Sunday, December 27, 2015

Peach & Prosciutto Appetizers


So these appetizers don't really have a name, but they are so good. My sister made them for Christmas Eve last year and I have now made them for book club, baby showers, girls nights, Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas. They are easy to make and serve and look pretty fancy.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients |
1 baguette or Italian loaf
1 package plain goat cheese
1 package prosciutto
1 jar peach preserves
Balsamic vinegar

1. Slice baguette or loaf into 1" thick pieces. Lay on cookie sheet.
2. Add a smear of goat cheese to each.
3. Add a dollup of peach preserves.
4. Squish 1/2 piece of prosciutto on top.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Move to serving tray and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy! Absolutely delicious.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

24 Kid-Friendly Meals for $175

Life has been busy and full of changes lately...and also full of sniffles, coughs, and a slight decrease in appetites. That means I have lost my fight and negotiation expertise at dinner time. Usually my kids are awesome at "practicing" different foods so they can be good at eating it like mommy and daddy, but for this round of meals I didn't really care to try anything too new for them. I just wanted to make some easy and delicious food that the little and big tummies in the family can enjoy.

For this round I turned these groceries...

...into these 24 meals (in less than 2 hours) for $175.


Menu  |
2 Sweet 'n Sour Meatballs
2 Spaghetti
2 Lasagna
2 Pulled Pork on Pretzel Rolls
2 Black Bean Chicken Tacos
2 Ranch Chicken Tacos
2 Bacon Potato Soup
2 Chili with Cornbread Waffles
2 Italian Sausage Sub Sandwiches
2 Bacon Ranch Chicken
2 Winger's Chicken Strips
2 Creamy Mushroom Beef on Rice

Grocery List |

Meat:
4 small bags of premade meatballs (24 count each...we like to make a lot of meatballs)
4 lbs. of ground sausage
6 lbs. of ground beef
2 pork loins (about 2-3 lbs. each)
2 bags frozen chicken breasts
2 packages of bacon
2 packages of Italian sausage links
3-4 lbs. of cubed beef

Produce:
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers

Condiments:
2 grape jelly
2 bottles BBQ sauce
2 bags of real bacon bits
1 bottle Frank's hot sauce
1 bag brown sugar

Dried Goods:
2 boxes spaghetti noodles
2 boxes lasagna noodles
2 bags pretzel rolls
2 boxes of cornbread mix
2 bags Italian bread rolls
4 packages of tortillas
1 bag rice

Canned Goods:
6 cans tomato sauce
6 cans diced tomatoes
4 cans tomato paste
4 cans black beans
4 cans corn
3 cartons of broth
2 cans cream of chicken
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans cream of mushrooms

Dairy:
6 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
16 oz. of sour cream

Seasoning:
2 Memphis BBQ pit seasoning packets
2 packets of taco seasoning
2 packets of chili seasoning
2 packets onion dip mix

Freezer:
1 large bag of shredded hash browns
2 bags breaded chicken strips

Other:
1 bottle of red wine
1 box gallon sized Ziplocs
Slow cooker bags, because, why not?

I shopped at Winco. My total was about $175.

Other seasoning you'll need:
Basil
Garlic Powder
Bay leaves
Salt & Pepper

When you get home, immediately start cooking all of the ground Italian sausage and ground beef. Label all bags, then just work through each meal at a time. (Note: I did the chili, spaghetti, and lasagna meals last because the meat has to be cooked for these.) Store lasagna noodles, spaghetti noodles, rice, and cornbread in pantry. Freeze tortillas, pretzel rolls, Italian rolls, bacon and chicken strips.

Sweet 'n Sour Meatballs

1 bottle grape jelly
1 bottle BBQ sauce
2 bags meatballs

4 hours on low.

Spaghetti


1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 lb. cooked ground Italian sausage
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp basil

8 hours on low. Serve with noodles.

Lasagna
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 lb. cooked ground Italian sausage
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp basil

8 hours on low. Cook lasagna noodles, layer with sauce, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese and bake until bubbly (about 20 minutes at 350).

Pulled Pork on Pretzel Rolls

1 pork loin
1 packet Memphis BBQ pit seasoning
1/4 cup brown sugar

Add 1 cup of water upon cooking. 8 hours on low. Shred and serve on pretzel rolls with BBQ sauce.

