Sunday, January 22, 2012

Early Morning Pretzels

My one year old Princess has developed a new habit as of late. She likes to wake up at the butt crack of dawn (in this case, 4:30am) and play. She's just not content unless someone gets up to play with her! This morning it was my turn. So what did we do? Made pretzel bites. They turned out okay, not wonderful. For the hassle it took to make them, I say go buy the freezer kind!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Yummy Super Healthy Lunch Salad

I really impressed myself with my lunch today! We've been eating through a lot of the casserole dishes that I made over the weekend, so I was ready for something light and refreshing!

Completely by accident I made the best lemon vinaigrette EVER.  I was out of my usual balsamic vinaigrette that I make, and completely out of balsamic vinegar. I did, however, have a bunch of lemons! I've always got lemons hanging around, just because they smell nice and look pretty on the table.

So, I used one of those Good Seasonings bottles. They sell them in the store, and I have no idea what the measurements are. Go buy one, they are cheap and will save you tons because you can start making your own dressings. I used one large lemon, and filled up the rest of the "V" line with apple cider vinegar. Then you add a touch of water, and fill it up to the "O" with olive oil. I also added a teaspoon of sugar and some italian seasoning. It is so light, and SO delicious.

So, to my salad today I added one half of an avocado, a tomato, and some homemade croutons that I made out of leftover garlic bread. You could even add red beans, or a hard boiled egg, even bacon. Whatever floats your boat!

Homemade croutons: Diced leftover garlic bread toasted in a non-stick pan for about five minutes.

Soooooooo good.

*****Tip of the day: Sprinkle sugar on your tomatoes instead of salt. This will take your average Wal-Mart tomato and make it taste like it's fresh from the Farmer's Market!*****

Lunch is served. Bon Apetit! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Freezer Recipe: Slow-Cooker Carnitas

I've been making this recipe for years. My favorite restaurant of all time is Chipotle. I think I ate there at least four times a week when I was pregnant! It's no wonder my daughter loves it now!

Anyway, their Carnitas are just so darn good, that I've tried to replicate them. Mine really aren't quite the same, but they are still good. They really do freeze well, too.

1 large pork butt or tenderloin roast
8-9 large cloves of garlic (You don't even have to chop these, I put them in whole and they just MELT)
1 Tbsp cumin
About 1/2 cup of chicken broth (Don't use too much liquid. The pork itself will release some in the slow cooker)
2 bay leaves
1 container of adobo sauce (you can also chop of the chiles and throw them in for a little more kick)

Let this roast 6-8 hours in the slow cooker. When it's done you can pull it apart with a fork. Delicioso!!

I can eat this with a little lime and avocado. It's wonderful! Once you pull them out of the freezer, you can throw them back in the slow cooker on high for a couple of hours and they are like new again!

Freezer Recipes: Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe I found on Pinterest, of course! :) Oh, how my life has changed since Pinterest came around. My idea of a fun evening is now surfing Pinterest with a glass of wine!

10 flour tortillas
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 cups monterrey jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick of butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles

Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese.  Roll up in tortillas and place your casserole dishes. This recipe will also make two pans. In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook about a minute.  Add broth and whisk until smooth. This is very similar to the bechamel sauces we made earlier! Heat over medium heat until thick and bubbly.  Stir in sour cream and chilies.  Don't let it boil, though. Pour over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.

You can now freeze. Once you decide to eat these, bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour. You can even turn on the broiler for the last five minutes or so to get them nice and bubbly!

Freezer Recipes: Mac N Cheese, Mushroom Lasagna, and Baked Chicken Penne

Let me say this before I go any further. Learn to make a good bechamel sauce. IT IS YOUR FRIEND, especially on a big cooking day like this one! You can add different flavors to the sauce, and it's a super simple, easy base.

To make a bechamel sauce, you need 3 ingredients:

1 stick butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Milk, you really have to just eyeball it. I'm really not sure how much I use...probably about 1 1/2-2 cups.

