Saturday, November 26, 2016

More cooking for the freezer

I am amazed at how great it is to have some ready to cook meals in the freezer. I wish I had tried this a lot sooner.

A few weeks ago DD and I spent a day making freezer meals again. The recipes were a bit more time consuming and we weren't quite as organized so it took us quite a bit longer than last time, probably around 4 hours. However, we each got around a dozen meals so it was time well spent.

Here are some of the recipes that we made this time:

Chicken Pot Pie

We added a jar of a turkey gravy to this recipe because it seemed a bit dry. We made family size pot pies, rather than individual ones. DD felt that this recipe needed a bit more seasoning, and she would add a bottom crust next time. I left out the peas and substituted corn and green beans instead. DD used frozen mixed vegetables. We didn't use the celery. Andy and I thought this was very good.  When I baked this, I thawed it in the refrigerator for about 18 hours. It was still a bit frozen when I baked it. I baked it covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 minutes.

Beef Stew

I made one recipe of this. I was a bit dubious about freezing raw potatoes, so I baked them a bit first. (The recipe suggested this if one was uncertain about freezing raw potatoes.). They were still pretty solid when I added them to the freezer bag, but they totally disintegrated between freezing and cooking. This didn't taste awful, but it wasn't all that flavorful either. I'm not sure if I would try this recipe again.  If I did, I'd try freezing the potatoes raw.

Creamy Italian Chicken

This is a different recipe from the one we made last time and we haven't tried it yet.  I plan to serve this over pasta.

Pizza Casserole

We made this mainly to see how pasta would fare in the freezer. This is essentially pasta with ground beef, canned spagghetti sauce and cheese.  Nothing special here. However this is very kid friendly, and it certainly could easily be fancied up a bit with a few added pizza topping type of ingredients.  We cooked the pasta al dente, and immediately rinsed it with cold water to prevent further cooking.   We found it to be pretty mushy after freezing and baking despite that. It tasted okay though. A bit more seasoning could be added. If we made another pasta dish, we would cook the pasta for a shorter time before assembling the casserole.

Shepherd's Pie

We added about 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and a tbsp or so of Worcestershire sauce to a double recipe, and we used less water, about 2 cups total.  Initially I was concerned that this would be salty, given the brown gravy mix and the condensed soup in it, and using less water, but the meat and gravy mixture was quite bland. DD used frozen mixed vegetables and I used corn and carrots. Both DD's  family and Andy and I liked this. Both DD and I agree that we would season it more next time.  We would also add more tomato sauce or some tomato paste.

We repeated the Chicken Cordon Bleu CasseroleCowboy Casserole, and Alton Brown's baked brown rice.  This time we used frozen french fries rather than tater tots in the cowboy casserole. I put the meat mixture in the bottom of the casserole and topped my meat with slices of American cheese. DD put potatoes both under and over the meat, as she is feeding a houseful of growing boys. She used shredded cheddar cheese in her casserole.

Dd also made some sloppy joes for each of us, but she didn't use a recipe.

This website, Fabulessly Frugal, has a lot of great sounding freezer recipes. We tried a few of them this time, and there are more that I'd like to try. This link takes you to the freezer recipe list. If you are looking for recipes to freeze, this is an excellent resource.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Filling the freezer

Today my oldest daughter and I spent a couple of hours making meals for the freezer.  In order to keep track of the recipes for future use, I'm linking to all of them in this post.  Altogether we spent a little over 2 hours working on this today. That doesn't include the time we each spent prepping, but it does include cleanup.  I got 11 meals out of the deal and she got a few more.  Some of these meals are casseroles that bake in the oven, and quite a few of them are "dump" crockpot meals.  (You dump the ingredients into a ziplock bag, and when you want to cook the meal, you dump the contents of the bag into the crockpot.)

We each did a bit of prep ahead of time.  She made Zesty slow cooker chicken barbecue, and Spaghetti sauce, and I precooked chicken and diced up leftover ham for Chicken cordon bleu casserole.  (I've made and frozen this one before, it's good with rice or over pasta.).  I also made a double batch of Alton Brown's baked brown rice .

We made cowboy casserole which should appeal to the grandkids as well as Andy.   I made a half recipe of Chicken Philly cheese steak, without the peppers.  I didn't stop to consider how really unappealing that is going to look with all the white from the chicken, onions, and the cornstarch.  Peppers would certainly add some visual appeal.

DD made Pesto stuffed shells, (she gave me two servings, but I'm not too sure how well they will go over here, although they sound delicious to me), and Salsa chicken, (I passed on this one because I'm not so sure Andy will even consider eating it).  We also made Creamy Italian chicken.  I wondered if this recipe had too much Italian dressing in it, but DD says she's made it before and it's very good served over pasta.  I also made Cool ranch chicken tacos, but DD passed on that one.

As we eat these meals, I plan to add our thoughts on them.

