Cornbread with Flair

slices of fresh cornbread with blueberry on cutting board

Cornbread is one of those side dishes that can easily compliment any meal. However, this make ahead recipe is not your usual plain cornbread recipe. It uses whole corn and herbs to give it certain flair. What is so great about this recipe is that it makes two square pans filled with a delicious corn bread in about 30 minutes. Use one pan tonight for dinner and freeze the second pan to use for a later time. This make ahead recipe can also be used as the cornbread in your stuffing for the holidays.

Double recipe ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar - more sugar may be added if sweeter bread is desired
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ cups cold buttermilk
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp chives
3 Tbsp thyme
1 cup corn  (if using frozen corn, thaw prior to use)

Step one
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare the two 8 X8 pans with cooking spray.

Step two
In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper.

Step three
In another bowl combine the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and eggs.

Step four
Once the wet ingredients are combined, add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is moist. The batter will still be lumpy.

Step five
Fold the corn and the herbs into the batter.

Step six
Divide the batter equally between the two square pans. Use a spatula to spread the batter out evenly in the pan.

Step 7
Bake the cornbread for 25 to 30 minutes. The top of the bread will be light brown in color and it will begin to pull away from the side of the pans. Use a toothpick to check the center of the bread if you are unsure that it is baked completely through. Overbaking will make for a drier cornbread.

Step 8
Allow to cool and serve or freeze to use at a later time. Cornbread will last about 6 weeks in the freezer.

This is an easy make ahead recipe that can easily be frozen to use for a future dinner. The herbs and the corn give it a certain flair that most corn breads do not have. It would be easy to change the herbs, add sharp cheddar cheese or even substitute chopped broccoli or shredded carrots for a different variation. Add blueberries and more sugar for a sweeter treat.

 

Be a Prep Master

Fresh Vegetables Chopped In Preparation For Cooking

Anyone who has ever attempted cooking from scratch knows that it can be very time consuming. However, the cook who knows how to prep ahead can prepare home cooked meals very quickly. This is immensely helpful for those hectic days spent getting the kids to and from their various activities! Here are a few tips to help you save time in the kitchen by making use of ingredients frozen beforehand.

Sauces and Stews
Any dish that goes on top of rice, pasta or noodles will be convenient to freeze. Simply ladle out portions into tupperware dishes, cool in the refrigerator, then place in the freezer. Tomato sauce, chili, beef stroganoff and curries are all great dishes to freeze ahead of time. Then you just need to make fresh rice, pasta or noodles. Dishes such as these can keep for up to one year. Anything containing seafood should be consumed within six months.

Vegetables
Every mother would love to cook with more fresh veggies, but it takes a lot of time to prepare them. A major time saver is to freeze them so that they are readily available later. Start by peeling (when required) and dicing the veggies. Place them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute depending on what vegetable it is. The idea is not to cook the vegetables, but to shut down the enzymes that will cause them to deteriorate even in the freezer. After this brief blanching, place them in your favorite freezer-safe dishes, add just enough water to cover, and place in the freezer. (Remember to leave space for the water to expand.) This frozen block can be popped out, placed in a pot, and brought to a boil for an instant side dish at a later time. If you're sure you'll be using them for a soup or stew, you can cover them with broth instead of water. And if you're chopping them for use in a stir fry or other similar dish, you can simply freeze them without water.
Casseroles
Frozen casseroles provide home cooked quality at convenience food speed! Most casseroles are great candidates for freezing. Simply get out your dishes (or buy a few disposable aluminium baking dishes), prepare the casserole as usual, cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil, and put it in the freezer. When you want to cook the casserole, just remove the plastic wrap and place the dish in a hot oven. Cooking time will vary based on the size of the dish. Lasagna, baked spaghetti and shepherd's pies are some examples of casseroles that are a breeze to prepare ahead of time and pop in the oven later. They will keep for up to one year.

Incorporating these tips into your cooking routine will save a great deal of time. Cooking delicious, healthy meals for the family is much more enjoyable when you prep ahead. Make use of these time savers and you can effortlessly throw together home cooked meals all through the week.

 

Enchilada Casseroles

Taco Casserole

Enchilada Casseroles are ideal for a family meal any day of the week. It satisfies our craving for spicy food, providing taste and comfort at the same time. This recipe serves 8 people, meaning it is a double batch. You can serve it to fewer people and freeze the rest for future use. It is an easy meal that you can make ahead of time in preparation for weeknight meals.

3 pounds ground beef
1/2  cup of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cups sour cream (or plain greek yogurt)
2 cups mild enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
6 tortillas
2 garlic cloves, diced

You can substitute different types of cheeses for the cheddar and Monterey Jack. A mixed cheese blend or muenster cheese will work. You can also substitute other meats for the beef, like chicken or chorizo. Keep in mind that this recipe is mild in terms of spice, so feel free to add more of your own hot sauce, salsa or peppers.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spread the olive oil around a skillet on medium heat. When the pan warms, place a tortilla on it and warm until it is crispy. Cook them one by one and place each on paper towel after cooking.

Next, add the diced garlic and onions to the pan. Once they've cooked, put them aside on a plate or in a bowl. Cook the ground beef in the pan until it is brown. Then remove the beef and drain the fat out of the pan. Return the beef, garlic and onions to the pan and stir them together.

