Monday, October 29, 2012

Turkey or Beef and Asparagus Meatballs

Update Note:  We still love this recipe but I have had to make a few changes.  We have constantly kept learning about the corn issues and our daughter has still had tummy troubles off and on that we have had to work with and figure out.  We no longer do dairy since we did this recipe so those ingredients are now excluded for us.  Also, the brand of ground turkey we can get here includes "natural flavors" in the ingredients.  This often means some type of corn source.  So we no longer use that either and I have not found a source of clean turkey yet.  We have found a source for good, local, grass-fed beef though.  So we now use that instead.  It is VERY good.  I can't believe now, that we ever ate that beef from the grocery store.  This stuff tastes and cooks so much better!

These are very easy to make and very easy to sneak in some extra veggies.  The original recipe only had asparagus in the meatballs and garlic in the sauce.  Well I added spinach to the meatballs and sauce and onions to the sauce.  I will include my additions in this recipe.  You modify to your family's tastes.  This was a hit with the whole family.

Ingredients for meatballs:
1 lb. ground white turkey or beef
3 asparagus spears sliced thin
1 handful frozen, cooked spinach, chopped
1 egg
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. dry oregano
½ cup Italian bread crumbs (Try my recipe HERE)/(crumbled cereal or crackers can be used as well)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional if dairy free is needed)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions for meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine ground turkey, asparagus, spinach, egg, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, bread crumbs, and parmesan in a bowl.  I used my hands to mix.  If it is too crumbly you can add one more egg.  Form into preferred sized meatballs.  I also made a few small flat patties similar to little sausage patties. This made it easier for the toddler to eat.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add each meatball/patty to the hot pan and cook until just getting browned on each side.  Put meatballs in a baking dish or on a baking pan and bake for twenty minutes.  I cut a meatball in half to make sure it was finished before taking them out of the oven.

Ingredients for sauce:
1 Tbsp. onion powder/dried minced onion or 1 medium onion, minced
1 handful frozen, cooked spinach, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups crushed tomatoes (No cans for corn-free. The original recipe called for 16 oz. but we liked it better with a little more.)
2 oz. softened cream cheese (optional for dairy free; or maybe try coconut milk or coconut yogurt? I haven't tried yet)
salt and pepper to taste

First, start boiling preferred pasta noodles.  Saute onion and garlic in the same pan the meatballs were started.  Add in the spinach.  When the spinach is soft and warm, add in the crushed tomatoes, cream cheese and salt and pepper.  Stir until the cream cheese is melted and incorporated into the tomato sauce.  Now serve meatballs and sauce over pasta.

If you don't want noodles, you could easily just serve the meatballs alone with some more veggies or a gluten free option such as rice or quinoa.

Note:  This recipe was modified from another recipe which you can find HERE.

Freezer Meals 1

I have started trying to cook once every two to four weeks and freeze meals.  We have a food saver to vacuum seal for freezing.  The vacuum saver has already paid for itself in food saved from freezer burn. The meals are ready to go in the slow cooker or oven. We eat off of these meals for ALL meals ALL week.I cook one meal on Saturday and one meal on Sunday and we usually eat out for one meal per week.  We also make breakfast and tacos once a week.  This fills in the holes when we don't want to eat leftovers.  Plus, breakfast and tacos are always quick and easy to make.  Below is a week of recipes I used in my experiment.  I will continue to blog about my cooking and freezing ventures.  To see the recipe, click on the name of the dish underneath the picture.  They link to the blog posts with the the recipes.

NOTE:  I typically buy frozen chicken.  I can get a ten pound bag from Sam's for a great price and we eat mostly chicken for our lean protein source.  This means, if the recipe calls for chopped chicken, the chopping doesn't happen until it thaws or cooks.  (NEVER refreeze and meat after it thaws!)

There are two meals without a picture.  I'll add more later.

