Ok, a couple of comments and emails from Frugal Friends have all pointed out that planning just three meals a week seems awfully skimpy. On the surface, I actually agree so let’s go and hunt down meal number four, shall we?
Meal Number Four should come from your own personal top ten. You need to compile a list of ten top meals, your go-to meals that always work, everyone loves and eats with no complaints. As a rule, these types of meals should give you the opportunity to ‘phone dinner in’ at least once a week. For illustration, I list my own top ten below. It may be interesting to note that my top ten changed drastically when Bob retired and came to live with me:
- Spaghetti and Scarlett’s Meatballs (recipe here)
- Me-Too Meatloaf (recipe here)
- Beef Tips and Rice (recipe at the end of this blog)
- Burgers and Air Fry Fries
- Rice bowls (recipe at the end of this blog)
- Any Day But Tuesday Tacos (we just do ground beef, seasonings in heated taco shells with loads of veggies and grated cheese on the side along with salsa and avocado slices)
- Slow Cooker Roast with the Most (recipe at the end of this blog)
- Bob Isn’t Here, Radiantly Veggie Pasta (recipe at the end of this blog)
- Pathetically Easy Pork Chops (recipe at the end of this blog)
- Sausage Mash up Bob Style (recipe at the end of this blog)
Beef Tips and Rice
Note: I often make this for Bob when I am having a rice bowl myself because there is plenty of overlap in the veggies and I am making rice anyway.
1-2 really cheap steaks you bought on sale and keep in the freezer (turns out, pre-cut stew meat is actually more expensive for this application), should be partially frozen
Half an onion sliced
Cup of sliced sweet peppers (I buy the packages of the small sweet peppers in red, yellow and orange because they last a long time and offer loads of colors to play with)
Olive Oil, about 2 tablespoons should do it
2 tablespoons or so of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon or more of basic steak sauce, whatever you have on hand
Cube or two of beef stock if you have it
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups rice, water
Method: Start the rice first. This takes about 15 minutes in my Instapot including warm up time and I use two cups of water for every cup of rice. I often make extra for rice bowls. As the rice cooks, slice the partially frozen steaks into cubes, set aside and slice the onions and peppers.
Heat up a skillet with the olive oil and once hot, throw in the beef and beef stock cubes. Sauté for about 7-8 minutes until browned before adding the onions and peppers. Stir for a minute or so before adding in the soy, sesame oil, steak sauce. Simmer for about five minutes to thicken the sauce. Serve over the rice.
Note: This recipe should probably be called Raid Your Crisper Rice Bowls because that is I what normally do. Simply take hot or room temperature cooked rice and spoon over diced veggies. I use cucumber, radishes, sweet bell peppers, onions, creamy avocado slices and a bit of steamed broccoli. I use soy and siracha mayo to garnish and that’s it. Rice bowl perfection. Once in a blue moon, I will take tuna steaks from the freezer and cook them up and top the rice bowls because if Bob doesn’t have some form of protein with his meal, its not a meal in his mind. You could easily toss in some leftover shredded chicken, beef or pork or even top with a perfectly fried egg. As for Bob and his obsession with all things meat, we all have our burdens to bear.
Slow Cooker Roast with the Most
Note: This could not be any easier. Always use the cheapest, toughest cut of beef or pork you can find. I opt for this meal on any given Sunday when I have things to do and no time to craft a more thoughtful meal. It takes minutes to set up and the slow cooker does the rest.
3-4 pounds of the cheapest cut of tough beef or pork you can find
One large onion, cut into quarters
Two large carrots, roughly chopped into slices
Two to three large potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
Bay leaf, garlic salt, pepper
Tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning or a generous fistful of fresh herbs from your garden (rosemary, thyme, parsley and oregano) cut quickly with kitchen shears right into the slow cooker
Couple of frozen beef cubes
Tablespoon or two of olive oil
Method: Place all the vegetables, beef cubes and seasonings/herbs in a slow cooker on low heat. Sear off the roast in a screaming hot skillet which has been heated with the oil. Get a really good crust, don’t be shy about this. Place the meat in the slow cooker, nestling it on top of the veggies and cook for at least eight hours on low. Once the meat is fall off the bone tender, take the meat out of the slow cooker and strain the liquid through a sieve. Make a paste of 3 tablespoons butter and three tablespoons of flour, cook for a few minutes until the raw flour smell is gone. Add the strained liquid and whisk continuously until thickened. Add a bit of water if necessary. That’s your gravy. Serve over the roast and vegetables. To add another dimension of flavor, you can toss in a spoonful of tomato paste before cooking or try other root vegetables such as turnips or parsnips.
Bob Isn’t Here, Radiantly Veggie Pasta
Note: I make this all the time when Bob isn’t around. It is my own recipe from start to finish and my absolute favorite.
Enough spaghetti for everyone even if that is just me
One cup cherry tomatoes
Six cloves garlic, smashed or thinly sliced
Two lemons sliced
Heaping tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste (I happen to like this dish spicy)
Two or so tablespoons of olive oil
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup (I’ve used half and half and even sour cream in a pinch)
Parmesan cheese about 1/2 cup depending on how many people you are serving
Method: Make the spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet until hot but not smoking. Add the cherry tomatoes in whole and the crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until tomatoes start to break down and then add in the sliced lemons. Once everything is cooked through, stir in the heavy cream and the cheese to thicken and then quickly toss the cooked pasta into the skillet adding more cheese as you like. Perfect as is. And yes, you eat the mellowed, lovely lemon slices along with the tomatoes.
Pathetically Easy Pork Chops
Note: Bob has this thing for pork chops, the thicker and juicier the better. Instead of frying them up (no, no, no, no, no!) I will toss them in the slow cooker along with a can of condensed chicken soup that has been thinned with half a can of milk and a cube of chicken broth and some salt and pepper. I then cook the chops on low for six hours. Yup. That’s it. The meat falls off the bone and Bob is in pork heaven. To compensate for this yummy but frankly fatty meal, I throw in a green salad and a vegetable like broccoli or green beans that have been in some olive oil, garlic slices and lemon zest. A girl’s gotta take your veggie shots where you can get them.
Sausage Mash up Bob Style
Note: I take no credit for this one. It’s all Bob. He does this on his own, usually when I am busy at work or we know I am going to be home late.
1 rope of kielbasa sausage sliced
One can of small whole potatoes (dollar store for sure though if I am around, I will sneak in fresh potatoes cut into quarters)
Small can or jar of sauerkraut (also a dollar store find)
Method: Bob just throws everything into the slow cooker for four to six hours on low. Yes, that’s it. The ingredients are so salty he doesn’t even add seasoning. I tend to think of this as his bachelor night meal but since we always keep these ingredients on hand (kielbasa freezes beautifully) it is a no brainer, easy weeknight meal.