Saturday, February 22, 2014

30 Gluten-Free Crock Pot Meals that Won't Break the Bank

In honor of my dad, this round of crock potting is gluten-free. Over the summer my dad was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and when I found out, I cringed for him. My dad, like me, loves food - all kinds of food but especially pastas, pizzas, bread. How on earth could we take out so many delicious foods that fall under the category of "gluten" and still be satisfied? Apparently it's not as hard as I thought.

These recipes are REALLY good, completely satisfying, super easy, and very affordable. I did 30 meals for $168 (this includes a strainer I needed plus disposable trays for the two freezer meals). Keep in mind these recipes are NOT Paleo or AIP. They are simply GLUTEN FREE. That also doesn't mean fat-free or calorie-free. Sorry, folks! ;)

You also won't find any cream of whatchamacallit or seasoning packets. Not because I'm completely opposed to them (though I do know they are highly processed and not good for us), but because most, if not all of them contain gluten. Yeah, I know gluten is in everything. So always check your seasonings!

Okay, let's get started...

2 Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin
2 BBQ Pulled Pork
2 Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
2 Quinoa Chili
2 Mango Salsa Chicken
2 Mexican Chicken with Corn & Beans
2 Teriyaki Chicken
2 Creamy Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage
2 Spaghetti Sauce
2 Tater Tot Casserole
2 Bacon Potato Soup
2 Coconut Curry Chicken
2 Creamy Tomato Chicken
2 BBQ Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders
1 Montreal Pork Shoulder
1 BBQ Chicken


Meat -
3 three-lb. bags of chicken breasts
1 3 lb. bag of chicken tenderloins
1 8 lb. Pork Loin (this will be cut into fourths)
1 Pork Shoulder
2 Packages of Bacon
4 lbs. of ground Italian sausage (I used mild but you could also do sweet or hot)
3 lbs. of ground beef

Sauces & Seasoning -
5 bottles of BBQ Sauce
2 bottles of honey mustard
4 49 oz. cans of chicken broth
1 container of curry powder
1 bottle of GLUTEN-FREE soy or teriyaki sauce

Dairy -
10 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
2 pints of heavy cream
1 small bag of shredded cheese of your choice

Produce -
4 large sweet potatoes
2 Green Peppers

Refrigerator -
1 tub mango salsa
1 tub medium salsa

Freezer -
1 large bag of broccoli florets
2 bags of tater tots
1 bag of hash browns

Canned Goods -
4 cans black beans
2 cans kidney beans
5 cans of corn
6 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 cans of diced tomatoes
4 small cans of tomato paste
2 cans coconut milk

Bulk Goods -
1.75 lbs. of quinoa (approx.)

Other -
4 packages of corn tortillas (to freeze)
2-pack disposable cooking trays with lids
1 Strainer (if you don't have one, you'll need it for the quinoa)
1 box of gallon-sized plastic bags

Seasonings I had at home -
Smokey Mesquite BBQ Seasoning (any BBQ seasoning will work)
Red Pepper Flakes
Chile Powder
Fresh Garlic
Montreal Steak Seasoning
Brown Sugar

When you get home, unload everything and leave it on the counter. Wash the peppers, peel the sweet potatoes, cook the ground sausage and beef (separately), and start opening cans. There are a lot of cans to be opened. If you have an electric can opener, use it. If you don't enlist your husband like I did. :) Get out your plastic bags and start labeling with a permanent marker.
See? Lots of cans!
After that...start dumping!


Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin (make 2 of these) -
Cut 1/4 of the 8 lb. pork loin
Rub the loin with 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar and 1 Tbsp. of Smokey Mesquite BBQ seasoning
Wrap the seasoning loin with half a package of bacon
Add half a cup of broth for cooking

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: Yum.

BBQ Pulled Pork (make 2 of these) -
Cut 1/4 of the 8 lb. pork loin
Add 1 bottle of BBQ sauce

8 hours on low, 4 on high
**Shred when done
Update: Yum.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup (make 2 of these) -
1/2 can of broth
1 package of cream cheese
2 sweet potatoes (peeled and cut in bite-sized pieces)
1 tsp. Pepper
Salt to taste

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: Not my favorite.

