I'm not a fan of horror movies. The heart pounding tension of not knowing what the next horrific disaster will be - it's too much like the hour before dinner time at my house. If I haven't menu planned and prepped my ingredients for the day, 4:00 is a terrifying time. What's for dinner? What to cook? I pace the floor muttering the meager contents of the refrigerator as a mantra. "Cheese, mayonnaise, leftover rice, cheese, mayonnaise, leftover rice," as if the incantation would somehow produce a palatable meal for my family.
I try to be good and menu plan for the week, but inevitably I forget to pull meat out of the freezer to thaw or forget to run to the grocery store for a crucial ingredient and then my wonderful and infinitely patient husband says, "Sure, honey, I'd love pancakes for dinner."
There is a secret weapon in my arsenal, though, to help me avoid this kind of scenario. It's the freezer. And just a little bit of forethought.
One of the books that really influenced how I cook for my family is Once-A-Month Cooking. I was floored by the concept behind the book - if you're already spending the time and energy to make dinner, why not double the ingredients and put half the dinner in the freezer for another dinner later. The book outlines how to do a huge day of cooking once a month and then have meals to pull out of the freezer all month long. I tried that a couple of times, but figured out my family was happiest and it worked best for us if I just applied the principles on a smaller scale. My family loves variety and having to eat the same casserole 4 times in a month made for some dinner time crankiness, especially if they didn't like it that much the first time around. But if I had had a busy day and wasn't even home till 4:00, what a blessing to have a dinner ready to go in the freezer.
This is one of the recipes that I adapted from the book and my family never got tired of it. It's a versatile recipe that you can tailor to your family's tastes and what is on hand or on sale. It takes barely any more time to make a huge batch of these rather than a single dinner, and you'll feel so proud that you're serving your family homemade, tasty food on those hectic days, rather than resorting to the drive-through at McGrease.
adapted from Once-A-Month Cooking
by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg
1 recipe of pizza dough
or 2 loafs frozen bread dough
1 lb ground turkey (I use 1.25 because that's how it's packaged here)
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce
1-Make or thaw the dough.
2- While the dough is rising or thawing, cook the turkey and sausage together. Drain the grease.
3- Place the cooked meat in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients except the spaghetti sauce and olives. Mix well.
4- Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.
5- Divide the dough in half. Roll one half out into a large rectangle about 1/4" thick. Spread 1/2 of the the meat mixture on the rectangle. Roll up the dough lengthwise like a jelly roll, and cut into 2" slices. You can cut them thicker or thinner depending on your preference and how many roll-ups you'd like to have. I cut mine into 14 slices.
6- Place the rolls, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet treated with baking spray. Let the rolls sit for 10 minutes.
7 - Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden brown. While the first batch is baking prepare the second half of the dough into rolls.
8 - Remove the rolls to a cooling rack to cool. Bake the second batch.
9- Once the rolls are cooled, place enough for a meal into a gallon zip-lock bag, smooshing as much air out as you can and sealing it. Stack the bags in the freezer. You can label the bag at the top with a sharpie to tell the contents or the cooking instructions, if your sweetie will need to be the one pulling it out of the freezer and getting dinner on the table.
To serve the rolls, thaw and warm in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes and top each roll with a dollop of warmed spaghetti sauce and sprinkle olives on, if you'd like. Or you can top with the sauce and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes (check to see if it's warm - microwaves vary). Ta da! Dinner on the table in under 15 minutes! Throw a green salad on the side and your family will adore you. Well, they probably already do, but this might prompt them to mention it.