizing it well and ignoring it completely. It really is a nicely done site!

So those are all the good ideas I have. Seriously, if I were independently wealthy, I think the first thing I'd do is hire a chef.