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Crock Pot Recipe: Creamy Chicken in the Crock Pot

I found a recipe in a back issue of Taste of Home magazine (the original is called Creamy Tarragon Chicken) that looked great and decided to try it.  I tweaked the recipe a bit though.  Here it is:

Creamy Chicken for the Crock Pot

Ingredients:

  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (One per person)
  • 1/2 cup onion (or to taste)
  • 2 ounces of diced ham
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons Quick-Cooking Tapioca
  • 1 bullion cube or two teaspoons chicken bullion granules
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 3-4 Carrots, washed and sliced (The original recipe calls for frozen Broccoli and Cauliflower, thawed.  My family prefers carrots)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 8 ounces of Pasta-I used small shells because I had those on hand

In a crock-pot, combine the first ten ingredients and the carrots (if using-otherwise wait to add the frozen veggies until the end).

Cook on low for 6-7 hours until chicken juices run through.

Next, add the frozen veggies (if using) and the half-and-half cream to the crock pot and cook for an additional 15 minutes.   Meanwhile cook  your pasta (note:  the original recipe calls for orzo pasta).  Serve pasta with chicken and vegetables.  Enjoy!

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Ho-Bo Dinners

I had no idea what a Ho-Bo Dinner was until a couple of years ago.  We had dinner at a friend’s house and she served these.  These can be made two ways.  First, you can create individual foil packets for each person or you can put all ingredients into a casserole pan covered with foil.   I love to make these on cold nights, so this makes the perfect winter dinner.  Here’s what you need to do:

Ingredients:

Ground Beef or Turkey (made into patties or Chicken breasts

Veggies:  (You really could use what you have on hand but here are some suggestions)

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes (white or sweet or both)
  • Onion
  • Peppers (any color)
  • Zucchini

Mrs. Dash, Salt, Pepper

Finely chop all veggies.  (Or if you’re like me, chop them into whatever size time will allow).  Next, make your ground beef or ground turkey into patties and season with spices.

Now it’s time to decide whether your prefer to make individual packets for each member of your family or if you would rather put them in a casserole pan.  (I’ve done it both ways and enjoy them either way).

If you’re going to make packets, cut a piece of foil for each family member (make sure it is large enough to contain the meat and veggies.  Next, spray the foil with cooking spray.  Then put your meat on the bottom and put your veggies on top.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash (if you don’t have Mrs. Dash, use whatever spices you like).

If you choose to use a pan, just put all the meat on the bottom of the pan and top with the veggies.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash.  Then cover the whole pan with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.  Check for doneness.  It may take up to 1 1/2 hours to be completely ready.  I like to serve this with homemade applesauce.   Enjoy!

What are you making for dinner tonight?

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Refried Beans and Burritos for the Freezer

My husband likes refried beans (I personally cannot stand any kind of bean-with the exception of a  green bean).  He recently discovered a quick, easy way to make his own refried beans.  Today he opened a can of refried beans that are about to expire and he said that his homemade beans are much better than the canned stuff!

Here’s what he uses:

Pinto Beans (he uses canned beans)

Spices:

  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Salt-pinch or two

Begin heating beans in medium size saucepan.  Add spices (all to taste-try 1/2 teaspoon of each at a time).  Mash the beans while cooking.  Cook until thick and bubbly.

Once the beans are thick enough, remove from heat.

Spread a layer of beans, cheese, and (if desired) meat on a flour tortilla.  (It helps to heat the tortilla in the microwave first for about 20 seconds).   Then, fold your tortilla burrito style.  Now you’ve got your burrito.

Take your leftover beans and cheese and make as many burritos as your ingredients allow.  Allow the burritos to cool, wrap in plastic wrap  and foil, and freeze.   Reheat in the microwave until warm (about a minute or two-be sure to check every 30 seconds or so).

These homemade burritos have replaced the pricey, not-so-tasty frozen burritos sold in stores.  Enjoy!

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What’s for Dinner?? Pasta with Veggies and Garlic Sauce

Oh, that nagging feeling!  What are we going to have for dinner tonight?  Despite a house full of food, you can’t figure it out.  Or you’re too tired.   So here’s a simple easy meal to get on the table quickly.  (I haven’t tried to freeze this but it cooks so fast, I don’t think I would even try).

