Monday, December 31, 2012

Perfect Barbecued Chicken Legs

I know the secret to flavorful, tender, easy barbecued chicken. It involves a Crock-Pot and two kinds of seasoning.

These barbecued drumsticks are going to be part of my New Year's Eve goodies tonight. But you can do it with wings or any cut really. And it's good any time of year -- and in summer it won't overheat your kitchen because it barely uses the oven. You could even start the chicken in the slow cooker and finish it on the grill.

I have worked on this recipe for more than a year an I've learned from Cook's Country magazine and WhatMegansMaking.com.

PERFECT BARBECUED CHICKEN LEGS
1 4-pound bag frozen chicken drumsticks
1 package McCormick Hickory BBQ Wing Seasoning
1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce

Put the McCormick seasoning mix in a slow cooker liner. Add the chicken. Gather the bag closed and shake. Place the bag in the Crock-Pot. You can put a half cup of sauce in with the chicken but it's not critical. Cook the chicken on low for 4-6 hours until tender.

When chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and throw away the liner and braising liquid. Something like 2 cups of fat renders off of chicken when it cooks.

Toss the chicken with the barbecue sauce to coat. Reheat it under the broiler -- char it if you prefer.
 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: Emeals.com meal-planning service



Have you kept your resolutions? Are you thinking about making new ones?

If you follow this blog, you know I haven’t kept to my resolution to update weekly.

If one of your resolutions has to do with meal planning, I have a review for you that may be helpful. It is never too late to adopt this skill that will be so helpful in running your household smoothly.
I have been a meal planner for years. I look at my calendar and figure out which nights are busy and will need a quicker meal. Some nights might be a church or family dinner for which I will have to take a covered dish. Some occasions mean we will be eating out. I look up all the recipes, take note of the ingredients and make a grocery list for that week. I don’t just think about dinner, I consider lunches and sometimes breakfasts.

There are some meal planning services that will give you a week of dinners and a grocery list. Emeals.com is one that I tried is focused on saving money and it makes up the menus and lists based on a particular store’s weekly sale. I chose Wal-mart because that was the closest store to my home of the ones they offered. I signed up for the Emeals.com service because I had a discount code from finance guru Dave Ramsey. It lasted for 3 months. I did not renew when it was over.

I signed up to try it in October 2011, a month when I was so busy I thought I was going to lose it. In a way, it was nice to hand the meal planning and list making off to someone else. I had to make some modifications. There were some choices that I knew my family would not eat and some that I just wrote off as way too unhealthy. (There are plans that adjust the selections for people with dietary concerns or who have small families. The plan I purchased was not one of them.) If I had followed the plan strictly, I would’ve spent about $87 a week for just dinners. This didn’t take into account what I would spend for lunches or breakfasts or for household products such as laundry detergent or dog food. I don’t think I spent more or less than what I usually spend.

I don’t care for many of the plans from Emeals. I think there is too much meat, but perhaps that reflects the Standard American Diet. Either in an attempt to cut costs or cut time, the recipes use a lot of convenience/processed products such as condensed soups. That doesn’t always equate to the healthiest choice.

I have put some recipes in a different post and linked them.

Here is an example of a typical week on the plan:
Monday: Nacho Chicken & Rice Wraps with corn on the cob (1 1/2 pounds chicken)
Tuesday: Rancho Catfish with mashed potatoes and peas (1 pound catfish)
Wednesday: Elegant Pork Steaks with salad (2 pounds pork)
Thursday: Famous Chili with cheesy chips (1 1/2 pounds ground chuck, 1 pound Italian sausage)
Friday: Apricot Chicken with steamed rice and broccoli (2 pounds chicken)
Saturday: Chicken Penne with penne and sauce and Italian salad (1 1/2 pounds chicken)
Sunday: Tater Tot Veggie Casserole with rolls (1 1/2 pounds ground chuck)

Another drawback is the plan doesn’t account for leftovers. Our family of three had leftovers from the chicken and rice wraps for days. We do not need to make this much food for 7 days. But the plan does sometimes save some meat prepared for one meal and uses it in the next day’s. See Italian Beef and Beef’n Gravy Over Buttered Noodles.

Other times the meal doesn’t make enough food for a man’s appetite or it would be more suitable for a light lunch than a substantial dinner. For example, grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches with potato chips and orange quarters.

Sometimes the meal wasn’t a “recipe” so much as a suggestion: purchase garlic and herb marinade mix for chicken then cook the chicken in a slow cooker and serve with buttered noodles you boil from a package and serve with canned or frozen green beans. (Left)

The best part of the plan is having someone else make your menu for the week and write your shopping list. But if you think about it, once you’ve been planning your meals and making lists of ingredients to purchase for a few weeks, you can write your own rotating plan of menus. You won’t need to subscribe to a service.

I did get a couple of ideas from the program, but I won’t subscribe again. I can do this myself and put in many more lighter and meatless choices to balance all that meat.

