Lockdown Meals – Banana Pudding

 

I keep talking to y’all about dinner meals, like the one I posted last week on crockpot beef baby back ribs, but we occasionally need to treat ourselves to some tasty desserts. One of my easy favorites is banana pudding. This dessert is effortless to prepare, but I do something slightly different with mine that you will find equally delish.

Ingredients

  • Belgian Waffle Crisps (4 or more boxes)
  • Bananas
  • Vanilla or French Vanilla Jello pudding
  • Milk
  • Whipped cream
  • Vanilla extract

So, I usually use the french vanilla or vanilla pudding because there will be enough banana flavor from the actual bananas used in the recipe. However, if you are a traditionalist, you can use the banana pudding flavor. Mix the french vanilla in the bowl with the milk that is required and then add a teaspoon of vanilla extra to intensify the vanilla flavor. Use a mixer to whip the pudding, milk, and vanilla extract together until it’s nice and creamy. Slice your bananas. I usually cut the bananas on an angle similar to the way that plantain is cut. I do it like this because I prefer longer banana cuts and not the circular ones.

Get out the dish that you plan to prepare the banana pudding in. I use a glass bread pan because it allows me to concentrate everything close together, but you can use a wider pan or even small glass mason jars. I like to start with a layer of wafers. You can use the traditional Nilla wafers, but I prefer to use Belgian waffle butter crisps because they are sweet, light, and flaky. You can find these at Kroger in the cookie section or order them online from Amazon. I usually get about four boxes because there are few in each box. They are a bit pricey, though. You may need more or less, depending on how you prepare your pudding. The next layer can be the sliced bananas, followed by some of the pudding mix. Then repeat for a few more layers. I usually end with the pudding layer on top and crumble all of the remaining Belgian waffle butter crisps and sprinkle them on top.

Place the dish in the refrigerator for about an hour or more so that it can be nice and cool. Letting it cool will create a nice blend of soft and crunchy all together. When you are ready to eat it, spoon some out into a dish and place a whipped cream dollop on top. Enjoy.


 

I hope you like this segment of my blog. Check back for more food ideas during the lockdown.  If you have any questions about preparing this meal, leave them in the comments section or contact me directly here.

 

 

Image courtesy of ID 173908252 © Elena Veselova | Dreamstime.com

Lockdown Meals – Crockpot Baby Back Beef Ribs

 

Are you still in lockdown? Are you still trying to navigate this “new normal?” Do you still like the recipes that I’m giving you? Well, I have another one for you.

Last week, we focused on planning meals for the month. This week, we are going to dive back into the food preparation.

This week we have beef baby back ribs on the menu. It’s warm enough outside that you can make this outside on the barbecue; but, I’m going to give you an equally tantalizing recipe that you can prepare in your crockpot in the house. This meal takes 8 hours to cook, so make sure that you start the meal preparation early in the morning so that you can have them by dinner time.

Ingredients

  • Beef Short Ribs
  • Water
  • Brown Sugar
  • Salt (or seasoning salt) and pepper
  • Barbecue sauce of your choice

These crockpot ribs are genuinely a hands-off meal preparation.  You literally don’t have to do much, but observe the meal cooking and turn the meat occasionally.  If you don’t have a crockpot, I  suggest you go out and get one because this makes easy meals, especially when you don’t want to be slaving it up in the kitchen over a hot stove.  They are relatively cheap too, and they come in different sizes to make all kinds of big and small meals.

Start with the beef short ribs.  Salt and pepper them and place them in an empty crockpot.  Then get one cup of water and add to the crockpot.  The water to meat ratio will depend on how big your crockpot is and how many ribs you place in the crockpot.  So add more or less water as you need to. One thing you don’t want to do is drown them in water.  Many types of meat make their own water as they cook, and in this instance, there will be a lot of water coming off the ribs, particularly if you have several stuffed into the crockpot.  Don’t worry if the crockpot is crowded with meat.  As I said, water will come out of the meat as it cooks, which will cause the meat to shrink a bit and provide more space for the meat to be moved around.

