Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Freezer Meals: Take 1

So, my sister and I decided we wanted to make a bunch of freezer meals to have on hand and reduce our cooking time/cleanup throughout the month. I was expecting it to be easy peasy. Turns out it takes a long time and you are exhausted after cooking all day. But, after enjoying the fruits of my labor I can now say that it was totally worth it. And I am planning on doing it again! We tried to stick with "clean eating" recipes. Next time I want to venture out into some more gluten-free options. I already am planning my menu for the next big freezer meal cooking day! So without further ado, here are the recipes we used and some tips and tricks for along the way.

Super Bean Burritoes
(Vegetarian and super yummy, great for grab and go lunches or dinners when you are really rushed for time)

Baked Manicotti
(This one was excellent and also vegetarian, my only complaint was that I wish I would have made it into 2 smaller pans instead of 1 big pan because my family is smaller)
-For this one we didn't use the sauce recipe, instead we put a pre-made sugar-free marinara sauce in its place and it was excellent and cut down on prep time. I find mine at Costco (Kirkland brand or White Linen Collection)

Chicken Parm Casserole
(I haven't had this one yet, but it did smell delicious when making it. I plan to put it over rice or noodles)
-We used a rotisserie chicken from Costco as well as marinara from there as well for this and it was probably the easiest meal to put together!

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili
(I haven't had this one yet but it was also super easy to put together and also a vegetarian option if you use vegetable stock)
-We didn't put the quinoa in with the other ingredients. We left that out and plan on adding it when we cook it in the slow cooker the day of.

Lara's Enchiladas
(This is my sister's recipe and a super easy, quick, yummy meal. I made this in 2 small batches)

-Rotisserie chicken
-Softened block of cream cheese
-Red mild enchilada sauce
-Black olives, chopped
-1 packet taco seasoning (We used my premade seasoning from previous post)
-1 small can of green chiles
-Shredded cheese of choice (monterey jack is great, mexican blend, cheddar, its up to you)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and use a hand mixer or stand mixer to mix everything together. It isn't precise because we have never measured. Pour enough enchilada sauce to give it taste but not too much so that the filling is a runny mess. Put the filling in tortillas, roll up, and put in a pan. Freeze. Save a small can of enchilada sauce to go on top and extra cheese as well. To bake: Thaw in fridge, pour sauce and cheese over top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until the sauce and cheese is all bubbly and delicious.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
(Um, SO good, I even forgot to add lime to mine and they still turned out amazing!)
-We used a rotisserie chicken for this one as well. I will for sure make this one again. Loved it.

Dressed Up Sloppy Joes
(I loved this one as well. It reminded me a lot of my mom's sloppy joe recipe, you could also use ground turkey if you like)

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
(I lied, this one was probably the easiest to throw together!)
-Make the coleslaw they recommend the day you make this. I hate coleslaw and I couldn't get enough of their's!

(I have made these before and they are probably my favorite meatball recipe that I have ever tried. I will probably make these every time we have a big freezer meal day because they are so yummy!)

Okay, so it took us 5 hours to do all of this (it was our first time and I think next time will go much quicker...I hope). I was able to break these up into smaller portions for my family and got about 30 meals out of all of this! It has made this month SO easy when it comes to cooking and cleaning...I HATE cleaning...

My tips:
-If a recipe calls for chicken, get a rotisserie chicken from Costco. For reals. It tastes delicious and cuts down on prep time! Plus they are so cheap!
-For sauces, find clean pre-made ones! Don't take the time to make them from scratch. It isn't worth it. Seriously pre-made marinara is amazing, USE IT!
-Make sure you label bags before you put food in. Trust me! I labeled everything and put instructions on how to cook everything on the bag, plus extras I may need to eat (such as buns for the pulled pork, etc)
-Get disposable tinfoil pans for items that won't fit in a bag. I got a few smaller (8X8) and a few larger (9X13). Because my family is smaller than my sister's (she has 5 kids), we ended up with different portion sizes. Next time I will for sure make mine into smaller portion sizes and skip using the larger pans.
-My last suggestion: Find someone to do it with you! It makes it so much easier if you have someone working on it with you because you can break down jobs and each of you could focus on 1 recipe for the both of you. Highly reccommend this one!

Have you ever done a freezer meal cooking day before? We honestly were beat by the end of the day and our feet were killing us. I also was questioning whether it was worth it. After 1 week of enjoying freezer meals, I can happily report that it was totally worth it. Now I just need a bigger freezer because I am a bit obsessed...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DIY Seasoning Packets

I have seen these floating around Pinterest for awhile now and had good intentions of doing them myself. I just never got around to it. Today I finally crossed it off my list and I felt super accomplished afterwards. Then I took a nap. Because that is how I roll.

