Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Filling the Freezer

Happy New Year!   I've never been so productive on a Monday! Making good use of our winter break, I got down to business in the kitchen yesterday and set off to get most of my January cooking complete.  And I did! I not only was able to cook for my family, but my brother requested meatballs for 15 people for a trip he is taking next weekend, so I whipped up 80 meatballs as well!  I was pooped at the end of the day (and we ended up going out to dinner—how ironic) but I feel so accomplished and relaxed about the upcoming month! Usually when I do a large cooking day, I have Angela cooking beside me, but she is resting and enjoying being a new mommy now that her baby boy, Andrew, has arrived! Congrats to her and Ryan! With Angela busy, I took on this cooking day on my own!  From start to finish (and by finish, I mean kitchen and dishes all cleaned) it took me about 8 hours.  I did take mini breaks every so often!  It’s a long day, but totally worth it.  If you’re not into doing a whole day, pick a few meals and start small or with a friend.  You could always try our Crock Pot Wonders page and put together a few crock pot meals, which don’t require cooking on the day you prepare the meals for the freezer! 

freezer cooking meals

I made:
-Gravy and meatballs (3 bags for my family + enough to feed 15 25 year olds on a ski vacation)
-Breakfast Burritos (13)
-Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplins (2 bags to thaw and dump)
-Hot Roast beef and Cheese Sandwiches (12)
-Chili (3 lunch servings)
-Chili Cornbread Muffins (16)
-Chicken Pot Pies (7)
-Chicken Stir Fry
-Homemade Frozen Pizza (4 9” pizzas)

Here are some tips to help your cooking day go smoothly:

-Snag a babysitter! Harper was at my mother in law’s, which was great because while I love her help in the kitchen, it always takes a bit longer when she’s assisting.  I was able to focus totally on my cooking.

-Wear sneakers! I made the rookie mistake of starting barefoot…2 hours in I realized my mistake and put my sneaks on. 

-Turn up the jams! I’m so guilty of to Christmas music year round while I cook.  Monday I opted for the Salsa channel. 

-Reuse dishes as much as possible (makes for less cleanup).  For example: I cubed my potatoes and tossed them with oil and seasoned salt for breakfast burritos.  Once they were in the oven I used the same bowl to whisk the eggs for the burritos.  Two birds, one stone.

-Have a game plan. Even if it’s in your head and just an idea, it’s better than just winging it.  I started with my potatoes and sausage for my breakfast burritos, because I have to cook each component, but they need to be cooled completely for me to wrap and freeze.  By making them first, I could utilize the cooling time to start on my sauce and chili. 

All in all, not bad at all and I’m pretty pleased with how full my freezer is!  Below I’ve included all of the recipes I used and freezing and eating directions.  If you’d like your own planning and shopping list page, those can be found on our Meal Planning 101 page!  I hope you enjoy and venture in the kitchen soon!  We’d love hear about your freezer cooking day!

Stay full,

NeNe’s Gravy & Meatballs (aka Angela’s gravy)
{I multiplied this recipe, but as is it makes an ample amount for freezing!}

1 1/2 med onions, diced small
5-6 cloves garlic minced
Salt  1 1/2 tsp
Pepper 1 1/2 tsp
Garlic powder 1 1/2 tsp
Onion powder 1 1/2 tsp
Fresh basil about six or seven leaves ( pulled apart or diced up small) if not fresh, dried is ok, about 2 tsp
3 cans of tomato puree with basil ( I use tuttorosso) 28 oz
2 cans crused tomatoes in puree with basil 28 oz
1 can tomato paste 14oz or 2 ( 6oz cans) 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp sugar
2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 med onion (shredded over cheese grater into mixture)
3-4 cloves garlic shredded into mixture
Onion powder 1 tsp
Garlic powder 1 tsp
Dried basil 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp 
Pepper 1tsp
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs Italian style 
2 eggs
Directions for gravy:
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over med heat until onions are soft. Add tomato puree, just to wake it up a little about one minute. Then add your puree and crushed tomatoes. Mix it all well. Then add all your spices, cheese and sugar.  Will take about 45 min to heat through well. While that is cooking start your meatballs.
Meatballs directions:
Bring your meat to room temp. Add your shredded garlic and onions. Add all your spices, bread crumbs, eggs and cheese. Mix very well. If it seems to wet then add more bread crumbs. In a large pan, on med heat, warm some olive oil. Make your meatballs, about medium size, and then add them to your heated pan. Sear all your meatballs on both sides then add them into your gravy to finish cooking through.  Always taste the gravy to see if it needs more spices or sugar, I usually always add something else. Serve over pasta with bread for dipping and enjoy!

