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Divas on a Dime: It’s time for make-ahead meals for the holidays

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, stash them in the freezer with recipes to use them 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, under $2 per pound, often on sale for .99 cents a pound. I find six 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 pork in a large baking pan, covered with foil at 375°F degrees for one hour then lower the temperature to 275°F degrees for an additional hour. At this point the pork should be well cooked but check for a temperature above 165°F degrees.

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

The Rice – To make 12 cups 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 cool completely and divide into three-cup portions. Freeze in zippered bags.

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

EASY PORK CHILI VERDE (4 to 6 servings) – In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté one 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 oz.) can chicken broth, 3 cups rice. Bring to a simmer and serve.

CREAMY PORK, RICE AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE (4 to 6 servings) – In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté one 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 sour cream to one cup and add salt to taste.) Add the soup mixture to the skillet, add one cup frozen peas and stir. Heat through and serve.

BBQ PORK SAMMIES (4 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 – (4 to 6 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.

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

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the 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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