Black Bean Chicken Tacos

1 can rinsed black beans
1 can drained corn
4 chicken breasts
1 package cream cheese
1 packet taco seasoning

8 hours on low. Shred and serve on tortillas with taco fixings or use as a dip.

Ranch Chicken Tacos

3-4 chicken breasts
1 packet ranch seasoning
1 cup water

8 hours on low. Shred and serve with tortillas and taco fixings.

Bacon Potato Soup

1 carton chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken
1 can corn
1 package cream cheese
1/2 bag of frozen hash browns
1-2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp of each)

8 hours on low. Thaw, cook and crumble bacon and serve on top.

Chili with Cornbread Waffles

1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 lb. ground beef, cooked
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 packet chili seasoning
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

8 hours on low. Prepare cornbread mix and cook in waffle maker. Serve chili on top with sour cream, cheese, and chives.

Italian Sausage Sub Sandwiches

1 package Italian sausage links
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 chopped red bell pepper
2 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 bottle of red wine

8 hours on low. Cut up sausage and stuff into Italian bread rolls and top with parmesan.

Bacon Ranch Chicken

4 chicken breast
8 oz. sour cream
1 package cream cheese
1 bag bacon bits
1 packet ranch seasoning
1 tsp pepper
1 cup chicken broth

8 hours on low. Shred and serve on rice or noodles.

Winger's Chicken Strips
1  1/2 c brown sugar
6 Tbsp. Frank's hot sauce
2 Tbsp. water

Cook chicken strips and warm sauce. Toss chicken in sauce or use as a dip.

Creamy Mushroom Beef on Rice

1 can cream of mushroom
1 packet onion dip mix
1-2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 the cubed beef (about 1.5-2 lbs.)

8 hours on low. Serve over rice (or potatoes if you prefer).

Make two of each meal and don't worry about dinner for a while. ;)

Friday, November 6, 2015

We Do It All

A while back, I read an article about how no mom does it all. It was an encouraging article for all moms that basically said, look, no matter how things look on the outside, no mama does everything all the time. There are always holes, things left undone, and days where you feel like all the walls are caving in on you and you want to hide in the pantry with a cookie and a glass of wine.

I totally agree.

No mama does it “all” but you know what? We do ALL that we do and that is a lot. Not only is it a lot, it is enough.

So when someone asks me, “How do you do it all?” I don’t blush and pretend my life is perfect. I also don’t give a list of all my failures and deflect a compliment (because some days I really just need a compliment). If someone asks me that question, I take it as they see me doing something well and could maybe use a few tips on how they could do it too. At least that’s how I feel toward other moms when I ask the question.

Like any job (and let’s face it, parenting is work), it’s important to highlight strengths and don’t be shy about naming your own. Be proud! And also, take note of other moms’ strengths. We can all learn a lot from each other.

I am good at taking my kids places. I don’t get overwhelmed at zoos, fairs, water parks, or playgrounds. I feel relaxed and refreshed after a busy day with my kids. I’m not always good at bringing enough snacks for extra kids. My sister is the best at this (she got that from my mom). She always has a ton of snacks and drinks to feed a crowd, and she does. Outings with her have taught me to be better about bringing enough for extra people.

I am not good at in-home activities. I get stir-crazy and bored. Sorry kids. Wanna watch a movie? Oh, we already did. How about Legos? Or…something? You're bored. Ok, do jumping jacks.

I am good at physical activities. Jumping on the trampoline? Butt wars? Tag? Races down the street? Monkey bars? Ninja wars? Sports? Dodgeball? I’m so there. Imaginary play? I stink. For reals. My poor little girl loves to play house and I struggle every time. I try, really I do, but I get so distracted and [let’s face it] bored and antsy and I lose track of the storyline [she gets irritated when I break character]. And I love that she loves it. I know it’s great for development…yada, yada. But it is my struggle.

I am good at keeping my house in decent order. I have a system for cleaning and laundry and I follow it so I don’t become overwhelmed with housework. That is something that is important to me. It helps me function. This sometimes means my kids have to [gasp] play by themselves or that they have to wait for my full attention. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty. I usually get over it.

 I am not good at organizing craft time. Sometimes I buy premade kits that make it seem like I’m good at it but the reality is, most of the time, if we need some craft time, I get out paper, scissors, crayons, and paint and hope for the best. We get a lot of scribble art.

