Baby it’s Cold Outside

baby girl snow 15Winter has finally made it here. The yo-yo continues with a tease of spring right before the next northern slaps you in the face.  I’m only good for one polar vortex, thank you very much.

Today was ACTUAL snow. Fluffy, flaky, snow. So pretty. So cold.

I’m cold.

I will be cold until April.
I am mourning my flip flops.
I’ve been wearing Man’s house shoes the past two days.
(If you don’t live in Texas and think I’m being a big baby.  Well…let me tell you something.  Cold is a different kind of beast down here.  And re-frozen slush is a whole new kind of inclement weather.  Just like in July, Texas HOT is just not the same kind of heat as everywhere else.  I digress…)

MUST FIND WARMTH.

You too?

Well, these dishes promise to add a little warmth and perk to your dinner table.

Spiced Tea
This was originally an iced tea recipe, but it works well served hot on those days when frigid wind pierces right through ya
Gather:
2c water
1/4 c honey (sweeten to taste)
1 bag black tea
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1/3 cup orange juice
To Make:
Heat water with anise, lemon slices, and cinnamon stick to boiling. Steep tea bag. Add in orange juice. Sweeten to taste.

Share with a friend.
Y’all know what goes good with spiced tea?
Spiced rum.
Just saying.
In case your friend is cute.

Hot Chocolate
It has taken me years to figure out I like hot chocolate. Hot cocoa, not so much. It’s something about the dried milk.  Immediately takes me back to college intern days.
IMG_3478To make:
Heat 4 cups of milk to steaming over low to medium-low heat.  20140102-091024.jpg
Want a little spice and warmth?
Add 1 cinnamon stick to the milk.
Stir in 1 cup milk chocolate chips.
Feeling indulgent?
Toss in another 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate.
Warm to melt.  Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Feel it starting to work?

Now just one question…whipped cream or marshmallows?

For more drink recipe ideas check out my Something to Sip board.

Need some cold weather comfort food?
Being stuck inside has had me cooking up a storm.
I’ve tried some pretty yummy recipes lately.
Here are a few.

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Gather:
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
1 good size chicken breast
1 – 1 1/2 cup egg noodles
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 bouquet garni (thyme, rosemary, parsley, fennel ferns…whatever you have on hand)
salt and pepper, to taste
To Make:
Sweat onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil until they begin to soften.  Add stock, water, chicken, bay leaf, and bouquet garni.  Bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer for 20-40 minutes; until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken, shred or dice and return to pot.  Serve.

Super Yum & Super Simple One Pot Chicken and Rice – I found this beauty on Big Red Kitchen; it got fabulous reviews, made wonderful leftovers, and was gloriously easy with only one dirty pan to worry about.

Blueberry-Banana Streusel Muffins
IMG_6984A modified version of my Betty Crocker Bridal Cookbook recipe. Big fluffy bakery style yummy…without even having to leave the house.
Gather:
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 very ripe bananas, smashed to a puree
For Streusel:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
To Make:
Mix streusel ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Fill a muffin tin with baking papers or grease pan.
In small mixing bowl, beat milk, oil, egg, and banana.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk flours, baking powder and salt together.
Using a wooden spoon, make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just moistened.
Fold in the blueberries.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Top with the streusel topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the muffin.
Serve warm. Will keep at room temperature several days in an airtight container, but streusel will lose its crunch.

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Romanesco

IMG_3481Dutch Oven Herbed Chicken and Veggies
Another one-pot wonderful dish.  Full of flavor, hands off, and a great way to use up vegetables in our co-op basket this  week.   I served it with roasted romanesco IMG_3480(olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes & finished with pecorino cheese) and fennel and orange salad (thinly sliced fennel bulb, two segmented oranges, tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, salt, pepper and drizzle of olive oil).  It proved to be a fulfilling and light dinner. 
Gather:
2 large chicken breasts, halved crosswise and butterflied (this alone was about 2# of meat)
1/2 # trimmed green beans
1/2 bundle trimmed and cut asparagus
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 thinly sliced red potato
drizzle of olive oil
salt, pepper, dried herbs de Provence (or rosemary), red pepper flakes, splash of white wine
To Make:
In a Dutch oven, sear the chicken in olive oil over medium high heat.  Add in the vegetables, drizzling with some additional oil, a generous sprinkling of dried herbs, salt and peppers.  Pour 1/2 cup or so of white wine over the entire mixture and cover.  Place Dutch oven in 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue cooking until chicken is done and potatoes are tender.  In all about 30 minutes. Remove chicken and vegetables to a platter, ladle over some of the wine sauce from the bottom of the pan and serve.

