Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gadget Tuesday: Oster Digital Griddle

Well technically this griddle isn't mine, it is my husbands. He is the official family breakfast maker on the weekends and he received this as a gift for Christmas.  He gave me his old griddle to use for Menus, Meal and More endeavors, but I have been known to sneak his griddle out when he is at work.

Ok, I am sure you are thinking "An electric griddle is an electric griddle. Why is this one so special?" Well this one is different from  so many of our previous griddles because it is AWESOME.  The main reasons are the heating element, removeable cook surface and  digital thermostat.

The heating element in our earliers griddles was always a large plug in the side that would connect to a conductive ring that went around the perimeter. The Oster Digital Griddle  actual starts to heat from the center and then snakes around the bottom of the griddle plate. The heat is much more even and you don't end up with one burned pancake and a raw one on the other end of the cook surface.

Speaking of the cook surface- it comes off and is dishwasher safe!!!!! The nonstick surface is very easy to just wipe clean, but if you make a big mess it can be popped in the dishwasher. It is a very roomy 10*20 surface so there is alot of room for pancakes for a crowd! Removing the cook plate makes the rest of the appliance easily assessible for cleaning.

Now for my favorite part, the digital thermostat. You can just set the temperature you would like to cook at and the griddle will beep to let you know when it is ready.  We double check our with an infared thermometer and itis always right on target.

You may be asking yourself- "Where do I get one of these awesome griddles?" I purchased ours at Bed Bath and Beyond. I would definitely recommend checking it out the next time you are in the market for a griddle!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Batch Cooking With Friends

Lately I have been so busy filling other people's freezers that I have neglected my own, but today I changed that. A few of us got together and did a little batch cooking. 5 meals done in less than an hour, then we got to sit and chat for another hour or so just to make  it seem like we really toiled over these meals to our spouses. The dishes we prepared were really simple but will be oh so yummy and fast to the table. We did a lot of chicken dishes so we could take advantage of the case discounts and really got a great deal.

This party's meals were :
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Sweet Asian Chicken
Wine and Herb Marinated Chicken
Greek Tomato Feta Chicken Cutlets
Ginger Soy Marinated Ribeyes

It was a mix of old favorites and a couple new recipes to try out, but at $37 per person it was definitely a great deal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flavor Boost: Compound Butter

Compound butters are a wonderfully simple way to punch up the flavor in basic grilled meats. A compound butter is just butter mixed with seasoning that adds flavor. The flavored butter can be spread on warm bread or really topped on just about anything. I know I am sounding a bit like Paula Deen, but what doesn't taste good with a bit of butter?

 Ok seriously, compound butters are great on simple grilled meats. A steak  can be seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper then grilled and topped with tarragon butter at the table and it is easy and full of flavor. There are tons of recipes out there for them, but here are a few of my favorites.

The procedure for making the butter is the same for all of them. Mix the butter with the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Place the butter on a square of wax paper and roll up like a tootsie roll. Place in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Slice off small round of butter to top grilled meats, fish, or vegetables.

Tarragon Butter

1 stick of butter- softened
1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt

Butter à la Maître d’Hôtel  - Also great on rolls

1/4 pound butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

One of the most famous seasoned butters.

Chive Butter - great on potatoes or rice

1 stick of butter
2 Tbls. fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbls. thyme leaves, chopped
freshly cracked black pepper
Basil Butter - wonderful on pasta and much better for you than Pasta Roni
1 stick of butter
3 tbls olive oil
1/4 cup of finely chopped basil
2 tbls minced garlic
freshly cracked pepper
The possibilities are really endless with what you can mix. Here are a few other ideas that I have seen posted around the web.
Lemon and dill butter for fish,  Chili lime for corn and Chardonnay Shallot. Some great ones for pancakes and waffles include , Honey Pecan, Orange Honey, Sweet cinnamon and Cranberry orange.
What flavors will you try?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

MM&M Special: Make your own wrap

Lunch has always been the chink in my organizational armor. I always forget to plan for it and usually end up grabbing something less than healthy while running  errands.  Wraps have been my latest answer! I can grab one of the cold ones out of the freezer and leave it in fridge overnight. Then I will put it in my little car cooler that my oldest received for selling mountains of Girl Scout cookies and have it ready when it is time for lunch! No more need for the drive thru!

