Saturday, March 25, 2017

Is Bagged Salad as Safe as You Think?

Bagged salad and spinach are a great convenience food.  They help us provide healthy meals for our families in minutes.  But are they safe?   The attached article shows gives the results of a British study.

As always treat bagged salad as you would cut produce be sure to refrigerate and follow the 2 hour rule.

Is Bagged Salad as Safe as You Think? - Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Article

Quick Meals Tips - Batch Cooking

Tip 5 – Try some batch cooking.  A great time saver for future meals is to prepare the meat for a meal to make twice as much and use it for two or more different meals within the week. For example: have a roasted chicken one night and serve the left-overs in a pasta dish on another night.  

For a Sunday meal: make a pork roast and serve as sliced roast with potatoes and a nice vegetable.  Shred the rest of the roast, season with bar-be-que sauce for pork sandwiches and if it is a large roast make the rest into a quesadilla for lunch or quick stir-fry.

Be sure to eat within 3 days of preparing the meat the first time to insure the safety of the meal and for better quality.  If you don't think you will be able to eat it all within 3 days, freeze a portion for a different week

An extra advantage of using batch cooking, is that you can prepare a roast or other meat when you have time to slow cook great homemade flavor into the meat.  Your other meals will taste like you spent hours instead of minutes preparing them.

Ground beef is perfect for batch cooking.  Cook up some seasoned ground beef and freeze in the quantities you need for recipes you like to make.   I have been known to cook up 10 pounds at once.  

In our house we season up large batches of browned hamburger with our favorite taco seasonings and freeze in packages to make fast meals like burritos, tacos, tacos salad, or meat pies.

Taco-seasoned Meat
Ready in 30 minutes or less

4 pounds of ground beef
4 medium onions, chopped
4 envelopes taco seasoning mix

In a Dutch oven, cook beef and onions until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Add the taco seasoning and mix well.  Cool.  Spoon 2 ½ cups into each of four resealable freezer bags.   Freeze for up to 3 months.

2 ½ cups of taco seasoned meat
⅔ cup water
8 taco shells
Optional Ingredients: Shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced ripe olives, sour cream and chopped tomatoes.
In a saucepan or skillet, combine water and seasoned meat.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Spoon ⅓ cupful into each taco shell.  Top with desired toppings.  Yield 8 tacos.

Taco Twist Bake
Ready in 1 hour or less
2 ½ cups of cooked taco-seasoned meat
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
¼ cup chopped green pepper
1 package (8 ounces) spiral pasta, cooked and drained
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

In a small saucepan, combine the taco meat, tomato sauce and green pepper; bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, combine pasta and sour cream; place in a greased 8-inch square baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ cup of cheese.  Top with meat mixture.  Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until the cheese is melted.  Yield: 4-6 servings.

Taco Corn Bread Squares
Ready in 1 hour or less

1 package (8 ½ ounces) corn bread/muffin mix
1 egg
⅓ cup milk
2 ½ cups cooked taco-seasoned meat
1 can refried beans
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese blend or Cheddar cheese, divided
¼ cup chopped onion
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 can (2 ¼ ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained

In a bowl, combine corn bread mix, egg and milk until blended.  Spread into a greased 9-inch square baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Combine taco meat and beans; spread over cornbread.  Combine sour cream, 1 cup cheese and onion; spread over meat mixture.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with tomato, lettuce, olives and remaining cheese.  Yield: 4 – 6 servings.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quick Meals Tips Create Your Own Frozen Dinner

Tip 6- Prepare your own frozen dinners.  This is another opportunity to cook once and eat at least twice.  Many of our favorite recipes taste better when we cook them in larger portions, so why bother to reduce them to fit our current family size.  I remember reading an article written by a mom of teenage boys.  She would package up her leftovers and freeze them as complete meals.  When her boys came home from practice or school, they had their choice of healthy tasty meals to choose from.

Purchase some nice  shallow storage dishes about the size of a dinner plate.  You can find some with built in dividers.  Be sure they are microwave and dishwasher safe to save you time.  When you finish preparing a meal and before you serve it, package a serving of everything in your container.  Label with a date and description and place in your freezer right away.  This way you are not tempted to eat extra portions and the food remains safe. 

When ready to eat one of the meals, thaw in the microwave at 50% power for a couple of minutes and then heat on high for 1 or 2 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. 

Dinners can be safely stored in the freezer for 4 months.  Remember raw fruits and vegetables do not freeze well.  Happy cooking!