There are more things that I’m good at. There are a million more things that I struggle with. And to be honest, I don’t need another person patting me on the back telling me motherhood is the hardest job ever. [Because it’s not, even when it feels like it is. The live runs deep and wide and rough, my friends.] I also don’t want anyone deflecting any compliments from anybody. So mamas, look at all the things you do. Grab a glass of wine, pair it with your kids’ Halloween candy, and kick up your feet. We do it all.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Greek Meatballs on Pitas

Greek Meatballs on Pitas

This meal is one of the greater successes with our kids. They love meatballs. This style of meatball tastes fresh and sweet with a bit of tang. This recipe is modified from Rachael Ray's version and we love making them (especially because they freeze so easy).


Meatballs:
2 lbs. ground beef (or ground lamb)
1/4 cup feta
2 T flour or bread crumbs
1 tsp oregano
1 bunch mint chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
Salt & Pepper

Hand mix. Roll into meatballs. I typically divide this into two bags and freeze. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serve on pitas with tzatziki (how do you spell this word??) sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce:
1 cup plain greek yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon
~2-3 shakes of dill
2 Tbsp. chopped cucumber
Salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy!

Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork on Pretzel Rolls

Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork on Pretzel Rolls

This is one of our favorite meals. I love that it freezes easily and is a great go-to meal if we'll be having company for dinner. I'm also pretty notorious for bringing this to new mamas after having a baby. (It's like a push present. You're welcome.)

 3 lb. pork butt OR pork loin
1 packet Memphis BBQ rub
1/4 cup brown sugar if you like it sweet, or
1 tsp red pepper flakes if you like it spicey

Add 1 cup of water upon cooking. 8 hours on low in the crock pot. When done, shred and serve on pretzel rolls with BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's is our favorite).

This is also the pulled pork I use on top of my BBQ Mac & Cheese.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

24 Fall Meals for $180


When I made this round of list of meals, I just couldn't steer clear of the comfort food no matter how hard I tried. It's fall, y'all! And I take no issue making some season favorites every night for dinner. I also added a few dishes/meals that are great for parties and football games.

Let's get started...

Menu |
1 queso dip/nachos
1 Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 Beef Stroganoff
1 Carne Asada Fries
2 Sweet & Sour Meatballs
2 Chicken 'n Dumplings
2 Roast Beef Au Jus/French Dip
2 Butternut Squash Chili
2 Chicken Pot Pie
2 Pulled Pork (because we always love this)
2 Spaghetti Sauce (because the kids will always, ALWAYS eat this)
2 White Chicken Enchiladas
2 Greek Meatballs on Pitas
2 PF Chang's Copycat Lettuce Wraps
1 Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Grocery List |

Produce:
1 bunch celery
1 bag carrots
2 red bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
1 bunch mint
2 lemons
2 butternut squashes
1 bunch kale
4 red potatoes

Dairy:
1 block velveeta
24 oz. sour cream tub
1 tub crumbled feta

Canned Goods:
1 can Rotel
2 cans green chiles
2 bottles BBQ sauce
2 bottles grape jelly
6 cans cream of chicken
2 cans corn
3 cartons chicken broth
4 cans tomato sauce
4 cans tomatoes
2 cans paste
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans
1 bottle buffalo wing sauce
1 bottle ranch
1 bottle Yoshida sweet and savory sauce
1 bottle rice vinegar

Meat:
6 lbs. ground beef
4 bags meatballs (26 count each bag)
4 bags frozen chicken
2 packages of roast beef
1 6 lb. pork butt
2 lbs. ground Italian sausage
1 family sized package of cubed beef

Refrigerator:
2 tubes biscuits
2 boxes pie crusts
1 package cream cheese

Bread/Dried Goods:
2 packages hoagies
2 packages pretzel rolls
2 packages tortillas
2 packages pitas
2 bags chips
2 packages spaghetti noodles
1 package egg noodles
Bread crumbs

Freezer:
1 bag frozen broccoli florets
1 bag French fries

Other:
Slow Cooker Liners
Gallon Freezer Bags

Seasoning:
2 packets au jus
2 packets Memphis BBQ seasoning
2 packets chili seasoning
1 packet beef stroganoff
1 taco seasoning
Caribbean Jerk Seasoning
Brown Sugar
Basil
Garlic Powder
Thyme
Sage
Cumin
Bay Leaves
Cinnamon
Oregano

I shopped at Winco. Your total should be around $180.