I chose these particular mixes because they are the ones I use the most. Taco seasoning is almost a weekly usage in this house. Dry onion soup mix is my favorite for crockpot roasts or great for dip. Ranch dressing mix because I could drink ranch dressing (and by the amount I consume, I pretty much do just drink it). And Zesty Italian Dressing mix I love for a rub on roasts or chicken. I have never actually made the dressing for that one. Basically all 4 are awesome flavor enhancers. But the packaged ones are full of MSG, sugars, and other nasty stuff that just AREN'T needed in our diet. All of mine are also gluten free (which, yes we eat gluten in this house but these DON'T need gluten so why add it??)

There are a million and one different versions of each of these but I whittled it down to ones I thought looked the best and also omitted the sugar (because, duh, we don't need more sugar in our lives). All of these are Whole30 friendly as long as you use the best spices (watch for any unwanted ingredients, like sugar or gluten, in the spices you use, only use the best!).

I scaled these recipes to fit a wide mouth pint sized jar.

Taco Seasoning 
I used Rubies and Radishes recipe. No changes. It is by far my favorite. I discovered it on Whole30 and almost ate an entire pan of taco meat before I served it to my family because it was so delicious. I just multiplied her recipe by 6 in order to get enough to fill my pint sized jar.

I would use 2 Tablespoons per pound of meat.

Dry Onion Soup Mix
I used the recipe from Stockpiling Moms, but omitted the sugar. This one smelled so good and I am really excited about the turmeric in it. I feel like it will give such an awesome added flavor boost. I would double this recipe.

4 Tablespoons equals 1 package of dry onion soup mix.

Ranch Seasoning Mix
I used the recipe from Gimme Some Oven for this one. I omitted the dried buttermilk. Because of this you are going to need to multiply the recipe by about 5 to get enough to fill your pint jar.

3 Tablespoons are equal to 1 packet.

To make homemade ranch mix 1 Tablespoon of the seasoning with 1/3 each mayo and milk.

Zesty Italian Dressing Mix
I liked the recipe from I Believe I Can Fry the best. I omitted the sugar and the red/green bell pepper mix (because it was optional and I couldn't find it).

2 Tablespoons equals 1 packet.

To make the dressing (which I never have but maybe I will now?) you mix 2 Tablespoons of the seasonings with 2 Tablespoons water, 1/4 cup vinegar, 2/3 cup oil, best if chilled in the fridge for a few hours.

So there you have it. Now stop perusing Pinterest for the best ones out there...because I already did that for you. Let me know if you try this! I would love to see! As always, you can follow me on Instagram @darcieats (where I post much more frequently but am trying to post more here too!).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Whole 30 Round 2 Day 1

I am back!! I took a hiatus for awhile because we were gone for pretty much all of July. We were also in places that didn't have internet. It was awesome. But now I am back and ready to get on my blogging train again. Good news folks...I started another Whole30! Yup, documenting it right here ladies and gents as well as new recipes coming your way. I am so excited to share it with you all again. So...why the heck am I doing another round of Whole30? A few reasons:

1. I ate like CRAP at all our family reunions this summer. I enjoyed myself but my body was NOT happy with me.
2. I LOVE the way it makes me feel.
3. I really feel like I need to reset my gut again after the sugar induced coma I put myself into multiple times in July.
4. I want to get back on track with clean eating before the busy life of Fall and Winter starts.

So are ya ready?? If you have Instagram, you can follow me @darcieats where I post daily. SO! Here we go!

Day 1:

Meal 1: Roasted veggies, hardboiled egg, avocado, strawberries

This morning I roasted a big batch of veggies and hardboiled a bunch of eggs so I used that as my meal so I didn't have to cook anything else. It was good. In other news, I am so bomb at hardboiling eggs! It is an art, I tell ya. Don't think otherwise. I used to over boil them and I had NO idea! Now I put them in the water, bring to a boil, as soon as the water is a rollling boil, put a lid on the pot and take them off of the heat. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Then plop them into some ice water for about 1-2 minutes. Bam. Perfect eggs every time.

Meal 2: Carrot fries with ranch, tuna salad over power greens

Not to be all braggy...but I make a DANG good tuna salad. Like for reals. I take pride in this baby.

Tuna Salad
-1 can of compliant tuna
-homemade paleo mayo (there are like a billion recipes out there, my favorites are HERE and HERE, I use avocado oil)
-1 large pickle, diced (if you really like pickles, add more)
-1 hard boiled egg, diced (yolk included)
-salt and pepper

Mix it all together I don't measure the mayo but just do a big spoonful, mix it up, and if you feel like it needs more, add more! I also don't measure seasonings (annoying, I KNOW), but just add a few shakes of each, mix it up, taste test, and add more if you need to. I usually add a bit more mayo than I would normally if I am going to serve it over greens just so it makes up for not having dressing.