10/4:  I cooked the cool ranch chicken tacos when ds came for dinner a few weeks ago. Both he and Andy really liked them.  I found them slightly spicy, but that's normal for me.  I'd make them again.

11/20:  The chicken Philly cheesesteak was quite good. I served it on buns, with Swiss cheese and heated them in the oven after assembling.  We also really liked the zesty chicken barbecue, which we had on baked potatoes. Pesto stuffed shells were very good and would be suitable for company. As for cowboy casserole, you can't really go wrong with meat, cheese and potatoes. (Unless you are grandson 2, as he did not like it.). I'd use American cheese instead of shredded cheddar next time, just because it seems cheesier and melts better.

DD reports that her oldest son pronounced the chicken cordon bleu casserole awesome served over rice.  We had it over pasta last week and liked it that way too.

DDs family thought the creamy Italian chicken was okay, but not especially great. She says she added chicken broth and vegetables to the leftovers and made chicken noodle soup, which they liked better than the original recipe.  Andy and I both liked the creamy Italian chicken a lot.  We had it over whole wheat pasta.  I would make it again as written, but I don't think that DD would.  Initially, I was skeptical about the recipe, as I thought that it had way too much Italian dressing, and DD thought it would be great.  Funny how the results were the opposite of what we expected.

Alton Brown's baked brown rice is good, and very easy.  I always omit the salt, and add two chicken or beef bouillon cubes instead.  I also add about 1/4 cup more water than the recipe calls for.  When I make it, I do two or three pans of rice at a time.  I've already got the oven going so I figure that I might as well fill it.  I've never tried doubling the recipe in a single pan, since I don't want to mess with what I already know will work.  The rice freezes very well.  I freeze it in quart size bags and then put all the bags into a larger bag so that I don't have little bags of rice floating all over the freezer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Crockpot Ham and Potato Soup

Crockpot Ham and Potato Soup

3 cups water
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
3 chicken bouillon cubes
4 - 5 small red potatoes, peeled if desired and coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
3 -4 large green onions, with some of the green part, chopped
1 can corn, drained
1 cup diced ham
1/4 tsp dried mince garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients except pepper in a 3 or 4 quart crockpot.  Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or until vegetables are tender and flavors have melded.  Season with pepper before serving.

Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits and green onion if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Using up fresh tomatoes....

I have a good recipe for pasta sauce, but it relies on canned ingredients.  This past Friday, we visited with DH's brother and sister in law, and they shared bags full of garden bounty with us.  Hubby will not eat fresh tomatoes and I knew that I wouldn't be able to eat all of them before they went bad, so I went on a hunt for ways to use them up in something that we would both enjoy.  I combined a bunch of ideas and this is what I came up with.  It smelled amazing while it was cooking. We ate it over spaghetti, and found it really tasty.

Crockpot Tomato Pasta Sauce, (using fresh tomatoes)

1 to 2 tsp of olive oil
Minced garlic to taste, fresh or dried, (I used 2 tsp dried minced garlic)
2 or 3 small white onions, finely diced (any sort of onion would work),
5 to 6 cups of chopped tomatoes, (I seeded mine, but it isn't necessary)
1 medium zucchini, diced into small pieces
1 large carrot, shredded
1/4 cup of red wine (I think you could probably leave this out)
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp each dried fennel seed, thyme, and rosemary
1 tsp salt (more if desired)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, more if you like spicy sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

I used a 5 quart crockpot, which would have been able to handle double of this recipe.  Turn it on high, and add enough olive oil to just barely cover the bottom.  Toss in the chopped onions and garlic, give it a good stir to coat everything with oil, and put the lid on the pot.  Let this cook while you prepare the tomatoes.   After a while, this will start to sizzle and the onions will brown a bit.  (This step isn't necessary, but it brings out the taste of the onions and garlic.)

Meanwhile, wash and chop the tomatoes and zucchini.  I seeded the tomatoes, (hubby's request), but did not peel them.(I would add some chopped fresh green pepper, and maybe some mushrooms, if I were the only one eating this.). By this time the onions in the pot should be sizzling nicely.  Add all the rest of the ingredients to the pot, except for the fresh basil.  Stir well.  Cook on high for an hour or two.  Once it is boiling, turn the pot to low and let it simmer for 3 to 4 hours.  It will likely be somewhat thin, so at this point, I turn it back up to high, add the basil, and uncover it about halfway so that some of the liquid evaporates.  I have an oval shaped crockpot and I just turned the lid sideways.  When it has reached the desired consistency stir in the tomato paste.  It took a couple of hours for the sauce to get nice and thick. This would probably vary, depending on the type of tomato used, and the consistency desired.

I think that this would freeze well, although I haven't tried it.

It was my plan to let the sauce cool and then run it through the blender, (a food mill would work too), as hubby does not like lumps in his food.  Surprisingly, he told me not to bother.  He even had two helpings.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Easy Mexican Lasagna

The chicken filling for this recipe is made in a crockpot, but the dish is finished in the oven.

