You learn to cook so that you don’t have to be a slave to recipes. You get what’s in season and you know what to do with it. ~ Julia Child
I like to cook good, clean food for my family. I learn to cook from watching my parents, cookbooks, TV shows and online. When I try out a recipe, I will follow it the first time then I will modify it to suit my taste and the ingredients that I can tolerate. I just follow my instinct most of the time. Since both my husband and I work full-time, intermixing that with the kids busy schedules, it’s always been a rush trying to get our meals ready. We seldom dine out so I rely heavily on my weekly meal planner. I will have a plan by Friday, go to the grocery store early Saturday morning to beat the crowd, and cook a couple hours Sunday morning or afternoon. I will share with you what I have prepared for this week. Our breakfast is pretty easy, cereal and milk, oatmeal, fruits, eggs and sometimes toasts. We’ll pack leftovers from dinner for lunch.
Disclaimer for my recipes: As mentioned above my philosophy in cooking is by instinct and I tried my best to come up with the measurements used, please taste your seasoning along to way to make sure they are to your liking.
The first is our family favorite cold weather comfort food, homemade chili. This big pot of chili will sustain us for quite a few days. It’s definitely a hearty lunch for school and work. Here’s my interpretation of it.
Irene's Homemade Chili
2 lb. ground beef (grass fed beef)
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 onion diced
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
1 can (15 oz) black beans
1 can (15 oz) Navy beans or other white beans
1 can (15 oz) sweet corn (optional and only if I have organic and non-GMO corn)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons Taco seasoning (Penzey’s)
3-4 tablespoons Chili 9000 seasoning (Penzey’s)
Water (1 -2 cups)
Salt to taste
I use a Le Creuset 5 ½ quart round dutch oven for stove top cooking. This can also be made in a slow cooker. I also use grass fed beef and all organic ingredients. Be sure to also get BPA free canned food if used. I like the seasonings and spices from Penzey’s but you can also get any brand that you prefer.
- Turn the stove to medium heat, put some oil in the dutch oven and brown the ground beef, drain if necessary. Season the ground beef with taco seasoning.
- Leave the ground beef in the pot and add onion, cook until the onion soften
- Add green pepper and red pepper and cook until soften
- Add the crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, corns and stir. Save the tomatoes can.
- Add the Chili 9000 seasonings and mix well.
- Add water, I usually use about ½ a tomatoes can. You can use more or less water if you prefer.
- Add salt to taste and more Chili seasoning if needed.
- Cook until it’s boiling then turn to low heat to simmer for another 30 minutes.
While my chili was simmering, I started preparing for my next meal, Chinese style stuffed tofu. This dish can be served with rice and vegetables for lunch or dinner.
Chinese Style Stuffed Tofu
1 lb. ground pork
2 of 12 oz. pack of fried tofu (small)
2 of 16 oz. pack of firm tofu
3 stalks green onions, chopped
3 dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped after soaking
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce (or coconut aminos + 1 tsp. fish sauce)
1 tsp. salt or to taste
½ to 1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. corn starch or tapioca starch
1 to 1 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 tbsp. oyster sauce (gluten free)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
- In a bowl, soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot water until soft. Chop into small pieces.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix ground pork, green onions, mushrooms and all the seasonings. The best way is to get your hands dirty and mix the ingredients.
- I usually get the small fried tofu so I don’t have to cut them. The 12 oz. pack I get usually contains around 26 pieces. You will have to cut the firm white tofu to 8 pieces. (Smaller pack of tofu may only yield 6 pieces)
- To stuff the tofu, make a small slit in the middle of the tofu with a paring knife and scoop out the center to make a well.
- Stuff the tofu with some of the meat mixture. Amount may vary depending on the size of the tofu.
- Heat a flat bottom pan or pot on medium heat. Put some oil and cook the garlic until fragrant.
- Add water or chicken stock and oyster sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange the tofu in the pan in single layer. You may have to cook in batches. Be gentle when handling the white tofu as they will break easily.
- Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes each batch or until cook through.
Since there is variation of tofu sizes, I sometimes will have extra seasoned ground pork from this recipe or I will double the recipe for another meal. My favorite way to use the extra seasoned ground pork is to make rice noodle soup with meat balls and vegetables. I will challenge you to use your imagination to come up with the recipe for this dish. I hope you enjoy these three ideas for your week.