Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Freezer Recipes that Save My Life and Make My Family Happy

You might think from all the recipes you see posted on Just One Donna that cooking is my favorite thing to do.  I like to cook when I have the time to devote to my favorite recipes, but I have a lot going on in my life and time to cook is often sacrificed. When I'm pressed for time, cooking frustrates me. Can you relate?

I am committed to preparing as much of what we eat myself.  I believe that you should know what goes into the food you put in your body.  That means that we seldom eat prepared foods and restaurant meals are only occasional.  This means that when I am pressed for time, I turn to my freezer.  The two meals you will always find in my freezer, ready to heat and serve, are my Italian Stuffed Peppers and my Easy Freezer Chicken Parmesan.

Two Make Ahead Meals Your Family will Love

Our Two Favorite Freezer Dinners
Our Two Favorite Freezer Dinners

Get the Italian Stuffed Peppers Recipe:  Italian Stuffed Peppers
Get the Chicken Parmesan Recipe:  Freezer Chicken Parmesan

How to Prepare Freezer Dinners

We've all seen the recommendations that tell us to make ahead our dinners on the weekend.  Well, that's a good idea if you want to spend your weekends in the kitchen.  I do not.  Instead, I plan to cook each of these meals in a big batch quantity periodically.  For the stuffed peppers, that means I'll make a batch of approximately twenty stuffed peppers once every three or four months.  The chicken Parmesan gets cooked approximately once every six weeks, making enough for four meals.
Save Time with Freezer Dinners

Here are the steps to make this work for you:

1.  Decide how many meals you want to have on hand, first making sure you have enough room available in your freezer.

2.  Plan when it will fit in your schedule to make these meals in a batch.  I always plan to make my big batch on the same day I'll be serving one of these meals for dinner.  That way, I'll only be adding a little extra time onto my normal preparation time for dinner.  I usually plan for double the usual preparation time, including the wrapping for freezing.

3.  It's smart to include another family member in your freezer meals preparation.  Hubby and I usually work together when we make the stuffed peppers.  This helps to make the chopping step go faster and filling the peppers with the stuffing mixture a breeze.  This is also a great time to teach kids basic cooking skills.

4.  Shop in advance for the ingredients and freezer supplies.  You do not want to make a grocery store run during batch cooking sessions.

5.  Congratulate yourself for your time-saving meal preparation every time you reach into your freezer for one of your meals.

I wrap each of the stuffed peppers individually in plastic wrap and then put them all together into a plastic freezer bag. That way I can take out as many as needed for dinner.  I freeze the chicken Parmesan in baking dishes that can go from the freezer to the oven.  I usually try to defrost both the stuffed peppers and chicken Parmesan before baking, but I have been known to cook them straight from the freezer.  They'll just take a little longer to cook.

Both of these recipes are family favorites.  I hope you'll try them.  You can either eat them for dinner or freeze them. How great is that?

Thanks for sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Yum!



Monday, April 24, 2017

Five Must Have Recipes for Cinco de Mayo

Don't you love it when Cinco de Mayo falls on the weekend?  That way you'll have plenty of time to kick back and enjoy the fun as well as the robust flavors of all the yummy foods.  Are you looking for some food suggestions?  Here are five of my favorite dishes to make at home anytime, but especially to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Plan Your Cinco de Mayo Celebration with These Five Recipes

(This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  Thanks for shopping!)

Don't forget to get your party started with some inexpensive party decorations like these festive garlands and these colorful cocktail napkins.  They are a downright cheap way to add some fun!

Slammin' Guacamole

Slammin' Guacamole
OK, I know guacamole is not technically a dish, but I can't imagine a Cinco de Mayo spread without a large bowl of tasty guacamole.   This is my favorite guacamole recipe, but I encourage you to make this one your own with a little bit of this and that.
Plan Your Cinco de Mayo Party with These Five Recipes
Add caption

Add a bit more jalapeno pepper to kick up the heat index.  Add a little more, or less, chopped tomato, or substitute parsley for the cilantro.  I happen to love the cilantro, but I know there are many of you who don't.  Leftover guacamole is a wonderful sandwich spread...just sayin'.

A Classic Margarita

We like margaritas twelve months of the year, so of course, I have to include this classic cocktail here. Make your own simple syrup by boiling equal parts sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.  Let the simple syrup cool and then add tequila, lime juice, and Grand Marnier or Triple Sec.  With salt or without, your choice!  We like to use these glass pitchers to make up a large batch in advance.  That way the party is ready to go and you can enjoy the fun without playing bartender.

A Classic Margarita

Southwest Chicken with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

This barbecued chicken recipe doesn't require a grill.  You can make this smoky flavored chicken from start to finish in your kitchen with either a whole chicken or the chicken parts of your choice.  The two keys to success in this dish are the Southwest Spice Mix and the Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.  Once you make them you'll always want to have them on hand to add a little zip to your life.

Southwest Shrimp with Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

Southwest Shrimp with Corn and Black Bean Salad
Southwest Shrimp with Corn and Black Bean Salad

Shrimp is always on hand in my freezer.  This recipe is one of the reasons why.  Come to think of it, these shrimp would be terrific as a taco filling as well.