After loading the meat into the crockpot, add some brown sugar to the water.  I will let you discern how much sugar to add.  Some people only want a bit of sweetness on their meat, and others will go to the extreme of liking the meat extremely sweet or not sweet at all.  You can add a little butter or oil to make all the flavors stick to the meat, but it is not necessary.  Also, you can add a little bit of barbecue sauce (not too much) or some smoke flavor seasoning to the water.  The water should still be soupy and not thick.  The barbecue sauce or smoke flavoring will give the barbecue that fresh off the grill flavor we all know and love.  Then cover the meat with the top and let it cook.

In about two hours, you will notice changes in the meat.  It will start to brown, and at that point, you can begin to move and turn the meat so that it can cook thoroughly.  Keep checking every hour or two until the ribs have cooked for seven hours.  By this time, the meat should look tender and be falling off the bone.  In the seventh hour, remove most of the water from the meat by pouring it off.  Maybe leave just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Place the crockpot back into its position, and now it’s time the final true layer of barbecue sauce.  If you don’t like barbecue sauce, then go ahead and just let the meat continue to cook for the last hour.  Otherwise, add your favorite sauce and plenty of it this time.  The barbecue sauce can be store-bought, or you can make your own from scratch.  I usually get the stuff from the store, but I know there are some barbecue experts out there who have family recipes that they love to add to the barbecue.  Let the meat cook for its final hour until it reaches hour eight and then turn the crockpot off.  Let the meat sit for about 15-30 covered so that it can “rest” before you start to chow down.  This resting period will give it that last little magical amount of tenderness.  When it’s done resting, prepare to get messy!

You can add the sides of your choice to this meal, such as potato salad, mac and cheese, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked beans or whatever you feel would go great with the beef ribs.

I hope you like this segment of my blog. Check back for more food ideas during the lockdown.  If you have any questions about preparing this meal, leave them in the comments section or contact me directly here.

Image courtesy of ID 31375267 © Joey Swart | Dreamstime.com

Lockdown Meals – Meal Planning During Lockdown

 

This week, I am going to post about a different topic rather than the usual meal posts. This week’s article involves planning meals during this lockdown period.

Let’s face it. Thinking up and executing meals is a tough task. Wouldn’t you agree? Did you ever think that making sure the family and yourself are fed daily would be such a monumental nightmare? Well, this virus has put that task at the forefront, and yes, it is hard. It’s not hard only because cooking can be hard if you don’t know how to do it; but, it can be hard because you just don’t want to eat the same damn thing every day!

So how do you avoid food burnout during these times? Plan your meals.

One thing that I do is plan meals out for my family. Let me tell you; try not to plan meals without family input. That’s the key to making this work. Get the significant other and kids involved in the planning because after all, they will be eating the food you cook. Plan the meals out a month in advance. This is an excellent idea because this helps you to budget groceries, too. Instead of making random trips to the grocery store in these very contagious times, planning meals will allow you to buy all the groceries that you need. This meal planning is also a good idea because you can watch what you eat and this will lead to better health. Another fantastic reason that this is an excellent idea is because you won’t have to listen to your kids and spouse say, “What’s for dinner, what’s for breakfast, what’s for lunch?” Urrrgh! Now you can politely respond with “Go look at the meal calendar!”

When planning meals, work from easy meals to hard ones. The most leisurely meal to execute is going to be breakfast. I usually eat the same thing daily for breakfast and sometimes nothing at all. So, first go through every day of the month, week by week, and write down what you will be eating for breakfast. I usually do things like cold cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, or eggs and toast. Occasionally I may prepare a “royal breakfast” on the weekends, which includes lots of things: bacon, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fried apples – the whole nine yards. The royal breakfast is rare because that is too much food to eat regularly early in the morning.

Now go through the entire month and plan your lunch meals. Again, my lunches are not extravagant. I’ll eat something simple – a salad, some soup, a deli sandwich, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or sardines.  If you need to prepare things for the kids, do things like hot dogs, cheese and crackers, corndogs – you catch my drift – light but filling stuff.

