Nap-Time Meals

Sept. 17, 2019, noon

Anyone who has every had a baby knows that 5:00 p.m. is “the witching hour.” Kids start getting hangry, get clingy, start crying, start fighting with their siblings. I used to cook dinner with one cranky and the other on my hip.

There are recipes that you can make earlier in the day – at nap-time or even earlier – and have them ready when your family is hungry at 6:00.

Here are some recipes that work like that......they are all recipes I have used over and over and are fabulous!

from Joy of Cooking
serves 6-8

Pat dry:
2 pounds boneless stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
Season the meat with:
½ to 1 teaspoon total dried herbs (thyme, marjoram, oregano, and/or basil)
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Dredge the meat with:
½ cup all-purpose flour
Shake off any excess flour.
Heat in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat:
2 tablespoons olive oil or beef tallow or lard
Add the meat in batches and brown on all sides, being careful not to crowd the pan or scorch the meat. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Add more fat if needed and add:
½ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped leeks (optional, but delicious)
Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
2 bay leaves
½ to 1 teaspoon of the same herbs used to season the meat
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Add enough to cover the meat at least halfway:
2 to 3 cups of beef or chicken stock, red or white wine, or beer
Bring to a boil. Cover and put in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 to 4 boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Cover and return to the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. You might have to add more stock.
Taste and adjust seasons if necessary. If you wish, you can thicken the sauce by making a slurry of flour or cornstarch and water and stirring it into the liquid.
Serve with crusty bread or, even better – cornbread!

I made this chili for a cook-off at my church when my children were little and won a blue ribbon – for what that's worth ;)
serves 8

1 pound ground beef
1 pound stew meat, cut into very small pieces
1 pound smoked sausage, cut up
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
salt to taste
1 – 2 tablespoons minced onion
1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 can chopped green chilies
1 can kidney beans (if you want beans in your chili)

cheddar cheese and onions for serving

Brown ground meat and stew meat in a Dutch oven until done. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the beans) and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until done over low to medium heat, probably about 30 minutes, but depends on how small you cut up the stew meat).
Add the kidney beans if you want them. You can thicken the chili at this point with a slurry of masa or flour and water. After stirring this in, cook for at least a few minutes.
Serve and garnish with cheese and onions.

I have made this for years – the whole time my children were growing up – please don't tell my Italian friends – they would cringe about the oven-ready pasta.
serves 8

1 pound ground beef
1 box oven-ready lasagna pasta
1 package sliced Provolone cheese
1 package shredded Parmesan cheese
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large jar of marinara sauce

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet (not cast-iron). Add the jar of marinara sauce and a little water (just to rinse out the jar).
In a large oven-ready pan, put a little of the meat sauce on the bottom. Then layer the pasta on the sauce.
Then layer the Provolone on the pasta and put more sauce on top.
Then add another layer of pasta and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on that.
Add more sauce and pasta until you have used it up and then top with the mozzarella.
Cover with foil and put into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes. Uncover and brown the cheese.
Allow to cool a short time so cutting will be easier. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread.
Buon appetito!

This can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator until time to bake.
serves 4

1 rotisserie chicken, meat picked off the bones
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped and cooked (or can use frozen or a can of carrots, drained)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 small can green peas, drained (or can use frozen)
1 pie crust
1 stick butter

Melt the stick of butter in a 10.5 inch cast-iron skillet. Add onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook until tender.
Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook until liquid is thickened. Remove from the heat and add chicken, peas and carrots.
Put crust on top. Brush with an egg wash (an egg mixed with a little cream or milk), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut some slits in the top.
Put the skillet on a parchment-lined sheet pan (in case it boils over) and put the sheet pan in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until the crust is very brown – about 30 to 40 minutes.
One pot meal! Enjoy!