1.        Cook according to directions and allow to cool completely.
2.       Pour gravy into containers, label and freeze.

To eat:
Thaw completely and reheat in a saucepan on stove.  Enjoy!

Chicken and Dumplin’s
1 lb chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
1 small onion, diced {I use about a cup of frozen diced onion)
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 can of chicken broth
1 can refrigerated biscuit dough
Fresh parsley, chopped
1.  Place chicken breasts into crock pot, along with onion, cream of celery soup and broth.  Cook on low about 6 hours. 
2.  Remove chicken and using a fork shred the chicken and return it back to the crock pot.
3.  Break raw biscuits into pieces and place in crock pot until top layer is covered. Crank that bad boy up to high and cook biscuits for 30 minutes or until done. 
4.  Sprinkle on fresh parsley and enjoy!

Place all ingredients except for biscuit dough into a labeled freezer bag and freeze.

To eat:
Place contents of bag into crock pot and follow cooking directions as stated. Enjoy!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches, ala Pioneer Woman
12 whole Dinner Rolls Or Small Sandwich Buns (I Used Whole Wheat)
1 pound Thinly Shaved Roast Beef Or Ham (or Both!)
1 pound Cheese (Provolone, Swiss, Mozzarella, Even Cheez Whiz!)
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons Grated Onion (or 1 Tbsp Dried Onion Flakes))
1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds
1 Tablespoon Spicy Mustard
1 Tablespoon Horseradish Mayo Or Straight Prepared Horseradish
 Dash Of Worcestershire
 Optional Dressing Ingredients: Sriracha, Hot Sauce, Dried Onion Flakes Instead Of Fresh, Garlic Powder, Pepper, Etc.)

Slice rolls in half. Mix together mayo, grated onion, poppy seeds, spicy mustard, horseradish, and Worcestershire. Taste it and adjust ingredients however you wish.
To assemble, spread dressing on top and bottom buns. Lay on roast beef or ham, then one or two slices of cheese (I cut them to fit the small buns.) If you're using Cheez Whiz, spread a layer on the top bun.
Wrap each sandwich in a foil square, and either keep in the fridge or bake right away. To bake the sandwiches, put them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The buns should be slightly crusty and the cheese should be melted.

Assemble sandwiches and wrap tightly in foil.  Place in container or freezer bag. 

To eat:
Either thaw before, or from frozen bake sandwiches as directed in recipe.  If from frozen, make take a bit longer. 

Tip: These make a GREAT  Sunday Funday  snack!

Breakfast Burritos
(Makes 13-14 10” burritos)

1 dozen eggs
1 lb of your favorite breakfast meat, cooked
1 lb of potatoes, cubed
Seasoned Salt, to taste
Dash of Milk
2 TBSP Olive Oil
Spinach, onions and peppers, optional
Siracha, optional
Tortillas (13-14)