Next are the dinners. This is where it gets hard. Start with the weekend meals. Plan your Sunday meals first. Usually, these are colossal family meal days that involve a lot of effort, so plan those first. I may do beef stew, baked chicken, roast – things like that on Sundays. Then, go on to Saturdays. This is usually a chill evening, so you don’t want to have to slave over a Saturday night meal when you know that Sunday is going to be the essential meal. I may do something like homemade pizza, burgers, chili dogs, or Philly steaks. Fridays are lazy days too. This can be a light day, or you can do like my family and I have agreed to do now that restaurants are opening back up – make it a fast-food Friday. It doesn’t have to be McDonald’s, but it can be. Maybe you can stop by curbside restaurants like Olive Garden or Red Lobster if you don’t want typical fast food. This is a way to treat yourself to a relaxing evening since you have been cooking all week and, trust me; preparing food all the time is hard!

Now that the weekend meals are done, it’s time to move on to Monday – Thursday meals. I usually make Monday nights a light night for things like beans and weenies or chopped beef over Raman noodles; or, even easier, Sunday leftovers night. This saves time and energy so that you can focus on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Go through each day each week and write down what you want to eat. I usually do things like casseroles, steaks, rice, pasta, Mexican, Caribbean, Indian, and a variety of other types of big meals. If you need to search for meal ideas, surf the net for some to fill in the blanks on the calendar. Maybe you can be adventurous and make Tuesdays an experimental night where you try a meal that you would never usually make just to spice things up.

This all seems boring or annoying at first, but once you get into the habit of meal planning, it will be fun and beneficial. Remember, having other family members’ input will keep things from being redundant.

Would you like to start planning your meals? Click the link below or the calendar image above to get a free copy of the blank calendar. If you want to get updated blank calendars, just type “blank calendar” in the search engines like Google or Yahoo.

Free Blank Calendar

 

I hope you like this segment of my blog. Check back in the future as I resume posting food ideas for lockdown.  If you have any questions about preparing this meal, leave them in the comments section or contact me directly here.

Image courtesy of ID 35392393 © Msphotographic | Dreamstime.com

Lockdown Meals – Homemade Hamburger Helper

 

If you are reading this article, chances are we are still experiencing lockdown.  You may be going back to work but maybe the bank account still isn’t what it used to be; so, you need to prepare an economical family meal, just until restaurants are fully back up and running.

Last week, we made homemade shrimp fried rice.  This week, we are going to focus on making hamburger helper from scratch.

Ingredients

  • Ground Beef, Turkey, or Vegan Crumbles
  • Chopped Onions
  • Chopped Bell Pepper
  • Lipton Onion Soup
  • Elbow macaroni noodles
  • Tomato sauce
  • Olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • Salt (or seasoning salt) and pepper
  • Chilli powder
  • Cheese (Chedder and mozarella)

Start by preparing the elbow noodles.   Once they cook, drain them let them cool, then set them to the side.  Grab a skillet and place about a tablespoon of oil in the pan and let it get hot.  Start to fry the meat or meat substitute (I say meat substitute because with this meat shortage, we may all become temporary vegans).  You don’t have to do this but I usually add a little Lipton onion soup to the ground meat because it just adds a sensational amount of flavor to the meat.  If you would like to use this, use half of a packet.

Scramble the meat as it browns.  Add a little salt and pepper if you like.  Then start to add the chopped onions and chopped bell peppers to the mix and keep tossing the meat in the skillet with the vegetables.  You can add additional types of vegetables like mushrooms or zuccini squash if you like but I usually just stick to bell pepper and onions.  As the meat is almost completely brown, add some chili powder.  Once the meat is completely done you can drain it if you like.  Otherwise, continue by adding tomato sauce.  I usually use Ragu or Prego brand but if you have another preference, add it.  When you add the tomato sauce, make sure that you only use enough to cover all the meat in the pan.  This is usually about only half of a standard sized jar.  You are not making spaghetti so you don’t want to use a lot of the sauce.  If you like, you can add just a teaspoon of sugar to the mix (some like savory flavored sauce and some like a little bit of sweet in their tomato sauce, so you decide if this step is necessary). Then add the cheese and stir the meat and the sauce.  Make sure that the burner is not too high because the cheese may burn.  Once the cheese, tomato sauce and meat seem to be well incorporated, add the elbow macaroni noodles and continue to stir.  If you like, you can turn the burner down low and cover the skillet and let all the ingredients warm, stirring occasionally.