Swiss Style Venison Steaks
My rendition of the classic beef dish found in Joy of Cooking. I used the backstrap, but I’m sure tenderloins would work well too.
Gather:
approximately 2# of meat (usually blade steaks or rump is called for when using beef)
1 can 15 oz, sweet Italian peeled tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup beef stock (or water if you are like me and didn’t get out in sludge to get stock)
1/2 a beer
1 small bundle of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons brown sugar
salt and pepper
To Make:
Mix paprika, salt, and pepper with flour. Dredge the meat in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in Dutch oven, and brown the meat.
Place to the side on a platter and in the same pan, soften the onions, carrots, celery, green pepper, and garlic. Add beer and stock to deglaze the pan.
Return steaks to Dutch Oven. Top with tomatoes and herbs. Pour beer over top and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper.
Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove to a clean platter and top with sauce.
I served it with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.

Slow Cooker French Dip Style Sandwiches
Gather:
1 cup beef broth
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 onion, thinly sliced
2# beef chuck or bottom round roast
chili coffee rub (I found this premix spice in HEB Central Market’s bulk section – LOVE it!)
1 cup beer (I use Shiner Bock for cooking)
1 small bunch fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
To Make:
Sear the meat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic to the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the meat on top, and add the other ingredients.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat is easily shredded.
Ladle some of the cooking juice into small bowls to serve with the sandwiches. Buy me a fat separator if you want the fat separated.
Serve on hoagie rolls with sharp cheese and au jus.
Enjoy the simplicity.

Kelsey Nixon also has a turkey version we recently tried. Just delightful!

Ice Day Tip:  I always save cookie in a jar gifts that we receive over the holidays for inclement weather days.  They store great, are quick and easy, and they are one less sweet to eat over the holidays.  I am happy to report that my ICE Day BIN has worked wonderfully this week.

Find more recipes like these on my Slow Cooker Pinterest board!

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A New Spin for Super Bowl

As football season draws to a close, many of us have eaten our fair share of dogs, downed more nachos than we’d care to admit, and are still burning from the heat of too many wings, so here’s a new spin on tailgate food just in time for super bowl.

Try a Burrito Bar – Chipotle style or much simpler, everyone loves that they can personalize their meal.
Man’s Favorite Variety: The Frito Burrito
Flour tortilla layered with seasoned meat, crunchy Fritos, and lots of gooey Colby Jack or sharp cheddar cheese.

Channel the 70’s & Fondue! 
With some simple prep work, you can set the spread ahead of time, keep the fondue warm in a fondue pot or crockpot, and never miss a minute of the big game. 
Click here for my fondue recipe and tips.

Update Your Sliders
Breakaway from your usual beef patty. Try topping your mini sandwiches with blackened fish or salt and pepper shrimp. Top homemade biscuits (surprisingly easy to make) with mini chicken fried steaks.

These sweet potato biscuits with peppered pork loin from Southern at Heart host, Damaris Phillips might just be the twist you’ve been looking for. 

Gumbo! A Break from Holiday Overload

I thought I would be writing this post weeks ago, but our house has been SICK. Head cold, viruses, upset stomach, put us out of our misery sick. Bah Humbug. The weather in Texas has been warm, then rainy, then cold and dreary. Bah. The small attempts I have made to rejoin society have been through hurricane kit craft stores and bustling grocery aisles. Bah.

The school week is winding down, the kids’ excitement is growing, and Christmas is around the corner. Time for a little break from holiday overload. This afternoon, Baby Girl took a long nap, the boys started a Mario Bros marathon, and I caught up on Hallmark’s 2014 Holiday Movies. What a delightfully cheesy way to catch a little Christmas joy. A Royal Christmas and Christmas Underwraps (LOVE Candace Cameron Bure) did not disappoint: sweet, predictable, and made me smile. It was up and at them for some food love – Gumbo. I have used a version of this recipe I originally tore out year’s ago from Cook’s Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen, and those guys know their stuff. I have added chicken thigh meat over the years, but tonight we had a little duck thrown in.

