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Thursday, 27 September 2018 10:28

Family time yields delicious, time-saving meals with these ideas

Written by  Brian Quinn - A Chef’s Table

Fall is my favorite time of year.

The weather cools, apple farms open their doors for picking, there’s Halloween and, of course, back to school. Whether it is sending the kids off on their first day or you are returning yourself, it is always difficult to get back into the routine. Homework, after-school activities and adjusting to early mornings all mean we have shifted from fun, long-summer-day family activities to quick greetings as we pass each other in the hallways. Evenings and weekends become crucially important for establishing quality time together as a family.

All too often, though, we are throwing together a quick meal and eating between homework assignments and bedtimes.

Allow me to suggest the following: Reclaim Sunday as family time. Here’s how it works. Plan four to five dinners that can easily freeze, get some small aluminum baking pans from the grocer’s baking aisle (don’t forget lids!) and spend Sunday together as a family shopping and preparing these meals and freezing them. During the week, it takes nothing more than preheating the oven to make dinner.
Here are some meals that you can easily freeze. When in doubt, think casseroles. Assemble these recipes, but do not do the final baking until the night you will serve them:

• Lasagna (or any baked pasta dish)
• Enchiladas
• Shepherd’s pie
• Chicken pot pie

For these recipes, you will need to finish the cooking process and cool completely before freezing. When you are ready to serve, thaw in the fridge the night before and remember to reheat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

For some of these, such as those below, you will want to cook some pasta to serve with them:

  • Meatloaf
  • Meatballs. Use a good quality jar sauce and add to your pan in the final five minutes.
  • Chicken cacciatore
  • Pot roast and all stews

Chef Quinn’s recipe for autumn family time

1. A weekend morning. Bring the whole family in; everyone helps and you’re done by noon.
2. Internet connection. Find some great recipes the family likes. I’ve put one of my favorites at the end of this column to kickstart your culinary effort.
3. Aluminum baking dishes. Keep these on hand (either a medium-size one for serving family style, or several smaller ones for individual family members).
4. Shopping list for four to five easy-to-freeze recipes. Go to your favorite store and shop.
5. Once back at home, divvy up the prep work among the family members. (Hint: Cut all vegetables for all recipes at the same time.) Laugh, joke, have fun.
6. Assemble according to the recipes in the aluminum pans.
7. Label each pan, including the night it will be served. Freeze.
8. Everyone cleans up. More family time.
9. Make a quick, easy lunch. Eat together and look for recipes for next week. Repeat.

Sheboygan meatloaf

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground veal
4 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pepper
4 tablespoons ghee (or clarified butter)
1 cup small diced onions
1 cup small diced celery
1 cup small diced pepper
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
6 tablespoons hot sauce, Sriracha
2 cups pureéd Creole sauce

Directions for Creole sauce:
Saute 2 ounces small diced onion, 1 ounce small diced celery and 1 clove minced garlic. Add a 32-ounce jar of tomato sauce. Add 1 bay leaf, a pinch of thyme and 1 teaspoon oil. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add 2 ounces small diced green pepper and a dash of hot sauce.

Simmer for 15 more minutes. (Remove bay leaf before serving.)

Directions for meatloaf:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine beef, veal, eggs, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, over medium heat, add ghee. Sweat onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic until they are just softened. Add dash of hot sauce and toss. Add vegetables to meat mixture and thoroughly combine.

Place meatloaves into one or two bread pans or molds, depending on size. Top with creole sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or it reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.

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