When you get home, start cooking 4 lbs. of the ground beef and 2 lbs. of Italian sausage. Label bags and then just work through them one meals at a time.

Recipes |

Queso Dip/Nachos
1 can Rotel
1 block velveeta
1 lb. ground beef

6 hours on low. Use as a dip at a party or turn into a nacho bar.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

4 chicken breasts
1/2 bottle ranch
1 cup buffalo wing sauce
1 package cream cheese

8 hours on low. Use as a dip with tortillas chips.



Beef Stroganoff

1/2 package of cubed beef
8 oz. sour cream or cream cheese
1 stroganoff packet
1 c water

8 hours on low. Serve over egg noodles.





Carne Asada Fries

1/2 package of cubed beef
1 packet taco seasoning

Add 1 cup water upon cooking. 8 hours on low. Prepare fries based on package instructions, top with shredded meat and taco fixings.




Sweet & Sour Meatballs (make 2)
2 bags meatballs
1 bottle BBQ sauce
1 bottle grape jelly

4 hours on low. These are great for a party or dinner. If you'd rather have them spicey, use 2 Tbsp red chili sauce instead of BBQ sauce.

Chicken 'n Dumplings (make 2)

3-4 chicken breasts
1 can corn
1 cream of chicken
1 carton chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme

8 hours on low. Keep biscuits refrigerated. 1 hour before the soup is done, cut each biscuit into fourths and add to soup. I'm not a huge soup person but this soup tastes like home.

Roast Beef Au Jus/French Dip (make 2)

1 packet au jus
2 cups water
1 package roast beef
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced

4 hours on low. Freeze hoagies with this. Serve on hoagies topped with cheese and use extra juice to dip.

Butternut Squash Chili  (make 2)

1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 cubed butternut squash
1/2 bunch chopped kale
1 packet chili seasoning
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 lb. cooked ground beef

8 hours on low. Serve with sour cream and cheese or on top of a cornbread waffle.

Chicken Pot Pie (make 2)

3 chicken breasts
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 can cream of chicken
1/2 carton broth
2 cubed red potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rubbed sage

8 hours on low. Freeze pie crusts with this. Add 1/2 bag of frozen broccoli 30 minutes before it's done cooking. Shred chicken and fill pie crusts with filling and bake according to package.


Pulled Pork (make 2)

1/2 pork butt
1 packet Memphis rub
1/4 cup brown sugar if you like it sweet, or
1 tsp red pepper flakes if you like it spicey

Add 1 cup of water upon cooking. 8 hours on low. Serve on pretzel rolls with BBQ sauce.


Spaghetti Sauce (make 2)

1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 lb. cooked ground sausage
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tsp. basil
1/2 T garlic powder

8 hours on low. Serve over noodles. (Pictured above: zucchini noodles)

White Chicken Enchiladas (make 2)

4 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken
8 oz. sour cream
1 can green chiles
2 tsps cumin

Freeze tortillas with this. 8 hours on low. Shred chicken. Fill and roll tortillas, add extra sauce and cheese on top, bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Greek Meatballs on Pitas

2 lbs. ground beef
1/4 cup feta
2 T flour or bread crumbs
1 tsp oregano
1 bunch mint chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg

Hand mix. Roll into meatballs and divide in two bags. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serve on pitas with tzatziki sauce (greek yogurt, dill, and lemon zest).

PF Chang's Copycat Lettuce Wraps (make 2)

4 chicken breasts
1 cup Yoshidas
2 T Rice Vinegar
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup brown sugar

7 hours on low. Shred and serve in iceberg lettuce cups. I also serve this with rice. This is one of my husband's favorites.

Caribbean Jerk Chicken 

4-5 chicken breasts
1 c water
1 T Caribbean Jerk seasoning

Thaw and grill. We like to make these sandwiches with BBQ sauce.

Friday, October 16, 2015

BBQ Mac & Cheese


So here's something awesome. And delicious.

I was out at Hop Jacks with some friends over the summer and a friend ordered the BBQ Mac and Cheese. It is Mac and cheese topped with bacon, topped with pulled pork, and then smothered with BBQ sauce. I could make that!
So I did.

I served this at Maci's birthday party and it was a huge hit. So I'm passing on the awesomeness to you.

