Monday, January 30, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti (Freezer Friendly)

This is comfort food.

Someone (Thanks Lauren!) brought this to our family after our second child was born, and that was the first time I've had this casserole. I'd seen the recipe in The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook, but hadn't been too motivated to try it until then. Now I use this simpler recipe, and I have it on my list of easy meals to bring to new moms in our Mom's Club or church group.

I hate buying green peppers off season (I feel like yelling in the produce section "You want HOW much for one of those peppers?!?"), so instead I walk to the frozen foods section and buy a bag of frozen diced onions and peppers. The texture isn't an issue after being baked, and I also get to save some chopping time.

Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti
recipe adapted from Money Saving Mom
Serves 4-6

8 oz spaghetti, cooked and drained
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced (Turkey works well here, too)
1 - 10.75 oz can cream soup (I used Cream of Mushroom)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated

Saute onions and peppers in a little oil. Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Cool and put a freezer bag and freeze flat.

When ready to use, thaw and place in a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until heated through.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chicken Gyros

This is what I've decided: Put anything on a pita and put tzatziki sauce on it, and I'll eat it. Actually, I'll eat the crap out of it, to the point so there isn't enough for leftovers the next day. Boo.

This recipe looks long, but it isn't complicated. I like to prep things ahead after lunch, so all I had to do at dinner was grill the chicken and warm up the pitas.

Chicken Gyros
recipe adapted from A Bitchin' Kitchen

For serving:
4 pitas or flatbreads, warmed (either in microwave or in foil in toaster oven)
Diced tomatoes
Diced red onion

For the chicken:
2 teaspoons garlic, minced (about 4 cloves)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano (I used a liberal dump of Cavender's)
A few shakes of salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves

Combine all of the above ingredients except for the chicken in a dish, and whisk together to make a marinade. Add in chicken, and turn to coat. Cover, and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to marinate. (My chicken ended up in the marinade for the whole afternoon - approx 5 hours)

Meanwhile, make the tzatziki sauce:
16 ounces non-fat Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, grated
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice to taste

Using a thick stack of paper towels, squeeze the diced cucumbers to remove as much water as possible. Repeat if necessary. In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers with all of the above ingredients. Cover, and place in the fridge.

After the chicken is done marinating, place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees, or grill for 16 minutes, depending on thickness. After your chicken is thoroughly cooked, allow it to rest for a few minutes, and then slice it into strips.

Assemble gyros with chicken, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, and red onions. Serve.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rice Pudding

I used up some leftover white rice from takeout one night...which normally there is not any leftover, because I think takeout white rice is straight crack.

My husband and son weren't a big fan, "Momma, next time, can I just have just the pudding without the chunks?" but if takeout white rice is crack, this is crack...with sugar on top! I inhaled it all in about 2 days. It's also great as a chaser to your coffee at breakfast, if you're so inclined.

Rice Pudding
adapted from

1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon, for topping

In a saucepan, combine cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk and beaten egg. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm. Sprinkle with cinnamon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sweet Mexican Corn Cake

This tastes just like the side dish from Chi-Chi's, a restaurant I had a major obsession with in my early years. I even had a birthday party lunch there after some rowdy bumper bowling when I was in the 4th grade. (Fried Ice Cream for birthday cake...what a great idea!) I was so sad when the chain closed, but recreating the dishes has been a great walk down memory lane.

This recipe also gave me another reason to use up some of my masa harina. I very rarely use that ingredient so I'm getting nervous it might go bad on me one day. The other two recipes I use it for are Homemade Corn Tortillas and Pioneer Woman's Simple Meaty Chili.

The recipe directs you to coarsely chop up the corn in a food processor, but I used a hand chopper - it wasn't perfect, but the side dish was still yummy and I didn't have to wash all those darn pieces from the food processor. I love to cook, but hate to wash dishes. My mom's phrase "But it's all part of cooking" just hasn't totally rubbed off on me.

Sweet Mexican Corn Cake
recipe from Chef In Training

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup Mexican corn flour (masa harina)
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium bowl beat butter until it is creamy. Add the Mexican corn flour and water and beat until well mixed.
Using a food processor, process thawed corn, but leave chunky. Stir into the butter mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt, and baking powder.