Ingredients:

  • Pasta:  I use Penne but you could use what you have on hand
  • Olive Oil:  3-4 Tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (you could use garlic cloves but I find the powder much easier)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste, if desired
  • Veggies:  I try to use frozen California veggies (the broccoli, cauliflower, carrot mix) but often use what is in my fridge at the moment

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.  If using pre-cooked, frozen veggies, put them in the pasta water during the last couple of minutes of cooking to heat through.   (If cooking your own veggies, steam them.)  Drain.

Heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add garlic powder (or cloves).  Whisk garlic powder to combine.    Add more garlic powder, if desired.

When pasta and veggies are done, combine with sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (we use the grated stuff in the container but you could use fresh).

Mmmmm….Delicious!!

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Freezer Meals: Easy Pizza Casserole

If you have children, you know how picky they can be!  But I always know my kid’s love pasta…and pizza.  So why not put them together?  This isn’t a new creation for me-there are tons of recipes online.  But here is a quick and easy meal for tonight (and make an extra one for the freezer while you’re at it)!

Ingredients:

1 pound Ground Beef (Ground Turkey could be substituted here)

1/2-1 pound Ground Sausage (optional)

16 ounce Rotini Pasta

1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce (Homemade sauce works well, too)

8-16 ounces of Cheese (preferably mozzarella but if  I don’t have it on hand I use Cheddar)

Pepperoni  (as much or little as you like)

Fillings:

  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Olives
  • Any other veggies or toppings you like on your pizza

Directions:

If freezing the casserole:  Line an 11×7 or  13×9 casserole pan with foil and then with plastic wrap (frozen pasta can take on the taste of metal)

If cooking right away:  Line the pan with foil, optional.  (It helps with clean-up).

Cook pasta according to package directions (cook past slightly undercooked for the freezer so it isn’t mushy when it thaws).   Meanwhile, saute peppers and onions.  When tender, cook ground beef and ground sausage until no longer pink.  Drain meat and pasta.

Begin to assemble the casserole.  I just put everything into a pan (I use ).  I mix the meat, pasta, fillings, and sauce together.  I sprinkle the casserole with cheese on top but you could also mix it in (it is less expensive to put it only on top).

To cook immediately:  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

To Freeze:  Allow casserole to cool (I put it in the refrigerator for a little while).  Freeze in pan.  Once solid, remove from pan and finish wrapping with plastic wrap and foil.

To Thaw:  Take casserole out of freezer night before serving.  Remove plastic wrap right away (before thawing) and put it in designated cooking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Can I Really Freeze Breakfast Meals?

On a quest to save money in our household, I have read many books over the past few months.  One of the money-saving tips I found that leads to a great savings is cooking from scratch and making your own freezer meals.  With two kiddos (almost 4 and 14 months old) dinnertime seems to be a little crazy lately.  (It’s almost like a radar screen:  Mom is in the kitchen making dinner, let’s throw a tantrum!).

Over the course of the next several posts, I want to share with you some easy meals you can freeze.  Today, we’ll focus on breakfast (perhaps the easiest of each day’s meals). Even as a stay-at-home mom, I find that keeping breakfast in the freezer helps our day go more smoothly.  I have more time to accomplish my cleaning chores for each day (a post for another time) and to play Chutes and Ladders with my son.

Freezing breakfast is so easy because you can freeze just anything you can think of.  Here are some ideas for your freezer:

  • Pancakes
  • French Toast
  • Waffles
  • Muffins
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Baked Oatmeal (One Batch of this yields enough for three pans for my family)
  • Farmer’s Casserole (I haven’t tried to freeze eggs yet, but I know that Quiche can be frozen.  Let me know if you try)

You can serve each of these with yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, etc.  I also serve cold cereal, toast, and fruit twice a week.  Your meal plan for breakfast could look like this:

  • Sunday:           Eggs, French Toast
  • Monday:         Cereal, Toast, Fruit
  • Tuesday:         Cinnamon Rolls, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit
  • Wednesday:   Yogurt with berries, Muffins
  • Thursday:        Cold Cereal, Toast, Fruit
  • Friday:             Pancakes, Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Saturday:        Waffles, Potatoes, Scrambled Eggs

Now I’d like to know what you freeze for breakfast!  Stay tuned for the next freezer meal post!