Bacon Mac & Cheese
1 can cheddar cheese soup
2 cups shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Milk
1 box elbow macaroni

Cook macaroni, strain and dump back in pot. Stir in milk and cheese and cheddar soup until melted. Add 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp pepper and 1 tsp garlic powder. Place in a baking dish, top with a thin layer of shredded cheese. Cook and crumble bacon and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Pulled Pork
1 packet Memphis BBQ rub
1 cup water
2-3 lb pork loin

Place ingredients in crock pot on low for 8 hours. Shred. Top the macaroni with pulled pork and add BBQ sauce. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Healthy" Fried Chicken Strips



"Mom, this is my most favorite chicken ever." -Isaiah

I know, sweet boy. It is delicious. We love chicken at our house and this my version of "healthy" fried chicken. I use quotations because, hello, fried.

Start with the dry rub:

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 T Smoked Paprika
1/2 T Garlic Salt
1/2 T Mustard Seed Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 t Cumin
2 T Brown Sugar
1 T seasoning salt

Mix ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Gently toss chicken tenderloins or breasts (cut into strips) in the rub. This recipe should be enough for at least 6-7 tenderloins or 3-4 chicken breasts. I like to cut chicken breasts into strips because it cooks faster and it's easier to for kids to dip and eat.

Heat a large saucepan to medium heat and melt about 1/4 c of coconut oil. Place coated chicken in the pan and flip about every 3-5 or until chicken is cooked through and the outside is brown and crunchy. Don't over crowd the chicken (meat browns best when there is space in the pan). Add more oil as needed and repeat until all chicken is cooked. Place on a paper towel on a plate to soak up excess oil.

Serve with all the dippings and enjoy!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

DIY Batten & Board for less than $150


Since we moved into our house 4 years ago, I have been dying to do this to our front room. The room has 18 foot ceilings and I wanted to add batten & board to the lower half (about 8 1/2 feet tall) to ground the room, add dimension, and help rid our house of that "cookie cutter"/"builder's grade" look.

We finally did it! (And by we, I mean my husband. He is a rock star.)

Level of difficulty: Easy but very tedious
Time Length: It took us probably 4 whole days (though we spread ours out over 4 weekends so it seemed to take a long time since the room remained in shambles.)
Cost: $150

What you'll need:
2 sheets MDF
2 cans of liquid nails
1 can caulk
1 box All-Purpose Joint Compound
1 gallon Kilz primer
1 gallon white semi-gloss paint

Cost of the above items: $150

Tools:
Table Saw
Miter Saw
Nail gun
Caulk Gun
Plastic spackle knives
Paint Brush
Paint Roller
Painter's Tape
Level
Stud Finder

Step 1:
Prime walls with one coat of Kilz. This will ensure the joint compound will stick.

Step 2:
Mix the joint compound with water until you get a mayonnaise-like consistency. Using a paint roller, roll onto walls. Use the plastic spackle knives to smooth out texture. Move the knives in a diagonal crisscross motion to ensure you remove any excess. This will remove the texture from the walls to give it a smooth "board" look.

Once the joint compound has dried according to package directions, sand any large chunks off, vacuum any dust and do another coat. This took us 4 coats to get a smooth wall. This, in our opinion, was the hardest and most time consuming part of the project.

Step 3:
Prime the smooth joint compound walls. Let dry.

Step 4:
Measure out boards and cut. Darren cut the two MDF boards into strips using the table saw. You can also buy pre-primed MDF trim boards but it will cost you at least twice as much. We took advantage of our table saw and made our own boards.

Darren cut 3" strips for the vertical boards, 5 1/2" strip for the top horizontal boards, and 4" strips for the middle horizontal boards. (He also cut strips to frame out our windows in a craftsman style. More on that later, but if you are framing out your windows in addition to the batten & board, be sure to do that before doing the walls.)

Step 5:
Put boards up. It's easiest to do the horizontal boards first (they are the most difficult and require two people, in order to hold them up and make sure they are level.) Our top board is 8 1/2 feet from the floor (level with the half wall on the stairs) and the middle horizontal board is 19 1/2" below that. I eyeballed what spacing I liked and this was it.

Be sure to use a level and mark your studs. To apply each board to the wall, squiggle some liquid nails on the back then nail into the marked studs with a nail gun (Darren used finishing nails).

Our vertical boards have 15" of spacing in between them. Again, I just eyeballed the spacing I liked and then Darren measured and made sure all boards were evenly spaced. Use liquid nails, a level, and a nail gun to get these boards up. If you are not nailing into a stud (for many of the vertical boards you won't) use painter's tape to hold up the boards until the liquid nails dries.