This weeks special is Create Your Own combo wraps! Mix your favorite tortilla, meat and fillings!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Challenge - Krista's No Casserole Batch Party

This one isn't really fair because I had it already done, but it makes me feel good to say I beat another challenge. Krista challenged me to make a menu of non-casserole freezer friendly batch cooking meals. This is the latest set of recipe options for MM&M batch parties.  Not a single casserole!

The Challenge: 2 weeks under $100

This week I was presented this challenge by a good friend - feed a family of six 14 meals for under $100 (bonus points for going closer to $60). Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the meals also needed to be low in fat, toddler appealing and could not be cooked in an oven. Stove top,  slow cooker and grill were my available cooking methods. So, it was time to get creative.

I ended up coming up with 2 plans. One was more expensive, but had more variety while the other plan was less and had a couple meatless nights.

Plan 1= Cost Approximately $90
Bulk buying was the way to get through both of these plans! The large tubes 10 pound tubes of ground beef are available at Sam's Club for about $21 each. This was supplemented by one whole boneless pork loin for $1.97 a pound and 2 twin packs of whole chicken for 88 cents a pound.  The large pack of spaghetti noodles from Sam's will cover several meals as well as the giant can of diced tomatoes. The giant tubs of salad will also cover several meals and work as a side dish for a few. Leftover chicken and taco meat will be used in the quesadillas.

The meals looked like this:
1. Spaghetti and meat sauce – and tossed salad -
2. Crock pot chili-
3. Beef noodle bake
4. Taco salad
5. Tacos with black beans and corn
6. Beefy bean soup
7. Chicken with black bean salsa
8. Italian slow cooker chicken with salad
9. Chicken noodle soup
10. Chicken noodle toss
11. Sweet Mustard Grilled Pork Loin
12. Quesadillas
13. Cranberry pork loin
14. Garlic and Soy Chops

Plan 2- cost around $70
This plan was very similar to Plan one, but eliminates the pork so there are a few more meatless dishes.
1. Spaghetti and meat sauce – and tossed salad -
2. Crock pot chili
3. Beef noodle bake
4. Taco salad
5. Tacos with black beans and corn
6. Beefy bean soup
7. Chicken with black bean salsa
8. Italian slow cooker chicken with salad
9. Chicken noodle soup
10. Chicken noodle toss
11. Spaghetti with oil and garlic
12. Quesadillas
13. Chicken salad wraps
14. Veggie noodle toss

This is the rough grocery list for this plan:
Sam's Club - $36 on meat

Giant 10 pound tube of beef - around $21
2 2-pack of whole chickens - around $7-8 each
Giant tub of salad mix or washed romaine hearts 2.5
Diced tomatoes giant can 2.88
Giant bag of spaghetti noodle -2.88

WalMart or other store stuff

4 Onion
2 cans kidney beans
Green pepper
2cups mozzarella
Shredded cheese for tacos and quesadillas
4 cans black beans
Bag frozen corn
Bag frozen peas and carrot
Bag frozen stir fry veggies
bag dried pinto beans
flour tortillas-2 meals taco size and wrap size
Italian dressing
ziti or other short pasta

Things you probably have on hand
Soy sauce
Chicken bouillon
Italian seasoning
Taco seasoning
chili powder
olive oil

So I met the challenge! I had hoped to get down to $50 but that is hard without adding more meatless dinners or having hamburger helper for every meal!   I have to admit that I am feeling pretty proud of myself.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gadget Tuesday : The Silpat

This weeks featured gadget is the Silpat. Yes, I realize that it isn't really gadget, but it is definitely one thing that I couldn't cook without. Silpats are a wonderful silicone baking sheets that fit in your cookie sheets to prevent sticking, distribute heat evenly and protect your pans. I LOVE mine. I have 2 that I have been using for over 6 years and then 2 more that are a more recent purchase. They are great for making sticky candy, because it will just peel right off.

Ok, honestly the best thing about Silpats is that they protect the bottom of your cookies from burning. I was the queen of burnt bottom, raw topped cookies until I got my first one. Now I make great baked goods all -well most- of the time!

