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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Stock the Kitchen

Each month, Foodbuzz hosts 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs where they highlight a group of meals that happen on the same day. I always enjoy reading these posts and have tried to think of creative ideas so that I could apply and participate, and I finally thought of one – and was so excited to find out I had been chosen for the January 24, 24, 24!

One of my friends from my book club was pregnant (and just had her baby last week), and the other club members and I had previously discussed creating a schedule so that we could provide meals for Cassi and her husband Hal after the baby arrived. We knew it would be a huge adjustment for them to bring the baby home, and the last thing we wanted was for them to be stressed out over preparing food.

When I started thinking about our cooking schedule, I thought it would be much more fun to turn one of our book club meetings into a cooking party! I decided to host a “Stock the Kitchen” party where we could all share a meal together and then cook several freezer-friendly and pantry stable meals for Cassi all at once.

After collecting recipes from other book club members, I went grocery shopping on Thursday night:

We started out the party evening by enjoying dinner together. When I thought about what to serve for my friends, I wanted something that everyone could enjoy but also customize to their individual tastes. So, we had a taco bar! The protein was grilled shrimp (which was coated with olive oil, paprika, a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes, and splash of hot sauce) and the toppings included lettuce, diced red onion and tomatoes, shredded red cabbage, sliced avocados, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.


taco 2


We also had white and blue corn chips, guacamole, and my 5 Minute Salsa:


5 Minute Salsa

2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
2 cans Rotel tomatoes, drained
a large handful of cilantro

Place the fresh vegetables in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the Rotel tomatoes and cilantro and pulse until everything is combined.

*I like to make this salsa at least a few hours in advance and store in the refrigerator so the flavors can combine.*

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We also had some of these while we ate:


What taco bar (or party) would be complete without a margarita or two? I put my friend Sylvia on drink duty while I finished chopping the taco toppings and she mixed some excellent margaritas.

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After dinner, we started preparing Cassi’s food. In the course of three hours, we prepared a large list of food and packaged it to go into the freezer (including reheating directions on each package). We made:

  • Granola
  • Spiced Carrot Muffins
  • Vegetable Soup
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
  • Lasagna
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough


While Sylvia and I started working in the kitchen on the hot food, I set up my Kitchen Aid on the dining room table and created a baking station for Kim to work on the chocolate chip cookie dough:


After scooping the dough, Kim placed it directly in the freezer and then packed it up in a plastic zipper bag. And, of course, we baked up a few for dessert! To see the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies, please see this post.

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During this time, Sylvia was cooking chicken for both the chicken pot pie and the casserole, and I was making vegetable soup:

After cooking and cooling, I ladled the soup into zipper bags in three-cup portions, labeled and stacked them, and placed them into the freezer.

Vegetable Soup
(adapted from the Weight Watchers Zero Point Soup recipe)

- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 6 c. fat-free broth, either chicken or vegetable
- 4 c. shredded cabbage
- 3 small zucchini, sliced
- 1 1/2 c. green beans, either canned (drained and rinsed) or frozen
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1 T. Italian seasoning

Spray a large stockpot or Dutch oven with non-stick stray and sauté the carrots, onion, and garlic over medium heat until softened.

Add the tomato paste and stir until combined.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cabbage and zucchini are cooked through.

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After the chicken cooked and cooled, Sylvia diced it into small pieces so she and Kim could assemble the chicken pot pie and the chicken cordon bleu casserole.

Chicken Pot Pie
(adapted from SparkRecipes)

- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked
- 2 cans of Healthy request Cream of Chicken soup
- 1 16 oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup Bisquick
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1 egg

Cut the cooked chicken into small bite-sized pieces. Combine with the soup, vegetables and salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a baking dish.

Mix the bisquick, skim milk, and egg and pour over the chicken mixture.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, until heated through and the topping is golden brown.

*We assembled the chicken base of this recipe, then froze the dish without the topping. We sent the box of Bisquick along so Cassi could add this, but we thought the topping would become too soggy in the freezing process.*

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I completely forgot to take a picture of this one before we packaged it, but here is the recipe. Also be sure to read the directions Sylvia wrote on the package because they are cute and funny!

cordon blue casserole

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

- 3 c. cooked chicken breast, diced
- 2 c. cooked ham, diced
- 2 c. cooked pasta shells
- 1 c. cheddar cheese, diced
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1/2 c. skim milk
- garlic powder
- salt and pepper

In a 9 x 13 baking dish, layer the chicken, ham, pasta and cheese. Mix the soup with the sour cream, milk and spices and pour over the layers.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until heated through and golden brown on top.