It's just like making a gravy. Melt one stick of butter, once melted add flour and whisk together until it makes a nice roux. For a bechamel, you do want to let the flour cook for a little bit, but you don't want it to get to a chestnut color or anything. This is just a base. Once all mixed, and you want to keep whisking until you add the milk, add milk and let it reach a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn down and keep whisking.

There you have your bechamel sauce.

Macaroni and Cheese:

1 recipe Bechamel sauce
2 cups of cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs mixed with dried parsley or Italian seasoning.
1 box noodles of your choice, I used whole wheat penne

Boil your noodles before you start making any of your sauces. This just makes it go by much quicker. This recipe made two casserole dishes for me. Add your noodles to the casserole pans. Then mix 1 1/2 cups of cheddar and all of the parmesan cheese until it gets nice and melty. That is now a delicious cheese sauce! Add 1/2 of the mixture to each casserole dish and mix together with the noodles. Top each pan with the remaining cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. You can mix the bread crumbs with melted butter if you like. I don't because there is enough fat from the cheese to make these into a nice crumbly crust.

You can then freeze them. When frozen, put them in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour. We had this last night with a simple tossed salad. It was fan-freaking-tastic!!!

Mushroom Lasagna:

This one is just terribly simple, but oh-so-good.

1 recipe bechamel sauce
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 package lasagna noodles, cooked
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese (You can use any cheese you like, I just bought this kind in bulk!)
Salt and Pepper to taste

This recipe also makes two casserole pans. Add your first layer of noodles to the dishes.  Add the mushrooms and parmesan cheese to the sauce, mix until creamy. Layer the mixture between lasagna noodles. You'll probably get about  3-4 layers in each pan. Top with the cheddar cheese, and voila! Mushroom lasagna!

Bake at 350 directly from the freezer for 1 hour, or until golden and bubbly!

Baked Chicken Penne with Sundried Tomatoes

1 Recipe bechamel sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
1 cup sundried tomatoes
1 4 oz. container black olives
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 package of noodles of your choice, cooked (I used bowtie)

Again, this recipe also makes to casserole pans. Mix the pasta with your bechamel sauce. You don't need to add anything to the sauce this time. Mix in chicken and sundried tomatoes, and top with parmesan cheese and black olives. It's ready to be frozen here, and then baked at 350 degrees for one hour! YUM!

Freezer Recipes: Marinades

Marinating your meats not only makes for really simple prep on cooking day, but you can thaw them in the refrigerator the day you serve them and throw them on the grill or in your pan, and most of the work is already done.

I used a couple of easy, easy go to marinade recipes:

Teriyaki Sauce:

1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp Kikkoman Low Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
1 tsp red chili flakes (you can add more if you like the heat)

Mix all together, and you can use on chicken, beef, pork, even tofu! Delicious! I also use this base for San Francisco Pork Chops, sauteed green beans....very simple and very good.

I also made a marinade for steaks. I really was getting near the end of my cooking day, and this was just all I felt like doing for the beef. Turned out pretty good, though!

1 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp garlic
1 tsp chili powder

Done...and delicious.

Freezer Recipes: Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

I've had several emails since my post yesterday asking me to start posting these recipes! They are nothing spectacular. I knew if I was going to be making that much food at once, I was going to have to KEEP IT SIMPLE!

This meatloaf was super, super simple. I actually remembered the recipe from an episode where Paula Deen's daughter in law made it. I think hers had a few more ingredients, but this was still delicious, nonetheless.

I'm going to break it down to one meal size for the recipe, which would serve four people. If you are planning on making freezer meals and want to make several, just adjust the recipe.