Another fantastic product by this company is the RoulPat. It is a really large version of the Silpat with a cool grippy backing on it. It is used as a counter cover for rolling out doughs, pastries, breads, etc. I use this every time I make scones. It is a definite must have if you do a lot of baking. Check out the website! http://silpat.com/products.html  You can thank me later... or better yet send me your baked goods!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Big Batch Cooking

Friday night we had a big fun Friday the 13th Batch party. The participants picked some really great meals and went home with 7 yummy entrees for the freezer. The recipes used for this party included:
Sweet Asian Chicken
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Spinach
Balsamic Chicken
Lemon Herb Pork Tenderloins,
Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf
Teryaki Burger. 

The grand total for 49 meals that feed 6 or more- $508.83 or 72.69 each!

A lot of people worry about how they are going to be able to fit the food in their freezer. Well, most of the meals are in gallon freezer bags and take up very little space.

Batch parties are a great idea for a Mom's Night Out. You can sit drink some wine, eat some yummies and assemble a weeks worth of dinners all at once. What could be better?!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cooking Class- How to Sear a Pork Tenderloin

I love pork tenderloin and Lemon- Herb tenderloin is one of my favorite dishes. The secret to this recipe is to get a really good sear on the meat and then finish it in the oven. Searing is not difficult at all, but it can be intimidating the first few times if you don't know what your doing. These are the steps that work for me so i thought that I would share.

The first and most important thing to do is pull the meat out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to almost room temperature. This will help the meat "relax" and helps distribute the juices inside.

The next thing to do is heat the pan. It is hot enough when you can only hold your hand over the pan for a count of 3. T his is really important because if the pan isn't hot enough the meat will stick to the pan and tear when you try to turn it.

Put a teaspoon of oil in the pan and swirl it around until it coats the bottom. Then lay the meat in the pan.

When the meat starts to brown on the bottom, turn the meat over to let the next side brown. Repeat until the entire tenderloin is browned.

After the meat is seared on all sides, put the entire pan in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes. When it comes out remove it from the pan and let it rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing. It will be flavorful and juicy! 

I like to serve it over rice.

Lemon Herb Pork Tenderloins


6 servings


• 1 lemon, zest grated

• 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)

• olive oil

• 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)

• 1 tablespoons dried rosemary

• ¾ tablespoon dried thyme leaves

• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

• Kosher salt

• 3 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)

• Freshly ground black pepper


Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sturdy 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Freeze

Remove Pork from freezer the day before you plan to cook. Thaw completely in refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat. Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until golden brown. Place the saute pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meat registers 137 degrees F at the thickest part. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be quite pink (it's just fine!) and the thinnest part will be well done. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm, or at room temperature with the juices that collect in the platter.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tackling Leftovers

Whenever we have a party we are always left with a ton of food afterwards. I am not sure if we think that we are cooking for an entire army or if our friends are trying to watch their figures, but it never fails - leftover for days.

This spring we had our annual BBQ and Boil. Crawfish was hard to come by, so we went with shrimp - lots and lots of shrimp. After the masses were fed and everyone headed home, I was faced with a mountain of shrimp, corn and potatoes. Normally, I like to try to put the shrimp in omelets, but there was enough to keep the entire block in egg heaven for a week. So, I decided to try to make a soup. 

The first thing I did was cut the kernels of corn from the cob. I then put some chicken broth in a large soup pot and warmed up the leftover potatoes and corn.

After it was heated up,  the mixture was pureed with an immersion blender. I only pureed about half of the potatoes and corn and left some whole.

After pureeing, the peeled shrimp was added. This made a really spicy, chunky and flavorful chowder. The spices were a bit intense but it was really good and a great way to use up leftovers. The chowder was a big hit at a potluck lunch and every bit went to use! You have to love that!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gadget Tuesday: Tiger Rice Cooker

I know I have talked about this rice steamer before, but I can not stress enough how much I LOVE our Tiger Rice cooker.

We bought this machine before my husbands birthday 18 months ago. We were having a "Roll Your Own Sushi" party and it managed to keep up and help us make enough rice for 50 people. The rice was perfect and the cooker earned a place in my heart that night!

This rice cooker has all the features that a busy family could ask for. The timer function is wonderful on this machine. It is not set up for the time you want it to start, but instead for the time you want your rice done! This as a major bonus for me because all that math would cause a huge amount of user error on my part. Seriously you just tell this thing what type of rice you have in it and when you want it done and it calculates the cooking time and comes on when it needs to. It even factors in the current level of humidity in! The rice comes out perfectly every time.

