Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Foodie Friday - Timesaving Tips Part 1

Special thanks to Designs by Gollum for hosting this fun event! To view other great recipes stop by Gollum's for some mouth-watering fun!

I am sooooo glad it is Friday! It has been such a busy week for me. I have been busy this week preparing meals for wonderful neighbors/friends who just had their second baby. They are a couple who have been blessed with much so they are not in need of any more baby things, but what they WILL need is the gift of meals so that mom can put her full concentration on her new little bundle.

I wanted to make them two dinners for their first days home with baby. After discussing with them what would work best, we decided on this menu:

Meal One:
Caesar Salad
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
Lemon "Poke" Cake

Meal Two:
Chicken Fajitas
Spanish Rice
Old-Fashioned Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Because I work during the week until 5:00 pm, I knew it would be hard to get it all done in one day - so I used some of the meal preparation techniques that I used to employ when all of my kids were at home. When making meals for a large family, I used to do a LOT of freezer/batch cooking. It saves a lot of time and when jobs are broken up into a series of small steps over a period of time, it isn't such an exhausting endeavor.

I thought that I would share some of my ideas with you today!

As I have told you before, I am a list maker. I HAVE to write all of my plans down or I find myself running in circles. Writing out a list keeps me on track and helps me to break everything down into a series of manageable steps. To make all of this when working full time AND going to school - it would be too much work to do it all in one evening! Breaking it down into steps over a few days made the task easier and not as overwhelming.

My first day of baking consisted of making the spaghetti sauce for my Lasagna. While doing so, I made an extra large amount and froze the extra sauce to be used for spaghetti at a later date.

The second day I prepared the Lasagna. I made two - one for our family and one for our neighbors. It didn't take very long to prepare two so I now have a lasagna in my freezer for an evening when I don't feel like cooking or for a school night when I am pressed for time. If you are counting, that is now TWO meals in my freezer - with very little extra effort on my part.

I made the lasagna in the aluminum pan so that the family could throw it away afterwards and not have to worry about getting containers back to me.

When I have bananas that are too ripe, I will stick them in the freezer (still in their peels) to be used at a later date. Bananas ripen so quickly during the summers here - I hate them to go to waste and this way I can make banana bread whenever I want to. I took some bananas out of the freezer in the morning and put them in the refrigerator. When I got home from work they were thawed, and ready to make into bread.

Oops! I didn't take a picture of the banana bread! Here is the yummy recipe though:

Old Fashioned Banana/Chocolate Chip Bread
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup coarsely mashed bananas (2 small bananas)
1 cup (6oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together sour cream and baking soda and set aside. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients until dry ingredients are well blended. Do not over mix. Divide mix into 3 greased mini loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes.

This is the very best banana bread! It is so moist and VERY rich! You will love it - So fast to make too!

The next morning I worked on preparing my bread dough. I have a KitchenAide mixer. It is by FAR the best investment we have ever made for our kitchen. This wonderful "servant" helps me so much! Making bread can be so tedious when having to take the time to knead it for 10 minutes. With a KitchenAide mixer, I can use the bread hook attachment, and go on to do other things while the mixer does all of the hard work.

After mixing, I grease a bowl and place the dough in the refrigerator for the first "rise". This saves me time and when I got home from work, I took the bread dough out and formed it into loaves to rise while I prepared the rest of my meals. Making homemade bread can be time consuming because of the amount of time it needs to rise but if you do it this way, and prepare the dough in the morning and let it rise while you are preparing your dinner for the family, you can enjoy fresh homemade bread any day of the week - not just for special occasions!

I just LOVE the smell of homemade bread don't you?

Speedy Whole Wheat Bread
2-1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsps salt
3 pkgs active dry yeast
2-1/4 cups water
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg white, beaten

In large bowl, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour,salt and yeast; mix well. In a small saucepan, heat water,honey and margarine until very warm (120 to 130 degrees F). Add warm liquid to flour mixture; blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in whole wheat flour and an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup all purpose flour until dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

On floured surface, knead in 1/4 to 1/2 cup all purpose flour until dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 8 minutes. If you have a KitchenAide or stand up mixer, use your bread hook to do this part for you! Place dough in a greased plastic wrap and cloth towel. Place bowl in a pan of warm water; let rise for 15 minutes. OR *This is when I put the bread dough in my refrigerator instead - to take out later that evening. I can then finish the rise process while I make the rest of the meal.*

*If you are letting bread dough rise in the refrigerator - take it out later and let it rise for 15 minutes over a pan of warm water to bring it back to a warm temperature.* THEN....

Grease large cookie sheet or a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Punch down dough several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide dough in half and shape into two loaves. Place both onto greased cookie sheet. With a sharp knife, make three 1/8 inch deep slashes on top of each loaf. Carefully brush loaves with egg white. Cover and let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size - about 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover bread dough. Bake 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; cool on racks for 1 hour or until completely cooled. I like to cover with a towel to help soften them.

Yummy! Your house will smell wonderful! This makes good bread for sandwiches too.

Next Friday I will share part two of these meal preparations. I hope you will join me NEXT time - I will share my chicken fajita and spanish rice recipes and prep tips with you then.


RCUBEs said...

It is so hard to concentrate to read the ingredients of different recipes when you posted a yummy lasagna pic! :)
Thank you for the tips. I remember making lists, too when I was a nursing student then. Except I didn't have a family yet at that time, but still, with the busyness of needing to "burn the midnight oil" so to speak, I think it's a great idea that you're sharing valuable tips here sister. It applies to everyone who seems to be always out of time with doing things. That's so very thoughtful of you to think about that new mom. I'm sure she's delighted! God bless you in all the things you do.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Kymber, you might just make a cook out of me yet! WOW! You make is sound so simple to be so well organized. Thank you not only for the delicious recipes but for the tips as well. Very practical and helpful, and I appreciate those and the recipes. That bread looks absolutely divine. You're right... there is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread! And I've got a hankering for Italian food, too, after readint this! LOL!


Sheila :-)

Beginner said...

You are a gem of a neighbor. I am sure the new Mom would agree. How thoughtful of you to consult with them on the menu. That way you know that what you prepare is something they will like.

I have made your "Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins" several times. I freeze three to a package and enjoy them as my breakfast. They are always delicious.

Being a "starch mouth" (as Jeff Smith used to say) everything in the bread department I like. Thanks for the new recipes.

kymber said...

Hi beginner,
So glad that you like the banan muffin recipe! It is a favorite around here too!

My hubby LOVES all kinds of breads and muffins - I have had to cut him back on these though due to his dietary restrictions, so when we DO make it now, it is a special treat.


BECKY said...

Hi Kymber!1 Love the speedy whole wheat brad recipe! If I was going to make bread, it would have to be speedy!! I may have to try this!!

Thanks for sharing, sweetie!!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

Hi Kymber...your recipes sound and look awesome...have to remember your suggestion of cooking in stages and not trying to do it all in one that idea!