Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mac & Beef

Here is a nice easy comfort meal which can be made in double so half can be frozen.  This is so good and I ate the leftovers for a few days.  If you want to make smaller batches for just one meal without leftovers, you could quarter this recipe and make 4 batches.  This was my first batch but I am going to play with it next time... add veggies, different noodles, different meats and cheeses...  The possibilities are endless!

2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt, pepper, oregano, any herbs and seasonings you would like
1 bag of macaroni noodles
3 jars favorite pasta sauce or homemade pasta sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Note:  Cheese is not corn-free.  I'm working an edit to this recipe.  Make sure to season the beef mixture a little strong or it will be bland once the noodles are added.

Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil until clear in color.  Add the ground beef and brown.  Meanwhile, boil the noodles in salted water.  Cook the noodles until they are almost done but not quite as they will cook more in the oven.  Mix, beef, noodles and two jars of pasta sauce together.  Split into 2 batches.  Prepare one for freezing and pour the other into a 9x13 baking dish.  Top each with half of the last jar of pasta sauce.  Bake at 400° until noodles are done.  Top the one for baking with half of both shredded cheeses and put back in the oven until all of the cheese is melted.  Label the freezer batch with directions to add the other half of cheese when it is cooked.  Serve and enjoy!

Dry Ranch Mix

Dry ranch from the store is a no no in this house.  Ingredients like maltodextrin (a/k/a corn) and MSG keep me from it.  So I made one at home.  I combined recipes from HERE and HERE.

1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

I made a jar full of this and added it to 1 pint of liquid ingredients.  I combined this with half of the liquid ingredients from my homemade buttermilk ranch recipe to make 1 pint of a more flavorful homemade ranch. See?  I'm improving my recipes as I go.  

To use the dry ranch to make ranch for your salads, just follow the directions below.

½ cup canned coconut milk
1 cup sour cream or yogurt (or a mix thereof), and again, if a dairy free option is needed, coconut yogurt can easily be used here
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional but adds a great boost of flavor if you can eat cheese)
Another splash of milk until liquid is at preferred consistency
1 Tbsp. dry ranch mix
Pinch of dried chives

Stir together.  Add more mix, salt and/or pepper if you wish.  I liked it just like this.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets

Don't ever buy pre-made instant oatmeal packets again!  Have you read the ingredients?  Not to mention the price.  And they are so easy to make at home.  Mix the ingredients below in little snack baggies.  Pour them in a bowl and add hot water in the morning.  Good to go!  For the price of 2 boxes of 8 instant oatmeal packets you can make about 30 packets for adults and about 60 packets for the littles.

Adult Packets:
½ cup quick cooking oats
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp. dried fruit or other favorite topping (optional)

Littles Packets:
¼ cup quick cooking oats
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
½-1 Tbsp. dried fruit or other favorite topping (optional)

Chicken Stew

Note:  This recipe makes enough to freeze half for our little family.  Adjust amounts for what works for your family.

This meal was a hit with the toddler.  She went back for seconds.  That means it's a keeper since it is difficult to get that child to eat anything.  This stew is incredible flavorful.  I was impressed.

6 chicken breast portions
2 cups chopped carrots
4 cups chopped potatoes
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped or sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. basil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions for freezer half:
Put half of all ingredients EXCEPT potatoes, lemon juice and chicken stock in freezer bag.  Write the name of the meal, the date and instructions to add 2 cups chopped potatoes, 2 cups chicken stock and 1/2 tsp. lemon juice.  Vacuum seal or squeeze out as much air possible and toss in the freezer.

Directions for eat now half:
Dump all leftover ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  If you cook on low, turn it up for 20-30 minutes at some point during cooking to cook the potatoes through.  I find that potatoes don't always cook through in the slow cooker without higher heat.  You could also partially cook them before putting them in the slow cooker at the beginning.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Freezing Food to Save Money

I have started learning to freeze food, namely produce, in order to cut down on waste and save money.  It is a learning process when all of this fresh food cooking is still pretty new to us.  But we have a good start and I have some freezer MEALS in the works for the next few weeks.  I'll let you all know how it goes.  We also have a nifty FoodSaver which has paid for itself in saved food.  It vacuum seals all of our food before it is frozen.

I used this link as a guide to what you can and can't freeze.  It also links to a chart of how to freeze certain vegetables.  Some vegetables freeze best after they are blanched for a specific amount of time.

Here is another link to a blog with tips and timelines on how long stuff should be kept after it is frozen.  Don't forget to date everything you freeze!

And here are some pictures of the things I have frozen so far using those two websites and friends as guides.

Fresh carrots, sliced, blanched, sealed

Fresh celery, chunked, blanched, sealed

Buttermilk, frozen in ice cube trays

Gluten Free, Corn Free Homemade Italian Bread Crumbs divided and sealed into ½ cup servings

I know it doesn't look like much but it saves more money than you think when you add it all together.  It also makes it easier to add to the slow cooker or a quick recipe after busy days.  And this is just the beginning.

Baked Potato Wedges

These were a big hit with the whole family.  They are baked, not fried.  But they don't get mushy and soggy like most baked fries.  The only oil they have is the oil drizzled to lightly coat the outside and grease the pan.

Russet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into evenly sized wedges
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Peel and wedge potatoes. Place the potato wedges in a large mixing bowl and cover with hot, salted water.  Soak for 15-30 minutes.  Lightly grease the pan with oil to coat a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle the pan with salt and pepper.
Drain the potatoes.  Spread them out onto paper towels or a clean dish towel.  Pat dry with other towels.  Dry the bowl which the potatoes were soaking in and put the dry potato wedges back in the bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to turn the potatoes so they are all lightly and evenly coated with the oil.  Spread out on the baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through.

I don't have a picture right now.  I forgot to take them in the excitement when everyone liked them.  :-)  I will try to remember to take pictures next time.

Strawberry Muffins

I believe this is the third muffin recipe I've tried and blogged.  Obviously, I LOVE MUFFINS!!!  Anyway, these are delicious and, as with the others, versatile.  You can use any fruit in them.  I love strawberries and always have a bag of frozen ones on hand.  Of course, you can use fresh also.  It is just hard to find good, fresh strawberries for more than maybe a month out of the year.

2 cups flour
½ cup and 6 tsp. sugar, divided
2 tsp. baking powder (corn-free)
½ tsp. salt
1 cup canned coconut milk (I ended up using just a splash more than this because my batter was too dry)
1 egg
¼ cup butter, melted
sliced strawberries (I used about 2½ cups of thawed strawberries)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease or line 12 muffin cups.  Combine flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk in the milk, egg and butter.  Fold in the strawberry slices.  Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle each muffin with ½ tsp. sugar.  Bake approximately 15 minutes, until golden.

This recipe was modified from HERE.