Once all of the ingredients are hot and everything seems to be evenly incorporated evenly, put the food on your plate or in your bowl and chow down.  You can add some Parmesan cheese on top and heat up some french or garlic bread with the meal if you like.

I hope you like this segment of my blog. Check back for more food ideas during the lockdown.  If you have any questions about preparing this meal, leave them in the comments section or contact me directly here.

 

Image courtesy of ID 35392393 © Msphotographic | Dreamstime.com

Lockdown Meals – Shrimp Fried Rice

 

Well, here we are again in lockdown – together.  Things are slowly but surely getting back to normal here in Georgia.  However, this is subject to change depending on if the cases of Covid-19 spikes again now that restaurants are slowly reopening.  For those that are still not ready to step back out into the public, you may be looking for another food idea like the one I provided on Philly cheese steaks last week.

This recipe isn’t as great as what they sell at the Chinese restaurants; however, it certainly will do until they open back up.  With the right amount of attentiveness, you can have a tasty Asian meal on your plate as fast as this evening.

Ingredients

  • Cooked white rice (Jasmine or Basmati preferably)
  • Chopped Onions and/or green onions
  • Shrimp (preferably cooked and deveined; small)
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Soy Sauce (La Choy or Kikoman)
  • Olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • Salt (or seasoning salt) and pepper

Start by separating all the ingredients (except the rice) into their own bowl, or, if your kitchen counter is clean and large enough, place each ingredient in its own pile.   The rice should have already been prepared ahead of time.  It’s best to prepare the rice at least a day in advance and then let it cool in the refrigerator.  However, if you don’t have a lot of time, then you can place it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to try to get it as cool as possible.  I cover rice preparation in a separate paragraph below.  For now, get out your best frying pan. If you have a wok, that is ideal but an old school cast iron skillet or any other large frying pan will do the trick.

Pour in about a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil. Get the grease hot. Grab a handful of onions, then the scrambled eggs (these should be prepared ahead of time also), and then the shrimp. Keep tossing the items together in the pan with a spatula until the meat and the vegetables start to brown. (Shrimp may release a watery substance while it is cooking.  To avoid this messing up the pan, you can add the shrimp after the rice is added)  Now grab the white rice and toss it in little by little, continuing to incorporate the ingredients.  I prefer this way because just dumping in the full bowl is not the best idea, but it can be done if you have a huge wok.  Sometimes the rice may soak up all the grease, so if it begins to stick to the pan, lift up the ingredients and pour in more oil.  Keep tossing.  Add a little salt and pepper if you like.  Keep tossing.  When the rice and shrimp seem to be warm, add the soy sauce.  I will leave the amount to your discretion because some like a lot of soy sauce and others don’t like a lot.  Keep tossing.  If you want to add other vegetables to make it more of a stir-fry, now is a good time to add those in.

Once the food is nice and hot and the soy sauce seems to be incorporated evenly, put the food on your plate or in your bowl and chow down.

 


Preparing the Rice

The trick to making fried rice is to make sure that the cooked rice is nice and cold before you prepare it to avoid it sticking to the pan.  I would advise preparing the rice a day before and sitting it in the fridge, covered.  I like using a rice cooker to prepare my rice because it creates a perfect pot of rice every time.  However, if you don’t have one, just use a sauce pan.  The key to making rice perfect like you see in restaurants is to follow instructions on the label.  Whatever the water to rice ratio is, stick to it or you may have a gooey mess on your hand.  Usually the ratio of water to rice is 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice but make sure that you read the label.  Cook the rice for the time that is mentioned on the label and do not stir it while it is cooking.  If you have the right ratio, the rice will cook itself.  When it is done, it will look fluffy and taste fluffy.  If it is not done, it will still be stiff and crunchy.  This is why it is best to use a rice cooker because it makes life much easier.  Let the rice cool 30 minutes to an hour before spooning it out of the pan into a bowl.   Cover the bowl and let it cool in the fridge until you are ready to make the fried rice.


 

I hope you like this segment of my blog. Check back for more food ideas during the lockdown.  If you have any questions about preparing this meal, leave them in the comments section or contact me directly here.

 

 

Image courtesy of ID 159831736 © Kravtzov | Dreamstime.com