1 lb ground meat (or even ground turkey)
1/2 cup regular bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup ketchup
2-3 Tbsp brown sugar

Mix all of the ingredients except the brown sugar and ketchup in a big bowl. Take off all of your rings. It drives me NUTS that Paula Deen never takes her rings off when she mixes meatloaf. Do you know how nasty that big rock must be by now??? Get in there and get dirty, and get that meat all mixed up. Then put it in a loaf pan, and slather the top with ketchup. You can push it all around with a spatula to get it nice and even. Then crumble brown sugar on the top. I get pretty liberal with the ketchup and brown sugar. It caramelizes in the oven, and makes a really wonderful crust.

There you have the meatloaf! You can wrap it up with saran wrap and aluminum foil and pop it in the freezer at this point, or you can bake it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes if thawed, an hour if frozen.

 For the mashed potatoes, it's SO easy. Just make a big batch of mashed potatoes, and separate them in to freezable portions. I just filled up a quart size freezer bag. Lay them flat in the freezer, so they take up less space. When you are ready for mashed potatoes, just pull out a package, and put it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes, or you can take out the taters and put them on the stove with a little bit of milk.

For the recipe, I used:

1 large bag of  red potatoes
2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups of milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop up all the potatoes, and boil until fork tender. I like to keep the skins on, but that is a personal choice. You can peel the skins if you like. Drain them once ready, and mash up with the butter, add milk and S&P. Mash until you get the consistency you like. I like mine "rustic", meaning they still have nice chunky pieces of skin and potato in there. Also, you don't have to worry about getting the consistency perfect with this method. There IS such a thing as an over mashed potato. It turns pasty. No one wants a pasty potato, now do they?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

7 Hours, $154, and 39 Dinners.

7 Hours, $154, and 39 Dinners.

Those are the final numbers from my dinner making experiment, and I've got to say, I'm happy with that! That comes down to $3.94 a meal(each meal will serve 4 people). Being that this is my first try, I think that is pretty good!

I strayed from the menu I came up with yesterday, simply because some recipes didn't make as much...or I found something in the cabinet that I decided to make instead. 

Here is what I ended up with:

1 large package of shredded chicken
3 pans of meatloaf (we actually had one last night. Delicious)
2 pans of San Francisco Pork Chops
2 packages of Chicken Teriyaki
2 packages of taco meat
3 packages of spaghetti and meat sauce
1 package of Beef Stroganoff
2 packages of Sloppy Joes
2 pans of Macaroni and Cheese
2 pans of Baked Chicken Penne w/ Sundried Tomatoes
2 pans of Chicken Enchiladas
2 packages of mashed potatoes
4 packages of sauteed green beans
2 pans of Mushroom Lasagna
2 packages of meatballs
2 packages of shredded pork
7 packages of garlic bread
2 pots of Chicken and Dumplings
2 packages of marinated steak

I still have stuff to make 2 more pots of Chicken Tortilla Soup, but I ran out of chicken broth! 

Some tips that I would definitely recommend in undertaking something like this:

1. Clean out your refrigerator  and freezer before you start! You are going to need every ounce of space you have.

2. Make a prep station before you start cooking. Chop up all of your veggies and keep them on hand, so you can use them in the recipes as you go. This saves you tons of time.

3. Cook all the meat first, unless it's something like meatloaf or something going in a marinade that you won't cook until you serve it. 

4. Buy the chicken pre-cooked. You can get the same amount of chicken out of a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store than you can a whole fryer that you have to prep and cook, and usually for less money or the same price. Another huge time saver. You can also take the bones and make a chicken stock. 

5. Keep your kitchen free of distractions. This is a marathon cooking session. One day of hard work is going to pay off big time and give you lots of extra time in the next few weeks. 

6. Buy disposable pans. It will keep your serving sizes where you want them, and you'll have use of your pans in the meantime.

7. Don't be afraid of the sales at the grocery store. It's all going in the freezer that day anyway. This is where you are really going to save. Look for the manager's specials. You'll be amazed how much you will save.

8. Keep a glass of wine on hand at all times. :) This is just to keep your stress level down and keep it fun!

The mound of groceries that would eventually become dinner for the next 39 days.