Quinoa Chili (make two of these) -
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 Tbsp. brown supger
1 tsp. chile powder
1/2 (approx. .75 lbs. uncooked and RINSED quinoa) **Be sure you rinse it well! If you don't, I hope you enjoy eating sand. Also, rinse your beans.

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: Yum.

Mango Salsa Chicken (make two of these) -
1/2 tub Mango Salsa
1/2 tub Medium Salsa
1 package cream cheese
3-4 Chicken breasts

8 hours on low, 4 on high
**Shred and serve on corn tortillas or corn chips
Update: Yum.

Mexican Chicken with Corn & Beans (make two of these) -
1 can corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 package cream cheese
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. chile powder

8 hours on low, 4 on high
**Shred and serve on corn tortillas or corn chips
Update: Yum.

Teriyaki Chicken (make 2 of these) -
1/2 bottle of GLUTEN FREE Teriyaki Sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove minced garlic

8 hours on low, 4 on high
**add veggies towards the end of cooking, serve over rice
Update: Yum. A husband favorite.

Creamy Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage -
1 lb. cooked ground Italian sausage
1/2 can of chicken broth
1 package of cream cheese
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried Basil
2 minced cloves of garlic

8 hours on low, 4 on high
**Serve over gluten-free noodles, veggie noodles, or spaghetti squash
Update: Yum.

Spaghetti Sauce (make 2 of these) -
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 lb. cooked Italian sausage
1 tsp. Basil
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

8 hours on low, 4 on high
**Serve over gluten-free noodles, veggie, noodles, or spaghetti squash
Update: Yum.

Tater Tot Casserole (split into two) -
Add 1 package of cream cheese to the cooked ground beef (3 lbs.)
Let it melt
Add 2 tsp. of Montreal Steak Seasoning, mix well
Split the beef between the two disposable trays
Add a layer of tater tots
Top with shredded cheese

Cook in the oven for about 1 hour at 375 degrees.
Update: Kids love this.

Bacon Potato Soup (make 2 of these) -
1 pint of heavy cream
1/2 bag of hash browns
1/2 can of broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 cloves of minced garlic

In a separate bag freeze half a package of uncooked bacon. Cook 8 hours on low, 4 on high. Before serving, cook the bacon, crumble it, then sprinkle it on top with cheese, sour cream, and scallions.
Update: Yum. Maci's favorite.

Coconut Curry Chicken (make 2 of these) -
In a blender, add:
2 cans coconut milk
2 green peppers
2 Tbsp. curry powder
2 cans tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic

In two bags, place 3-4 chicken breasts and pour 1/2 of the blended mixer in each bag. 8 hours on low, 4 on high.
**Serve over rice
Update: Some people love this. I realized I don't like curry though.

Creamy Tomato Chicken (make 2 of these) -
3-4 Chicken Breasts
1/2 a package of cream cheese
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 clove of minced garlic
1 tsp. Basil
(salt and pepper to taste)

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: This was pretty good, though not a favorite.

2 BBQ Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders (make 2 of these) -
1/2 bag of chicken tenders
1 bottle BBQ sauce
1 bottle honey mustard

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: Yum. Don't over cook. BBQ Sauce burns.

Montreal Pork Shoulder (make 1 of these) -
1 pork shoulder
2 tsp. Montreal Steak seasoning (approx.)
1 cup chicken broth

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: Yum.

BBQ Chicken (make 1 of these) -
3-4 chicken breasts
1 bottle of BBQ sauce

8 hours on low, 4 on high
Update: Yum. Don't overcook, BBQ sauce burns.

If you choose to serve any of the sauces with spaghetti squash, be sure to place the spaghetti squash in the crock pot and cook it with the sauce. It's the easiest way to cook those things. When the sauce is done, the squash will also be. I also really want one of these so I can make zucchini noodles. Yum! Yum!

So there you have it. 30 gluten-free meals for $168. That's $5.60 per meal to feed your whole family! Who said being gluten free had to be expensive?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

PF Chang's Copy Cat Recipe: Lettuce Wraps

I love PF Chang's lettuce wraps and made my own copy cat version of them last night and they turned out great. Even my kids couldn't stop eating them which is always a bonus. And guess what, they took less than 10 minutes. For realz.

Here's what you do:
Get 2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cut (you remember this? Well, I also had cooked and froze shredded, which I brought out and thawed that day.)

