Friday, January 3, 2014

Two for One: Making weeknight meals easier

I am all about easy prep and quick weeknight meals.  An easy way to make dinner happen is to prep ingredients ahead of time, then all you have to do is throw everything together and voila! Dinner is done.  For example, this week I made a sausage and cheese strata, but cooked all of the sausage (one pound's worth) and saved the other half to put in a soup later in the week.  Similarly, I bought a whole head of savoy cabbage, but used it three ways (in a citrus slaw with roasted salmon, in soup, and as a side dish).  Makes easy work for weeknights AND it's economical.

Here's what I did:

I cooked all the sausage, along with half a chopped up onion and 4 oz. of chopped, fresh mushrooms. Beause there was some great crispy bits of sausage left in the pan, I put half a cup of water in the hot pan to scrape up all those bits of flavor, then put everything in a bowl and stored it in the fridge for later.

When it came time to make the strata, I ended up only using about 1/3 of the sausage, which I scattered over a mixture of 4 eggs, 1 1/3 cups of milk, salt and pepper, 5 slices of thick-cut bread (cut into 1-inch cubes) that had soaked together for about 15 minutes.  On top of everything, I scattered some grated cheddar cheese, then baked it in a buttered 8-inch by 8-inch pan at 375 for about 30 minutes (until the top was golden brown in places and the cheese was all melted).

The next night, I took half a head of savoy cabbage (it was a large head), sliced it into 1/2 inch thick slices, then sliced those slices across into 2-inch lengths.  I also took a whole onion, cut it in half length-wise, then sliced across in thin (1/4 inch) slices.  I tossed the cabbage and onions with salt, pepper, and some olive oil and roasted it on two large baking sheets in the oven at 400 degrees for 12 minutes (some of the cabbage might get dark brown, and that's okay), tossing the veggies once about halfway through.

With one pan of the cabbage, I tossed it with a little soy sauce and sesame seeds and put it away for a snack, some lunch or for a side with another dinner later in the week.

With the other pan of cabbage, I added that to a 4-quart pot, which was already simmering with 32 oz. of chicken broth and the rest of the sausage mixture that I made the day before, with a little bit of dried coriander (about 1/4 teaspoon) and dried marjoram (1/2 teaspoon).  After I added the cabbage to the pot with the other ingredients, I let them simmer together for about 10 minutes, just to let the flavors unite.

And there you have it!  Actually, the original recipe I was using was supposed to have some sweet potato in it, but I forgot.  It was okay, though, because it was still really tasty and even my picky eater liked it!

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