Old-fashioned, but delicious.  You can make your own dumplings out of biscuit dough, but canned biscuits makes this dish very simple.
Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken
4 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
2 cans of biscuits (not the flaky, buttery kind)
1 cup milk
Cook the whole chicken in water and broth until done. Take the chicken off the bones, reserving the liquid.
Open the biscuits and roll out thin. Cut into strips.
Bring the liquid you cooked the chicken in to a rapid boil over high heat.
Take the strips and as you put them into the liquid, stretch the dough. My mother always said this made the best dumplings.
Add all the strips to the liquid. Then, cover the pot, turn off the heat and allow the dumplings to steam for about 15 minutes.
Then, uncover, add enough milk to make it creamy, add the chicken, and check the seasonings. We like a lot of pepper.

from Barefoot Contessa
serves 6

Basically this is a meat loaf you stuff inside cabbage leaves. It's not hard, can be made way in advance, and is delicious!

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup raisins
If these two ingredients freak you out, you can leave them out.
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head Savoy or green cabbage, including outer leaves

For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Remove the entire core of the cabbage with a paring knife. Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes, peeling off each leaf with tongs as soon as it is flexible. Set the leaves aside. Depending on the size of each leaf, you will need at least 14 leaves.
For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, rice, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture and mix lightly with a fork.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To assemble, place 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Remove the hard triangular rib from the base of each cabbage leaf with a small paring knife. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in an oval shape near the rib edge of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking the sides in as you roll. Place half the cabbage rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Add more sauce and more cabbage rolls alternately until you've placed all the cabbage rolls in the pot. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with the lid and bake for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender. Serve hot.

also from Barefoot Contessa
serves 10-12
This is delicious and serves a crowd OR makes great left-overs.

6 to 7 pounds beef brisket
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
8 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch chunks
6 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
6 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 (46-ounce) can tomato juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the brisket in a heavy roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano. Rub the mixture on the brisket. Pile the carrots, celery, onions, and bay leaves on the brisket and pour in enough tomato juice to come about 3/4 of the way up the meat and vegetables. Cover the top of the pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, then with aluminum foil. (The tomato juice will react unpleasantly with the aluminum foil if they touch.)
Bake for 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat from the pan and keep it warm. Place the pan on 2 burners and boil the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for another 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened.
To serve, slice the meat across the grain – this is important because it will be chewy if you don't. Serve with the vegetables.

serves 8
This is one of my family's favorite meals.

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and diced (or you can buy frozen)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (the original recipe calls for Velveeta)
1 ½ cups milk
salt and pepper

In a big Dutch oven, brown the ground beef, onions, carrots, and celery until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the basil, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter, add the flour and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes until bubbly. Add to the soup to thicken. Cook about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add cheese and milk, salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir until cheese melts.

serves 4

1 whole chicken, cut up
flour for dredging
salt and pepper
olive oil
2 red, orange, or green bell peppers (I prefer red), sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large can Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a Dutch oven. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Brown chicken in olive oil. Remove from pot. Stir in onion and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, basil, and thyme (and red pepper flakes if you are using them). Heat to boiling.
Return chicken to the pot, nestling it in the sauce. Lay peppers on top. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until chicken is tender.
This can be served over pasta, noodles, or rice. With a salad, it's a full meal. 

serves 4-6
I like to make this meal for company. Serve with a green salad and some crusty bread. I just put the pot on the table and let people serve themselves with a ladle. I also put bowls on the table for people to put shells in.
You cook the base of this dish and then add the seafood at the last minute. You can cook the base and refrigerate it for 1 day or freeze it up to a month.
You can make this as expensive or inexpensive as you want. You can add only shrimp, only fish, or you can add mussels, crab, scallops, squid, clams, etc.

olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth mixed with 1 bottle of clam broth
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

SEAFOOD – use any combination
24 littleneck clams
12 mussels
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
½ pound squid, cleaned and cut into rings and tentacles halved
½ pound scallops
1 pound firm-fleshed fish like halibut, cut into 1-inch cubes

Make the stew base:
Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
Add the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits in the pot.
Simmer the wine until reduced by about half.
Add the tomatoes, peppers, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the stock and clam broth, bring to a boil then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook the base, with the cover slightly ajar, for 30 minutes.

At this point you could stop and refrigerate or freeze.  When you are ready to finish the cioppino:
Bring the base to a simmer.
Add the basil and the seafood and cover the pot. Let the pot simmer for about 5 – 7 minutes and open the pot. If any clams or mussels have not opened, remove and discard them.
Serve in large, heated bowls with crusty bread.

from Paula Deen
serves 4
This is by far my favorite meal in a Dutch oven!  I can't resist ordering it in restaurants too.

