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
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday Night Dinner at the Tank's!

I have a few items that I keep in my pantry no matter what. They're a little different than the normal pantry staples, but you just never know when you'll be inspired to create something new for dinner.  I'm back on a cooking kick (somewhere my husband is doing his happy dance) and I looked to my two most favorite pantry items for tonight's dinner:

Chipotle in Adobo
Ranch dip mix packets

Some of my favorite recipes with these babies:
Veggie Dip
Spicy Beef
Chipotle Pork Chops
Ranch Potatoes

I decided to combine the two and create baked Chipotle Ranch Chicken.  I'll also be using these two ingredients to make Chipotle Ranch chicken taquitos for my October freezer meal ;), so stay tuned!

Chipotle Ranch Chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
2 tbsp ranch dip mix
1-2 canned chipotles in adobo, diced with their sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 -2 tsp olive oil

For the topping:
1 tbsp chipotle seasoning mix (I use this version that I found at my local supermarket)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded cheese - I used a reduced fat Mexican blend

Combine dip mix, chipotles, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Drizzle mixture over chicken breasts and cover well.  Lay chicken on a baking sheet (I sprayed it with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking).  In a small bowl mix ingredients for the topping.  Using your hands press breadcrumb mixture on top of each breast.  Bake in the oven at 350 until chicken is cooked through and topping is browned lightly.  I served my chicken with buffalo flavored rice and green beans!

Ready for the oven! 

To freeze:
Coat chicken breasts in chipotle ranch mixture and place into freezer safe bags.  You could also chunk the chicken and freeze, instead of using cutlets.  I would use the chunked chicken to serve over rice with black beans and corn!

To reheat:
Thaw chicken overnight in the fridge and follow recipe above for cooking instructions.  If using chunked chicken, pan saute or grill.   

Stay healthy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One Pot (Pasta) Wonders

So apparently I missed the boat.

 I've been making pasta all wrong--who knew! So me, Meghan, lover of freezer cooking, being lazy and leaving the dishes for later had no idea that amazing dishes existed where you cook the pasta IN THE SAME POT as everything else.  This means less dishes, less cleaning and less mess.  Now we're cooking with peanut oil, as Phil would say.

And the funny part is I learned of each recipe almost at the same time.  It was like the cooking gods were smiling upon me recently.  So here are the recipes, one from Andrea (shocker, I know!), one from Angela and one from

Beef Goulash
{serves 8}
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds ground beef
2 large onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat in the oil about 10 minutes, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks. Add the onion; cook and stir for 5 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients except the macaroni. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. (Add water if it looks a bit thick.) Stir in the macaroni; simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Let the goulash stand for 20 minutes before serving.
original recipe by Bobby Deen

To freeze:
Make as directed and cool completely.  Spoon goulash into labeled containers and freeze.

To eat:
Thaw over night in refrigerator.  Heat in saucepan over low/med-low heat, stirring often. 

Andrea's One Pot Pasta Dinner
2 jars sauce
1/2lb ground beef
1/2 box pasta, broken into pieces
cheese to top

1. Brown meat and drain excess fat.
2. Add sauce and bring to simmer.
3. Add pasta, stirring so it doesn't stick.  
4.  Cook about 20 mins.
5. Cover with cheese, put a lid on to melt and serve!

Yup, that easy.

Cheesy Pasta with Sausage

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb smoked sausage
1.5 cups diced onion (frozen chopped are awesome!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles, Mild
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz penne pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, each
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

1. Add olive oil to an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add sausage and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with scallions. Broil until cheese is melted, spotty brown, and bubbly.

Enjoy these quick weeknight dinners! 
Stay full,