 

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Recipe Favorites

Do you have some favorite recipes?  I like to make things that are easy and taste good.  I also consider whether or not a meal will freeze well, and if it will, I make a double batch and put the extra one in the freezer.  So here are some of my favorites:

Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot

Baked Oatmeal

Herbed Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken

Cream of Chicken Soup

I’m still experimenting with what will freeze well because I’m new at this.  What’s your favorite meal to make for freezing?

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Easy Teriyaki Chicken for the Freezer

One of the easiest chicken meals I make is a Teriyaki Chicken stir-fry.  It takes minutes to prepare and it freezes nicely.  Here’s my recipe (all measurements approximate; I usually just pour everything together):

Skinless, Boneless Chicken-Cut stir fry style

1/4-1/2 cup Teriyaki Sauce  (I haven’t tried this sauce yet, but it looks pretty good.  I usually use store bought sauce)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons honey

Sliced Veggies, optional  (I cut my veggies the same day as cooking)

To Serve Same Day:

Mix Marinade ingredients in a bowl.  Add chicken, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to marinade in refrigerator at least 15 minutes.  I usually do this in the morning to save time at dinner.

To Freeze:

Slice veggies and place in ziplock bag.

In a separate freezer safe ziplock bag, pour the teriyaki sauce into .  Add lemon juice and honey.  Close the bag and squish with your hands to “stir.”  Add chicken and make sure the marinade covers the chicken.  Add more sauce if necessary.  Lay flat on a cookie sheet and freeze.

To Thaw: 

Remove from freezer and put on plate/pan in refrigerator overnight or first thing in the morning.  The meat will marinade during thawing and it tastes delicious!

To Cook:

Heat oil in pan and saute veggies until tender.  Remove veggies.  In the same pan, cook the chicken until no longer pink (3-5 minutes).  When chicken is fully cooked, add veggies.  Serve over rice.

I hope you enjoy it.  What’s your favorite version of teriyaki chicken?

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Homemade Potato Chips: Are they worth your time?

I love to watch Nate Burkus from time to time.  One day last week, he had a guest make homemade potato chips and I decided to give it a whirl.  So I made some to go with dinner that night.  They came out so great that I decided to make another batch.

And they did not come out well at all!  It took quite awhile for the oil to get hot enough to fry them.  It also took about five minutes for each batch to turn golden brown.  While the potatoes were frying, I kept thinking about whether or not it was worth the effort.  After three batches, I gave up.  I’ve decided to stock up when chips are buy one, get one free or for 1.99 each.

In case you’re wondering, the rest of the sliced potatoes are going in the crock pot and will become scalloped potatoes.  So much for making potato chips!

But if you want to try your hand at it, go for it:

Ingredients:

Potatoes

Canola Oil

Directions:

First, scrub your potatoes.  You can peel them or leave it on.  We like them peeled.  Then, slice the potatoes very thin (I just use a knife).

Next, rinse the potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water for an hour (this pulls the starch out of them).  When you’re ready to fry them, heat your oil in  a pan.  Dry the potatoes completely with a paper towel.  Then add some chips and cook for a couple of minutes.

Finally, when golden brown, remove pan and salt if desired.

Maybe you’ll have a better experience or opinion.  Let me know!

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Strawberry Freezer Jam

 

The other day I realized that we were running low on Smucker’s Jam and needed more.  I had three pounds of strawberries in the fridge, some freezer jam pectin, and freezer containers on hand.  I made five eight ounce jars and have four in the freezer.  If you’ve never made your own jam before, this is a perfect way to make it!  So here it goes:

You’ll need:

Fruit- I used strawberries (but you can use other berries, plums, peaches, etc)  Note:  The procedure for peach jam is different:  Please consult the package for instructions.

Sugar

Freezer Jam Pectin (Available at grocery stores; I used a single packet)

Freezer Containers (I used Ball’s Freezer Jam containers because I have them on hand)

First, prep your fruit.  I cut the core of the strawberry off, washed them well, and chopped them finely.

Then,  I put the fruit in my mini-food processor and hit the grind button.

Next, pour the sugar and pectin into a bowl and stir until well combined.   Add the strawberries and stir for three minutes.  Finally, ladle your jam into your containers, let sit on the counter for 30 minutes to let it set, and freeze!

I hope you enjoy your jam as much as we are enjoying ours!   What kind of fruit would you use?

 

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