1.        Wash and cube potatoes.  Mix in bowl with olive oil and seasoned salt, to taste.  Place cubed potatoes on baking sheet.  (I line mine for easy clean up and spray with Pam first).Bake in preheated 400 oven for about 25 minutes.
2.       While potatoes are cooking, cook up your breakfast meat.  I used sausage and crumbled it as it cooked.  When finished, place in large bowl to cool. 
3.       In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs.  Add a dash of milk and salt and pepper.  Cook eggs in the same pan you used for the meat, stirring to create scrambled eggs.  When eggs are almost finished, add a handful of chopped baby spinach.  Remove from pan and add to large bowl with sausage to cool. 
4.       When potatoes are done, add to the large bowl and stir ingredients.  Allow all to cool.
5.       Lay tortilla flat in front of you.  Smear siracha on tortilla, then place a few spoonfuls (1/3 to ¼ cup) of breakfast mixture on tortilla. Wrap up like a burrito and repeat process.
6.       Wrap each burrito tightly in saran wrap and place in container or gallon bag.

Wrap tightly in saran wrap, place in bag and freeze.

To eat:
Thaw overnight and remove from saran wrap.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Enjoy!

Game Day Chili
{serves 6}
3 lbs ground beef
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
3 bell peppers, chopped (any colors)
2 medium to large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (can omit if you'd like to lower the heat level)
1 small can, chiptole in adobo
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 6oz can tomato sauce
3 tbsp chili powder (more to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

1. Heat large dutch oven and add beef.  Break apart as meat browns.
2. As meat browns, roughly chop bell peppers, onions, jalapeno and garlic.
3. Remove meat from dutch oven, draining off fat.  Add chopped veggies to hot Dutch oven and sauté until soft, about 5-6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Sprinkle seasonings over meat mixture and stir.
5. Add tomatoes, chipotle in adobo, tomato paste and tomato sauce to peppers and onions and stir to combine.  Allow to cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add meat and seasoning mixture back into dutch oven.  Stir to combine all ingredients.  Allow to cook together for 5-10 minutes.  Once meat is completely cooked through, taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.
7. Allow to simmer for as long as possible...chili only gets better as it sits!

Serve in deep bowls with shredded cheese, diced onion, and sour cream on top.

Extra notes:
*The chipotle in adobo adds a lot of spice, so if you're someone who doesn't like a lot of heat, I'd just add some of the sauce from the can and leave the jalapeno out.*
*If your chili needs more liquid, I add beer or beef stock*
*Want to stretch this further? Cook 1/2 lb small pasta (small penne works great) and add cooked pasta to chili mixture and stir to combine!*

Cook as directed, allow to cool completely and ladle chili into Tupperware containers and freeze!

To eat:
 Microwave or heat on stove. 

Chili Cornbread Muffins

2 tubes Grands CORNBREAD Biscuits
2 cups of chili
Shredded cheddar cheese

1.       Carefully pull apart a cornbread biscuit to create a pocket.  Fill pocket with chili (about a TBSP) and a bit of cheese.  Carefully pinch ends shut.  Continue process until all biscuits are filled.  Be sure not to over stuff…it’s very tempting!
2.       Place filled biscuits on baking sheet and bake according to package directions. 

Cool chili biscuits completely.  Wrap individually in saran wrap and place in contrainer or gallon bag.

To eat:
Thaw over night.  Microwave for 30 seconds, or until hot in.  Enjoy!

Chicken Stir Fry

Marinade Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1/8 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper (or more/less to taste)

Dinner ingredients:
1 lb. thinly sliced chicken strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 mini sweet peppers, thinly sliced (or 2 regular-sized bell peppers, thinly sliced)
2 scallions, sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces, white and green pieces separated
1 cup broccoli florets
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup jasmine rice, uncooked

1.       Chop veggies and place in large ziplock bag.  Add garlic and ginger.
2.       Place chicken strips in a smaller, separate ziplock bag.
3.       Add marinade ingredients to a separate small ziplock bag. 
4.       Place ziplock bags with marinade and chicken into large bag with veggies and seal.  Place in freezer.