Cajun Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
Serves 4-6
Gather:
1/2 # gulf shrimp, shells removed and reserved, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup clam juice (on the canned food aisle, usually by tuna)
1 1/4 cups ice water
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 onion, fine dice
1 stalk celery, fine dice
1/2 green bell pepper, fine dice
1/2 red bell pepper, fine dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 ounces frozen okra, thawed
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme leaves
salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound smoked Andouille sausage
1/4 cup parsley leaves, minced
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts
black pepper
white rice

To Make:
Bring the reserved shrimp shells and vegetable stock to a boil, over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the stock, add ice water and clam juice. Add additional vegetable stock until you have 1 quart. Discard shells, and set aside.
Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and gradually stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, making sure to work out any lumps that may form. Continue stirring constantly for about 20 minutes until the roux has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown. Don’t try to rush it. The roux will thin as it cooks, and if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir so it cools slightly.
Add onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, okra, thyme, salt and cayenne to the roux and cook, until the vegetables soften. Attend to them, stirring frequently. This should take 10-15 minutes. Add the stock, while stirring continuously. Increase the heat to high, and skim any foam that rises to the surface. Add the bay leaf, and simmer, uncovered (keep skimming foam) for 30 minutes.
Add in sausage, and continue simmering another 30 minutes. Start the rice. Stir in the shrimp and simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add in the parsley, scallions, and season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
Spoon over rice.
Now there’s time for more Christmas movies. I’m thinking on to the classics – White Christmas and maybe A Christmas Carol.

“God Bless Us, Every One!”

Dinner? Soup’s On!

It’s starting to finally cool down. For me, that means SOUP weather!

I am looking forward to a yummy winter.

Roasted Broccoli Cheddar Soup
This final recipe is a culmination of years catering lunches and teaching cooking students; a few tweaks each time I prepared it for someone. It is a winner.
Gather:
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large crowns of broccoli, trimmed to florets
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
4 medium carrots, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped (approx. ½ cup)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups half-and-half
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar
To Make:
Place broccoli in roasting pan and roast in oven at 350 for 20 minutes. This is an extra step, but the added flavor is soooo worth it.

While broccoli is roasting, place half and half in a small saucepan and warm over low heat. In a large saucepan, melt butter under medium to medium high heat and sauté onions, celery, and carrots.

Add in flour and cook for 3-5 minutes making a blonde roux. Add seasonings and whisk in chicken stock.  Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer on low.  When the broccoli is done, add it in, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Using either an immersion blender or ladling into a regular blender, puree the soup. Return the soup to the saucepan and add in warmed half and half and cheeses.  From this point, do not allow to boil.  Gently simmer soup for about 20 minutes, allowing the flavors to combine and cheeses to melt. Ladle into bowls, find your favorite bread, crouton, or crackers and dive in to some cheesy comfort. Trust me, my phone does not do justice to the yumminess.

Beef & Vegetable Soup like my Dad made it
Gather:
1/2 pound ground beef
1/3 large onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 large red potato, large dice
14 ounce can whole tomatoes
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dried herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 bay leaf
3 cups beef broth
To Make:
In a large soup pot, over medium-high heat, brown the meat with onion, celery, carrot, pepper, and garlic. Remove from heat, drain, and discard the grease.
Return to heat add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and herbs. Cook over medium-high heat until dry. Stir in broth, add potato, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low/medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are softened.

A’s Potato Soup
This is an original S’more Mom recipe, and one of my all time winter favorites!
Serves 4
Gather:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 celery stock, fine dice
3 baked Yukon gold potatoes
1 clove garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups thick cubed black forest ham
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 shallot
2-4 cups chicken stock
2/3 – 1 cup cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
To Make:
Bake potatoes at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Sauté ham, onion, celery, shallot, garlic, and thyme with olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until veggies are translucent and ham slightly browns. While cooking, bake potatoes an additional 15 minutes, and allow to cool slightly. Peel and dice, set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste. Deglaze with a small amount of chicken stock, just enough to scrape brown bits. Sprinkle veggie mixture with flour, and cook several minutes. Add enough chicken stock to cover veggies, dairy, potatoes, and chives. Simmer an additional 10 minutes, but do not boil.

