For the menu plans, I’ll be cooking ahead so I can share any tips I think of. I am 100% sure that most of you do not need tips from me on how to cook but for some who are newer to cooking so I’ll just share things as I think of them and am not expecting to WOW anyone with my tips!
Here’s a tip! When using ground beef that comes in a bag (I buy it from the farmer at the Farmers’ Market), the blood will drain out if I lay it in the fridge. I often don’t have room in the fridge for a container to lay the tube of meat in that will catch the blood but I can stand it up in a quart jar and there’s no leaking.
One thing I want you to know is that every recipe I share, I’ve tried it and love it. We don’t all like the same foods so I don’t expect that anyone is going to love every recipe I include in the menu plans. Because I don’t want to type all the recipes, I find recipes that are the same or similar to what I use but I make them ahead using the recipe so I can let you know if there’s anything I feel like needs to be changed. Some recipes just need help!
Because I’m normally cooking for two, my tips are probably going to be useless to someone cooking for 10, but if my tips help someone . . good!
As you know, I love having food ahead in the freezer – food that’s ready to heat and eat. It has to be something I love because if I put something I don’t love – like lasagna – in there, it’s going to sit for years, get freezer burned and get tossed.
One last tip – I won’t include bread or salad for most meals. I’m not big on making salads for just me and in winter, a cold salad isn’t what I want. I can eat a bit of sauerkraut every night and feel like that takes the place of salad. With just me here for now, I don’t always serve bread but I’m pretty happy with Hawaiian Rolls, biscuits, bagels or English muffins. So . . make your own salad and choose your own bread if you want those with your meals.
You may want to check back here before starting your cooking to see if I’ve shared any suggested changes you may want to make to each night’s meal.
Monday’s meal is Sweet and Sour Meat Loaf, Scalloped Potatoes and Green Beans.
I love using small loaf pans for a lot of our freezer meals. Meat loaf and scalloped potatoes work well in those. Just for the record, in 2013, I paid about $9 for four mini pans. Now, they’re $16.15 Crazy!
I use those pans for all kinds of things – the things that are better fresh baked or things that are baked ahead and kept whole, then reheated and served – banana nut bread (really, any kind of fruit bread), fruit cakes, monkey bread, mini pound cakes. Those mini pans are so useful.
I made the meat loaf exactly by the recipe. For the sauce, I did not use white sugar – just used the suggested amount of brown sugar. This recipe just doesn’t need that much sugar in my opinion.
I froze these four small loaves and the four jars of sauce, then removed the meatloaf from the pans and vacuum seal it with the jar. I didn’t even bother to put a lid on the jar since it will be vacuum sealed.
Then when I’m ready to heat these up, I’ll pop a frozen meat loaf back in the pan, let it defrost and bake it, then pour the sauce over the top and finish baking it.
Vince will eat the whole meat loaf and I’ll eat half. I could easily eat the whole one but I’m better off eating half. If we’re making meatloaf sandwiches, I’ll take out one loaf and that will work for both of us.
I followed the linked recipe but I most often am lazy and I think my way turns out just fine. Usually, I put half the potatoes in a greased pan, sprinkle flour over the potatoes. For these mini pans, I sprinkle about 1 tsp. flour over half the potatoes, pour a bit of milk over them (probably 1/4 cup – I don’t measure), season it all. Add some cheese, put the rest of the potatoes, sprinkle more flour, add more milk and seasoning. Bake, then add more cheese to the top and bake til the cheese is melted.
Even using the linked recipe, because I don’t like my potatoes dry, I poured a little milk over each pan.
I do freeze the potatoes in the pans but I bake them first – then freeze them, then take them out, vacuum seal them and like the meat loaf, when I’m ready to heat them up, I drop them back in a greased pan, let them defrost and bake til they’re warm. I usually add a bit more milk to the pan before reheating.
I don’t put cheese on top of the potatoes before baking but I wasn’t thinking added cheese to one . . if you’re wondering why one has cheese and the others do not. You can see the extra milk I added in that front pan of potatoes.
Everything is finished and ready for serving. Once the potatoes cool, four pans will go into the freezer.
Dinner is Served!
Like I said, I could have eaten a whole pan of meat loaf and potatoes but I am not stuffed to the point of wishing I hadn’t eaten so much when I eat only half. Actually a serving size of meat loaf is supposed to be 100 g. and I put 200 g. in each pan. I’m not sure if it weighs more or less after cooking. The recipe says it makes six servings so figuring my serving size is smaller than Vince’s serving size, that’s about right. If I were at a restaurant paying for an order of meat loaf, I’d probably expect the whole pan!
I don’t know if all upright freezers are the same but there’s one big drawer at the bottom of the ones we have. I keep all the small, ready to heat and eat type foods in that drawer and if the drawer gets full, I put the small items in a small tote and stick that on a shelf so when I want something quick and easy, I know right where to go to find it.