This post is sponsored by ConAgra Foods.
I cook almost daily for my family, and I enjoy it tremendously. While I love being in the kitchen, I know that’s not necessarily the case for everyone, and cooking daily can be challenging. In the month of May, I’m partnering with ConAgra to help raise awareness of their #GreatAmericanCookInchallenge, which encourages us to cook at home more and eat out less. I eat out frequently, but most of my excursions are blog-related and while I’m dining out, I always ensure that my family has a meal at home. One way to make it easy to prepare meals at home is to meal plan. That means planning out your menu for a week or even a month’s worth of meals, making a grocery list according to what’s on your menu and then shopping. I meal plan for 2 weeks at a time, so I usually plan 6 meals, which would cover 12 days and leave 2 days for either eating out or having takeout. I usually cook enough to have leftovers for 1 more day, so that means I can get away with cooking every other day most times. Here are some tips on how to successfully plan ahead.
• Take inventory of what’s in your freezer and panty first; try to incorporate those ingredients in the upcoming week.
• Write down the meals that you plan to make for the week. Select a variety of meals; e.g. slow cooker, 30 minutes or less, takeout-style meals, meatless, etc.
• Make a grocery list with all the ingredients necessary to make each meal. Exclude the ingredients that you already have at home.
• Head to the grocery store and shop. Buy enough fresh produce to last a few days, because some fruits and vegetables have a short shelf life.
Now that you have everything on hand, preparing a home-cooked meal shouldn’t be a daunting task! I’m going to share one of my lists of meals that I planned to make for 2 weeks. My list includes a slow-cooker meal, a quick meal, a takeout-style meal, a meatless meal and 2 Sunday dinners.
Vegetable Chow Mein with BBQ Rib Tips
Slow-Cooker Red Beans with Smoked Turkey Wings
Roasted Whole Chicken and Potatoes with Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
1 lb ground beef
½ lb mild Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 red pepper
3 cloves garlic
½ medium onion
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
29-oz can Hunt’s tomato puree
1 tbsp Hunt’s tomato paste
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped parsley
1 lb mozzarella cheese
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
PAM olive oil spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
To make the meat sauce, place ground beef and sausage in a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat and brown. Use a spoon to remove excess oil from the meat; discard. Finely chop carrots, pepper, garlic and onion(use a food processor to make it easy as pie). Add chopped vegetables, dried basil and dried oregano to the brown meat and cook for 2-3 minutes,then add tomato puree, tomato paste, sugar, salt and black pepper. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place ricotta cheese in a bowl and mix with 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, eggs and parsley and set aside.
To build the lasagna, spray a 13×9 casserole dish with PAM olive oil spray. Spread a layer of sauce on the pan,then top with 3 no-boil lasagna noodles; the noodles will not cover the meat sauce, but they will expand as they cook. Next, add another layer of meat sauce,then top with ¼ of ricotta and spread to cover the meat sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and repeat the layers in the same order 3 more times. For the final layer, cover with lasagna sheet,then add meat sauce and spread to cover the lasagna sheet, then cover with remaining mozzarella and Parmesancheese.
Spray one side of aluminum foil with PAM cooking spray and cover the lasagna with the aluminum foil with the cooking-spray side down. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Find more tools for success at Forkful.com, including a guide to planning meals ahead of time, grocery shopping tips, recipes and more. Don’t forget to pledge to participate in this one-week challenge by using hashtag #GreatAmericanCookIn on Twitter or Instagram! Visit Forkful.com for your guide to the #GreatAmericanCookIn, including tips, tricks and delicious new recipes.