Ingredients for chicken filling:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, (frozen is okay)
1 cup salsa
I can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1/4 cup water
I medium onion, chopped
1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed
1 tsp dried minced garlic
2-4 tsp chilli powder, or even more, depending on how much heat you like)
1-2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Black pepper to taste

Other ingredients:
flour tortillas ( any size will work, you will just need more if you choose a small size)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or substitute cheese if your choice)

Combine all filling ingredients in crockpot.  For frozen breasts, cook 5 to 6 hours on high, or until you can easily shred the chicken.  (It will require less time for thawed chicken.). If the mixture seems too wet, keep heating on high for another 30 minutes or so.  Reduce crockpot to low and keep filling warm until ready to assemble casserole.

To complete dish:
Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Line with a layer of flower tortillas, ripping them as needed, to fit. It's not neccesary to have every single inch of the bottom covered.  Cover tortillas with half of the chicken mixture and sprinkle with one cup of cheese.  Repeat tortilla and chicken layers once more.    Cover with another layer of tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Let sit for a minute or two and cut into squares to serve.  Garnish with sour cream, lettuce and diced tomatoes.  Serves 6 to 8.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

You can't believe everything you read!

You know that belief that it takes 21 days to create a new habit?  Well, let me just say that it's not true. I've been working on exercising daily for 22 days now, and it is most definitely not a habit!  it still feels like an unwelcome task.  Wonder what that says about me?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Last Minute Chicken Pot Pie

This evening we had planned to go to a dinner at church, hosted by the youth group as a fund raiser.  The dinner was cancelled because of the snowy weather, but not until after 4. I hadn't planned anything for dinner. Hubby suggested going out, but it was cold, snowy and just generally nasty out there, so I whipped this up instead, from stuff I had in my pantry.  I happened to have a jar of turkey gravy that I had purchased for Thanksgiving, "just in case" that I wanted to use up, and I usually have canned chicken in the pantry.

Last Minute Chicken Pot Pie

2 or 3 medium potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 chicken bouillon cube
12 oz jar chicken gravy
12 oz can of chicken breast, diced or 1 and 1/2 cups leftover cooked chicken, diced
Pinch of thyme
Sprinkle of dried chives
Black pepper to taste

Biscuit Topper:
1 and 1/8 cups biscuit baking mix ( like Bisquick or Jiffy)
1/3 cup milk
Sprinkle of dried parsley, optional

Place potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and bouillon cube in saucepan. Cover vegetables with water and cook until tender.  (I'd add some frozen peas to this if my hubby would eat them.). Drain the vegetables and stir in the gravy and the chicken.  Add thyme, pepper and chives.   Pour into a two quart casserole dish.

Combine biscuit mix and milk.  Mix in a little dried parsley for color if desired.  Knead the resulting dough a few times and flatten it into a large biscuit that is the size and shape of your casserole dish.  Place this over the chicken mixture and slash it with a sharp knife in a few places to let the steam out.

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes, until the biscuit top is done, and lightly browned.

Serves 4.

I love Pinterest......but..........

First of all, I have exercised more than 150 minutes a week for each of the last two weeks.  They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit. We'll see.  Right now it's more like a job than a habit.

Recently I saw a Pinterest pin that informed me that a packet of Koolaid powder would clean the hard water rings out of my toilet with hardly any effort on my part.  Well, the "no effort" part got my attention right away.  It just so happens that I have a lot of little packets of Koolaid. (My grocery store used to give them away free with a sugar purchase a couple of times each summer.  We don't drink Koolaid, but hey!  It was free!). Anyhow, the picture with the pin showed yellow Koolaid and the blurb said that it was actually the citric acid in the stuff that did the cleaning.  I only had red Koolaid, but citric acid was the first thing on the ingredient list.  So, following the directions from the pin, I sprinkled my red Koolaid all over two of the toilets in my house.  It said to let it sit for an hour or longer, so off I went to the grocery store.  When I got back to those bathrooms a couple of hours later, the Koolaid had solidified and I had to scrub for quite a while to get it all off.  At this point the toilet looked like someone had bled to death in it.  It took several flushes to get the water clear enough to enjoy the sight of my toilet bowl without the hard water ring.  (After all, that's what the after picture on Pinterest promised.)  Uh oh!  The very pale tan ring was gone, and in its place there was a pink ring.  Pink is prettier, right?  Wrong!  It looked much dirtier than it did I ended up scrubbing toilets in the usual way.  The kicker?  I did this in two bathrooms.  The moral of the story?  If it sounds too good to be true, it  probably is.  If I had thought before I leaped, I would have tried it out in one bathroom first.  The bonus?  The bathrooms now smell fruity..., with just the slightest essence of artificial flavoring.

Oh well, I still love Pinterest........