Cook's Corner: Resolve to plan ahead

Published 11:36 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

By Staff
It's a whole new year and many people have made some resolutions that will have something to do with their eating habits.
As for myself, I've decided that making a resolution to lose weight is one that I'm not likely to keep going for more than a couple of weeks, at best.
This year, however, I have made some resolutions that will make a difference on how I spend time in the kitchen.
With busy and odd work hours, getting home to cook a meal in the evenings is sometimes hard to accomplish. I usually make it home, but the time of day I arrive varies from workday to workday. I would do so much better if I only planned and kept in mind I have a crock-pot.
That's what my vow is this year: to plan meals better and use the crock pot more.
To start things off, I've actually got my meals planned for this week and have some of the ingredients already prepared for the menu.
I spent my Sunday afternoon chopping, grinding and planning what my family will have for dinner every night this week. I think this may work out well if I can keep up with what I have at home.
By planning meals in advance, I can avoid multiple trips to the grocery store, which will no doubt help with my food budget.
At any rate, I've decided to share some recipes that can be prepared in advance or cooked in a crock-pot to help out on those busy afternoons.
I've come to realize I'm not the only one who thinks planning ahead makes a difference at the dinner table. Kerry Bean, our publisher, plans ahead meals at her house. As a matter of fact, she shared this first recipe with me this week. It sounds tasty and by cooking it in a Crock Pot, the level of skill needed to prepare the dish is right up my alley. To make this one even better, she gave a recipe to use for any leftovers.
Salsa Chicken
Four skinless, boneless chicken breasts (can be frozen)
Jar of salsa
Can of black beans, rinsed and drained
Can of corn, drained
Envelope of taco seasoning
Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. Mix other ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook on low for 8 to 9 hours, then shred chicken with two forks. Chicken can be eaten in tortillas or over brown rice.
Leftover Enchilada Casserole
The leftovers can be made into chicken enchilada casserole. Mix leftover chicken mixture with grated cheddar cheese and cottage cheese. Layer tortillas and chicken mixture in a pan (two layers of each), then top with taco sauce and Mexican cheese blend. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
This next recipe is a beef recipe that is pretty tasty. When you get this dish finished, all you need is a little rice and maybe a salad to make a really good meal.
Slow Cooker Pepper Steak
2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2-inch strips
garlic powder to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips. Transfer to a slow cooker. Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved. Pour into the slow cooker with meat. Stir in onion, green peppers, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 8 hours.
This next recipe is more of a tip than a recipe. It's a great idea and I've used it many times. As you can see in the first recipe, Kerry said the chicken breasts don't have to be thawed to put in the crackpot. The same is true with turkey.
Several years ago, a friend of mine told me how she prepares a turkey breast for her family. When she shared this idea with me I was very skeptical. I gave it a try and I've been using her idea ever since. Thanks Wiletha and my family thanks you too.
My crock pot will hold about a four or five pound turkey breast, so that's what I use. You can prepare any size turkey breast your crock pot will hold.
Rub salt and pepper to taste on turkey breast. Place turkey breast, breast side down in crock pot. Add just enough water to barely cover the breast. Cook on slow or low for 4 to six hours.
My friend said she usually put her turkey breast in the crock pot on her lunch break. By the time she got home and threw a little side dish together, the turkey breast was done and ready to eat.
I've done this many times and it works wonderfully.
Next week, I plan to give you some ideas for some great soup, stew and chili recipes. With the weather we've been having lately, it's hard to know when would be a good day for some good chili or soup. I'll share some of my favorites with you anyway so you can be prepared when the time arrives.
I really would like to hear from the readers of Cook's Corner. I have such a hard time coming up with ideas and recipes every week and would love to get some of your thoughts.
If there is a particular kind of recipe you'd like to see, let me know. I'll research it out and print the information I find in this spot. Also, if you have a recipe you'd like to share, I'd really enjoy hearing from you. Send recipes, tips, ideas or questions to me by email at, or by regular mail at P.O. Box 87, Brewton, AL 36427 or give me a call at 867-4876. Either way, I'd love to hear from you.
Until next week, happy cooking!