Make Dinner Happen Friday #1: Use It Up Edition

Make Dinner Happen Friday #1Make Dinner Happen Friday is a new series where I will share with you what I am planning on cooking next week.  So come and join me in making dinner happen!
This week is all about “using it up.”  We are blessed this week with a full pantry and freezer, so I built my meal plan this week around what we already have.  I start my meal plans on Friday because that is the day that I go to the grocery store (although that might be changing soon as we are getting into the school year).
Friday
Black Bean Jalapeno Griddle Cakes with Salsa, Chipotle Mashed Potato Cakes, and Salad
I am trying out a couple of new recipes here with the griddle cakes and mashed potato cakes based off of recipes from How to Cook Everything – I’ll let you know how they turned out!  I will be using my favorite salsa recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  I already have these ingredients from the meal plan last week (we ended up with more leftovers than I was planning, so we had an extra “leftovers day”).
Saturday
Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin with Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Scalloped PotatoesRosemary Roasted Pork Loin with Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
This will be a basic rosemary marinated pork loin (which I already have in the freezer) that is oven roasted (do be honest, I don’t have something specific in mind – I’ll just throw some marinade together that day), served with these delicious-looking scalloped potatoes (I will just be using red potatoes and cheddar and Parmesan cheeses because that is what I already have).
Sunday
Brunch: Cinnamon Apple Baked French Toast with Cheesy Hash Brown Cups
On Sunday, brunch is our big meal, and I have been on a kick of trying new recipes lately.  This Cinnamon Apple Baked French Toast looked tasty, plus I already have apples!  I have made these really tasty Baked Hash Brown Cups (with cheese!), though!  I’ll be using the red potatoes that I already have and grating them myself.
Dinner: Spaghetti with Garlic Knots and Salad
Basic spaghetti with our homemade spaghetti sauce served with homemade garlic knots using the olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  This sounds really elaborate, but really this is so easy and delicious!
Monday
Camembert Macaroni and Cheese and Camembert Stuffed Figs
I have some camembert cheese left over from last week (we had a French-inspired meal that, of course, had to include some “fancy” cheese), so we are going to try this macaroni and cheese and these cheese stuffed figs to use it up.  Figs are in-season here now, so I will be able to pick some up at the farmer’s market on Saturday.
Tuesday
Spaghetti Squash Chicken Pad Thai with Bean Sprouts and Peppers
Spaghetti squash and peppers are also in season, so I am going to attempt this Pad Thai recipe using chicken thighs that I have in the freezer.  I have never made homemade Pad Thai, so this is going to be an adventure.  Since I try to make most of my food from scratch, I am going to use this pad Thai sauce recipe.  This is going to be tricky since I am not sure if I can find tamarind paste here in central Arkansas.  I am adding bean sprouts and bell peppers because I am apparently incapable of making any recipe exactly as written :).
Wednesday
Buffalo Tacos with Chipotle Corn Casserole
We will be having these tacos seasoned with buffalo sauce (I will be using my homemade buffalo sauce).  I thought this corn casserole would go with this well with a little bit of chipotle seasoning added to it.
Thursday
Sausage and Potatoes with Salad
Pan fried kielbasa and red potatoes (which – you guessed it – I already have) with a side salad (btw, a “salad” in our house mostly means lettuce with sunflower seeds, but we will also add any kind of extra vegetables that we have around).
So there you have it – our meal plan for next week!  So I challenge you – what are you going to put on your meal plan this week to “use it up?”  Share it on Facebook or Twitter with #makedinnerhappen!

Cook Once – Eat Twice: Ratatouille and Rice and Middle Eastern Vegetable Soup

Ratatouille and RiceThis easy slow cooker ratatouille pairs with a simple garlic risotto for one dinner, and easily transforms into a delicious, spiced soup the second night.  These two recipes work well together by easily creating different flavors and textures in the second meal for a whole new dish!  You will be making a double batch of the ratatouille (stewed eggplant, squash, and tomatoes) and risotto (a creamy, but dairy-free rice dish) and using half of it for the Middle Eastern Vegetable Soup.  It is important that you have the second meal the next day, as rice that has been kept longer than one day can make you sick even after being thoroughly reheated.

Ratatouille and RiceRatatouille and Rice

Needs Fulfilled: Slow Cooker, Prep Ahead, Cook Once-Eat Twice, Allergy Friendly, Vegetarian/Vegan
Serve With: Fruit Salad
Prep: 10 minutes   Inactive Cook: 3-8   hours   Active Cook: 40 minutes
Time to Table: 40 minutes
Needed Equipment: Slow cooker, 2 saucepans
Serves: 3
Arborio rice is a particular kind of short grain rice that you can find with the grains and beans at the grocery store.  It is essential for making the risotto that you use this type of rice as long grain rice does not form the right kind of starch when it cooks to give the risotto is creamy texture.  Eggplant is a very tricky vegetable to get right.  You can tell it is done when it starts to taste good – if it is chewy and bitter, it is not done yet.  If you would prefer to avoid this finicky food, you can substitute 2 yellow squash.

