Thursday, January 17, 2013

Favorite Winter Dinner Ideas

One thing I hate more than anything is leaving work (and its dark), getting home (and it's still dark), then thinking about dinner and if I need to get back in the car and go to the store (yep, it's still dark).

So, I try really hard to be creative about cooking when I just don't feel like going shopping for "fresh" ingredients. I use a lot of canned and froze (some from my garden this summer).

My go-to cooking appliance is my croc-pot! The base of my croc-pot (the part that plugs in, has the display, and heats up) is pretty dirty, but surprisingly the actual ceramic croc is spotless. No matter how "dry" or "over cooked" or sticky a dish was while cooking, I have never had a hard time getting it clean. Reynolds now sells croc-pot liners for easy clean up, but the one time I used it when someone else cooked all I could taste in the food was plastic. There are exceptions to every rule though, if you are going to a party or pot-luck this is PERFECT because you will easily get to transport home a clean croc-pot.

As usual, I digress...on to some favorite winter dinner ideas (almost all using my croc-pot!).

**Oh yeah, and remember I don't measure since I'm scavenging for ingredients on hand!.

Chicken and Rice:
-Frozen (or fresh) boneless chicken
-chicken stock or chicken bouillon
-frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, onion, etc. all some or none, you choose)
-Condensed cream of chicken soup or other personally acceptable "cream of..." soup
-rice (if you only want to wait 15 minutes after getting home use minute rice, if you have longer to wait use long grain rice an hour or two before eating.
-white beans (totally optional)

Now as for quantities. You have to use a little common sense. I usually start with putting my meat on the bottom, then adding frozen vegetables. I then add stock or bouillon so that it a little more than covers the solids. The soup added is usually about one can for half a croc-pot and two cans for a full croc-pot. With rice, the rule is that you need about equal parts liquid to the rice you add.

This dish does tend to fall apart a bit, as in the vegetables are not likely to hold their shape after you stir and mix the food a few times. So, make sure you pick foods that you don't need to pick out after it's cooked. I like to shred the chicken instead of leaving it in large pieces.

Pot Roast Sandwiches

-One Pot Roast
-water and beef bouillon cubes-follow water to cube ratio on package (make enough to cover the meat in crock-pot)
-Soft sandwich bread (white is my favorite, but some soft whole grains are good too)
-Butter or Margarine to spread on the insides of the bread of your sandwich

This is mouth watering wonderful! The best part of it is the melted butter in the meat! I use country-crock light margarine and white bread. This is also a great way to eat leftover pot-roast if you want a sandwich style roast to be for a lunch rather than the plan for dinner. I used to have pot roast ( cooked with chunks of potato and carrot) for the first night, then save leftovers for sammies UNTIL I realized I liked the sandwich better and decided to just skip the "formal" version!

Hamburger with Gravy*
This is the name my sister and I gave it as young children. My husband swears it is another dish that has a different name other people (not me) you might have already heard of it. My husband refers to it as my version of s*** on a shingle. Minus the toast/bread, adding potatoes and carrots, and leaving the beef as patties rather than crumbled throughout.

1 lb ground beef formed into hamburger patties
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken with herbs soup
4 potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 bag of baby carrots or about 6 peeled and cut carrots
Milk-enough to fill up the soup can 1 1/2 - 2 times depending on your preference and how long you will cook the meal)

Using my electric skillet, I cook my hamburger patties until cooked through. I make patties so everyone gets an even amount of meat, but you could just cook the ground beef crumbled instead. After the meat is cooked, I then add all other ingredients. The time needed to cook all depends upon if your potatoes and carrots have cooked to a soft texture that you can take a fork and break apart without effort. For me this is about 25-30 minutes, but I put in quite a few potatoes and carrots. Every five minutes stir your cooking food so it doesn't burn or stick. It might become necessary to add additional milk (or water if you prefer) because of evaporation during cooking. You want the liquid to be close to a gravy consistency, not soup.

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