Chicken Enchilada Soup
Serves 6-8
Gather:
3 Tablespoons butter
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 lime, juiced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons salt
¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 corn tortillas, cut into think (1/4”) strips, divided
2 cups diced cooked chicken
½ teaspoon baking powder
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz American cheese or queso blanco (good melting cheese)
1 to 1 ½ cups half and half (can substitute cream, Mexican crema, or sour cream)
4 oz can green chilies
*can substitute 2-3 Tablespoons of non-msg taco seasoning for chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, cumin and salt.
**the baking soda keeps the dairy from curdling when added to the tomatoes and lime juice in the soup base
To Make:
Melt butter over medium heat and sweat pepper, onion, celery, and carrots until softened. Stir in seasonings, stock, tomatoes and 4 tortillas.

Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer 15 minutes. Puree and return to pot.

While soup simmers, bake remaining tortilla strips at 375 degrees until crispy.

Add baking soda, and when bubbling calms, add cheeses, chilies, half and half, and chicken. Simmer over low heat 30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding.

Garnish with: crispy tortilla strips, sour cream, pico de gallo, avocado, cilantro, grated cheddar

Minestone Soup Base
Gather:
1 Tablespoon EVOO
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef broth
28 ounce petite diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary, minced
salt and pepper to taste
any vegetables you want to add, diced
1 can Italian beans, rinsed & drained
To Make:
Sauté onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until translucent. Add it broth, tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, and seasoning. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer at least 20 minutes, checking for tenderness.

Toss It Together Southwest Chicken Soup
This soup can be easily assembled with pantry and freezer ingredients

Tomato Parmesan Soup

Williams-Sonoma French Onion Soup

Try these other recipes from my Souper Pinterest board and let me know your thoughts!

Our Favorite Christmas Recipes

IMG_3219.JPG
Drawing by KB

These are just a few recipes that my holiday wouldn’t be complete without. Please tell me, what are your family’s must have holiday dishes?!

B’s Christmas Sticks
I call them B’s because my cousin, B usually ate most of them when we were growing up.
Gather:
1 bag Pretzel rods
Finely grated (to powder) Parmesan cheese
Bacon (thick cut does not work well here)
To Make:
Wrap pretzel in a slice of bacon, roll in Parmesan. Place on cooling rack placed in foil lined pan and bake at 375-400 about 20 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

Sausage balls
A stable at our table. Man’s request…usually made with venison sausage.
Gather:
2 pounds bulk breakfast sausage
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (this is not the time for pre-shredded, the anti caking agents do not work in your favor)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
To Make:
Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; using hands, combine well. Form into 1 inch balls ( I like to use a cookie scoop). This is a dry dough, you may have to work for the last few. Place on ungreased baking sheet; bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

Roasted pears & cranberries
My favorite way to enjoy this bright tart winter fruit.
Gather:
Two pears, chopped
1 bag fresh cranberries
Zest of one orange
Drizzle of honey, couple of pads of butter
To Make:
Toss ingredients together and roast together at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Mulled Glow Wine
One Germanic tradition that is OK in my book….leaves you feeling warm, toasty, and in a holiday mood.
1 peel orange peel
12 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean
1 star anise
4 cinnamon sticks
1 bottle Gluhwein
Simmer all ingredients in a heavy saucepan at least an hour.

LOVE these Fresh Cranberry Scones from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.

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Eat, Drink & Be Merry Merry!

The Advent Dinner Calendar

What better way to savor family time, holiday rushing, and last minute shopping than to save precious moments making dinner?  Inspired by several of my friends’ requests for a complete dinner plan and Raising Arrows series of posts on Preparing for a Peaceful Holiday, I have outlined quick and easy meals for every night of the holiday season.  Sit back, relax, and be merry!

Click HERE for the printable PDF that has breakfast and dinner outlined for every night.  This outline doesn’t repeat meals and works off of soups, casseroles, and traditional “supper” items. I didn’t make a shopping list because I don’t know what all you have on hand and I didn’t want you cussing me if you made it all the way home to find I forgot an ingredient.

Option Two – at the beginning of the week, stock up on a fish, pork, chicken, and some ground meat.  Grab the produce on sale for that week, and you’re set for broiled or grilled meat with a simple vegetable side dish for the week! Usually the sale or special items for the week are the items that are at the peak of season.

