Thursday, November 1, 2012
Chain Meals - In this post I will explore a favorite system that I have for cooking what I call chain meals. This is a frugal system that I get a lot of satisfaction in using. Day One.....Let's start out by making a nice pot of dried beans. This can be made from kidney beans or pinto beans or a combination of both. Make them by overnight soak method and then fix them with your own seasonings and onions and you can even add some salt pork or bacon or ham if you want. This first night you serve your beans with rice and cornbread. Yummmm..... Day Two.....You will make a triple batch of spaghetti sauce with ground beef and your favorite recipe of spaghetti sauce. You will serve one third of this sauce on your favorite spaghetti noodles. Make garlic toast and a fruit salad to serve with it. Day Three.....You will make a large green salad and serve some of your leftover beans and fruit on the salad. I usually rinse the beans so they are not messy with the jelled broth on them. I have always loved salad with lots of toppings. I also offer grated cheddar or monterey jack for the salad as well. Day Four.....We are making Chili with the leftover beans and Spaghetti Sauce. We are going to make Mashed Potatoes to serve it over and we will sprinkle it with the leftover grated cheese. I usually just heat the Spaghetti sauce, add the beans, add a packet of chili seasoning or my own blend of spices and heat it. (If you don't like mashed potatoes with chili then you can serve it over rice or with crackers, but please try it I think you will love the combination of mashed potatoes and chili.) Day Five.....Mash and reheat the beans which will be the same as refried beans and make Burritos with your leftovers of the week. Your lettuce salad fixings and homemade refried beans and cheese make absolutely delicious burritos. Make sure you cook those flour tortillas or corn tortillas so they won't taste like raw flour paste. Day Six.....Chili Mac is on the menu. Leftover Chili mixed with cooked macaroni and topped with your favorite cheese. Serve with corn bread if you like. Now you may spread these meals out by freezing some of your beans and spaghetti sauce. I have done this for freezer meals with the directions for what I want to make with the items on the bag. There are other things that I do similar chain cooking with such as a ten pound bag of chicken legs and thighs. I will cook one meal of barbeque chicken with as many legs as it takes to feed our family out of the bag. Then I will boil the rest of the chicken to make chicken salad, chicken pot pie, chicken tortilla soup, and if anything is left it will go into a fried rice for a change of pace. Don't forget that you can always make the old standby chicken noodle soup with the broth that you cooked the chicken in and add some chicken boullion to make it richer and just a half of a cup or so of chicken that has been deboned. You can come up with chain meals for pork roast by making roast pork the first day and then make pork perlau which is like spanish rice with pork in it, then make barbeque pork to serve in toasted buns with cole slaw. You can also make curry if there was any leftover, curry with pork and apples is delish! Beef can be made as a pot roast and then you can make shepherds pie, stew, and shredded beef tostados. You can also make many other dishes with beef and your only boundary will be your imagination. Now the whole idea is to cook one or two main dishes in sufficient quantity to make a large variety of other meals. Cut up the remainder of your meats and package for other meals. Leftover rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, etc. go into zip lock bags and put in the fridge or freezer to use for those other meals. You can make a list of meals that you can make with the ingredients in a small notebook that you put into your kitchen drawer or laminate a typed sheet with all the meals and tape it inside your kitchen upper cabinet door. That will remind you what you can make. Just take the foods from the fridge or freezer, defrost if necessary and you will have a 30 minute meal with very little work. I make my large meat meal for the week on the weekend and divvy it up into meal sized portions and mark it with a marker stating what it is and what I want to do with it. Such as the leftover beans for chili and another pack of beans for refried beans. Meats portioned out for the pies, casseroles or curry's. Mashed potatoes freeze well but they will need to be thinned with some fresh milk to get them back to the consistency you want. Rice freezes wonderfully and can be used for so many meals that it pays to cook a large amount and freeze meal sized portions for your fried rice, casseroles, soups, and as an accompaniment with gravy or curry. Most of the Oriental dishes you can make with rice, Southwest and Mexican foods also use a lot of rice. Bake up corn muffins in quantity and take out as many as you need for a meal and reheat in the microwave in a covered casserole dish with a damp paper towel in the dish with them. I hope you will try some of these dishes or at least the method with your own dishes and recipes. It is fun to see how many meals you can get from your beans, ground beef, pot roasts, ten pound bags of chicken and your pork shoulders. With one large piece of meat or cooked beans you can eat a whole week with a new dish each day. It will keep you from boredom and save you money at the same time. God bless you on your journey!