3 pounds beef short ribs (ask the butcher for meaty ones)
salt and pepper
olive oil
beef or chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour lightly.
Cover the bottom of the Dutch oven with olive oil. Brown ribs on each side very well. This is where your flavor is going to come from – remember, in cooking, brown is flavor.
Add the garlic and distribute the onion around the ribs in the pot.
Add enough broth to cover the ribs. Bring to a boil.
Put the Dutch oven into the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is falling off the bones.
You can serve this over rice (I also like it on polenta). You will love this dish if you cook it long enough. The fat from the ribs melts down into this unbelievable deliciousness.

from Jamie Oliver
serves 6
This is a wonderful recipe if you like lamb. My experience is if you get good lamb, you will love it. If you ever have bad lamb, you will hate it. Try to buy Australian or New Zealand lamb. They are known for it.

2 ½ pounds boneless shoulder of lamb
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
1 whole bulb garlic, unpeeled, broken into cloves

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 heaping tablespoons capers
1 large bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preheat your oven to what Jamie calls “full whack” - 450 to 500 degrees – as high as it will go.
Slash the fat side of the lamb all over with a sharp knife.
Lay half the springs of rosemary and half the garlic cloves on the bottom of a high-sided roasting pan.
Rub the lamb all over with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place it in the pan on top of the rosemary and garlic and put the rest of the rosemary and garlic on top of the lamb. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Turn the oven down immediately to 325 degrees and cook the lamb for 4 hours. It's done if you can pull the meat apart easily with two forks.
Remove the lamb from the oven and place it on a chopping board. Cover it with foil, then a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest.
Pour most of the fat from the roasting pan, discarding any bits of rosemary. Put the pan on the stovetop over medium heat and mix in the flour. Add the stock, stirring and scraping all the sticky goodness off the bottom of the pan. You won't need gallons of gravy, just a couple of flavorsome spoonfuls for each serving.
Add the capers, turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes.
Finely chop the mint and add it to the sauce with the red wine vinegar at the last minute and then pour the gravy into a bowl.
Shred the lamb and serve with the gravy.
If you need any fresh rosemary to make this dish, let me know. We have it growing in our backyard and it's taking over!

from Lidia Bastianich
serves 6
This is a well-loved dish in my family. The sauce can be made early with the meatballs and all you have to do at the last minute is cook the pasta.

For the sauce:
Two 35-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid
olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper

For the meatballs:
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 large egg
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
You can use all beef or all pork for the meatballs if you prefer.

Make the sauce:
Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a Dutch oven. Cook the onions until wilted, about 4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a potato masher. Add the red pepper flakes if you are using them. Add the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make the meatballs:
Crumble the meat into a bowl. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and garlic over the meat. Best the eggs with some salt and pepper and pour into the meat mixture. Mix until blended but don't over mix. Shape into ½ inch balls.
Dredge the meatballs in flour lightly. Heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Adjust the heat to keep them from overbrowning. Cook them in batches if necessary. They don't have to be cooked all the way. The will cook in the sauce.
Put the meatballs in the sauce and at this point you can either refrigerate and hold it or let it simmer and have dinner. Cook the pasta and serve with crusty bread and salad.

from Jamie Oliver
serves 4

I've shown you this recipe before.  It is absolutely delicious!

1 whole chicken
½ stick of unsalted butter
olive oil
½ a cinnamon stick
1 bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked
2 lemons
10 cloves of garlic
2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 375ºF and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken.
Season the chicken generously with salt and black pepper, and fry it in the butter and a little oil, turning regularly to get an even color all over.
Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the oil and butter left in the pot. This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan which will give you a lovely caramelly flavor later on.
Put the chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients (peel the lemon zest and leave the garlic cloves unpeeled), and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, basting with the cooking juice when you remember. The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce which is absolutely fantastic.
To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide between plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Delicious served with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.

gumbo, roast, sheet pan dinners, rosemary chicken