Step 6:
Once all boards are up and the liquid nails has dried. Paint the walls and boards with 2 coats of primer. Yes, two. The MDF will soak up a lot of paint and since Kilz is only $15 as opposed to $40 for a gallon a paint, you will want to use more primer and less paint. Kilz is also a great sealer anyway. Trust. Use the Kilz.


Step 7:
Caulk all the edges of the boards. Also, fill in nail holes with sandable white spackle. Let dry. Sand over nail holes to make sure they are smooth.

Step 8:
Paint with a semi-gloss paint. Ours took 2 coats on top of the 2 coats of primer. We used Behr pure white semi-gloss to match our doors and trim in the house.

VOILA! You're done. Eventually we will add a crown molding piece on the top but we haven't gotten there yet. :)


This is one of the coolest projects we have done in our home. It costs very little money when you consider the impact it has on the space and we love it.



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back to School Prep: Our Family's Favorites

School is starting you guys. There is no stopping it. Along with school starting is the beginning of all.the.things. Bible study, meetings, practices, rehearsals...all of it. And life will get busy before we know it and dinner will get put on the back burner. Before you let that happen. I thought I'd share my family's 10 favorite freezer meals for you to make and have ready to go when life gets crazy.

These meals are not only our favorites, but for the most part, our kids will eat these with no fuss. Ever. The prep time for these should be less than an hour and the total cost for all necessary ingredients is probably less than $100 (realistically it's probably less than $70). Not bad for getting a head start on the back to school bizz-ness.

Meals:
Pulled Pork
White Chicken Enchiladas
Spaghetti Sauce
Peach Mango Salsa Chicken
Dirty Rice
Italian Sausage and Peppers on Hoagies
Greek Meatballs on Pitas
Sausage Bake
Butternut Squash Chili
Chicken Pot Pie

Pulled Pork


1 pork loin (2 lbs.)
1/2 diced sweet onion
1 Memphis BBQ seasoning packet
1/4 c brown sugar

 Add 1 cup of water before cooking, 8 hours on low

White Chicken Enchiladas

 1 can diced green chilis
1 can cream of chicken
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 bag of chicken breasts
Cumin
Salt and pepper

8 hours on low. Shred chicken, roll in tortillas you froze with this, top with extra sauce and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. Note: if you like your enchiladas spicier, add a can of sliced jalapenos.

Spaghetti Sauce


1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 lb. ground Italian sausage, cooked
1 lb. ground beef, cooked
Garlic powder
1 bay leaf
Basil
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

8 hours on low. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

Mango Salsa Chicken

1/2 tub mango salsa
1/2 tub medium salsa
1 package cream cheese
2-3 chicken breasts

8 on low, freeze with tortillas. Roll into enchiladas or serve as tacos or over chips with all the fixings.

Dirty Rice

1 green pepper diced
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 Tbsp. Montreal Steak seasoning
Drizzle with EVOO

Thaw and warm in a frying pan.

Italian Sausage and Peppers Subs


1 lb. cooked ground sausage
1.5 green pepper chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1/2 bottle red wine
Drizzle with EVOO
Seasoning with Basil and Garlic

8 hours on low Serve in hoagies and top with parmesan.

Greek Meatballs w/Pitas

3 lbs. ground beef
1 bunch mint, chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
1 egg
1/2 c bread crumbs

Hand mix, roll into meatballs, divide into two bags. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. Serve with Pitas and tzaziki sauce (which is just plain Greek yogurt with dill, lemon zest, and cucumber).



Sausage Bake

Freeze 1 bag of frozen broccoli with 1 package of smoked sausage. Take out of the freezer the day you are ready to eat it. Combine with cubed potatoes and other veggies if desired, drizzle with EVOO, garlic powder, oregano, sage, salt and pepper. Toss and bake. (Note: I have tried freezing the potatoes with this...it doesn't taste as good so I only buy the freezable ingredients and add the fresh ones later.)

Bake at 425 for 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Butternut Squash Chili

1 cubed butternut squash
1 lb. ground beef, cooked
1 packet chili seasoning
A few handfuls of chopped kale
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar

8 hours on low. Serve over cornbread waffles (prepare Jiffy cornbread mix and cook in greased waffle maker. The bomb.)