To eat:
1.       Thaw overnight in fridge. 
2.       Cook jasmine rice according to directions.
3.       Combine marinade and chicken strips, set aside.
4.       Saute veggies in olive oil until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan.
5.       Remove chicken from marinade and cook in pan.  Reserve marinade.
6.       When chicken is done (5-7 minutes) add veggies and marinade to pan and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. 
7.       Serve over rice and enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie
For the filling:
-1 stick of butter
-8 TBS flour
-4 ribs of celery, diced
-1 medium to large onion, diced
-2 large carrots, diced
-1 16oz bag of frozen mixed veggies
-1 lb of chicken, cooked & shredded
-about 6-8 cups of chicken stock, heated 
-1tsp poultry seasoning
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

For the pastry: (
Ina Garten's recipe...NEVER fails)
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper
For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Cooking instructions:
1.        Make dough according to above directions.  Preheat oven to 375.
2.       Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan; add celery, onions, carrots, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and bay leaf.  Sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes
3.       Slowly add flour and whisk into butter/veggie mixture until incorporated.  Stirring constantly, cook mixture about one minute.  Continuing to whisk, slowly add in warm chicken stock to veggies. Stop and stir to combine occasionally, stopping when you get to the desired consistency for your filling (add more liquid if you like it soupy...add less if you like it more like a stew). 
4.       Let simmer, taste and season as needed.  Add chicken and about half of the bag of frozen veggies.  Feel free to add the whole bag, or a bag of just peas! It's totally up to your preference! 
5.       Turn off burner, ladle filling into tins and cover with dough (if eating right away). 
6.       Brush dough with egg wash, salt and pepper. Poke several holes into pastry dough to allow steam to escape.
7.        Bake in preheated oven (on a cookie sheet) at 375 for 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Follow directions up to number 5, but allow mixture to cool once in tins before putting on pastry dough. Brush with egg wash, salt and pepper, wrap tightly & label and pop into your freezer.

To eat:
Thaw overnight in fridge.
Remove foil, and poke several holes into pastry dough to allow steam to escape.
Place on baking sheet to catch and spills and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

Homemade Frozen Pizzas

 (double amounts to make 4 personal pizzas)
1 package active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 ½ cups flour
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 16oz can pizza sauce (we love Dom Pepino)
4 cups mozzarella cheese
1 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
½ cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce
Any additional toppings you like!

1.       Preheat oven and pizza stone to 450.
2.        Combine yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl and let stand until the yeast has bloomed and doubled in size (about 10-12 minutes).
3.       Stir in flour, salt and oil.  Stir until combined and smooth then let rest, about 8 minutes.
4.       On a floured surface, turn out dough and shape into a ball.  Cut ball into half (or quarters if you have doubled the recipe).  Take each piece of dough and roll out into a 9” round. 
5.       Poke holes in crust with a fork and bake each crust for 4-5 minutes and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

1.       Once crusts are cooled, grab a piece of cardboard, wrap it in foil and place your crust on it. 
2.       Create the pizza of your dreams!  Add sauce, cheese, toppings—whatever you’d like. 
3.       Wrap the whole thing tightly in saran wrap and freeze!

To eat:
Thaw in fridge.
Preheat oven to 450 and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly!

(Dough recipe from: www.allrecipes.com)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grandma Joan's Asparagus Patties!

These asparagus patties are a family favorite. My Grandma usually makes them but these days, I've been filling in.  They're a great appetizer for a holiday party or gathering because it's something different than a dip or bread. They're also freezer friendly so you can make a large batch in advance. Just defrost and microwave before serving!!

You could switch things up and swap out the asparagus for any of your favorite vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, or artichoke hearts would work just fine!

Gram's Asparagus Patties
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and chopped into pieces
6-8 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup locatelli cheese (or more)
Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Drop the chopped asparagus in and boil for ~15 minutes until soft and tender. Drain and let cool. Pour asparagus into a medium sized mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork until it looks like this:

Next, add the eggs, breadcrumbs, and cheese. Stir until well combined. If the mixture is too wet, add more cheese. If too dry, add another egg (I start with 6). It should look like this:

Heat a large nonstick skillet or electric skillet and cover the bottom with oil. Drop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into the skillet at a time like this:

Brown both sides - about 3 minutes a side and place on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temp!