We have used it for sushi rice, long grain steamed rice, brown rice, and the weird porridge that the lady at the Chinese grocery said would make my large American backside become skinny. The porridge didn't work, but it tasted great and it was nice to have breakfast hot and ready when I got up that morning.

The price tag is a bit steep and I will admit I had a bit of sticker stock when we got it, but I have probably never been happier with a purchase like this. They have come down quite a bit and I will say that at $120 it is really worth every cent. Check it out! Tiger Rice Cooker

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Great Chip Experiment

I had mentioned a couple posts back that I was going to try my hand at making veggie chips. My game plan was to use my favorite pampered chef "Ultimate Mandoline" to make thin slices of veggies and then dehydrate them until they were very crispy and crunchy. Vision of my children popping squash chips in their mouths while growing stronger by the bite danced in my head.

I excitedly went to the store and picked out the most flavorful looking zucchini and yellow squash. Our garden (another sad experiment) had managed to produce a handful of okra that I couldn't decide what do to with, so I thought "Okra chips are a good idea, right?". I sliced the veggies and the okra into 1/8 inch thick disks.

I sprayed the chips with a little olive oil and seasoned with a bit of salt. The chips were laid out on the trays and placed in my favorite dehydrator, the Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator.

After 5 hours in the dehydrator the veggie disks went from this:

to this:

Yes, I was hoping that would be a tiny pile of crispy yumminess. Well, I got the pile part right. These were AWFUL. The chips were too thin and started to crumble. After about an hour, the incredibly oppressive humidity made the chips start to plump back up. They then became nice disks of veggie leather. I HATE throwing out food, but there was no way to salvage these things.

So there it goes, one of my bigger cooking experiments gone wrong. Learn from my mistakes and if you figure out a good way to make dehydrated veggie chips, PLEASE let me know. Thanks!

Eat for a Cause!

I love eating for any reason, but eating for a cause makes me feel extra warm and fuzzy inside. Tomorrow the local Schlotzsky's on South College Ave is donating a portion of the profits to our local Early Childhood Intervention Program.

ECI is great program that is drastically underfunded (what great program isn't) and could really use some help. For those that don't know, ECI is a statewide program for families with children, birth to three, with disabilities and developmental delays. They provide speech, physical, occupational and other types of therapy until the child is old enough to transition into the local school district. They come to your home our the child day care facility and work with them.

It is really a great program and Schlotzsky's has really yummy food so its a great combo! Maybe I will see some of you there for lunch.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Weeks Menus, Meals and More Special

This is the special of the week at Menus, Meals and More. If your interested in this or any of the other specials just send me an email through the site.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pork, Pork, everywhere

Yesterday I managed to con a couple of friends into splitting a case of whole pork loins with me. I bought a new freezer over the weekend that I am dying to fill up, but the problem with buying a freezer is that you then don't have the money for all the food to put in it! Anyway, after looking around my local warehouse store I realized that the case price on whole pork loins worked out to a GREAT deal.

Two of my friends split the case of 6 with me, so we ended up with 2 whole loins each. The only problem with the whole loins is that you have to butcher them yourself. This really isn't difficult, but it can be a bit gooey and messy if you aren't careful. I turned my portion into 4 roasts and 16 inch thick chops. As we cut the meat, we placed it in freezer bags with all the ingredients needed for each meal so now I have 8 meals ready to go in my new freezer. The best part is that my portion of the case and all the ingredients to cook them was only $50!! That is only 6.25 per meal and most will leave me with leftovers. You can't beat that price.

We ended up with :
Cranberry Pork Loin
Garlic Herb Roasted Pork Loin
Gnocchi with Pork Ragout
Grilled Loin of Pork with Tart Cherry Sauce
Dijon Pork Chops - 2 meals worth
Chipotle Orange glazed Pork Chops - 2 meals worth

My favorite recipe of these is the Cranberry Pork Loin. It is the easiest recipe ever!!!! I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do.

Cranberry Pork Loin

3 pounds Pork Loin Roast
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 envelope onion soup mix

Mix all the ingredients together in a gallon freezer bag. Label and freeze.

Thaw completely. Place contents of the bag into a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.