Chicken Pot Pie

1 can cream of chicken
1/2 carton of chicken broth
1/2 bag chicken breasts
1/2 chopped celery stalk
1/2 of the chopped carrots
1/2 of the cubed potatoes
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Cook 8 hours on low. Add 1/2 the bag of frozen broccoli during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Shred chicken. Add filling to the pie crusts that you will freeze with this. Bake according to package instructions.

Grocery List:
Meat |
1 pork loin (2 lbs.)
2 bags of chicken breasts
2 lbs. ground Italian sausage, cooked
6 lbs. ground beef, cooked
1 package of smoked sausage
1 lb. ground beef, cooked

Produce |
1 sweet onion
3 green bell peppers
1 red pepper
1 bunch mint
1 lemon
1 celery stalk
1 small bag of the carrots
2-3 red potatoes of the cubed potatoes
1 bunch kale
1 cubed butternut squash

Seasoning |
Cinnamon
Oregano
1 packet chili seasoning
1 Memphis BBQ seasoning packet
Brown sugar
Cumin
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
1 bay leaf
Basil
Brown sugar
Montreal Steak seasoning
EVOO
1 egg
Bread crumbs

Canned |
 1 can diced green chilis
2 cans cream of chicken
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 carton of chicken broth

Refrigerator/Freezer |
8 oz. sour cream
1 tub mango salsa
1 tub medium salsa
1 package cream cheese
2 bags of frozen broccoli florets
1 package ready-made pie crusts

Dried Goods |
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
1 box spaghetti noodles
Hoagies
1 package pitas
1 box jiffy cornbread
2 packages of tortillas
1 bag of pretzel rolls

Other|
1/2 bottle red wine








Friday, August 14, 2015

24 Meals for $176


I have a little secret. When it comes to dinner, it's okay to think inside the box. I know that goes against all things in this world telling us to be meticulous, extravagant, put-together and picture perfect, but lemme just say, it's okay to throw all that elaborate stuff out the window and eat simply.

If you are here, reading this, then you probably are looking for a way to simplify dinner time. You probably have kids that bark orders at you day and night (while inside your head you think, "We are not equals! I am your mother! I am your superior!" ;) ) or you work all day and would like to figure out a way to eat well at night without having to actually cook or really even think about dinner. Enter meal planning. Now your response might be, but I don't like the crock pot because I don't like soup or stew. Oh good! Me neither. I'll eat it here and there but to be completely honest, my kids and I don't really like soup. And if we don't like what's for dinner, that complicates things.

So my advice...think inside the box. It can be basic but still be flavorful and most likely, easily consumed by the tiny army that rules your house. You'll find these meals have very few ingredients. That's what makes it so doable. This round took me 1 hour at the grocery store (with kids) and a little over an hour at home (with their help :) They are great at dumping ingredients in Ziplocs).

This round of meals will give you 24 protein heavy meals for about $176 (averaging a little over $7 per meal). Each meal feeds at least a family of four - many meals will yield plenty of leftovers. If you have a larger family, simply adjust the recipe.

Here we go...

Menu |
4 Memphis BBQ Pit Pulled Pork on pretzel rolls - it's kind of our favorite
2 Spaghetti Sauce
2 Caribbean Jerk Chicken on dinner rolls
2 Sausage Bakes
2 Lemon Pepper Chicken
2 California Burritos or Carne Asada fries
2 Hawaiian Chicken on Hawaiian Rolls
2 Creamy Italian Sausage & Tortellini
2 Jambalaya
2 Creamy Tortellini with Pesto
1 Thai Pork w/ Peanut Sauce
1 Asian Sesame Chicken

Grocery List |

Meat:
1 10 lb. pork loin (to be cut into 5ths)
2 lbs. ground beef
4 lbs. ground Italian sausage
3 smoked sausages
2 lbs. shredded beef
2 lbs. cubed beef
1 bag medium shrimp
3 bags of chicken breasts (frozen, 3 lb. bags)

Produce:
1 Lime
1 bunch celery
2 green peppers

Canned Goods:
2 cans tomato sauce
6 cans diced tomatoes
2 pastes
2 jars Alfredo sauce
1 jar pesto
1 jar apricot preserves
2 cartons chicken broth
Medium salsa (you need 1/2 cup)
Peanut Butter (you need 1/4 cup)
Soy Sauce

Dried Goods:
2 packages of spaghetti
4 lbs. dried tortellini (or 4 packages)
4 cups brown rice

