Tired of the Weeknight Dinner Rotation?

It’s warming up. There are thunderstorms and new puppies and kids counting down days until summer break.  It’s the “I’m tired”, unmotivated, “are we there yet?” time of year.

I’ve been in that sleepy, tired, this again tread for a while. It’s so hard to be conscientious when being lazy is soooo much easier. It’s so hard to eat wholesome when processed is so much more convenient. Then I will find some new stuff to try, and it pulls me from the rut. Here’s a few recipes to mix up the monotony and bring a life back to the weekly dinner rotation.

Grilled Hamburgers with Faux Fried Okra

Not feeling the grill, but longing for summer BBQs?
Oven Baked BBQ Chicken with Squash Casserole
Oven bake some chicken at 375 until done, but before it’s done, slather on your favorite BBQ sauce. Add yummy squash casserole, and dinner bakes while you play! I butterflied chicken breasts so everything cooked at the same temperature for the same amount of time.

Sick of the piles of dishes? No one will ever guess this meal comes from dirtying just one pot.
Pasta Wonderpot – This recipe from Martha Stewart Living is a shoe-in for a permanent spot in my recipe box. Sooooo simple, such good flavor. I added subbed out some of the water for 1/4 cup of white wine and 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth. I recommend using half of the onion. A whole one was a bit much.

I sautéed chicken cutlets to serve over the pasta, but I could see dropping in some Italian sausage or mushrooms to cook right in the pot with everything else.

Try these super easy lettuce wraps from The Complete Savorist.  They are quick, yummy, and I added some sautéed coleslaw mix and shredded carrot for an extra healthy punch. When you must get out of the kitchen, meet some friends for some Asian diner food. Take the kids and embrace the chaos. Everyone needs a break sometimes (& some other adults to talk with)!

Worn plum out?
About thirteen years ago, I was a consultant for Pampered Chef. Every once in a while when I’m dead on my feet, I wake up in front of the prepared crescent dough and find myself serving Chicken and Broccoli Braid or Taco Ring for dinner.

Looking at an overstuffed schedule? Cook one night, and have leftovers to eat on the rest of the week!
Tex-Mex
Teriyaki
Mediterranean

Try taking time over the weekend and prep ahead some crock pot meals. Start them in the morning when you are READY-to-GO! and they will be smelling great and ready to serve by the time mom runs out of gas. I’m currently obsessed with trying all the ideas over at New Leaf Wellness.

Still feeling blue?
Meet some friends for to meet you for some Asian diner food or Sunday brunch. Everyone needs a break sometimes!

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Prepping for fall: the back to school dinner debacle

I love the idea of having a pantry stocked and ready freezer full, and not ordering pizza, grabbing fast food, or eating way late on busy nights. as with most things in mothering, a little advance preparation goes a long way. Below are some options to help you find a dinner plan that fits your family.

I love this spin on meal planning from Beauty Through Imperfection! Such a simple and easy solution. 

Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler (my new favorite blog for all things home) has monthly meal plan calendars all set and ready to download. Just another way she makes life a little easier for us regular folk! 

For those of us who have the room and are willing to do a little more advance prep, freezer cooking is so nice. 

I actually tried my first round of freezer cooking right before baby girl was born. It went okay.  Back to school and sports has driven me to try, try again. For this round, I am a little more seasoned. I stuck with recipes I know score well. SO, I thought I would share my plan with you. 

I like to follow the cook & freeze extra for most of my freezer stock. It’s just easier for me versus two days of three to four hours of shopping & prep. Plus, I feel like I’m not breaking the bank with one monster shopping trip. I’m also a sucker for the assemble, freeze, and dump in the crockpot later plan. 

I will plan my menus for the month of Septwmber off of the following list, making sure I fix every dish at least once. This way I can still plan according to my store’s weekly deals. Each of these recipes will be doubled and the excess frozen. This is especially helpful on time consuming recipes. Once you are committed time wise and the mess is made, it not much of a pain to work a bit longer for that extra day of cooking freedom. For the mixes and kits I will buy the ingredients for a couple recipes each shopping trip.

Breakfast
Blueberry muffins
Banana bread
Waffle sticks
Pancake mix
Breakfast burritos
Granola
Cinnamon rolls
French toast
Scones
Mini frittata

Meals
Beef enchiladas
Chicken enchiladas (sans sauce, to be made serving day)
Chicken chile relleno casserole
Sloppy joe filling
Dirty rice kit
Lasagna
Italian Sausage & peppers
Taco meat
Meat sauce
Turkey toquitos
Chicken chile toquitos
Shredded beef tacos
BBQ pork
Shredded spicy DP pork
Garlic lime chicken
Meatloaf cups
Pork chops
Marinated pork tenderloin
King ranch chicken casserole
Chicken pot pie

Soup de jour
Minestrone
Cheeseburger soup
Tortilla soup
Tomato soup base
Chicken noodle soup base
Wedding soup base

Freezer stockpile
Smoothie packs
Marinara
Meatballs
Tex, teriyaki, and Mediterranean spiced chicken
Organic veggies
Chicken nuggets – if you have a good baked version- I’m all ears, please send it in!
Chili meat (browned and seasoned)
Pizza dough
Pie crust
Pizza sauce
Pesto
Apple crumble
Cookie dough
Pound cake
Popsicles

Pantry
Rice
Pasta
Oats
Jarred salsa
Chipotle peppers
Green chiles
Chipotle peppers in adobo
Vegetarian refried beans
Canelini & black beans
Chocolate chips
Maple syrup

Mixes
Taco seasoning
Ranch seasoning
Cinnamon sugar 
Tex-Mex Seasoning

Checkmate. Ready for fall.

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Need a little more inspiration? Check out my Dinner Advent Calendar from the holidays last year.

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!