But it’s not all negative. There were a couple of recipes that I added to my repertoire. Potato and Shrimp Stew and Baked Potato Soup served with Muffins, which reminded me of Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup, a Weight Watchers recipe.(Below is the Emeals version, cooked on a stovetop.)


Sometimes the best inspiration just serves to remind you of things you already know.
No matter how I plan meals there is a great comfort in knowing every morning what is for dinner that night and that you have all the ingredients to make it.

Emeals.com Review Recipes

Most of the recipes below were provided to me in a subscription to Emeals.com in 2011. Click to see my review of this meal planning service.




BAKED POTATO SOUP
8 medium Idaho potatoes
(Aluminum foil)
1 package bacon – cooked & crumbled, divided
1 bunch green onions, divided
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 ounces sour cream 
1 bag blueberry muffin mix
Wash and dry potatoes. Wrap in aluminum foil; place in 400-degree oven approximately 1 hour. Remove; let cool. Fry bacon until crisp; drain.
Crumble; set aside. Slice top part of clean onions into small pieces about half way down. Set side. Peel skins off cooled potatoes; smash with a fork, leaving some chunks. Set aside.
Melt butter in large soup pot. Gradually add flour, salt & pepper, stirring constantly. Cook about 1 min. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until cream base thickens. Add more milk if a thinner soup is desired. Add potatoes, half of crumbled bacon, half of green onions & 1 cup shredded cheese. Mix well. Add sour cream. Serve in bowls; top each w/ remaining bacon, green onions & cheese.
Bake muffins according to package directions. Serve w/butter if desired.

SLOW COOKER CHEESEBURGER SOUP
Not an Emeals.com recipe but a Weight Watchers one similar to one suggested by Emeals
WW Points value 6
Servings 8
Prep time-15 minutes
Cooking time-120 minutes

2 sprays cooking spray
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium stalk celery, chopped
1 pound uncooked lean ground beef
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups canned chicken broth, divided
1 cup low-fat evaporated milk
8 ounces Kraft Velveeta light reduced fat cheese, cubed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
24 baked low-fat tortilla chips, crumbled
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Add garlic, onion and celery to skillet; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Coat a 3-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray (I use a slow-cooker liner.) Spoon in vegetables.
Place same skillet over medium-high heat and brown beef, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon as it cools, about 5 to 6 minutes; pour off and liquid and add meat to slow cooker.
In a small cup, combine flour and 1/2 cup of broth; stir until lump-free. Pour flour mixture into same skillet; add remaining 2 1/2 cups if broth. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits in bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon, and then pour into slow cooker; stir in evaporated milk, cheese, paprika, salt & pepper.
Cover slow cooker and cook on low setting for 2 hours. Serve soup topped with crumbled chips. Yields about 3/4 cup soup and 3 tablespoons of chips per serving.

ITALIAN BEEF
Salad
Garlic bread
3-4 pound roast (save 3 cups shredded beef for the next recipe)
8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt and pepper, 4 teaspoons Italian seasonings
Dash Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce
1 package Italian salad dressing mix
16-ounce bagged salad
1 tomato, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
Italian dressing
Frozen garlic bread
Put roast in Crock-Pot sprayed with cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan; cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from heat; pour over roast in Crock-Pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours. About 1 ½ hours before serving, flake meat apart and continue cooking.
This would be a good time to combine lettuce with tomatoes and cucumber. Toss with Italian dressing. Chill before serving.
About a half hour or so before the beef finishes, bake garlic bread as directed.

BEEF ‘N GRAVY OVER BUTTERED NOODLES
Green beans
Hot sugared apples

3 cups shredded beef you saved from the previous recipe
2 cans (jars) beef gravy
Egg noodles
2-3 teaspoons butter
Fresh green beans
(1 tablespoon butter, garlic salt)
5 apples, peeled, sliced
(2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon)

In skillet, re-heat meat. Add gravy, heat thoroughly. Cook noodles; drain. Add 2-3 teaspoons butter. Toss to melt. Serve meat and gravy over noodles.
Steam green beans to just crisp-tender. Drain; season with 1 Tablespoon butter and garlic salt to taste. Serve.
Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon. Cover; microwave 3-5 minutes.

This last recipe is not a recommendation, just another example of what you can expect from Emeals.com. 



BBQ MEATBALLS
Scalloped Potatoes
Peas
½ bag frozen meatballs -16 oz
Sauce:
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
(¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup water, 3 Tablespoons sugar)
(1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce)
(½ cup ketchup)
1 box scalloped potatoes (I made mine from scratch.)
1 bag frozen peas
Lay frozen meatballs in 2-quart baking dish. Combine all sauce
ingredients; pour over meatballs. Cover; bake at 350 degrees for 50
minutes.
Prepare potatoes as directed.
Heat peas. Season to taste and serve. I substituted green beans because my husband won’t eat peas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

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