November 30
Pioneer Woman’s Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork – In the oven or slow cooker, this make it and leave it dish is great on slider rolls with sliced gouda or piled in tortillas with cilantro, queso fresco, sliced avocado, and a lime wedge for quick pork tacos – Plus there are usually plenty of leftovers to freeze and use again*

December 1
Dirty Rice

December 2
Super Simple Chicken Pot Pie

December 3
Tomato Parmesan Soup with Crunchy Croutons

December 4
Market Fish and Nancy Fuller’s Garlicky Green Salad

December 5
Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce and Mexican Style Street Corn

December 6
French Bread Pizzas with Greek Salad – there are a gazillion versions of these, but basically, grab a loaf of French crusty bread, add a good jarred pizza sauce and whatever toppings you like! I recommend saluting any veggies first. We bake ours for 10-15 minutes at 375, then raise the temp to 450 for another 5-10 minutes to make the cheese golden and bubbly.

December 7
Roast Chicken with Winter Root Vegetables

December 8
Beef & Vegetable Soup the Way Dad Made It

December 9
Broiled Salmon with Sautéed Greens and Roasted Acorn Squash

December 10
Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Thyme, Quick Roasted Asparagus

December 11
Tex-Mex Sweet Potato Skins

December 12
Chicken Broccoli Supreme Casserole

December 13
Toss Together Southwest Chicken Soup

December 14
Chicken Marsala with Garlic Whipped Potatoes & Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

December 15
Roast Pork Loin (LOVE this one by Paula Deen too) with Gingered Carrots

December 16
Shrimp & Andouille Gumbo

December 17
Roasted Broccoli Soup

December 18
Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas with Simple Avocado & Greens Salad

December 19
Spicy Teriyaki Chicken with Steamed Rice and Steamed Veggies

December 20
Sloppy Joes with Oven Crisped Fries

December 21
Rachael Ray’s Braciola and Sausage Sunday Gravy

December 22
A’s Potato Soup

December 23
Chicken Spaghetti

December 24 & 25
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day are not included since everyone has their own traditions

December 26
Breakfast for Dinner

December 27
Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole

December 28
Lasagna (seriously — you do not need a side)

December 29
Herbed Pork with roasted broccoli

December 30
Beef & Chicken Fajitas, Black Beans & Cilantro Lime Rice

December 31
Kid’s Nite In or Parent’s @ Home Date Night – don’t forget the bubbly! I prefer Prosecco
Beer Cheese Fondue

Make things even easier by using a rotating cycle menu for breakfast during the month of December! I will also make sure I have a big batch of granola or a couple of boxes of cereal on hand for when the inevitable happens: “We OVERSLEPT!”

Week 1:

Monday – eggs to order & toast

Tuesday – oatmeal – dress it up differently with a variety of dried fruit and spices or make it a make your own bar by setting the condiments out and letting the kids build their own bowl. There are tons of recipes online for overnight oats and crock pot oats for even more hands-off time.

Wednesdaymini frittata cups

Thursday – yogurt parfaits – just make sure you have a protein component so you don’t run out of fuel before lunch!

Friday – breakfast burritos – scrambled eggs, salsa, beans/leftover meat, avocado, veggies – options are endless

Saturdaypancakes or waffles – take a basic recipe – I like this one, and add seasonal flavorings all month long – you can even mix dry ingredients the night before. In a rush?  Make a big batch on a slow day and freeze them to warm up later.  Feeling really indulgent?  Try the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe.  You’ll have enough for you and your neighbors!

Sundaybreakfast casserole or omelets to order. Older kids?  Try Omelets for a Crowd – originally a Paula Deen recipe, this method lets everyone customize and cook their own omelet, no cooking knowledge required!  From experience of making hundreds of these – use name brand quart freezer bags, tongs, and have a pot watcher (to make sure the bag isn’t touching the sides).  Save yourself the pain.

Week 2:

Monday – I these little muffins from love Serious Eats! So easy, and the kids always gobble them up! Or for a holiday treat, try Balancing Health and Happiness’ Almond Butter Gingerbread Muffins (hello gluten & sugar free!)

Tuesday – English Muffin or Biscuit ( great biscuits here) breakfast sandwiches

Wednesday – oatmeal or yogurt parfait

Thursday – Eggs! Sometimes I get lazy and make a regular frittata, call it breakfast pizza, and I’m done!