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut eggplant and zucchini according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store together in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days – the eggplant will turn brown but it doesn’t affect the taste or texture and you cannot tell once it is cooked).

INGREDIENTS:

Ratatouille:
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes (peeled if preferred)
  • 3 zucchini, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 tsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 30 oz canned diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite diced tomatoes with no salt added)
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 ½ tsp basil
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stems removed and cut into ½-inch pieces
Garlic Risotto:
  • 5 cups broth
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • ¾ tsp oregano
  • 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the ratatouille except the pepper into the slow cooker.Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.
  2. Place the broth for the risotto in the smaller saucepan (if you have two sizes) on a back burner of the stove on medium-low heat (you are just going to warm it – you don’t want it to be boiling).Place the second saucepan on a front burner, add the oil and heat over medium heat.Add the peppers for the ratatouille to the slow cooker, cover, and place on high to continue cooking while you make the risotto.
  3. Add the garlic and oregano to the oil in the larger saucepan (front burner) and saute 1-2 minutes.Add the rice and saute another minute until the edge of the rice starts to be translucent.
  4. Add about a quarter of the broth to the rice.All the rice to cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently but gently (this helps to develop the texture). As the liquid is absorbed, add in another quarter of the broth, again allowing it to be absorbed while stirring frequently but gently. Once all of the broth has been absorbed, taste the rice and add the salt and pepper as desired. (If you need to, you can cover and let the risotto sit off of a burner until you are ready to serve.)
  5. Serve the ratatouille over the rice, remembering to save half for the soup the next day, storing them covered in the refrigerator in separate containers.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • You could add 15 oz Great Northern beans (drained and rinsed) or 1 lb ground meat, browned to the ratatouille with the peppers for a punch of protein.
Credits: The ratatouille and rice recipe is adapted from the “Provencal Vegetables and Rice” recipe in One-Dish Vegetarian Meals by Robin Robertson.

 Middle Eastern Vegetable SoupMiddle Eastern Vegetable Soup

Needs Fulfilled: Quick Meal, Cook Once-Eat Twice, Allergy Friendly, Vegetarian/Vegan
Serve With: Bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (there are also gluten-free breads in there!)
Prep: 0 minutes  Cook: 15 minutes   Time to Table: 15 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 3

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • Leftover Ratatouille
  • Leftover Garlic Risotto
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine the leftover ratatouille and risotto with the water, coriander, and cinnamon in the saucepan over medium high heat.Heat through, stirring occasionally.Taste and add additional seasonings (salt, pepper, or more coriander or cinnamon) and serve!

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • You could use other seasonings such as ½ tsp ginger for the coriander for a slightly sweeter flavor or ½ tsp rosemary with 1 stalk celery, chopped for both for a more Italian flavor.

Sausage and Broccoli Casserole

Sausage and Broccoli CasseroleThis broccoli and sausage sauté with noodles and tomatoes makes a great, quick dinner – with simple gluten free substitutions to make it your own!   Plan this meal the week after the Kale and Kielbasa Soup to use up any leftover sausage (because no one likes to waste food!).  Oftentimes, you can plan on having the same protein more than once in one week to simplify your planning.  Kielbasa, however, has a very strong flavor, so putting it on two different weeks saves you from feeling like you are eating the same thing twice.  If you want to have them on the same week, you can try out one of the substitute proteins below!

Sausage and Broccoli Casserole

Needs Fulfilled: Quick Meal, Prep Ahead, Cook Once-Eat Twice (with rice substitution) Allergy Friendly (with substitution)
Serve With: Applesauce (if you like – this meal is complete on its own)
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Time to Table: 30 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan, skillet
Serves: 4

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut sausage and broccoli according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup macaroni
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ lb kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • ½ lb broccoli, chopped (you can substitute frozen if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions or with the following quicker-cooking method: Use a regular size saucepan filled about half to three-quarters full of water, then add the pasta right away. Add salt as desired (it helps to improve the flavor but is not necessary). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high so that the water continues to boil well. The whole time stir often! (This is the key because the smaller amount of water tends to make the pasta stick together.) Continue cooking the pasta until it is done (about 5-8 minutes after the water starts boiling). Drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and brown (cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to turn brown). Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and the cooked pasta. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes until the broccoli is nicely cooked.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • For a gluten-free version, use 2 cups cooked brown rice (about 1 cup uncooked); omit step 1.Pair this recipe with a meal that uses rice the night before, saving the rice in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day until ready to use.
  • Switch up the vegetables with the same amount of yellow squash, zucchini, or cauliflower.
  • If you cannot find kielbasa that will work for your family, you can use the same amount of ground meat or use this substitute recipe for 1 lb of breakfast sausage:
    • 1 lb ground pork
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ tsp dried parsley
    • ¼ tsp dried sage
    • ¼ tsp pepper
    • ¼ tsp dried thyme
    • ¼ tsp coriander
  1. Mix together in a bowl, then use as directed in the recipe.
Credits: The sausage and broccoli casserole recipe is adapted from Healthy Lunchbox by Rallie McAllister.