To freeze: Place in a freezer safe bag and store in freezer. 

To defrost: Place in the refrigerator overnight and microwave until warmed through before serving. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snow Day Snack: BBQ Pork Pizza

It's snowing in South Jersey!!  Wahoo!  I was set to make a big pot of soup this morning but someone (Ahem, Frank) ate all the celery and carrots.  I guess I'm married to a rabbit?  So I improvised and came up with this yummy pizza with the odd mix of ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry.  Guess what?  It turned out delish so I'm sharing with you today.

Before I get to the recipe, the most important thing is that I got to use my Penguin measuring cups...

BBQ Pork Pizza
If you've made pulled pork and have a ton a leftovers, which I usually do, this is a great way to get two meals for the price of one!

pizza dough - you could use homemade, frozen, or from the tube - I used Pillsbury dough from the tube!
2 cups leftover pulled pork (I made pulled pork in the slow cooker this week)
1 1/2 cups good shredded melting cheese like cheddar, Monteray Jack, or mozzarella - I used cheddar
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce - I used Jack Daniels but we LOVE Sweet Baby Ray's
1 cup caramelized onions*
3-4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled

*Saute onions in butter with 1/4 cup of sugar until brown

Spread the dough on a greased baking sheet and stretch to reach all sides.  Spread barbecue sauce in an even layer on top of dough.  Layer pulled pork, onions, and bacon on top of sauce.  Sprinkle the top with cheese.  Bake at 425 for 9-13 minutes until crust is golden brown and toppings are melted and warm.

Before the oven...

After the oven...

Happy Snow Day!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Make This Tonight: Tuna Marinara

If you're anything like me you're forgetful, lazy, prone to procrastination... you get where I'm going with this.  So it's no surprise that I forgot to defrost something for dinner tonight.  Happens at least once (or twice, maybe three times) a week!  No problem!  I have a delicious hearty pasta meal on standby with the help of my stocked pantry.  Hopefully yours is more organized than mine:

Here are some pantry staples I have on hands for nights like these:

  • Canned beans - (tonight I'll be using Cannellini beans)
  • Crushed tomatoes and mostly ALL canned tomato products from diced, pureed, plum, crushed, etc. 
  • Jarred artichoke hearts in water - I buy these in bulk and use them for salads and pasta dishes
  • Canned or jarred tuna in water or olive oil
  • Anchovies - They add a ton of flavor
  • Frozen veggies - OK so these aren't a pantry staple but they're a freezer staple in my house
  • Pasta - duh

This is a real "grease-ball" dish as my Mom would say.  Super Italian and yummy.  I like it because it's not just a starchy high carb meal.  It combines lots of protein and veggies making it a complete meal.  I usually make this meal without the artichoke hearts but I love them and had them on hand.  It would be perfectly fine without them.  

Tuna Marinara (my take)
1 lb spiral or ridged pasta like Rigatoni Rigate or Fusilli 
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can tuna drained - any kind you like
2-3 anchovies and a small amount of their oil
1/2 cup jarred artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp olive oil

Heat olive oil at the bottom of a small sauce pan.  Add garlic, anchovies and anchovy oil, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until fragrant.  Add tuna and cook ~ 2 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.  In the last 5 minutes of cooking time add artichoke hearts, frozen peas, and beans to the marinara sauce.  Cook until heated through.  Add sauce to pasta and toss until coated.  

Your Favorite "Grease-Ball",

Meg Loc <3

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Angela's Baby Shower!

Ahoy! It's a boy!

We are so excited to celebrate the anticipated arrival of Angela's little boy!  Two weeks ago we threw her a very nautical baby shower.  A great time was had by all.  It just warms my heart to see Angela's belly grow so big! Her little man is due at the beginning of next year and I just can't wait to snuggle and spoil him!  Here are some pictures and recipes from the shower.  We hope you enjoy!