In a medium pan, heat 3 drizzles of olive oil (or sesame oil) with 3 cloves of minced garlic.

Add about 1 cup of teriyaki sauce, 2 Tbsp. of Rice Vinegar, and 3 Tbsp. of brown sugar. Once the sauce is combined and heated, add the chicken and a Tbsp. of sesame seeds.

Last, take one head of iceberg lettuce and cut in half to use as the wrap.

We served ours with a side of sticky, sweet and brown rice (made in the rice cooker, of course) and a salad with mandarin oranges and toasted sesame dressing. It was tasty!

How Do You Keep Your House So Clean?

I get asked this question a lot. I'll admit, I love a clean house and I have a pretty high standard of clean. I'm also not uptight about messes (despite what many people think). I know the difference between messy and dirty. I don't mind messy, I mind dirty. I figure as long as the floors are clean underneath the toys, the laundry, and the cheerios, all is well. Plus Maci and I suffer from allergies and asthma, and I know dirt and dust can aggravate those things tremendously. So I guess cleaning is one of my forms of preventative medicine. (ha. ha!)

So to answer the aforementioned question, how do I keep my house so clean? Here are my tips and tricks.

1. The more you clean, the less you clean. No really. If you clean your bathrooms well every week, you spend less time scrubbing as the weeks go by because there is less build up which means less heavy duty cleaning to be done. Trust me. Even dusting isn't much of a task because I dust once a week (not a lot of dust accumulates over a week).

2. Let your kids do projects that will make it get messy. This could buy time for you to clean a different area of the house (i.e. wipe downs the cabinets in the kitchen, dishes, vacuum, or, my usual go to when they're painting or doing some other sensory activity on the floor, MOPPING).

Here are prime examples. While I let my kids play with bubbles in the sink (above) I was able to wipe down cabinets and finish before they were done. While they played with shaving cream in a box (below) I mopped the rest of the floors before coming back over to play with them, rinse them in the sink, then wipe up the area where they were playing.

3. Teach your kids to help. My kids are 3 and 1 and already have an interest in cleaning. I give them wet rags to help me mop up the floor or tables. Maci loves to help me dust and Isaiah loves to help me vacuum (the extension is so cool to him). Sometimes it makes things go slower but they're learning a very important skill and having fun while they're doing it. Their future spouses will thank me later!

4. Get rid of stuff. If the kids don't play with it, pack it up and move it out. I'm sure they have plenty of toys anyway. If you don't wear it, let someone else. If it doesn't fit, don't wait for it to. Buy yourself something new when you drop those extra pounds. Extra stuff is just that: extra! Which leads to extra clutter, extra dust, extra washing, extra organizing, extra things to put away. Do you honestly have time for all that extra? Probably not. Donate it! I purge 2-4 times a year. Yes, really.

5. Last, and this is the big one. Keep a cleaning schedule! And make sure it's a realistic one. I've seen countless cleaning schedules that are simply impractical (and that's coming from someone who has a pretty high standard of clean). Sorry, but I'm not going to clean my windows inside and out every week. Not when there's dried smoothie on the ceiling and half of that morning's meal still on the floor. I like clean but I'm also realistic. Here's the schedule I follow:

This schedule originated from one I found on Pinterest and switched up a little to make it work for me. Mondays are bathrooms and we have 3. This always feels like the biggest chore day of the week so it tends to be our "home" day, which is simply a day where we hang out at home. The kids relax from the busy-ness of life and rediscover the toys they haven't had time to play with all week and I can clean all the bathrooms, which somehow makes me feel like my whole house it put back together. :)

The other chores throughout the week don't take as much time and I usually do them in the morning or after naps. I rarely clean during naps - I want to relax too! As for laundry, I try to stay caught up by putting a load in every morning but usually I'll end up doing 2-3 loads in a day twice each week. I wash and dry it throughout the day and save the folding for after the kids go to bed. I actually enjoy it because my hands are busy so it's a great time for me to talk to God, reflect on the day, chat with my husband, or watch one of our shows without being able to pick up the ever-buzzing and beeping smart phone.

The deep cleaning chores at the bottom are more for "when I get around to it." I can't guarantee I'll get to them every week or even every month. That'll just set me up to get behind. What I did is print out this schedule and I have it framed and hanging next to our desk in the kitchen, with dry erase marker I write the date of the last time I did the deep cleaning chore.

