Take The Week Off

More than anything, people are telling me how much they want to get out of the kitchen, even the avid cooks I know. Being stuck at home has meant a lot more cooking and home chores and people simply long to get out of the kitchen so I’ve come up with a meal planning and prepping strategy so that, for the most part, you can take the week off from cooking.

Sunday: This is your day in the kitchen and all the prep work done today will enable you to get out of the kitchen an entire week. For starters, you are going to make four freezer meals: your (or mine) favorite meatloaf, savory sausage pasta, Bob’s Cowboy chili and a bright and easy frugal polenta casserole dish that comes together in a matter of minutes. All four are based on basic ground beef and pork so you can just fry up all the meat needed at once while assembling the meatloaf. All four freeze beautifully. While doing this, you are going to also sear some diced pork and place that, along with other ingredients, in your slow cooker, for my Slow Simmer Pork Verde, recipes below.

Chopping strategy:

4 1/2 cups of yellow or white onions small diced

3 cups red, yellow or orange sweet peppers (any combination is fine as well), small dice

2 cups carrots, small diced

2 cups celery, small diced

1 mushrooms, sliced

9 cloves of garlic, minced

Kitchen Prep Strategy:

  1. Chop all the vegetables and garlic first and set them aside
  2. Soak breadcrumbs in milk for the meatloaf, takes about ten minutes
  3. Meanwhile, sauté up all the onions in a bit of olive oil and butter, set aside to cool. Do the same with the garlic cloves which only take a minute.
  4. Sauté up the pork cubes for the Pork Verde and make the recipe for the slow cooker.
  5. Make the meatloaf, wrap for freezer while the pasta is cooking, see step 6.
  6. Cook the pasta for the sausage pasta, draining well when done.
  7. Sauté the rest of the ground pork and beef for the chili and the pasta, divide when cooked. For the pasta, add in a cup of the cooked onions and a cup of the peppers. Set aside to cool while pasta is cooking.
  8. Prepare the chili, set in a slow cooker (you can use your Instapot for this if it has a slow cooker setting and you are already using your slow cooker for the Pork Verde). Set to cook on low for at least six hours for cooling and storing in the freezer.
  9. Prep and freeze three loaves of garlic bread.
  10. Prepare the polenta casserole last.
  11. Use the chili for a second meal of burgers or hot dogs topped with chili.
  12. Repurpose leftovers of the sausage pasta or make meatloaf sandwiches for another meal.
  13. Use the third loaf of frozen, thawed and toasted garlic bread to slather on leftover Pork Verde.
  14. Bonus meal, you can sauté up additional cubes of pork and more veggies and use it all to make The Perfect Dish.

Pork Verde


1 cup sautéed onions

2 garlic cloves minced

4 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 pounds pork cut into cubes

4 tomatillos baked for 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven or 1 medium size can tomatillo sauce (you can use green enchilada sauce as a cheap swap or in a pinch)

1 cup each carrots and celery

3 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon ground chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Couple of dried chilies, depending on how spicy you like it

1/3 cup sour cream for topping

1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or other) for topping

Method: Sauté the pork chunks in a bit of neutral oil. Add to slow cooker along with all other ingredients except cheese and sour cream, mix well and set on low for at least eight hours until pork is tender and falling apart. Fish out the bay leaves and chilies. Serve over rice and topped with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Manly Meatloaf:


1 pound ground beef

2 garlic cloves minced

1/2 cup leftover bread from your freezer stash

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup sauteed onions

2 eggs

Salt, pepper to taste


Soak the breadcrumbs in milk for ten minutes. Smush to a milky paste with your hands. Add in the rest of the ingredients, shaping the loaf into a greased pan. Cover with heavy foil for freezer. To cook: Preheat oven to 350-degrees, bake straight out of the freezer for 65-75 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Savory Sausage Pasta


1 pound ground pork

1 jar favorite pasta sauce or homemade

1 cup sautéed onions

1 cup sautéed bell peppers

2 garlic cloves minced

1 cup ricotta

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 12 oz package corkscrew type pasta


Prepare the pasta according to directions on the package. Sauté the peppers. Drain and mix with sauteed onions, sausage, peppers immediately, seasoning to taste. Add the pasta sauce. Stir in ricotta reserving a couple of tablespoons for the topping. Mix in mozzarella, reserving a couple of tablespoons for the top. Pour into a freezer proof dish, top with remaining cheeses. Freeze when cool. Cover with heavy foil for freezer. To cook: Preheat oven to 350-degrees, bake straight out of the freezer for 65-75 minutes. Serve with salad of your choice and warm garlic bread.

Bob’s Cowboy Chili (or what my partner calls Crack in a Bowl because it is so addictive)


1 large onion, about one cup, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

1 cup diced bell pepper

1 lb each ground beef and ground pork

1 and 1/2 cups to 2 cups each: cooked black, kidney and pinto beans

1 cup each carrots and celery

2 – 3 cups tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes in their own sauce depending on how thick you want your chili

1 cup water, give or take (swirl the water inside the tomato cans to get the rest of the sauce)

1 tablespoon each of cumin, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika

1 teaspoon Cyanne pepper and salt

1 tablespoon olive oil


Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry up the onion and sweet peppers until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Remove the onion, garlic and peppers and add the ground beef and pork to the pan and cook until browned. Drain the meats well and add the onion mix and meats to a slow cooker. Mix in the beans, tomato sauce and water. Stir in the seasonings and cook the chili on low for 6 hours minimum, tasting for any seasoning corrections you may want to make. Cool and store in the freezer in airtight containers or serve hot with diced onion, grated cheese and sour cream as toppings.

Vegetarian Polenta Casserole


1 cup sauteed onion

1 cup diced bell peppers 

1 cup frozen corn

Small can diced green chilies, drained well

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt & pepper to taste

4 cups water or half milk, half water

1 cup cornmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

12 oz grated pepper jack cheese


Prepare the water or water/milk mixture by heating over a medium flame until simmering. Add polenta bit by bit, stirring well until a thick bubbling paste. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, stirring well and saving a handful of shredded cheese for topping. Let cool slightly before pouring into a freezer-proof dish. Top with remaining cheese. Let cool completely before freezing. To cook: Thaw dish completely. Preheat oven to 350-degrees, bake for 30 minutes. Serve with crisp green salad and warm garlic bread.

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