{Angela's amazing cake!}

{Nautical Center Pieces & Favors}

{Her invitations}

{Mom & Dad's special chairs}

{Beautiful Mommy-to-be sipping some water}

{The new parents arrive}

Mom-Mom's Grand kid Approved Chicken Fingers
1 lb chicken breast, cut into strips
4 cups Corn Flakes, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of flour
salt and pepper
dipping sauces of your choice!

Preheat oven to 350
1. Cut chicken into strips, season with S & P.
2. Smash corn flakes.
3. Set up breading station: one tray of flour, one of egg and one of corn flakes.
4. Bread the chicken strips: flour, egg, corn flakes and place onto a plate.
5. Arrange strips onto a baking rack over a baking sheet.
6. Cook for about 8-10 minutes a side, depending on the size, flipping half way through.
7. Dip, dunk and eat!

To FREEZE: Complete up to step four.  Flash freeze strips and then place into bag or container.

To EAT: Thaw.  Bake as directed OR fry for extra crispiness!

The Real Deal Mac & Cheese
2 lbs macaroni, cooked and drained
2 eggs, whisked
4 TBSP butter, sliced
24 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
(the more cheese, the better)
whole milk

Preheat oven to 400
1. Cook pasta to al dente; drain and rinse with cool water.
2. Mix pasta with eggs and butter.
3. Mix shredded cheese together in a separate bowl.
4. Assemble the mac & cheese:  a thin layer of pasta, a thick layer of cheese and repeat.
5. Add whole milk (just slightly less than covering the pasta).
6. Bake, keeping an eye on the top layer.  Once that has browned, cover with foil and bake until milk evaporates.
7. Enjoy while HOT!

Stay full!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chili Cook Off Part 1: Chili Verde

I am so excited to share this recipe with you! It is one of my all time favorites--so different, yet so yummy.  If all chili were as delicious as this, I'd be a chili freak like my husband.

This recipe calls for pork, which I LOVE! I always get whatever is on manager's special or on sale at the market that week...this time I happened to get bone-on thin chops.  I don't even bother to take the meat off the bone--I just let it cook low and slow and the meat will just fall off! Remove the bones before serving! What I think was even better about the recipe this time was that I made it in the crock pot! I have adapted the original recipe slightly and I know it's one that I will continue to make for years! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Chili Verde
{serves 6-8}
2 lbs pork
1 cup onion, chopped
16 oz chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp celery salt
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/2 tsp oregano
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP jalapeno
4 TBSP chopped cilantro
1/2 TBSP chili powder
10 oz green enchilada sauce
21 oz canned green chiles (chopped or diced)
1 16 oz jar of salsa Verde
salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown pork in large pot; remove from pot.  Add onion, saute for 2 minutes.
2. Add chicken broth and simmer for 1 hour (stir so meat does not stick to bottom).
3. Add spices and cornstarch; simmer for additional hour (keep stirring).
4. Add enchilada sauce, chiles and salsa.  Simmer for 45 minutes.
5. Remove pork bones and serve hot! ENJOY!

Crock Pot Instructions:
1. Line Crock Pot with liner.
2. Brown pork in pan and add to crock pot.
3. Saute onions for 3-5 minutes and add to crock pot.
4. Add chicken broth and cover; cook on low for 3 hours.
5. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 2 more hours on low heat.
6. Remove bones and enjoy!

(original recipe: Favorite Family Recipes 2012)

1. Make chili verde according to directions above.
2. Allow to cool completely, divide into gallon freezer bags.
3. Label and freeze.

1. Thaw completely.
2. Reheat over low heat in a sauce pan on stove, stirring often.

Stay full!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Freezer Friendly Chili Cook-Off!

When the temps start to drop, I can't think of a better place to be than my kitchen.  Ok, so maybe I'd rather be on a plane to Mexico, in a cozy ski chalet, or snuggled up in my bed - but you know what I mean ;).