Cumin Grilled Steak with Chili Lime Butter

Cumin Grilled Steak
Cumin Grilled Steak 

Last, but not least, is a delicious way to kick up the flavor of a grilled rib eye or NY strip steak.  Both are wonderful cuts of beef for grilling, but on Cinco de Mayo you deserve to punch it up and welcome the party to your mouth.  The chili lime butter keeps well in your freezer, so if you make some this weekend you'll have plenty on hand for the grilling season.

Click the links above to be taken to the step by step recipes for your Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Of course, I have created a Cinco de Mayo Pinterest Board with other ideas for your Cinco de Mayo party.  Follow me on Pinterest and you'll never be at a loss for great ideas, no matter what occasion.

Before you go.....Never miss a Just One Donna post by signing up to receive posts in your email or your favorite RSS feed.  Links are in the sidebar.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Southwest Shrimp with Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

For quite a few years we were a take it or leave it, corn-on-the-cob family.  That was the case until we discovered the wondrous flavor of grilled corn.  Now we are corn on the cob addicts.   We particularly love our grilled corn-on-the-cob slathered with Chili-lime Butter.  Oh, yea!  That's some good food.

Southwest Shrimp with Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

A Perfect Summer Grilled Dinner
Grilled Southwest Shrimp with Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

Today's recipe uses our favorite grilled corn in a black bean salad served with skewers of Southwest grilled shrimp.  The Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. This is a perfect way to use any leftover grilled corn you might have.  The Southwest Grilled Shrimp takes only minutes to prepare, making this Southwest Shrimp with Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad a perfect summer dinner.  It's easy, flavorful and perfect for eating on the deck.
href="" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;">Southwest Shrimp with Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

Print Recipe

The Ingredients for Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad
Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad Ingredients
For the Salad:
  • 2 1/2 cups grilled corn kernels
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

For the Dressing:
  • 1 lime, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

Place all of the salad ingredients together in a bowl.  Toss well to combine.

The Colorful Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad Ingredients
The Colorful Ingredients

Make the dressing by mixing together the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking to combine.  Pour the dressing over the salad, mixing well to be sure the dressing is distributed throughout the salad.  Refrigerate the salad for at least one hour to allow the flavors to combine.

Toss the Vegetables with the Dressing
Two Easy Steps

Southwest Grilled Shrimp

Print Recipe

  • 8-10 shrimp (21-25 per pound size) per adult, shelled and deveined
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Southwest seasoning
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Thaw the shrimp and remove the shells.  Buy them already deveined and the tedious work will be done for you.  If using wooden skewers, soak the skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.  That will help them to keep from burning on the grill.

While your grill is heating, pour extra virgin olive oil over the shrimp, coating well.  Sprinkle generously with the Southwest seasoning, using your hands to make sure each shrimp is well coated.  Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over the shrimp, tossing to distribute.  Set aside until ready to grill, but not for more than 15 minutes.

Toss the shrimp with Southwest Seasoning
Be Generous with the Southwest Seasoning

Grill the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the shrimp is pink.  Don't over cook the shrimp because it will quickly move from perfectly delicious to dreadfully tough.  Serve each person with one or two skewers of shrimp along with a generous helping of the Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad.

Shared on Meal Plan Monday.

Thank you for sharing this recipe on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yum!



Monday, April 17, 2017

My Weeknight BBQ Pork Chops with Southwest Vegetables

One of my goals in publishing this blog is to provide you with family friendly food that fits the busy lives we all lead.  I have a repertoire of meal plans that are super easy to make, but full of flavor.  As the primary cook in the Just One Donna house, I am often tired by meal prep time from a day full of activities.

While I no longer work outside the home, when I did, I needed quick, easy dinners that would satisfy my family.  This oven-baked BBQ Pork Chops with Southwest Vegetables is one of those dinners that satisfies my need for easy preparation while being substantial and flavorful.  That means this dinner will work for bloggers and other busy people, no matter what leaves you time-challenged.

Easy Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Chops with Southwest Vegetables

BBQ Pork Chops with Southwest Vegetables
BBQ Pork Chops with Southwest Vegetables

You'll need about ninety minutes from start to table with this recipe.  Most of that time is oven cooking time.  I also like to think about cleanup as I plan my meals, For this dinner, I will use a frying pan for browning the pork chops, a ceramic baking dish, and an aluminum baking sheet that gets covered in aluminum foil.  That means cleanup is a breeze.
BBQ Pork Chops and Southwest Vegetables

Weeknight BBQ Pork Chops with Southwest Vegetables

For the BBQ Pork Chops

  • 2-6 bone-in center cut pork chops, one per person
  • 1/2 onion per person, sliced
  • one bottle of prepared BBQ sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil

For the Southwest Vegetables

  • approximately four Brussels sprouts per person, halved
  • 1/2 sweet potato per person, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 onion per person, cut into wedges
  • Southwest seasoning
  • olive oil

For the BBQ Pork Chops
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.  When the pan is hot, add the pork chops and cook until browned on one side.  Add the sliced onions to the pan.  Season the onions with salt and pepper.  Turn the pork chops and season with salt and pepper.  Cook the onions until softened.  When browned on both sides, remove the pork chops from the pan.