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The final recipe that I made together with Sylvia and Kim was the lasagna. To make it freezable, we boiled the noodles and assembled the dish but did not bake it. If I was going to bake it and eat immediately, I would use no-boil noodles and follow the directions as written. Also, the original recipe did not call for ricotta (it was a lower-fat recipe), but Sylvia and I decided that it just isn’t lasagna without ricotta and added it anyway.


Lasagna

- 2 lbs. of lean ground beef
- one jar of marinara
- box of lasagna noodles
- 1 egg
- 1 t. Italian seasoning
- 1 15. oz container ricotta cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese
- 1 3/4 c. of mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top

Brown beef and drain. Add in marinara and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Beat egg in a separate bowl and add Italian seasoning, ricotta, garlic and 1/4 c. cheese.

In a long dish, layer noodles, then half of meat mixture, then noodles, then egg/cheese mixture, then meat, then sprinkle with cheese.

Cover with foil, bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

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In addition to providing some main meals, I wanted to include some breakfast items for Cassi. I decided to make a batch of granola (originally posted here) and Spiced Carrot Muffins that can be baked straight from the freezer.



Nutty Granola
(adapted from Ellie Krieger)

3 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. raw unsalted nuts (I used pecan chips and sliced almonds)
1/2 c. agave nectar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. raisins

Combine all ingredients except raisins and stir until everything is coated with agave nectar. Spread out on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick spray.

Bake at 275 degrees for 25-30 minutes, stirring twice during baking.

Mix in raisins and allow to cool on the cookie sheet.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Spiced Carrot Muffins
(from Delish, adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

- 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 2 t. pumpkin-pie spice
- 2 t. baking powder
- 3/4 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. salt
- 3/4 c. plain low-fat yogurt
- 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 c. shredded carrots

Line twelve cups (each 2 1/2 inches wide) of a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, and eggs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add yogurt mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in carrots.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. (If desired, muffins can be baked immediately in a 375 degrees oven for about 20 minutes.) Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes, then cover tin with plastic wrap, and freeze until ready to bake, up to 3 months.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake muffins (still frozen) until a toothpick inserted in center of one comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Finally, after all of the food was cooked, packaged and frozen, we sat down to write out the recipes on cards to present to Cassi and Hal. Even though she may not feel like cooking now, Cassi does enjoy it (I know, I’ve had her food before!) and I wanted her to be able to make these dishes again if they enjoy them.

Sylvia and I delivered the food to Cassi and Hal this afternoon and stayed for awhile to see baby Adelyn. I think they were very happy with the food and planned to make part of it right away.

I thoroughly enjoyed hosting my friends, having a great dinner, and making meals for a friend. I want to send a huge thank you to Foodbuzz for giving me the opportunity to Stock the Kitchen!

recipes 4

11 comments:

Kelly said...

Hey Rachel...thanks fo rthe food blog..I am going to make the Chicken Pot Pie for dinner Thursday night...I will let you know how it goes...By the way I love your blog!!! Kelly Gillenwater Price

kelsey said...

you are SO THOUGHTFUL!! YYYYYYYeah NC bloggers!

Kimberly said...

Rachel, this was the best idea! I had so much fun hanging out with the girls and cooking some yummy meals for a wonderful family! Thank you so much for organizing everything! I can't wait to make the shrimp tacos!

Joan Nova said...

That's a great idea. Everyone had a good time and I'm sure Cassi will be appreciative for days. Congrats on 24, 24, 24.

The Duo Dishes said...

Such a thoughtful idea! Your friend's lucky without a doubt. You've given others good ideas for freezer-friendly foods.

Maria said...

That was a great post! Loved the idea and I am sure your friends appreciated every morsel.

thenotsoskinnykitchen said...

What a great idea for the blog and your friend. It looks like you guys made her some awesome food!!

Terry said...

Brilliant idea with the frozen muffins. I will have to try this!!
Shrimp tacos for my superbowl party, for sure!!

Zibi said...

What an amazing idea! Very thoughtful :) It's so convenient having a freezer filled with healthy home cooked meals.

Sam (The Second Lunch) said...

What a lovely thing to do! One of my good friends just had a baby a month ago, and we did the same thing - I can't imagine ever not wanting to cook.. although I bet I'll be laughing at myself when I have my first child...

I could think of a lot of busy people who this would be useful for as well!

cali chic said...

What a great idea and thoughtful gift! People so often forget the parents' need to eat too! Definitely going to start enlarging my circle of cooking friends and try this in the future.

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