Another thing that's great about the cleaning schedule is that it allows my husband to see what needs to be done that day. He appreciates the cleanliness of our home but he doesn't always initiate the first scrub. This chart helps him help me out, and when he cleans that makes me happy. Happy wife, happy life, right?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Crock Pot Roast Beef Au Jus

This week the crock pot meal of the week is Roast Beef Au Jus sandwiches. They were from my freezer meals in December and they turned out REALLY good and they weren't something you'd expect from a crock pot.

Here's what you need:
1 package roast beef
2 cups water
1 packet au jus seasoning

Cook on low for 2-3 hours (really just to heat up the sauce). I also added 4 sliced mini bell peppers the last hour. When the time is up, place meat on toasted hoagies, top with cheese and a side for dipping. Isaiah loved these and cried for them the next day. There's nothing like hearing your 3 year old saying "roast beef au jus."

Slow Cooker Liners - A MUST HAVE!

I'd always heard those magical things existed...slow cooker liners that you put in your crock pot to make clean up a breeze. For some reason I could never find them or I never had the desire to look hard enough. The truth is they aren't hard to find at all, they just get hidden amongst the many different sizes of Ziploc bags.

I bought 4 boxes of 4 at Target for $1.79 each (I think).

Clean up was seriously this easy. I don't think I've ever cleaned the kitchen so fast. If you don't have these, get some! They are the best...almost as good as the crock pot itself.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Leftover Night

I never quite understand why people say they don't like leftovers. I didn't realize those people existed until I became a mom. I hear it all the time, "I don't like eating leftovers." "My husband won't eat the same thing twice in one week." "My kids think it tastes like old." Shocking, I know. It's a conspiracy.

We love leftovers. As a matter of fact, I actually reserve one night a week for leftovers. My husband loves to take them work for lunch but I, even more than that, love to use them to help me make another meal. I'm convinced most people just don't know what to do with their leftovers so allow me to break it down for you. (Or just give you some examples.)

On Tuesday of last week I made crock pot Italian Sausage and Peppers over bow tie pasta. It's one of our favorites. But even I don't want to have that for dinner Tuesday and lunch on Wednesday and Thursday. Instead I made this:

Italian Sausage, Peppers, & Broccoli Egg Scramble

I ate this for breakfast twice. Heat up the sausage and peppers, scramble a couple of eggs, broccoli, add the sausage and peppers, and add cheese. Voila! Fancy breakfast in no time.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

What kid doesn't like Mac & Cheese? I made this for lunch with the leftover bow tie pasta from Tuesday night. Simply heat up the noodles in a pot with 1/4 c butter and 1/4 c milk. Add 1-2 handfuls of shredded cheddar and Colby Jack. Add salt and pepper to taste. Done. And guess what? You didn't have to even cook noodles.

On Thursday night I made a Balsamic Pork Roast. Really yummy. I love roasts but I love them even more because of the leftover meat. Usually I'll turn it into pulled pork sandwiches but on Friday I made this:

Shredded Pork Tostadas

Simply heat up the pork with a little cumin and chili powder, shredding as it warms up. Place on top of a tostada and add all the fixings. Easy as that.

Leftovers don't have to be the same exact thing you had the night before but can easily become meal prep for the next meal you plan to make.

Think twice before you throw out those "table scraps."

Organization Project of the Week

This is the side of my under the stairs closet. It's a great amount of space for storage but I'm still figuring out how to organize it. I keep most of our craft supplies in here and it always just looks like a jumbled mess.

This week I found these super cute baskets in the dollar section at Target. I bought 6 (though I probably could have used more). What a difference. When my stuff is organized, I feel like my life is more under control. I've been completely overhauling the whole house...purging, cleaning, organizing. I like to get my Spring cleaning done before spring so I can enjoy any sunshine we get!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Crockpot Meal of the Week: Balsamic Roast

Roasts tend to be more "traditional" crockpot meals and I always prefer cooking mine in the crock pot because it's the easiest way to cook large chunks of meat with worrying about drying it out. In December I did 19 meals for $114. This week we made the Balsamic Roast and it was GOOD - tender, tangy, savory. YUM!

Here's the recipe:
1 Pork Roast
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1-2 cups broth or water

I let it defrost in the refrigerator completely and cooked it on LOW for 8.5 hours.