FMCC: Make-Ahead Meals and Artisan Bread

Sadly, its been a long time since I've written an FMCC post. This means it was a long time between cooking clubs and I missed it! Although I was doing lots of cooking on my own, it is such an amazing experience cooking together with the club. A cooking day means hard work, getting messy and of course, lots of laughter!
I was so glad we were finally able to get together for some make-ahead meals and artisan bread. I had asked the FMCC ladies what they wanted most at a cooking club and many were interested in make-ahead meals and crockpot meals. So this week we went with that theme and I also showed the awesome Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day! Dawn first introduced me to this method back in the fall, it took a while for me to finally make it and I haven't looked back! If you love fresh bread, there isn't an easier method out there, so even if you have never baked a yeast bread before, this is the perfect beginner recipe.
This week's cooking club came with some homework. We were using lots of beans in our meals, so we prepped our beans ahead of time using the crockpot method. I love this tutorial: How to Cook Dried Beans in a Crockpot from Kalyn's Kitchen


Easy Crockpot Chili

1 lb. ground beef. browned
1 green pepper, chopped (I will use frozen peppers from my summer CSA shares)
1 onion, chopped
1 whole hot pepper
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 cups black beans (or 1 15oz. can)
2 cups pinto or kidney beans (or 1 15 oz. can)
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
3-5 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
grated cheddar cheese (optional)
sour cream (optional)
avocado slices (optional)

1. Place cooked ground beef and all ingredients except cheese, sour cream and avocado in crockpot, stir well.
2. Cook on low 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally to break up the tomatoes.
3. Top with desired toppings.
*For a make-ahead meal, freeze in a freezer bag for up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the fridge, then place in crockpot as directed.
Crockpot Sausage and White Bean-Kale Soup
3/4 pound chicken or turkey sausage (I used a variety of mild/hot and removed the casing)
1 medium onion
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (diced or crushed would work well, too)
2 15 oz. jars cannellini beans rinsed
1 32 oz. container good quality chicken stock
2 large handfuls roughly chopped kale or 1 cup frozen kale
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Brown the sausage and onion in a large skillet until cooked through, about 5-7 mins.
2. Allow sausage and onion mixture to cool slightly.
3. In large mixing bowl add remaining ingredients, except kale.
4. Stir well, then pour into gallon freezer bag.
5. Squeeze out all the air to prevent freezer burn, place in freezer up to 8 weeks, thaw over night in fridge.
6. Place in crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours, then add kale.
7. Cook an additional 2 hours.
8. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Fresh Mama Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef, pork, or turkey
1 1lb bulk Italian sausage or sausage removed from casings (use any flavor you like) I often choose a mixture of hot and mild.
2 Tablespoons diced onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 slices sandwich bread
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan (optional)
Olive oil spray 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, milk, eggs, salt and pepper (parmesan, if using)
2. Add bread slices and allow to sit a few minutes to soak up the liquids, then stir until bread is incorporated with liquids.
3. Add ground beef and sausage to bowl.
4. Using your hands, mix just until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
5. Form meatballs using your hands -  about the size of a golf ball.
6. Place meatballs on baking sheet sprayed with olive oil and bake for 12-15 minutes until cooked thru.
7. Allow to cool, then place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Freeze overnight and then transfer to gallon freezer bags. Freeze up to 8 weeks.
*You can place 1 pound frozen meatballs in crockpot with 4 cups marinara sauce and simmer all day! Easy weeknight meal, just boil your pasta and dinner is ready!
Artisan Bread
3 cups lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon granulated yeast
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
6 1/2 cups or 2 pounds all-purpose flour
1. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon.
2. Place in warm spot on counter for at least 2 hours, up to overnight if making late in the evening.
3. Dough will have risen significantly, remove from bowl and place in large container with lid (crack lid slightly to allow gasses from fermentation to escape) -- place in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
4. When ready to bake:
  • Break off a piece of the dough (1/4 of dough or 1 pound of dough)
  • Knead into a ball and place on parchment paper on counter for 30 minutes, cover with damp cloth
  • After 30 minutes, make 6  1/2 inch deep slashes in top of dough
  • Place large dutch oven in oven and preheat to 450 degrees
  • Once oven has reached 450 degrees, remove dutch oven and place bread dough on parchment paper in dutch oven and place lid on top
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
You will have a delicious, crusty, perfect artisan bread! One recipe yields 4 breads.
Making Meatballs!
AnnMarie chopping an onion! A skill she learned at FMCC! Perfection:)

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