I’m an obsessive list-maker by nature.  The only real problem with this is that I’ve always had a bad habit of making lists and losing them.  I tried making a list of where my lists were, but I lost that, too.  Generally, the only way I could keep up with a list was to write it on my hand. I once had a grocery list that kept growing until it was halfway up my arm!

I make lists for everything.  Michael used to arrive at a location for a business trip, open his suitcase, and find a laminated packing list on top so he wouldn’t leave anything behind when he repacked to come home.  He pretended not to mind.  He has to do that a lot.

Imagine the delight of a list-maker in finding the Notes section of my phone and iPad when I got them a few years ago!  Both devices are now chock full of lists.

I’ve planned hundreds of parties on paper (or on a device).  Most of them never happen, but if they ever do, I’m ready!  I currently have plans on my iPad for a crawfish boil, a back-to-school party, a Maleficent movie party (for when it comes out on DVD), and ideas for both kids’ birthdays for the next few years.

I make lists for units to teach in my class.  Lists of books I’d like to read.  Lists of songs I hear on the radio that I’d like to sing or I’d like my classes to sing.  Lists of movies I want to see.  Menus, grocery lists, a recipe list for my next cookbook.  It’s July and I already have my kids’ Christmas lists on my iPad.

Right now, I have a new list to work on.  I’m excited because my friend Carla and I are planning a marathon cooking day.  We’re going to spend the day together cooking lots and lots of dishes that we can freeze and enjoy later.  Truth be told, we’ll also take a lot of breaks to sit down and drink Diet Coke and laugh about something.  We’ve been friends since the second grade.  Trust me.  After nearly forty years of friendship, I know our pattern.

But we will also get a lot of cooking done.  Right now, my list contains several easy-to-freeze dishes:  Beefy Mac, Sloppy Joe Mix, Chicken Spaghetti, Salsa Chicken, Green Chile Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna Roll-Ups, Stuffed Bell Peppers, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Individual Cheesecakes.

I really should stop and let Carla contribute to the list.  At this rate, we’re going to need a cooking week instead of a day!

In making my list, I’ve chosen several of the recipes because they share ingredients with other recipes on the list.  I love when I can cook one ingredient and get double-duty from it.

This post is one of those instances.  It starts with five pounds of ground beef.  I used 80/20 because it was on sale when I was grocery shopping, but you could go leaner, if you like, or even use ground turkey.  When I make these dishes together, I start out in a huge pan to brown all five pounds at once with two bags of frozen seasoning blend (onions, celery, and bell pepper).  When it is browned, drain the meat completely and divide it in half, placing about half of the meat into a second skillet.  You’ll be making Sloppy Joes in one skillet and Beefy Mac in the other.  In the recipe, it says to use 2 pounds of meat for each recipe.  By the time you’ve browned it and drained it, that’s about what you’ll have.  Please don’t try to weigh your meat mixture to divide it evenly.  Just eyeball it!


Sloppy Joes

  • 2 pounds of ground beef/seasoning blend mixture
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of yellow mustard (Yes, the hot dog stuff!)
  • 1 1/2 cups of ketchup
  • 1/3 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • Salt to taste


Sorry about the blurry garlic salt.  I just realized that it’s blurry and I’m not dragging all that stuff back out to take a picture!

Add all of the ingredients to the ground beef mixture and cook on medium heat until combined and thickened.  Serve on buns or as a topping for nachos.



Beefy Mac

  • 2 pounds of the ground beef/seasoning blend mixture
  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of dried or dehydrated parlsey
  • 29-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 32-ounce box of beef stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pound of dry elbow macaroni
  • Shredded cheese to top before serving (optional)


As you can see, I don’t care much about brand names!  In most cases, the store brand or generic works just fine!  And, yes, that’s salt in that little jar.  I just prefer to use salt that way because I can better control the amount.

Mix all of the ingredients together, adding pasta last.  Bring to a bubble.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for twenty minutes or until pasta is cooked through.



Well Duh #1:  If you don’t have a lid for your skillet, don’t worry.  My go-to skillet lid is a pizza pan!  You can also use a bigger skillet to cover the one you’re cooking in.

Well Duh #2:  Don’t rely on cooking times – especially when it comes to pasta.  The best way to tell if it’s done is to eat a piece.  For the Beefy Mac, I just fish out an elbow, let it cool for a a couple of seconds, and pop it in my mouth.  The pasta in Beefy Mac should NOT be al dente.

Well Duh #3:  Both of these recipes can easily be doubled or tripled.  I usually make a double batch of Beefy Mac and freeze one.  Pour it into a disposable container, top with shredded cheese, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and then wrap with aluminum foil.  Don’t forget to label.  Beefy Mac – 350 for 1 hour.  If you’re cooking straight from the freezer, it will take a little longer.  Just cook it until it’s bubbly.  I remove the plastic wrap before cooking, but replace the foil.  You can freeze the Sloppy Joe mix the same way or put it in a freezer bag.

Well Duh #4:  If your family likes individual leftovers, you can use an ice cream scoop and place scoops of the meat mixture onto a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Put the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid.  Then place the frozen scoops in a big zippered bag.  When somebody wants one, they can just pop a scoop into a bowl and microwave it until it’s hot.  Then it goes onto a bun or over nachos or however they want to eat it.

Well Duh #5:  Add a little water to the meat when you’re browning it and the meat will separate instead of clumping together.  For this much meat, I used about a cup of water.

Well Duh #6:  If you can’t find the seasoning blend or just don’t want to use it, the two bags used here equal to about one big onion, one red bell pepper, one green bell pepper, and one stalk of celery.  Just chop everything to roughly the same size.


Grocery List:

What you’ll probably have to buy:

  • 5 pounds of ground beef (I like to use 80/20, but you can totally go leaner)
  • 29-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 32-ounce box of beef stock
  • 1 pound of elbow macaroni
  • Shredded cheese
  • Buns for Sloppy Joes

What you’ll probably have in your pantry or refrigerator:

  • Yellow mustard
  • Ketchup (It will take most of a medium-sized bottle)
  • Brown sugar
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic Salt
  • Dried Oregano
  • Dried or dehydrated parsley
  • Salt (Please have salt!)


I am so excited about my cooking day with Carla!  We haven’t set a date yet, but it’s going to be awesome!  In fact, my plan is to eventually have all three of my best friends come and cook with me.  We’ll call it “The Twisted Sister Series” or something equally obnoxious!  All four of us love to cook and we love each other.  What could be better than cooking together!  So be on the lookout for Carla, Kathy, and Kim on my blog!

I should probably ask them about that first, huh?

In the meantime, I’d better start making a list of all the things I want to cook with them!