                 Ah, my happy place!

The perfect one pot meal for cooler Fall days has to be chili.  I'm actually not a fan of the traditional tomato/beef based version, but I love twists on the classic recipe.  So Meg Lopez, Angela, and I decided to have a chili cook-off, testing out a few non-traditional chili recipes and tweaking them as we go.  Here's what we have cooking for the week ahead:

Chili Verde - Meg Lopez's BEST freezer meal to date ;)

Turkey and White Bean Chili - Angela will be testing this one.

Italian Chili - I'll attempt this one using a mix of sausage, beef, and peppers.

We'll be making them this week for our families so stay tuned for pics, recipes, and, of course, freezing guidelines.  What's your favorite chili recipe?  How do you like to eat your chili?  Here are some of our favorite things to do with chili:
  • Dice potatoes into small chunks and roast with salt and pepper.  Once browned and crispy, place them at the bottom of your bowl and top with a few spoonfuls of chunky chili. 
  • Make baked potatoes for dinner and top with hearty chili.  It's a meal that will stick to your ribs. 
  • An easy freezer meal and delicious casserole, try a corn bread chili bake.
  • No time?  Try your chili in the slow cooker. 
In case you're a fan of traditional chili, here's a recipe you'll want to try.  

Angela’s Classic Chili 
 Serves 4-6 
Slow cook- 4 hours on HIGH or on 6 hours on LOW 

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef 
2 small onions, finely chopped 
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped 
3 cloves chopped garlic 
2 cans (15.5 oz) kidney beans, drained 
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes 
1 can (8oz) no salt added tomato sauce 
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock or broth
3 tablespoons chili powder 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
 ½ teaspoon salt 1

Combine beef, onions, pepper, garlic, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth or stock, 2 TBS of chili powder, ½ tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp oregano all in the slow cooker. Cover the cooker and cook on HIGH for 4 hours and LOW for 6 hours. 2. After cooked for the desired time, stir in remaining 1 TBS chili powder, ½ tsp ground chili powder, ½ tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp dried oregano and ½ tsp salt. Serve Warm and Enjoy!!! You can always substitute lean ground beef for ground turkey or chicken and small white beans (navy beans) for kidney beans. It tastes great either way!

To Freeze:
Cool chili completely and ladle into freezer safe plastic bags and seal.  Lay flat and place in freezer.

To Reheat:
Defrost in the refrigerator overnight (sometimes can take 24 hours).  Reheat on the stove top in a sauce pan or in the microwave.  Heat until until boiling and chili has reached 165 degrees. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Warming Up with Chicken Soup

We have been so busy these past few weeks…my dad was up from Florida, my cousins were up from North Carolina (who we haven’t seen in years), and we are trying to fill our days with fun Fall activities like pumpkin picking, hayrides and parades!

Today we decided to take Harper to our town’s Oktoberfest at the local park.  Hayrides, games, food and Harper’s personal favorite: pumpkin painting!  She carries her pumpkins and gourds around the house like a prize! I made a yummy breakfast and knew I didn't want to cook for the rest of the day—just family fun time, so I took out my crock pot and some leftover chicken soup from the freezer.  I put the soup in my crock pot (using a liner, of course!) on high and at the last minute I added some dumplings and let them cook up.  DELISH.  My family would eat chicken pot pies until they were blue in the face, but my loyalty is to chicken and dumplings (right, dad?).  

This recipe is different than the other recipes we've used in the past.  While the other recipe is super quick and delish, it uses canned soup, broth and biscuits.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that easy convenience and it’s certainly yummy to eat, but once in a while you just need a home cooked meal from scratch.   This recipe certainly delivers there!  I made the stock from chicken and veggies from our local Amish Market and the dumplings are an easy mixture of pantry staples.   Don’t be scared of making stock…it’s time consuming for sure, but SO SIMPLE.  And really cost effective.  Plus, you get to control the ingredients and seasonings to fit your family’s needs--I go low salt for Joe’s high blood pressure.  I don’t use the chicken from my stock making in my soup.  I find that it just gets way too dry and chalky.  I prefer to bake bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the oven (seasoned with a little salt and pepper) and dice that when cooled.  It may seem wasteful, but no one wants to eat dry chicken! But to be a bit more frugal, I will save my chicken bones from oven roasters and make stock using two of them.