Add to corn flour mixture and stir to combine. Pour batter into an ungreased 8x8 inch baking pan. (I used a similarly sized oval pan) Smooth batter and cover with aluminum foil. Place pan into a 9x13 inch baking dish that is filled a third of the way with water.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven F (175 degrees C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spicy Peanut Chicken Freezer Meal

I am starting to cash in on my freezer meals, and it has been such a relaxing week (at least on the cooking front). In the morning I pulled out of the freezer this bag of Peanut Chicken, a bag of frozen cooked rice, and a bag of frozen broccoli florets. Easy peasy.

This recipe was a new one that I tried during my freezer cooking day, and it was such a hit at dinner that I am debating making a triple batch (three large meals) the next time I do a freezer cooking day. My four year old had three small-ish servings. THREE! It was shocking. He even used a piece of broccoli to wipe up some of the sauce...and he ATE it! To mothers of picky eaters everywhere, I felt like doing victory lap!

As for the spice level, I used 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and neither my husband or I could detect any heat. So I guess you could call my version "Not Spicy Peanut Chicken" but if your family is spice-sensitive you could always leave it out. I won't tell.

Spicy Peanut Chicken Freezer Meal
6 servings
recipe adapted from Don't Panic: More Dinner's in the Freezer

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Cut chicken into bite size pieces and saute in sesame oil until chicken is cooked through. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and red pepper and stir to combine. Simmer until sauce is smooth and thickened, about 15 minutes. Serve.
Freezer meal: After the dish has simmered for 15 minutes, remove from heat and let cool completely. Pour into a freezer bag and freeze.
To serve: Thaw. Pour into a large saucepan and heat until bubbly. Serve over rice topped with crushed peanuts.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Freezer Cooking Afternoon

My garage freezer - with emergency chocolate chip stash!
I decided to start doing more freezer cooking as my late afternoons are very hectic. I had a few meals in the freezer that I pulled out last week: my afternoons were calm, with no rushing around to whip up dinner.  My husband even commented that cleanup after dinner had been a breeze. So why not stock the freezer and have more simplified days?

I bought a 40 pound case of boneless skinless chicken breast from Zaycon foods. This was my first experience with them, overall I was pleased with the $1.69 per pound price, and the ease of picking up the the case. My pickup day was Saturday from 8-9 am , so I planned the rest of the day to be my cooking day.

The chicken comes in a "butterflied" piece with the two chicken breasts connected, so I had to spend some time cutting and trimming the pieces. This was not a big deal to me, since I cut all the pieces into 4 oz portions, so I knew I would have lots of cutting time.

Some of these recipes are in Creatively Domestic's Freezer Cooking ebook, so if you're interested, please check that out! It's available in Kindle, Nook, and Google ebook format, but you can download a Kindle reader for PC or for Mac  if you would like to read it on your computer.

This is not only what we will eat in the next month - I am planning to use two or three of these a week, so this will stretch my time (and money) investment.

So here's what I all got accomplished on my freezer cooking afternoon:

Plain Chicken Breasts - 8 meals
Chicken in marinade for the grill - 4 meals
Grilled chicken, fully cooked (for lunches & salads) - 4 meals

Chicken Parmesan - 2 meals

Citrus Teriyaki Chicken (new recipe from $5 Dinners) - 1 meal
Spicy Peanut Chicken (new recipe from Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer) - 1 meal

The day before I tacked a 10 pound bag of potatoes and made:

White Rice - 2 meals

Meals I planned for, but didn't get to:

Also, that morning while I was prepping the chicken I threw together a new slow cooker recipe for dinner: Slow Cooker Sweet Garlic BBQ Chicken from More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

It was a busy day but I got 25 main dishes & 10 side dishes in the freezer.  Thanks to everyone who sent recipes and well wishes! We are eatin' well in this house!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Flour Tortillas (gotta love YouTube!)

I have been trying new Flour Tortilla recipes, after it all got started by this recipe, and now this one from YouTube has become my favorite!

The recipe made 18 tortillas, and there were only two leftover after dinner. That means they were a hit!