By Rhonda Barfield
I really don’t like to cook. This surprises most people who know that I’ve written four books on saving money on food, especially because all of them contain dozens of recipes. So if I don’t like to cook, then why did I write cookbooks? Well … because I don’t like to cook. My goal has always centered on finding easy recipes that provide tasty, nourishing meals while getting me out of the kitchen ASAP.
If you’ve read any of my books or previous Molly Green articles on this topic, you know that I advocate a cooking system, one that I devised, sort of—with lots of input from others—called 15-Minute Cooking. I used and tested this system while raising and homeschooling four children. At the time, I especially needed something super-fast, and this one qualifies because it breaks food preparation time into two short daily sessions. Dinner is started either in the morning, or the night before, then finished just prior to each evening meal.
In an earlier article I included a couple of game plans, and here’s one more from my book 15-Minute Cooking,** to show how the system works.
Aunt Ellen’s Baked Beans
Optional Microwaved Vegetables
Orange Yogurt Shakes
In the Morning
Start meatloaf cups
In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine:
1 1/2 lbs. (3 cups uncooked) ground chuck beef
2 slices bread, torn into fine pieces
2/3 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. minced onion (spice)
Mix thoroughly. Cover with a lid or foil. Refrigerate.
Prepare baked beans
Combine in a slow cooker:
2 15-oz. cans pork and beans (plus liquid from 1 can)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. lemon juice
Stir to mix well. Cover. Set heat on low.
Combine in a blender:
3 very ripe bananas
2 cups plain non-fat yogurt
1/3 cup sugar
1 6-oz. container frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tsp. vanilla
Blend on high speed until smooth. Cover blender container with lid. Refrigerate.
In the Evening
Turn on oven to 400 degrees. Don’t worry about preheating.
Finish meatloaf cups
Coat two 12-count muffin pans (1/2 cup size) with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon meatloaf mixture into 20 to 24 muffin cups, almost to the top of each cup. Place in oven.
Pour into a 2-quart mixing bowl:
4 cups self-rising flour
4 Tbsp. Miracle Whip Light
2 cups milk
Mix ingredients just enough to moisten. Coat a large cookie sheet (or two medium ones) with non-stick cooking spray. Drop biscuits—about 26 to 30, 3″ in diameter—by rounded tablespoonful onto sheet(s), about 1/2″ apart. Place in oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.
Pour into a microwave-safe container:
Frozen vegetables of your choice
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water, as directed for amount to be cooked. Cover tightly with a lid. Place in microwave. Following package directions, set microwave timer for two minutes less than instructed. Leave vegetables covered and in microwave when timer sounds.
When the timer sounds, meatloaf cups should be cooked through and biscuits lightly browned. Reheat vegetables if needed. Serve yogurt shakes with the meal as beverages or in bowls as dessert.
Tips for Healthier Eating
Meatloaf: substitute ground turkey or chicken, or ground round, for ground chuck.
Biscuits: Use skim milk. Substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour plus 3 cups self-rising flour for 4 cups self-rising flour.
Baked Beans: Go easy on the sugar.
Tips to Save More Money
Beans are one of the healthiest and cheapest foods you can buy. Though canned beans are convenient, dry beans save more money with only a small extra investment of your time. Buy dry beans through a cooperative or at your supermarket’s bulk foods section, a health food store, or an ethnic foods store. That’s where they’re cheapest. (To cook dry beans “from scratch,” follow package directions.)
As you can see, by working fast it’s possible to create a filling, delicious family meal in just two short sessions. Also, try using this system to create game plans with your own recipes. Whether or not you enjoy kitchen work, I think you’ll find 15-minute cooking not only helpful, but also, sometimes, a lifesaver.
* See “Would a Cooking System Work for You?” Molly Green Magazine, April 2013, and “The 15-Minute Cooking System,” August 2013.
** 15-Minute Cooking is currently out of print but pre-owned copies are still available for sale on Amazon.com and other Internet sites.
Rhonda Barfield is a professional homemaker, wife to Michael, former homeschool teacher (for 20 years) and mother of Eric, Christian, Lisa, and Mary. She’s authored five books: Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home (Fireside/Simon & Schuster) and four on saving money on groceries, including Feed Your Family for $12 a Day. She has also written more than 120 published articles. In addition, Rhonda coaches writing students for WriteAtHome.com and teaches piano.