Holiday Checklist, Dinner – Done!

The hustle bustle is tuning up, and soon moms across the world will have to-do lists longer than their arms.  Please let me give your bustle a little less hustle with planned out meals for the holiday season.

Daily Dinner Plan – with Crockpot options

November 30
Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Thyme, Quick Roasted Asparagus

December 1
Diner Comfort Food – Cheesesteak Style or Patty Melt Sandwiches

December 2
One Pot Chicken and Rice – you’ll have leftovers, so you won’t have to worry about hubby’s lunch tomorrow or the rice for next week’s soup

December 3
Minestrone Soup

December 4
Baked Chicken Parmesan or this yummy looking Milanese (less cheese, more calories for cookies) An even easier version is this chicken parmesan casserole you could assemble ahead.

December 5
Paula Deen’s Pulled Pork Stuffed into Baked Potatoes (make a double batch of the pork, and you’re ready for next week)

December 6
Chicken Cordon Bleu with Steamed or Roasted Veggies and a Green Salad

December 7
Baked white fish sliders with not-your-normal cole slaw and oven fries

December 8
Shredded Beef Tacos or mix it up with these Korean Style Lettuce Wraps (both of these yield awesome leftovers)

December 9
Chicken and Rice Soup

December 10
Stuffed Pasta Shells (add in sautéed dark greens instead of meat and make this dish for Meatless Monday) A great reason to make a big pot of marinara and freeze for another busy night.

December 11
Texas Chili Bar – no beans here! (brown the meat , onion and garlic, then pop in the crockpot with all the other ingredients so it’s ready when you are)

Tonight is family game night, and make your own bowls of chili couldn’t be easier! Save the extra cornbread for next week’s stuffed peppers.

December 12
Mediterranean Style One Dish Herb Chicken Bake

December 13
BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches (this is actually leftover pork from the baked potato night that I froze for a super quick meal)

December 14
Veggie Lo Mein

December 15
Tis this season for family and friends, so why not make Taco Tuesday an event? Grab a holiday flick or make an impromptu craft or gift wrapping party.  Try these Seven Layer Tostadas

December 16
Pioneer Woman’s Pork Chops with Pineapple fried rice

December 17
Chicken and Cornbread Stuffed Peppers OR My Stuffed Bell Peppers

December 18
My Potato Soup – a nod to my family heritage — so easy and yummy

December 19
Broiled Salmon and roasted veggies

December 20
Whisky BBQ Meatballs ( I use my BBQ sauce recipe, then  add mashed potatoes (or steamed veggies, or herbed noodles – the side options are endless)

December 21
Kid’s Night – Bake cookies, make treats, watch your favorite holiday movie, let them invite friends over for a sleepless slumber party – the kids hang out, then everyone goes home and goes to their own beds for sleeping

Dinner cooked in muffin tins makes everything easy to divide and easy to eat – Mary Beth’s Knock Your Socks off Meatloaf and Mac and Cheese Cups

December 22
Soupeasy dinner so you can get to those last minute items on your list

December 23
In Texas, Christmas brings Tamales – order some, or try these cheats

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

December 26
With new toys to try and games to play, try one of these breakfast casseroles to start, or end , your day

December 27
Supreme Pizza Pasta (toss in the slow cooker or even freeze ahead)

December 28
Grilled Venison Backstrap with Gingered Carrots

December 29
Pioneer Woman’s Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

December 30
Baked chimichangas

December 31
Stay in Date Nite – going out when you have young children is rare; I don’t want to spend it with crowds

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

Forget the bubbly, this year I’m making these bourbon Blizzards.

Keep in the Freezer for One of Those Really Long Days – seriously, you don’t even need a side!

Make a Bunch and Save for Lunch

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*

Pecan Crusted Chicken – these take some prep up front, but they are easy to make and freeze great

Browned & seasoned ground beef, bison, or turkey (use in tacos, quesadillas, as pizza toppings)

Chicken Fajita meat – try this marinade to elevate them beyond normal week night.