Tasty meatloaf

Baked Penne w/ Chicken, Sundried Tomatoes and Black Olives

San Francisco Pork Chops (love these)

The kitchen was a HUGE disaster the whole day. The good news is, it won't be for the next 39!
Chicken Teriyaki

Garlic Bread (I bought 2 loaves from the sale section at the store. Only cost me $0.68 for both!
The all-important prep station

Most important ingredient of the day.

Enjoy folks!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I am pooped.

I cooked for 7 hours straight today. I'm pretty proud of myself, I made almost 40 meals for about $150. I'll write a detailed blog all about it tomorrow.

One thing is for sure. I'm going to sit back and enjoy this big glass of wine!

The madness begins....

Can you tell he's really excited about making 45 meals in one day? He's going to help me by watching tv and staying out of my way! :)

6 Weeks of Dinner in One Day's never been my strong suit. In fact, that's an understatement. I'm generally really, really terrible about sticking to a budget. However, now, as a Mommy and in a one income family, suddenly it really behooves me to start sticking to one. That being said, a whole new world of DIY has opened up to me. For instance, this month I have several projects planned. I am making my daughter's name with these super cute letters and fabric background in frames from Goodwill (it will all make sense when I'm done.). I also plan to make curtains for the gobs of windows in our living room. The curtain part I know I can do on the sewing machine. It's the grommets on the top that are worrying me. Although, according to YouTube, that's the easy part. Today, I'm going to go grocery shopping....and let me tell you, I have PLANS!

My goal is to buy, make and freeze dinners for about 6 weeks for under $100. I've seen a lot of other moms blog about doing 4-5 months for $100, but I'm just not there yet. This will be my first time, and here is what I have planned.

(Each bag will be a quart size freezer bag with enough servings for our family of 3.)

6 bags of crockpot shredded chicken.
6 bags of ground meat (3 will be seasoned with taco seasoning)
4 bags of spaghetti sauce

3 meatloaf (my husband REALLY loves meatloaf)
3 bags of pork carnitas

2 bags of San Francisco pork chops
4 bags of Chicken and Dumplings
4 bags of Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 bags of hamburger patties
4 bags of teriyaki chicken

4 bags of garlic bread

We will see how this goes!! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Redesign without spending a dime!

Every once in a while, I get the itch to completely turn my house upside down and make it look different. The same concept applies to my hair, which is why my husband gets to come home to a new woman every three months or so. I just can't keep anything the same too long. That would just be boring!

There is this little nook in our kitchen that is dark, and I'm sure was meant for a china cabinet. That being said, I don't have a china cabinet or any china to put in it even if I did! What I do have is a ton of unused picture frames and a little buffet table (it's way too short to be functional, but it holds DVDs.)

Thanks to a few lovely ideas from Pinterest, I just played around with the idea of a picture wall until I liked it!



Homemade Egg McMuffins

Please forgive me blog followers...for I have sinned. I have not posted a single blog since October.

Maybe there is still a reader or two out there that will be able to pick up right where we left off. :-)

I made the most scrumptious little Egg McMuffins this morning. At 194 calories and 2 grams of fat each, I think this will be a weekly deal!

This recipe makes six, and they freeze wonderfully. You can heat them up in the microwave for about 1 1/2- 2 minutes.

-1 package 100 calorie English muffins
-fat free sharp cheddar cheese slices
-3 eggs
-6 slices Canadian bacon

Preheat oven to 450. Beat the eggs in a bowl, adding about a tablespoon of water. This will make your eggs light and fluffy. Add to a nonstick pan and keep whisking until scrambled.

Lay out your english muffins, halved on a baking sheet. Place 1 slice canadian bacon, and 1 slice of cheese on each muffin bottom. Add one spoon full of eggs to each sandwich. Bake until the cheese melts (about 6-7 minutes). Enjoy and freeze the rest!
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