Carrot Fries
-quarter your carrots (I used about 5 large carrots)
-2 T. Avocado oil
-1/2-1 tsp of salt

Line a baking sheet, preheat oven to 450. Toss the carrots in a bowl with the oil. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes. These are great! They have a bit of crunch to them and are awesome dipped in ranch. My favorite ranch is from Planks, Love, and Guacamole. If you have already made your mayo, you don't have to go through the trouble of making hers. Just use her ratio of 2/3 cup mayo, 1/2 tsp each of sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, 1 T dried dill, 2 T coconut milk.

Meal 3: Leftover roast from Sunday (day before I started, had seasonings, beef broth, and veggies, slow cooked for 8 hours), cucumber, tomato, avocado salad (mix it up with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning), and a side of peaches.

My Thoughts:

This round already seems SO much easier than round 1 because I know what to expect and I am SO much more confident in the kitchen. It makes a world of difference.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tami's Granola

I come from a family of good cooks but I also married into a family of good cooks. This recipe happens to be from my husband's cousin, Tami. I love Tami. She is such an amazing person and I was so excited when she shared this recipe with me because it was honestly the best granola I have ever had. Plus it is easy to switch things up to your liking. Don't like sesame seeds? Don't add them. Want it to be sweeter? Add a little more honey. Easy peasy. This also makes A LOT. It would be great to freeze a bag of it to keep it fresh and use later. My favorite way to eat it is with a little bit of milk and lots of strawberries. Mmmmm....

Tami's Granola
12 cups oats
1 Cup wheat germ or oat bran 
2 cups coconut 
2 cups raw sunflower seeds 
1 cup sesame seeds 
3 cups nuts (almonds roasted unsalted peanuts cashews walnuts pecans)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 cup water 
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey 
1/2 cup molasses 
1 1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoon cinnamon 
3 teaspoon vanilla 

I mix this together in 2 batches (just halve the recipe) because it is easier to mix and it fits in a big bowl. Preheat oven to 300 and line 2 baking sheets with tinfoil. Place both batches of granola on baking sheets. Bake for at least an hour, stirring and rotating about every 20 minutes. Bake it until the granola is to the consistency you like. 

PLG Fritatta

I have mentioned her before, but I LOVE Alanna from Planks, Love, and Guacamole. This girl is a food genius and all of her recipes are excellent. One of my favs from her is her frittata. It can be changed to whatever you have on hand and is great as leftovers. I can't seem to find her recipe online but she did post it on the @Whole30recipes instagram page. I posted her recipe HERE during my whole30. This time I used Aidell's chicken-apple sausage, red peppers, spinach, sundried tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. You can add anything really to this just make sure you saute up veggies that are uncooked (like the peppers, spinach, etc) before mixing them in. 

Pesto Chicken

One of my favorite quick and easy dinners is pesto chicken. I like to make pesto myself (that is a post for another day) but it is easy to just buy pre-made pesto from the store (I like Costco's Kirkland brand). 

Pesto Chicken
-Chicken Breasts cut in half lengthwise (or chicken tenderloins but I usually only have chicken breasts on hand)
-Pre-made pesto (check your ingredients to make sure it doesn't have anything funky added)
-Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese (optional)

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken on baking sheet, coat the top of the chicken with pesto. bake in the oven for 20 minutes or so (check after 15). Once the chicken is cooked through, turn your broiler on high, put cheese on top of the chicken (I like a mix of mozz and parm) and let the cheese melt. I like to serve mine over zucchini noodles (zoodles).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

I woke up this morning wanting sweet potato hash. I love the stuff. It is filling and keeps me energized and full until lunch. I decided to go with a spicy dish this time around because I LOVE spicy food. Like for reals. Love it. Way more than anyone else in my little family. When I was pregnant with MJ I could only keep down baked potatoes. And then one month all I wanted was nachos with LOTS of jalapenos. I ate some almost every day for a month straight. Let's not even talk about the heartburn issues or the amount of Tums I went through that month. It was worth it. Maybe. Probably not. But man those pregnancy cravings are strong!

Okay, moving on.

Spicy sweet potato hash. Here ya go.

Dice 1/2 of a large white sweet potato (could use orange, I prefer white). Mince half a jalapeno.

Melt 2 big spoonfuls of ghee or heat your oil of choice in a pan. Toss in the potatoes and jalapeno. Season this as well and mix it all up to coat everything in your ghee/oil. I used chipotle chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Saute it up until the potatoes are cooked through. I like to burn mine just a little because it gives it a caramelized taste and is super yummy. Top with an egg (I prefer runny yolk on hash). Breakfast is served.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

-1/2 large white sweet potato, diced
-1/2 of a jalapeno, diced
-2 large spoonfuls of ghee or oil of choice
- 1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
-onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper (add to your liking and taste)

Melt the ghee or heat the oil in your pan. Toss all the ingredients in and saute it up. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through. I like mine just a bit burnt because it caramelizes the potatoes. Top with an egg, preferably one with a runny yolk.