Bring a Little Holiday Spirit into Your Kitchen

Christmas Scones

Gingerbread Waffles – I haven’t made these yet, but they are on my must try list

Fresh Cranberry Scones

Hosting Guests? These touches are sure to impress

For their room:

  • Recently I stayed at my brothers’ and one of the most welcome treats was their selection of pillows. Doesn’t sound like much, but with everyone having their own preference, being able to choose was a luxury. Of course, I picked them all!
  • Have an extra throw blanket in the room, especially for those who travel across the country, the climate change can be shocking

In the Morning:

  • Create a coffee and tea station next to a bowl of fruit so early risers can serve themselves and relax.
  • Your guests will be convinced they’re at a B&B with these breakfasts-Homemade donuts – these puppies are all baked so you can indulge without standing over the frypan or having guilt-Blueberry Baked Oatmeal or Bobby’s Oatmeal Stuffed Apples
  • Baked egg boats would be restaurant worthy
  • Set a loaf of bread to make overnight, so you wake to Fresh Bread machine with make ahead berry butter spread
  • Save some time with this gourmet casserole

Stock Ahead for Comfy Touches:

  • make sure the bar is stocked, grab an extra bottle of wine to mull (awesome on the day guests are arriving), have some bottled sparkling water or ginger ale on hand
  • early in the month, check dry goods in your pantry so you are prepared for last minute at home meals that come with an unexpected winter storm front
  • make cookie dough and freeze, so fresh baked cookies are quick to whip up

Fix-Aead Dinners that Feed a Crowd:

Just What Every Southern Girl Needs

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Every southern girl has certain things tucked away in her little bag of “tricks”. Rituals, traditions, and mannerisms she was taught while growing up.  They are the unspoken rules of the south, and we take pride in passing them down.  Rules you hear from the time you are a toddler:   Give Me-maw sugars, call your mamma, say grace, mind your manners, be welcoming to guests, don’t return a dish empty, write your own thank you notes.  Always have a little black dress, pearls can go with anything, and don’t let your roots show too long.  Take Easter pictures in the bluebonnets, serve watermelon for 4th of July, and don’t forget your friends’ birthdays.  Work hard, do good, and don’t brag about it. Learn to fry a chicken, guard your pecan pie recipe, and have a go to casserole.  Around here it’s all about Faith, family, taking care of those you love, and being the best version of yourself.

The other thing a southern girl understands is the need for good, strong women in her life. Two women that I love dearly who happen to possess all those wonderful southern attributes also share the same birthday. In honor of these lovely ladies, I am celebrating one of the most humble yet satisfying meals, the casserole. Every southern girl I know has a casserole committed to memory that they can assemble at a moments notice -pot luck, friend had a baby, or someone has a death in the family.

The concept of this recipe came from my bestie.  She is a saint.  In fact, she may already have a saint named after her.  I’m not sure…I’m not catholic.  She is, so she would know.  Any who…She has been my best friend forever.  Literally, since birth; I cannot imagine life without her.  She’s been here good, bad, ugly, and wonderful.  She’s my cheerleader, sounding board, and tough love.  She stayed with me in the hospital with my second baby when he was just days old and I had a nasty infection.  She loves my kids like she loves her own.   She brings me flowers.  She brings me chicken spaghetti.  What can I say, she gets me.

Chicken Spaghetti
It ain’t pretty, but it sure is good.  This version is old school, no canned soups here! If you like it more on the soupy side, half again the sauce portion as the noodles absorb a LOT.

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Feeds 8 or makes two 8X8 pans   
Gather:
12 oz thin spaghetti – comes out to about 3 cups when broken into pieces (if you are making this ahead, go ahead and use regular spaghetti)
1 can of Rotel (drained)
3 cups of boneless skinless chicken breasts or a mix of breasts and thighs, (roughly 4 breasts or 2 of each breasts and thighs)
1 Tablespoon of butter
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons of flour
4 Tablespoons of butter
2 cups of reserved chicken cooking liquid (you can use chicken stock too)
2 cups of warmed milk
2 cups of grated sharp cheese, (½ cup reserved for top)
1/4 # american cheese or queso blanco (just ask at the cheese counter)
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Chili powder, salt and pepper to taste

To Prepare:
Place chicken and generous sprinkling of salt in a deep pot.  Fill a pot 2/3 full of water.  Bring water and chicken to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook 20-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  Use tongs and remove chicken pieces.

Allow them to cool, cube, and place in a large bowl with the Rotel.  While chicken is cooling, return water to a boil and cook spaghetti in the chicken liquid until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups of the chicken cooking liquid before draining pasta.  After draining, add the pasta to the chicken/Rotel mixture.

In a sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, add onion and both peppers and sauté until softened.  Add this to the chicken/pasta/Rotel mixture.
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Make the sauce:   Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons flour, and cook the flour and butter to create a light rue.  Whisk in chicken cooking liquid.  Then whisk in warmed milk.  It should thicken slightly.  Season to taste with cayenne, salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder.  Reduce heat slightly and slowly melt in 4 cups of sharp cheddar and the queso/American cheeses.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the sauce over the mixture in the bowl.