Friday – leftover muffins from earlier in the week or a repeat of breakfast sandwiches

Saturday – Scones – my family loves scones J We make chocolate chip, cinnamon sugar, dried cherry…my favorite are Christmas Sconces, but Two Peas & Their Pod have a lovely Fresh Cranberry Scone recipe as well!

Sunday – same plan as last week…little kids, church service to make it to….if it ain’t broke…

Then you repeat. Not sure about some of my choices?  Check out my Breakfast Board for more ideas!

LOVE this Advent Joke calendar!

Related:
Cute Ideas to Get Your Brood in the Holiday Mood
2013 Gift Guide
The Merry Christmas Post

***if a recipe is not linked, it will appear in this month’s posts, so bookmark this page!

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Dinner’s in the Freezer

When I was very pregnant with Baby Girl, the doctor started talking induction and I became more and more obsessed with the avoidance of an induction. I walked, I ate spicy foods, I walked, I did EVERYTHING I could trying to get Baby Girl to join us.  No go.  I had contractions that went nowhere for days…she was nice and comfy.  Finally, after lots of debating and looking at my past deliveries, we set a date for induction.  Well, this hadn’t happened with either of the boys, so I had major anxiety.  I decided to put my Thanksgiving break and nervous energy to use and be uber prepared for an easy Welcome Home.  In retrospect, I wish I had done this with all of my deliveries.  This list is super awesome for anyone coming home from deployment, surgery, a new baby or just heading into a really busy season…cough, cough, the HOLIDAYS.

Needless to say, where there is anxiety, there is chocolate and compulsions. Logically, I became obsessed with Pinterest and found Saving You Dinero and it was amazing!  Bless Janell’s heart, she had done all of the organizing and testing for me.  I found the recipes with the least processed foods, gave Man a small disclaimer that I was about to experiment on our family (thankfully I was super pregnant and he didn’t argue), and went shopping.  It did raise some eyebrows when I spent all day Thanksgiving cooking and wouldn’t let anyone eat any of it.

Below are the recipes our family decided were for keeps. We did try others from her website, but they just weren’t ones we would eat over and over.  Plus, it’s hard to keep up, she makes great updates all the time!

Freezer Supreme Pizza Pasta
This has been a hit with the kids. I found it as a crockpot meal, and tweaked it a little, but hours & hours seemed like overkill.  You can thaw and heat on the stove for a quick to the table dinner – it needs just long enough for flavors to meld.
Serves 6-8 (makes 2 quart sized bags w/ little leftovers) = 2 freezer meals
Gather:
1 ½ lb ground meat (maybe split between sausage & ground beef)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes 
16 oz can tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
10 oz spiral or other pasta(note this is not a full pound of pasta)
2 cups shredded cheese (I use a mix of cheddar and Italian style cheeses)
1 sleeve uncured pepperoni (chop and add at end)
1 small can sliced black olives (added last 30 min)
1 handful green olives (added last 30 min)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (added last 30 min)
6 Tablespoons of parmesan cheese (added last 30 min)
To Make
Cook ground beef. Drain and cool completely. (Or you can cook it the morning you prepare the meal and add it to the crock pot.) Add it to the freezer bag with the green pepper, onion, celery, garlic cloves, tomatoes, chili pepper, salt, and pepper.
Lay flat & freeze.
Write on the bag
Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours on low.
Last 30 minutes, add olives, oregano and parmesan.
When it’s almost done, cook pasta according to package and drain.
Add cooked pasta, 1cup of cheese and pepperoni to the crock pot and mix well.
Add more cheese to the top and serve!
Serve with
Salad and breadsticks
Veggie Dippers
Steamed Green Beans

Garlic Lime Chicken
Serves 4-6 (makes 1 gallon sized bag – easily adjusted depending on how many chicken breasts you buy) = 1 freezer meal
Gather:
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes) – used ¼ cup from little plastic lime
1 cup water (I like to use low-sodium chicken stock)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
To Make
Add all the ingredients to freezer bag. Lay flat and freeze.
Write on the bag
Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
Serve With
Spoon over a bowl of cilantro lime rice
Shred and chill for a quick salad topper
Adjustments
The flavors in this dish are good, but we are not fans of the texture that comes from cooking chicken in a crockpot. I would not normally braise a chicken breast. I recommend picking up some chicken cutlets and using the ingredients to create a Texan Chicken Piccata (lime for lemon, no capers) and serving over Angel Hair or zucchini Pasta & EVOO. If you go this route, don’t use the cup of water, just add a splash of white wine or chicken stock.