Seasoning:
4 Memphis BBQ Seasoning Packets
2 Caribbean Jerk Marinades
2 lemon pepper marinades
2 taco seasoning
2 Hawaiian Marinades
1 bottle toasted sesame salad dressing
1 onion soup/dip mix
Ginger
Garlic Powder
Sugar
Brown sugar
paprika
Cayenne Pepper
Tabasco
Basil
Parsley
Bay leaves

Refrigerator:
2 packages of cream cheese

Freezer:
2 bags frozen broccoli florets
2 bags French fries

Bread:
4 bags pretzel rolls
2 packages dinner rolls
2 packages Hawaiian rolls
2 packages of tortillas

Other:
Gallon Bags
Slow Cooker Bags

I shopped at Winco, your total should be around $176. Don't forget the gallon-sized bags! You'll regret it. When you get home, lay it all out on the counter. First label all bags then just go through one meal at a time. I usually do the meals that don't require any cooking first.

Recipes |

Memphis BBQ Pit Pulled Pork on pretzel rolls - make 2


1/5 of the large pork loin or a 2 lb. pork loin
1 packet of Memphis BBQ Pit seasoning
1/4 brown sugar
(Freeze the pretzel rolls with the meal)

Add 1 cup of water at the time of cooking. Cook in the crock pot 8 hours on low, shred and serve on pretzel rolls with BBQ sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce - make 2

1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 lb. cooked ground Italian sausage
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. basil
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
(store spaghetti noodles in pantry with this meal)

Cook 8 hours on low in crock pot.

Caribbean Jerk Chicken on dinner rolls - make 2

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Caribbean Jerk Marinade
(freeze dinner rolls with this)

Thaw and grill chicken and serve on rolls OR cook 7 hours on low, shred and serve on rolls.

Sausage Bake - make 2

Freeze one smoked sausage with one bag of broccoli florets

To cook thaw and cut sausage, add cubed potatoes and peppers, frozen broccoli, drizzle with EVOO, garlic powder, sage, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 45-50 minutes. (I don't like the taste of frozen potatoes cooked so this is how I make this delicious meal easier.)

Lemon Pepper Chicken - make 2

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Lemon Pepper Chicken

Thaw and grill.

California Burritos or Carne Asada Fries - make 2


1 packet taco seasoning
1 lb. cubed beef
1 lb. shredded beef
(freeze fries and tortillas with these)

Cook in crock pot 8 hours on low. Bake French fries per package instructions. For California burritos, stuff a tortillas with fries and meat and any taco fixings you like. For Carne Asada Fries, pile meat and taco fixings on French fries and eat with a fork, you'll need it. ;)

Hawaiian Chicken on Hawaiian Rolls - make 2

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Hawaiian marinade
(freeze Hawaiian rolls with these)

Thaw and grill OR 7 hours on low, shred and serve on rolls.

Creamy Italian Sausage & Tortellini - make 2

2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 package cream cheese
1 lb. cooked Italian sausage
(store tortellini with these)

7-8 hours on low until sauce is combined, cook tortellini per package instructions, mix and enjoy.

Jambalaya - make 2

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 carton chicken broth
1 chopped green pepper
1/2 of the chopped celery stalk
1/2 bag of medium shrimp
1/2 sliced smoked sausage
3 chicken breasts
A few dashes of Tabasco (or however many you prefer)
1/2 tsp Cayenne or more if you want more kick
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
(store rice in pantry for this)

8 hours on low in the crock pot. Add 1 cup of rice 30 minutes before it's done cooking, stirring well.

Creamy Tortellini with Pesto - make 2

1 lb. cooked tortellini
1 jar alfredo sauce
1/2 jar pesto

Thaw and warm.

Thai Pork w/ Peanut Sauce - make 1

2 lbs. pork loin, cubed
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
3 T Water
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
(store rice in pantry for this)

8 hours on low. Serve over rice.

Asian Sesame Chicken - make 1
4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Toasted Sesame Dressing
1 bottle apricot preserves
1 packet onion soup/dip mix

7-8 hours on low. Serve over rice.

And you're done. Now go freeze those bad boys and not stress about dinner for another month. ;)

Here's a quick tip: on Sunday night pick the five meals you'd like to eat for the week and get them in the refrigerator to defrost. That way they're ready hop in the crock pot when you're ready to eat them.