Monday, September 5, 2011

Cooking Sundays

In case you haven't noticed, I make a lot of stuff from scratch. There is something wonderful about knowing that each meal I make for my family came from my own two hands. I know what's in it, and more importantly, what's not. But creating all of these meals from scratch can take time - a lot of time. Since I'm primarily a stay-at-home-mom, I don't mind spending an hour or two in my kitchen in the morning preparing meals, but I realize that many of you may not have the same luxuries. It is for this very reason that I am going to share one of my secrets with you: Cooking Sunday.

Cooking Sunday is the Sunday once or twice a month when I spend the afternoon in the kitchen, usually with my 5 year old daughter, preparing a variety of meals for the days and weeks to come. Many of my favorite "from scratch" items can be made ahead and frozen, or simply assembled into small containers for use on a busy day. Cooking Sunday is a great time to bond with your kids. Take the opportunity to teach your children about the benefits of cooking from scratch, how important it is to cook with whole, healthy ingredients and how to save money by working with your own two hands instead of paying someone else to do it. You can even sneak in a few math and physics lessons!

In order to make Cooking Sunday fun and relaxing, I urge you to plan ahead and shop a few days before. Make sure you have all of the Thrive ingredients you'll need on hand, clear out some space in the freezer, and start with a clean kitchen. Here are a few of our standard Cooking Sunday recipes:

Spaghetti Sauce - make a double batch of your favorite recipe, or just brown ground beef, sausage or ground turkey and pour in two jars of sauce. Mix well and divide into two freezer bags. Make sure to label the bags with the contents and date. Freeze flat for quick thawing!

Homemade Bagels - make several batches and flavor each batch differently! You could make half a dozen chocolate chip, parmesan and herb, onion and poppy seed, cinnamon and sugar, or even spinach and cheddar. Freeze them in zip top freezer bags.

Homemade Pancake Syrup - one batch of syrup will last our family of three for at least 2 months.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough - make three or four batches. Before allowing the dough to rise, divide it into two equal portions. From those two portions, divide one portion into dough balls roughly the size of a soft ball, wrap with plastic wrap and freeze in a zip top bag. To make a pizza crust, simply thaw a dough ball and roll it out. From the other portion, make meal pockets.

Meal Pockets - make a large batch. Fill half with breakfast stuff like scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage and ham. Fill the other half with lunch stuff - leftover lunch meats, shredded or sliced cheese, cooked veggies, pepperoni, taco meat, leftover pot roast, etc. Bake before freezing. To reheat, microwave for 2 minutes. 

Instant Oatmeal Packets - make a couple dozen in a variety of flavors. Label each clearly and store in a basket in the pantry.

Meatballs - combine 2lbs of ground beef (or mix with ground sausage, ground turkey, or ground chicken) with 1/2c bread crumbs or oats, 2T Thrive Whole Egg Powder, 2T Thrive Chopped Onions, 2T Thrive Tomato Powder and up to 3/4c water. Mix well and form into meatballs. Freeze on a cookie sheet. Transfer frozen meatballs to freezer bag. To reheat, bake desired number of frozen meatballs in a greased dish for 45 minutes at 400.

Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi - make two batches. Freeze all of the gnocchi spread out on a cookie sheet, then transfer to two freezer bags.

"Cream of" Soup Mix - make two batches. Store each in a bag or jar labeled with cooking instructions.

Soft Sweet Rolls - make a couple batches of these to use as sandwich rolls, hamburger buns or dinner rolls.

Meatloaf - combine all of the meatloaf ingredients but don't bake it - just put it into a freezer bag, pat it flat and freeze it. To use it, thaw the mixture and shape it before baking. Alternative option - freeze the meatloaf mixture in a well-greased muffin tin. Pop the frozen meatloaves out and store them in a freezer bag. To use, bake on a greased cookie sheet. You'll have individual little meatloaves!

Taco Soup - put all of the ingredients in a zip top bag. Write on the bag how much water needs to be added and how long to cook it. Store it in the pantry until you're ready to make soup!

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