Success tips for Divas
Benjamin Franklin once said “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Do you take the time during the weekend to set yourself up for success during the coming week, or is it just a break from work? I like to take a little time to set things up for the coming week, to make things easier during the week when I am pressed for time and to allow for some healthier options in my diet.
One thing that helps me stay on track is planning a variety of meals for the coming week. During the winter, I like things that can be prepared in advance or prepared and then frozen. I also like items that are warm and remind me of my childhood.
For instance, this week I plan on making split pea soup, enchiladas, crock pot chicken, French onion soup and shepherd’s pie. Each meal should make enough to provide me with at least two meals and potentially more. As I prepare them, I will take any left overs and freeze them for a future meal. I find that if I have easy meals at home, I am less inclined to eat out and will make healthy choices. So I made the choice to take a few hours on the weekend to help to set up the meals for the week.
This Sunday, since I didn’t get started with the cooking until after 3:00 p.m., I made the decision to start with French Onion Soup, so that it can be ready around 6:00 p.m. Following is a take on a recipe from Tyler Florence for French Onion Soup.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 4 onions, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
- 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 quarts beef broth
- 1 baguette, sliced
- 1/2 pound grated Gruyere
Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.
Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.
I have made this recipe before, and know what subtle changes I like to make to it. I generally add a little more garlic and thyme into the recipe.
While the onions are carmelizing, I am chopping onions that I will use in some of the other recipes.
A note about the wine that you will cook with…I prefer to use wine that is suitable for drinking. It makes a difference in the recipe, at least to me.
After adding the wine to the soup, I start the beef that I will use later in the week for Shepherd’s Pie. I take one pound of organic lean ground beef, add one clove of garlic, chopped, two handfuls of the chopped onions and salt and pepper. After that has browned, I add three fresh sprigs of thyme and two of rosemary.
Now back to the French Onion Soup. After adding the beef broth, I like to add some Worchestershire Sauce. It adds a little extra tartness and flavor to the soup that I enjoy.
I have also started the split peas soaking. They will need to soak about 12 hours before I want to put them into the slow cooker for soup. In two hours, I have the bases for three different meals. Each of these will provide me with at least two meals. That is six days taken care of and I haven’t even cooked the chicken or the enchiladas, yet! I am not starting the chicken until after the pea soup is made. I will use some of the cooked chicken for the enchiladas. It feels great to be prepared and have so much ready for the next week or two ahead, without feeling like I have spent all day in the kitchen!