Homemade Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken
2 onions, halved
4 stalks of celery
3 carrots (or 1c small carrots)
A few cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
Pot herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage)
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp whole peppercorns
Salt & pepper to taste

1.       Add all ingredients into a large stock pot.  (I add the insides of the chicken, just make sure to remove them from any bags or wrapping they may be in).
2.       Cover the ingredients by 1 inch with cold water. (No more or it will dilute the flavor.)
3.       Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 6 hours.
4.       Drain stock into a large bowl or pot using cheese cloth (or a clean dish towel works, too).
5.       **Now the stock is ready to be used in a soup OR can be cooled and frozen at this point.**

      To FREEZE: Allow to cool and store in containers.
To EAT: Thaw, reheat slowly over low heat in saucepan. 

Homemade Chicken Soup
Chicken Stock (about 2 quarts*)
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 cup pasta, uncooked
Salt and pepper to taste

1.       Heat oil in a large pot.  Add diced carrots, followed by diced celery and onion.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  
2.       Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
3.       Add pasta and cook according to package. *Add more stock if the pasta absorbs more broth than you’d like.
4.       Add diced chicken. 
5.       Serve and enjoy!

To FREEZE: Allow to cool and store in containers.
To EAT: Thaw, reheat slowly over low heat in saucepan. 

**Special note: When I make a large batch of soup and plan to use some for Chicken and Dumplings I will cook the pasta in a separate pot of water.  I will add the pasta to my bowl and then ladle the soup on top.  I prefer my chicken and dumplings to not have pasta. You can also do this to prevent the pasta from absorbing the chicken broth in the soup. **


Homemade Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken Soup (without the pasta)
2 c. Flour
1 tsp parsley
Salt & pepper
¼ c Ice water + more as needed

1.       Heat the soup until simmering.
2.       In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, pepper and parsley.  Add water a bit at a time and stir.  Should be sticky. (Add more water or don’t as needed.)
3.       Drop spoonfuls of dough into simmering soup.  Allow to simmer for 25 minutes until cooked through. 
4.       Serve warm and enjoy!
{I think it gets better on the second day after the dumplings have more time to soak up the broth!}

To FREEZE: Allow to cool and store in containers.
To EAT: Thaw, reheat slowly over low heat in saucepan. 

What keeps you warm on a cold day?

Stay full!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pumpkinpalooza: Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week’s recipe is a special request from my two year old niece! She was not feeling herself from a bad virus that had swept thru her daycare, so as a special treat she wanted cookies. Being the great aunt that I am, I went into the kitchen and whipped up a very simple recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies to put a smile on her face!!!

These simple, moist and delicious cookies are a perfect fall treat for bake sale, holiday party or any fall day event like pumpkin carving! I love adding pumpkin to any ordinary recipe; you would be surprised how one ingredient can transform your food into something extraordinary!  So take the kids, get into the kitchen and bake up some smiles this fall season!

Cook with love,

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
·         1 cup canned pumpkin
·         1 egg
·         1/2 cup vegetable oil
·         1 cup white sugar
·         2 1/2 cups flour
·         2 tsp baking powder
·         1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
·         1/2 tsp salt
·         1 tsp baking soda
·         1 tbsp milk
·         1 TB vanilla
·         1 12oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1.    Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir into the wet ingredients. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir for about one minute.
2.    Add vanilla and chocolate chips and stir until combined.

3.    Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop cookies on by the spoonful. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes
Recipe adapted from iheartnaps.com
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies