Meal Plan and Turkey Club Pasta

This week’s menu is all about repurposing food. It’s easy to get sick of  the same old leftovers, so why not turn them into something new. The meal plan is as follows:

Monday: Turkey Club Pasta (see recipe below) w/meat from last night’s turkey

Tuesday: We have a dinner party tomorrow night. No meal needed

Wednesday: Honey & Spice Baked Chicken, stuffing and green beans

Thursday: Shepard’s pie w/ leftover potatoes from Sunday’s turkey dinner

Friday: Client Christmas Party

Saturday: School Christmas Party

Sunday: Chicken Chimichangas w/leftover chicken from Wednesday

This is going to be a very busy week so I wanted to make the cooking simple.

For more meal planning ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at Orgjunkie.com

Last night’s turkey came out great. I don’t know what I was thinking when I purchased a ten pound turkey. Oh yeah. I was thinking ‘It’s three dollars. You’ll eat it.’ One of my favorite sandwiches is a turkey club from Nat Hayden’s in Windsor, CT. In the winter, I love comforting pasta dishes, plus I had all this turkey left over. I wanted a recipe that combined my favorite flavors from the sandwich into a hearty casserole. It was delicious. This would also be good with chicken but the turkey and bacon together in a swiss cheese sauce was a home run.

Turkey Club Pasta

1 lb of rotini pasta
8 to 10 slices of bacon
1/3 cup of flour
3 cups of milk
1 cup of half and half or another cup of milk
8 oz of shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cup of parmesean cheese
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and add salt to the water. Cook rotini until al dente. You want to take it off the stove a few minutes before you think it’s done because it will continue to cook when you bake it. Rinse pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process.

While pasta is cooking, cut bacon into thin pieces. I used my kitchen scissors for this and it worked very well. Add bacon to a large frying pan or pot and cook on medium to medium high heat until crispy. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon, putting on paper towels to drain. Reserve four tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, removing the rest.

Reduce heat to medium or medium low. Add flour to drippings and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until well incorporated. Slowly whisk in milk and half and half. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly until thick and creamy. Stir in mustard, garlic powder, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Add cheeses and stir until melted. Finally, return the bacon to the pan and add the turkey.

Pour the pasta into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour sauce mixture over the pasta and smooth with a spoon. The sauce will fill the tube pasta, no need to stir. Bake the dish for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through and the top begins to brown. Serve with a simple green salad or vegetable.

Using it up! Parmesan Bowtie Pasta

This week, my goal was to use up food I’ve got around the house. Last weekend, I posted on Facebook that I was cleaning out my refrigerator. I like doing this every few months to take stock of what I have and see what I need.

There were some things in the freezer that were unrecognizable. There were some really good things in there too. This week, I decided to use whole chicken breasts, beef tenderloin and pork tenderloin. I don’t normally buy beef tenderloin, but we purchased a whole loin for $5.99 a pound at the grocery store around Mother’s Day and these were the leftovers from that.

The chicken breasts were roasted. They came out awesome. I brushed them with a bit of BBQ sauce and served them with a side of pasta. The pasta was awesome. I think it actually came out better than the chicken. I used onions, peppers and mushrooms but you could really use any veggies you have in the house. This would be great with zucchini or squash.

Parmesan Bowties

1 lb bowtie pasta
1/2 cup each: onions, green peppers and mushrooms, diced or 1 1/2 cups of whatever veggies you have in the house.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 stick of butter
olive oil
1/4 cup marsala wine, dry white wine or chicken broth
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
pepper to taste

Cook the bowtie pasta, removing a minute or two before your preferred level of doneness (is that a word? Ah it is now!). The pasta will continue to cook in the sauce, so take it out of the water a bit early. Drain the pasta and set aside. Return the pot to a medium high burner. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and a bit of olive oil. The oil will prevent the butter from burning. Add the veggies and garlic. Cook for two minutes. Add the remaining butter and wine/broth. Cook for a few minutes, turn off the burner then add the cheese and pepper. Once the cheese is melted, add the pasta and stir to coat.

This is a great side dish for the summer because it’s good at room temperature and it goes with almost everything.

I’ll be sharing more of my use it up recipes as I try to cut back on my grocery bills.

Frugal Friday 11/20/09

I have to admit, last night I was completely unprepared for dinner. I was getting things ready for my class and answering emails so I never go anything together for dinner. On my way home from class, I stopped at the grocery store. I had two dinners in mind. I had two different dinners in mind. I could make chicken cordon bleu, I had everything but the chicken. Well, when I went into the store, chicken was $4.99 a lb. There is no way I’m going to pay $4.99 a lb for chicken. The other thought was to make Beef stroganoff. Beef was running over $6.00 per pound. So instead of beef stroganoff, I decided to make mushroom stroganoff. I was going to put mushrooms in the dish anyways so I would just omit the meat. I was very pleased with how it turned out. It was quick and hearty. I actually had the sauce finished before the noodles. The only thing I would do differently next time is to buy two packages of mushrooms.

Mushroom stroganoff

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 – 10 oz packages of sliced mushrooms
1 small onion
1 T minced garlic
1 t ground marjoram
1 – 15 oz can of low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup of milk
1 packet of brown gravy mix (I used 1/4 cup from a container of brown gravy mix)
1 cup of sour cream

Add the butter and olive oil to a large sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Increase the heat to medium high, stirring constantly until the mushrooms are fully cooked and the onions are soft. Add the marjoram and stir into the veggies. Now add the broth, milk and gravy mix to the pan. Bring to a simmer until sauce is thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream.

Serve over egg noodles. Some bread or rolls might be good, too. This sauce is great for sopping. This much sauce was more than enough for the entire bag of noodles. You might be able to get two bags of noodles out of it. It really does make a good amount of sauce.

How were you frugal this week? Share your posts with us. Coupons, deals, stories. Let’s see what you’ve got!

Recipes? Pfff… I don’t need no stinking recipes

I hate following recipes. That’s probably part of the reason that I’m not a huge fan of baking. I have to follow a recipe when baking. It’s annoying how chemistry works and I can’t just put in things as I see fit!

This is why I like to cook. I find it challenging to create good meals when I don’t have a plan and I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I did this twice this week. I made beef stew and something I like to call chicken goop.

The beef stew went well. I browned the beef in batches which left lovely browned bits on the bottom of my Le Creuset 7 1/4-Quart Dutch Oven. I then added onions, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms. A splash of wine (I don’t measure when I’m cooking), a good bit of Worcestershire sauce and a couple good squeezes of Dijon mustard. I didn’t have any beef broth, so I used water and beef base. I didn’t cover everything entirely, which was a good thing because everything sunk down into the liquid and it wasn’t too much. I added bay leaves, granulated garlic and ground thyme. It was covered and simmered for 4 hours. I then cracked the cover and cooked it for another hour to let some of the liquid evaporate. Added some pepper and a cornstarch slurry and a few minutes later, we had stew. I had to hunt down all of the bay leaves (don’t eat those, not good eats), but it was great stew. I just threw in what I had and made due for things I didn’t.

The chicken goop has become one of my favorite recipes. It’s easy, it’s hearty and it’s different every time. I know the name doesn’t sound very appealing but I don’t know what else to call it. I throw some chicken breasts into a small crock pot. I take a can of cream of mushroom soup and some chicken broth, about equal parts I think (again, remember that I measure nothing). This time I added some chicken grill seasoning. I actually added a lot of grill seasoning, but I figured in the crock pot, it was probably needed. I even added a bunch of Parmesan cheese. Once that was all mixed together, I poured it over the chicken. Cook for about 5 hours on low (my crock pot cooks hot I think), until the chicken starts to fall apart if you try to pick it up with a fork. You can serve this over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles. It’s warm and hearty. If you wish you can even add veggies toward the end of cooking. I imagine broccoli would be good. Mixed veggies, too. I’m not allowed to put veggies in the chicken goop or there might be a husband revolt. I just serve green beans or corn on the side. This is also a good meal to serve with a salad.

I’m at the point in my cooking life where I know what flavors appear to work together and which ones do not. I’ve played around with spices enough to know that rosemary has no place in lasagna (trust me). I have made some errors in judgement before but for the most part, things turn out well. I encourage you to try different flavors and see what works for you.

Don’t throw away veggie scraps

It always amazes me how many veggie scraps I have. When you cut up an onion, you cut off the ends, peal off a few layers and now have a pile of scraps. You cut up a pepper or prepare some carrots and you’ve got scraps. Don’t throw them away or into the compost bin. Use them for flavor.

There are two ways I’ll use my scraps. You can use them as aromatics when making a turkey, chicken or roast. Just lay them at the bottom of the pan or stuff them in the  body cavity. This will add a wonderful flavor to your dish without the extra cost of buying veggies that will do to waste. They will also nicely flavor the drippings in case you want to make a gravy. Yum!

The second way I use my scraps  is when making stock. Whenever you make stock, the recipe always says to add carrots, peppers, onions, celery, which is just going to be tossed out with the bones. Rather than buying veggies for this purpose, save your scraps. They’ll add the same  flavor to the dish without the added cost.

I generally save up all my scraps in a gallon sized bag and place in the freezer. Then you can take out what you need.