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Stir to combine.

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Fill into one 9X12 greased pan or 2 8X8 greased pans, cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes until bubbly.  Remove foil, top with additional ½ cup of sharp cheddar and bake 10-15 minutes until cheese melts.

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One pan for you, and one to share.  This makes a good dish to take to someone.  Just cover in plastic and foil, freeze and tell them to bake it a little longer.  Save the second pan for yourself…needless to say, there won’t be leftovers.

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YUM!  One of these days I think I’m going to try adding sautéed mushrooms, but Boogers doesn’t like them, so I’m going to have to wait awhile.

My mother in law’s signature casserole is the Mexican Chicken Casserole; although she makes a mean lasagna. The name in no way is a reflection of what it actually is, as no Mexican or for that matter anyone of Latin descent actually makes it. I have taught and worked with many people from south of our border over the years and all agree, Tex-Mex is not Mexican. Maybe I should be p.c. and rename it Texican Chicken Casserole…It’s often called King Ranch chicken, a much more logical name since Texas does have a King Ranch. They even have a saddle and leather shop that makes gorgeous things.

It is yummy, creamy, cheesy, and slightly spicy. I do make my version slightly different from Man’s mom, but I’m grateful to her for sharing with me. I love that lady! God smiled on me when he chose Man’s family. I serve it with sour cream, salsa, and a side of guacamole. Now if that’s not Texan, I’m not sure what is.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Currently I make this dish with canned soup like my mother-in-law does. One of these days, I may get around to changing. Probably not, but maybe.
Gather:
4 cups chicken, shredded or diced – You can boil one and shred the meat (if you do, reserve some of the stock), use a rotisserie chicken from the deli, or some leftovers from the grill. I think the best is a mix of light & dark meat.
2 1/2 cups Cheddar or Cheddar Jack mix cheese, shredded & divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup reserved chicken stock, low-sodium chicken broth, or water
1 package corn tortillas, 10 count
salt, pepper & chili powder for sprinkling

Sauté the onion, bell pepper and onion in a little butter. In a separate bowl, combine soups with stock and Rotel to make your “sauce”. Mix very well. Then begin layering the casserole starting and ending with a layer of sauce (sauce, tortillas, handful chicken, sprinkle of pepper mixture, handful shredded cheese, pinch of salt, pepper and chili powder, tortillas, sauce…). Reserve 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Top with remaining half cup of cheese and continue to bake uncovered for another 15 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

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My latest favorite casserole – just a little spicy. This was originally a Meatless Monday recipe I found on Tastebook, but there wasn’t a lot to it. It would have made a great dip, but a meal….not so much. I live in Man-land, so we must have MEAT! So, I added chicken, changed up some stuff, and here is what you get. Hmmm….maybe I should add chicken to spinach artichoke dip and call it a casserole. I doubt it would get many complaints.

Lazy Girl’s Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole
Gather:
2 cups leftover shredded chicken or cubed Tex spiced chicken
4-6 poblano peppers, depending on size
1/2 cup milk
4 egg whites
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
½ teaspoon salt
¼ t dried oregano
2 T chopped cilantro, for garnish

To Prepare:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place peppers directly on rack in oven and roast until charred on all sides.  Remove to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow to cool until able to be handled.   Wear disposable gloves to do this next part, so you don’t accidentally scorch your eyes later in the day.  Peel the skin off each pepper and slit in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds. Then chop or slice the peppers to your liking.

Lower the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 1 1/2-quart casserole with no-stick spray and set aside.

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While the peppers roast, make the sauce.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; whisk in flour and chili powder to make a roux.  Cook while whisking until lightly browned. Gradually whisk in tomato sauce, broth, cumin, garlic powder, onion salt, salt, and oregano. Stir until smooth, and continue simmering over medium heat about 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

In a medium bowl, beat together the milk, egg whites, and flour until smooth; set aside.

In another bowl, combine the Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses. Set 1/2 cup of this cheese mixture aside for the topping. To assemble the casserole, ladle some sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Then layer half each of the chili peppers, chicken, the cheese mixture, and egg mixture.

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Top with half of the sauce. Repeat layers.  Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top, cover, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup cheese mixture, and bake about 20 minutes more or until knife inserted near top comes out clean and cheese is melted.

Serve with:
Avocado slices and corn chips

Now for some red velvet cake to celebrate. Off to wish my BFF a happy, happy birthday and give my mother in law a big oil’ birthday hug.

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