Here are pictures of all of the frozen meals, ready for the freezer or fridge.  These pictures show 10 meals going in the freezer or fridge.  One went right into the fridge to cook the next day.  The rest went into the freezer and were laid out to thaw the night before or just dumped frozen into the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

This is another meal that can be split or doubled for freezer meals.  The recipe below split into two batches for our family.  One batch went in the slow cooker and one batch went in the freezer.  One batch for us makes enough for one dinner for me, a dinner and a lunch for L and a lunch for J.  Sometimes there is even some leftover from that.  This can be served over and/or with anything.  Side of steamed veggies and a baked potato...  Over noodles...  Over rice...  A little hint if you want to serve over noodles:  you will need to add sauce whether that be your favorite spaghetti sauce or just a couple of cans of tomato sauce.  I've done all of these things and all have worked well.  I've messed it up too because I'm still not the best cook.  But I'm getting better.

1 onion, minced (you can chop this or slice this however you like but I don't like onion chunks so I mince)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2½ cups tomato paste (no cans for corn-free)
4 oz. fresh chopped mushrooms (again, you can slice but I don't like chunks so I chop in small pieces)
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. basil
1 cup chicken stock

Mix together tomato paste, mushrooms, salt, pepper, garlic, herbs and chicken stock in a slow cooker.  Add in chicken and make sure it is covered by tomato mixture.  Cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 4 hours.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Italian Chicken and Tomatoes

This is another very healthy, easy slow cooker meal.  It is one of my favorites right now.  I served it over rice but you could also serve it over noodles or by itself with some veggies.  I split this recipe into two and put them in the freezer for future use.  This is another easy meal that is easy to dump in the slow cooker before work.

8 chicken breasts
8 small/medium diced/crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper

NOTE:  We have also used an Italian herb mix instead of the separate herbs.

Once you get used to the amounts, you will be able to just dump everything together in the slow cooker.  Or if you have the sauce already made, even better.  I like to make the crushed tomatoes, oregano, garlic, onion, basil, salt and pepper into an sauce.  You could can it, make it the night before, or make it on the weekend and freeze it ahead for one a week/month cooking.  I also will be blogging the instructions for making the sauce in another blog post just for the sauce.  It is a versatile mix.  There are Italian diced tomatoes you can buy canned in the store as well if you still use canned products.  It has citric acid in it so we cannot use it.
To make the sauce, dice the tomatoes.  I usually score and blanch the tomatoes to peel them.  Then I cut them into large chunks and put them under my hand chopper.  It makes quick work of dicing them up.  Toss them into a sauce pan or skillet.  Then add in oregano, garlic, onion, basil, salt and pepper to taste.  Plenty of onion, garlic and salt go into mine.  Watch the oregano because it is strong.  Start with a pinch and go from there.  I have gotten pretty used to using this and making this so I can usually just toss it all in.  You can use fresh garlic and onion, dried or powdered.  I've used it all and it all tastes great.
Mix everything together in the slow cooker or in bags for the freezer.  In the slow cooker, cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

I serve this over rice and with a vegetable of some kind.  We like green beans a lot.  But broccoli, asparagus, peas are all good.  This is great reheated for lunches.  Even the picky husband eats it reheated.

Here are a couple of pictures.  The first is a picture with a salad.  The other is a picture with rice, packed up to take to work for lunch the next day.

NOTE:  The cooking times are what was used when cooking from a frozen state.

Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken

This is a very healthy but very easy meal.  This recipe was enough to make two batches.  These were put in the freezer for easy, throw in the slow cooker before work meals.

6 chicken breasts
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
6-8 small/medium tomatoes, peeled
salt and pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. celery seed
2 cups chicken stock (if you are freezing, leave this out until you put this in the slow cooker)

First, mince the onion and garlic.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, peel them now too.  Now I split everything except the chicken stock into two bags to put in the freezer.  That's it.  The only other thing there is to do is dump it in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Note:  I don't have a picture of this yet.  It is hard to remember what pictures I still need.  I will add one next time we have this meal.