BBQ Pork Chops
BBQ Pork Chops

Prepare your baking pan for the pork chops with a thin layer of BBQ sauce, evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan.  Place the browned pork chops on the BBQ sauce.  Spoon additional BBQ sauce on top of the pork chops.  Top each of the pork chops with the softened onion.  Drizzle with additional BBQ sauce.

Cover the baking dish, first with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil.  The plastic wrap will contain the steam while the pork chops cook, making them juicy and tender.  Bake the pork chops for one hour.

For the Southwest Vegetables
Southwest seasoning is essential to this side dish.  I always have this seasoning on hand.  It is essential in my kitchen, so I suggest you make some ahead of time.  I think you will love it as much as I do.

Prepare the vegetables and place them on the aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.  Make sure your baking sheet is large enough to spread out the vegetables.  Sprinkle olive oil over the vegetables and toss with your hands, making sure all the vegetables are covered with the oil. Next, sprinkle the Southwest seasoning over the vegetables and toss once again, using your hands. You want the vegetables to be well-covered with the Southwest seasoning mix.

Southwest Vegetables
Southwest Vegetables
Place the vegetables into the oven with the pork chops, thirty minutes before the pork chops will be finished baking.   The pork chops and the vegetables will be ready to serve at the same time.

Thank you for sharing this recipe on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yum!



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Topped Brownies

Brownies are one of my favorite indulgences.  Pretty much any brownie will satisfy me.  I'm not fussy. It can be a fancy-schmancy brownie or a brownie from a box.  I don't like nuts in my brownie. Nuts distract me from everything I love about brownies.  The brownie just needs to be full of fudgy chocolate flavor.

Occasionally, I like a kicked up brownie.   Sometimes I'll add a chocolate buttercream topping to a basic brownie and that is yummy.  When I want to go over the top, I'll add a layer of caramel and top that with a layer of chocolate ganache.  Does that sound kicked up enough for you?  The resulting brownie is delicious...decadently delicious.  Oh, yeah, baby!  I am not kidding.  This is one heck of a brownie.

Decadent Caramel Ganache Brownies

Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Topped Brownies
Decadent Caramel Ganache Brownies

There are three steps to this brownie, so you'll need to plan accordingly.  Start by making your favorite brownie recipe.  You can even use your favorite boxed brownie in this recipe.   While the brownies are cooling you can make the caramel layer.
Caramel Ganache Brownies

Have no fear, it's easy to make the caramel.  You'll need a candy thermometer to make sure you get the right consistency to the caramel.  This caramel is soft and creamy, not thick and chewy.  The caramel is a perfect consistency for topping the brownie.  Once the caramel is spread over the brownies it needs to cool for at least fifteen minutes before adding the chocolate ganache layer.  Finally, the brownies must cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  I'd say you'll need about three hours from start to serve.

Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Topped Brownies

Printer Friendly Recipe

Step 1
Bake your favorite brownie recipe. Use a box mix if you like.

Step 2
The Caramel Layer
  • 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Step 3
The Chocolate Ganache
  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Bake the brownie layer per your favorite recipe.  Be sure to line the pan with parchment paper leaving enough of an edge exposed to lift the brownies from the pan in one large piece.

Tip:  Use large office clips to clip the paper to the edge of the pan and hold it in place while the brownies are baking.

Bake until the brownies are moist, yet set.  A toothpick inserted in the center will have a few crumbs on it when removed.  Cool the brownies before adding the caramel layer.

Line Baking Pan with Parchment Paper
Bake the Brownie Layer

To make the caramel layer, place all of the ingredients in a pot over medium heat.  Stir well to combine.  As the mixture heats, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

Use a Candy Thermometer
Use a Candy Thermometer to Make the Caramel Layer

Continue cooking, stirring with a whisk constantly until the temperature of the mixture hits 225 degrees.  Pour the caramel over the brownies, smoothing with a spatula.  Set the pan aside to cool until the caramel layer sets, about 15 minutes.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate chips and the cream in a small bowl.  Heat them together in the microwave for 15 seconds.  Stir and repeat until the chips are fully melted and the mixture is thick and creamy.  Pour the ganache over the caramel layer.

Spread the Ganache Topping
Spread the Ganache Topping over the Caramel

Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Use the parchment paper to lift the brownies from the pan.  You'll have three lovely layers.

Three Layers: Ganache, Caramel, Brownie
Three Layers:  Ganache, Caramel, Brownie

Place the brownies on a cutting board and slice into individual servings.  Use a long-bladed knife to cut through in one motion.

Tip:  You'll want to run the knife blade under hot water to heat the blade for easy cutting and prettier brownies.

Essential Tools for this Recipe: (These are affiliate links.  Thanks for shopping!)
A good candy thermometer
Parchment Paper
Offset Spatula
9x9 baking pan

Shared on Meal Plan Monday and Metamorphosis Monday.
Don't forget to follow me on Facebook.  Be sure to choose the "See First" option, under "Following", in order to see my posts in your Facebook feed.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...