Garlic Honey Chicken
Serves 4-6 (Makes 1 gallon size freezer bag) = 1 freezer meal
Gather:
1 ½ to 2 pounds chicken (defrost if using frozen chicken) – going straight from freezer made the sauce too thin
6 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
½ cup honey
To Make
Add all the sauce ingredients to a quart size freezer bag & seal. Freeze sauce and buy fresh chicken when ready to make or place in a gallon size freezer bag with chicken portioned out.
Lay flat and freeze.
If using frozen chicken, defrost chicken and sear before adding to crock pot.
Write on the bag
Cook 3-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low (reduce cooking time if you thaw and sear chicken).
Serve With
Rice and steamed veggies, stir fried noodles use chicken wings & drummettes for a tailgate version

Shredded Beef Tacos
Serves 6-8 (1 gallon sized freezer bag) I have made this recipe and frozen the leftovers as a second meal = 1-2 freezer meals
Gather:
1 London Broil, chuck or top round roast (about 2 lbs), seasoned liberally with salt and pepper
1 cup beef stock
1 diced onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 ½ teaspoon chili powder (you can adjust this according to your taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
for garnish:  grated Monterrey Jack Cheese, sliced avocado, sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, lime slices
To Make
Add all the ingredients to a gallon size freezer bag & seal. Lay flat & freeze.
Write on the bag
When you are ready to cook the meal, dump the contents of the bag into the crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours.

When the meat is cooked, you will need to strain the juices and add the juice back to the slow cooker. Shred the meat and add back to the juice in the slow cooker for about 30 minutes. Sometimes there is too much juice, so add it back slowly until you get your desired meat to liquid ratio.
Serve with
flour tortillas
Other taco fixings – feta or Monterrey jack shredded cheese sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.

Teriyaki Pork Chops
Serves 4 (1 gallon size freezer bag) = 1 freezer meal
Gather:
4 pork chops, about 1-inch thick
Salt and pepper to taste (you can sprinkle them before you add them to the bag.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
⅓ cup chicken broth
To Make:
Add the pork chops, garlic cloves, brown sugar, soy sauce, and chicken broth to freezer bag. Lay flat & freeze.
Write on the bag
Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
Serve With
White Rice
Steamed Veggies

Another Freezer/Crockpot Favorite

Paula Deen’s BBQ Pulled Pork This one is really great from the oven or smoker, but if you have to be away, it turns out great in the slow cooker too.
Serves 8-10 or 4-6 with leftovers
Gather:
Dry rub:
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons black pepper
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons paprika
½ – ¾ teaspoon cayenne
4 pound shoulder pork roast (we use pork sirloin roast, picnic or butt)
2 cups apple juice
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
1/2 Tablespoon liquid smoke
1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder
buns or rolls – awesome with King’s Hawaiian or homemade cheddar bread
BBQ sauce
To Make
Mix the dry rub ingredients in small bowl. Sprinkle dry rub all over the pork roast, pressing into the pork. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I usually just rub the pork the night before.
Dutch Oven Method
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine liquid ingredients and the garlic powder in a medium bowl and pour into a large Dutch oven. Place pork in the oven and tightly cover with aluminum foil then lid. Roast for 4 hours or until fork tender and shreds easily.
Slow Cooker Method
Combine liquid ingredients and the garlic powder in a medium bowl and pour into slow cooker. Place pork on top and tightly cover with aluminum foil then lid. Roast for 6 hours on low or until fork tender and shreds easily. Remove from oven or slow cooker and let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred the pork with a fork or tongs into bite size pieces.
To Serve
Make sliders with brown and serve or King’s Hawaiian rolls or also great on a sesame seed bun

 

Need some more ideas? Try looking at my casseroles post Check out my Pinterest Board on Freezer Cooking or Crockpot/Slow Cooker Meals & Slow Cooker Pins I’ve Tried

 

What are some of your favorite recipes for the freezer & slow cooker? Please share!