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Prep now for easy dinners in future

Have you ever wished the dinner fairy would appear with an effortless dinner for your family? I sure have, usually at 8 o’clock in the evening, dying of hunger, with 100 plates spinning and none of them dinner plates.

’Tis the season for busyness beyond belief, but here’s a solution: Spend time prepping meals now in anticipation of the busy season ahead. Let’s cook pork and rice in quantity and stash them in the freezer, with recipes to use when you need a quick dinner fix.

The pork: To keep cost low, use boneless pork sirloin roasts. These small roasts come in large vacuum-sealed bags and are very inexpensive, less than $2 per pound and often on sale for 99 cents a pound. I find that 6 pounds of pork yields four generous meals for my family of four. You’ll adjust the amounts to suit your family’s needs.

For versatility, season pork simply with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Roast the pork in a large baking pan covered with foil at 375 degrees for one hour and then lower the temperature to 275 degrees for an additional hour. At this point, the pork should be well-cooked, but check for a temperature above 165 degrees.

Let it cool completely.

Referencing the recipes below, dice, cube or slice your pork and divide into portions of about 3 cups or 24 ounces each. Place the portions into zippered freezer bags. Divide any pan juices among the bags. Freeze.

The rice: To make 12 cups of rice, heat 8 cups water, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to boiling. Add 4 cups rice. Return to boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Set timer for 20 minutes for white rice or 45 minutes for brown rice. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before fluffing with a big fork. Let it cool completely and divide into 3-cup portions. Freeze in zippered bags.

For each recipe, defrost one bag each of pork and rice overnight in refrigerator or defrost in a microwave.

With these easy recipes, you can be your own dinner fairy. Now we need a dishwashing fairy.

EASY PORK CHILI VERDE

(Four to six servings)

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute 1 cup chopped onion until soft. Add 3 cups diced pork, one 28-ounce can green chili enchilada sauce, 1 15.5-ounce can great northern beans, drained and rinsed, 1 14.5-ounce can chicken broth and 3 cups rice. Bring to a simmer and serve.

CREAMY PORK, RICE AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE

(Four to six servings)

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery and 8 ounces sliced mushrooms. Add 3 cups pork and 3 cups rice; stir to combine.

In a bowl, stir together 1 10.5-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, ½ cup sour cream, ¾ cup milk and ½ tablespoon soy sauce. (If you don’t use cream-of-something soups, increase the sour cream to 1 cup and add salt to taste.) Add the soup mixture to the skillet; add 1 cup frozen peas and stir. Heat through and serve.

BBQ PORK SAMMIES

(Four servings)

Warm 3 cups sliced pork with your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve on hamburger buns with mustard, pickles, coleslaw and rice on the side.

PORK BURRITOS

(Four to six servings)

In a large skillet, heat 3 cups diced pork with 3 cups rice and 1 14.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed. Add your favorite salsa and a big handful of shredded cheese. Serve on tortillas with sour cream.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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