August 18, 2014

If you've been out buying school supplies, school clothes, shoes and backpacks, you are getting ready to begin a new school year. The much anticipated school year brings much excitement for children, but a new level of stress for parents.

Organizing dinner time around the school schedule of pick-ups and drop-offs, sports practices and other school activities can be challenging.

Why not make it easier on yourself by planning meals that are not only supersimple to prepare, but also yield delicious leftovers? When I cook for my family, I try to choose dishes that I know we can eat for at least two meals. I space out the weekly menu by serving the leftovers a day apart.

Extra Easy Lasagna

This lasagna could be any quicker to prepare. If you need to feed a hungry crowd, preparing two pans is just as easy. Hopefully there will be enough for you to take to work for lunch, which beats a frozen meal any day.

1 lb lean ground beef

4 cups tomato basil pasta sauce

6 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese

2 1/2 cups (10 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup hot water

Cook beef in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Stir in pasta sauce.

Spread one-third of meat sauce in a lightly greased 11x7-inch baking dish; layer with 3 noodles and half each of ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese (The ricotta cheese layers will be thin). Repeat procedure; spread remaining one-third of meat sauce over mozzarella cheese. Slowly pour 1/4 cup hot water around inside edge of dish. Tightly cover baking dish with 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Pulled pork has become a very popular menu item. Typically it's served as a sandwich, but it can also be served atop baked potatoes, nachos or on its own. Chow has a recipe for a special blend of spices including a touch of cinnamon that will give your pulled pork just the right flavor.

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (4-1/2 to 5 lb) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed

2 cups barbecue sauce (optional)

Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the stock or broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, measured salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.

Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside.

If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix to combine. If you're not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Pulled Pork Baked Potato

Put some of that leftover pulled pork to good use. Pork Be Inspired combines pulled pork with a fluffy baked potato to create a mouthwatering combination. Top your potato however you wish.

1/2 lb cooked pulled pork

4 russet potatoes, (about 10 oz each)

1 tablespoon canola oil or other neutral-flavored oil

1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella, shredded

1/4 cup sour cream, or more to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the potatoes with the oil. Arrange them on a baking sheet and pierce each a few times with a knife or fork. Bake until cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cut a lengthwise split in each potato and fluff the insides with a fork. Arrange the warmed pork, cheese, and sour cream on top. Garnish as desired.

Garnish Ideas: different cheeses, scallion, cilantro, or chopped green chiles. Or sprinkle with chili powder, garlic powder or powder.

Makes 4 servings

Marsala Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

I love Chicken Marsala. The flavor of Marsala wine, tender chicken and rich mushrooms go so well together. Rachael Ray has found a way to combine all the flavors of this classic dish into a hearty casserole.

2 tablespoons butter

10 oz sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup Marsala wine or white wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

salt and pepper

1 cup long-grain rice

2 cups coarsely chopped rotisserie chicken

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat until just melted. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir in for 1 minute. Stir in the Marsala and cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups water, the parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

In a greased 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole, spread the rice in an even layer; top with the chicken. Pour the mushroom gravy on top. Cover snugly with foil and bake until bubbly, about 35 minutes. Discard the foil, sprinkle the parmesan on top and bake for 5 minutes more.

Mini Baked Ham Sandwiches

Take ham and cheese sandwiches from ordinary to extraordinary. By using King's Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls you can wow your family with soft and savory sandwiches that reheat in a pinch.

1 lb deli shaved ham

1 lb Swiss cheese thinly sliced

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons minced onion dried

1 12 pack Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls

Melt butter and mix in mustard, sauce and onion. Cut the entire pack of rolls in half, horizontally (keeping all top and bottom halves separately intact). In a 9x13-inch pan, place bottom half of rolls and cover with ham and cheese. Cover ham and cheese stacks with top half of rolls. Drizzle butter mixture over top of rolls, making sure onion is evenly distributed. Refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes and, once finished, separate for serving.