Spray a cooking spray onto a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Then put the enchilada sauce (only ½ cup) into the dish and spread around the bottom. Put 3 tortillas over the sauce. Then add another half cup of enchilada sauce onto them. Put a layer of the onions, garlic and beef onto the sauce. Add a layer of sour cream, spreading it across the top, and sprinkle with cheese. Perform this same layering with 3 more tortillas and the rest of the ingredients for a second layer.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until you see that the cheese has fully melted. An enchilada casserole is something you can make ahead of time and freeze, as it tastes great after being warmed up.

 

Vegan Casserole

quinoa salad, vegetarian food

Veganism is more prevalent today than it ever was, and as such you likely already have a friend or two who eat the vegan way. As a definition, eating vegan means to omit all animal-related foods from the diet. This of course includes all meats and fish, but it also includes eggs and all dairy products, as well. There are also a few other lesser known food items that vegans don’t eat because they contain small amounts of animal products. These can range from marshmallows to some candies, most of which contain gelatin from animals.

For those of us who are not vegan, cooking for vegans can be difficult. Not only is it hard to always know what products are vegan and what products aren't, but cooking for vegans and making it taste good for everyone can be a real challenge!

To prepare for those times when your vegan friends come to visit, avoid the extra work and strain of making two meals, and have this fancy (but easy!) vegan Mexican casserole on hand. It's a dish you can freeze, and it only takes a while in the oven to become warm and tasty before a meal.

What You Will Need:

1 chopped onion
1 cup of quinoa
2 cloves minced garlic
1-2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 - 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
½ - 1 cups of water
1 Tbsp. tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of chili powder
a pinch of salt and touch of ground pepper
1 - 19 ounce can of rinsed black beans
1 - 11 ounce can of corn
3 cups of fresh spinach

Instructions

Start by preheating your oven to 350 F, then heating your olive oil on medium in a pan on the stove. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is almost translucent.

While onions are sautéing, get a casserole dish that is oven safe ready with the quinoa, tomatoes, water, ketchup and spices. Once onions are translucent, remove them along with the garlic and add to the casserole dish. Put on a cover, place in oven, and cook for roughly 30 minutes.

Remove the dish and add the beans, corn and a bit of water to moisten. Return casserole to oven and cook for another 30 minutes. Take out once more, and stir in the spinach.

At this point, you can freeze your casserole, possibly in portions, and take it out at any time for quick heating when your guests are coming. When serving, add cilantro, sour cream, cubed avocado and vegan cheese, if desired.

Remember, if you happen to be caught off guard by guests who are vegan eaters and need quick meal ideas for them, salads or pasta rarely fail. Make up a salad, or cook up some (egg-free) pasta along with some stir fried fresh vegetables that you have on hand, and voila! Other grains like brown rice and lentils also work, but remember, pasta is quick!

 

Preparing & Storing Meat

Kafta Shawarma Chicken Pita Wrap Roll Sandwich

Cook, Package, and Freeze Meat Ahead for Quick Meal Preparation

Your days are full, but you can take part of the chore out of making dinner by not only planning meals but also cooking meat in advance to freeze and use later. It is possible to shorten dinner preparations considerably if you shop for meat once a month, and take a day to cook it ahead and store.

A vacuum packager makes storage easy, but cling wrap and zippered freezer bags together work well, too. The secret to storing meat is to eliminate as much air as possible from surrounding the food. This helps avoid freezer burn and preserve the flavor of the meat. Make sure to use the thicker freezer zipper bags, not the everyday bags. Season meat as you use it in your favorite family recipes, typically with salt and pepper. Other seasonings can be added when you make your dish. And if the weather is right for a BBQ, cook some extra meat to freeze.

Cooked ground beef is one of those foods that you can easily freeze for later use. Depending on the size of your family, you can store the meat in one or two pound batches, and take it out to use in tacos, casseroles, chili, pizza or any family favorites that call for ground beef.

Grilled steak is good to cook ahead and store in the freezer, too. Grill it to your family’s liking and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before putting in a zippered freezer bag. Thaw what you need and slice for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, stew, Asian dishes, or any of your other favorite beef dishes. If you know you'll use some meat cut into strips or chunks, you may want to do this before freezing.

Chicken is another versatile meat that is great to cook ahead for quick meals. Roast or crockpot a whole chicken or several chicken breasts, and let cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until you can handle it. Remove all the meat from the bones and store it in double zippered freezer bags to use in your favorite soup, stir fry, wrap, quesadilla or chicken salad recipes. If you buy the value sized package of chicken breasts, they're easy to freeze individually or cubed. Cool completely and then wrap full breasts in plastic wrap and put cut up chunks in zipper bags, then each should be put in to larger freezer bags. Remember to remove as much air as possible.

For larger quantities, steak and chicken pieces do well wrapped tightly in plastic wrap bundles, and then put into a gallon-size freezer bag. You can remove just the number of servings you need and save the rest for later. Force as much air as you can from the bag before zipping it closed. Be sure to date everything, and do not store any cooked meat longer than three or four months, at the most.

Plan a weekly or monthly dinner menu that utilizes your frozen, precooked meat, and you will truly enjoy the time it saves. Thaw packages of meat for 24 hours, always in the refrigerator, and if it is still a bit icy to start, it will work fine.