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Thursday, August 26, 2010

make-ahead meatballs


I love, love, love, love make-ahead meals!  There's something comforting about knowing that you've got the "emergency" meal in the freezer for those times when you run out of time...or ingredients!

I've featured a lot of meals that are suitable for making and freezing.  Like this hearty potato soup for example...perfect to freeze and then heat up on a chilly day.


Or these marinated turkey wraps.  Make the turkey in your slow cooker and then freeze it for later!  The wraps are also easy to assemble one day and eat the next.


And what freezes better than pasta sauce?  This kickin' pasta sauce is a 15-minute meal in itself, but it is also incredibly delicious to make-ahead and freeze for a day when all you feel like doing is boiling the noodles.


And, no, I wouldn't forget dessert.  Blueberry vanilla pie is an easy-to-fix impressive dessert.  Whip up the filling and assemble the pie.  Freeze and then cook when ready!


The meatballs I'm featuring today are as easy as it gets.  I usually like to have a gallon size Ziplock bag of meatballs sitting in my freezer.  It's easy to pull out as many servings as I'm going to need, microwave, and go!

To make, whisk together one egg and 1/2 cup milk (or milk substitute) in a medium bowl.


Add a cup of quick-cooking oats or soft bread crumbs.  I like to use oatmeal in order to add a bit of hidden fiber, but bread crumbs also work well.


Toss in some spices and herbs.  You can use whatever you like - modify to get the taste you want!

I always recommend throwing in the basics...salt and pepper.  I've also been known to add basil and oregano for an Italian flair, or cumin and chili powder for a Mexican taste.

Today...well, today I added nutmeg.  Surprisingly, a hint of nutmeg makes a great, versatile meatball that goes well in just about anything.


At this point, you may also want to add some diced onion or peppers...or maybe some chopped spinach.  Be creative with what you put in!

I kept mine basic and left out the veggies.

Mix everything in your bowl together and then crumble a pound of ground meat (I use ground turkey) over the top.  Stick your (clean!) hands right in that mess and mix it all together.

[Pretend I have pictures here of me doing this.  Sorry...my hands had raw meat all over them.]

Then, shape the meat into meatballs and place into greased baking dishes.  I put a little butter in between every few meatballs to enhance the flavor.  It's fun, but entirely unnecessary.



Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they are cooked through.

If you want to freeze these, let them cool a bit and then freeze in a freezer-safe storage bag.  When it's time to eat them, simply microwave until heated!

We love these.  They are a great way to stretch a pound of meat.  Think of it - one pound of meat either makes 4 hamburgers or 28 meatballs!  At 4 meatballs a person, that's 7 servings!  They are also low in fat and a great way to sneak in fiber and veggies.

We eat these often smothered in BBQ or buffalo wing sauce and served over mashed potatoes.


We also like these served in a Swedish dill cream sauce with noodles (recipe for dill sauce below).


With make-ahead meatballs, you can't go wrong!

Make-Ahead Meatballs
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (or other liquid)
1 cup quick-cooking oats or soft bread crumbs
1 lb. ground meat
Salt, pepper, and other preferred spices
Onion, green pepper, spinach, or other preferred veggies

Whisk together egg and milk in a medium bowl.  Stir in oats, spices, and any veggies.  Crumble meat over the top and then use hands to mix in.  Form meat mixture into meatballs and place in greased baking dishes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.  Makes 28 meatballs.

Nutrition (calculated per meatball with ground turkey, oats, and no veggies): 40 cal, 2g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 21mg cholesterol, 103mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 4g protein, 0% vit. A, 0% vit. C, 1% calcium, 2% iron.

Swedish Dill Cream Sauce
(adapted from Taste of Home 2006)
2 T. flour (gluten-free is okay)
1 cup milk, cream, or milk-substitute
1 cup beef broth
1 t. salt
1/2 t. dill seed

In a bowl, combine ingredients until blended.  Stir into a skillet.  Bring to a boil, cooking and stirring until thickened.  Serve over meatballs.

Linked up with Foodie Friday and Potluck Sunday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

homemade air freshener

"Don't you get fresh with me, ya hear!"

Oh, I love it when adults (especially grandparents) say that to little kids.  What does it mean exactly?  Does it mean we'd rather children get dirty with us?  Haha...who knows?

Today, I'm going to ask you to actually get fresh with me.  This kitchen craft project is too fun and too easy not to try.  I really wish I had discovered it earlier in life...like when I was a Resident Assistant in college and wasn't allowed to have candles...or all of those times when I haven't had the money to go on a shopping spree at Yankee Candle.

I digress.  Let me just say...you'll love this.


I was roaming around on Tasty Kitchen one day when I came across a recipe for homemade air freshener.  This intrigued me!  I love candles, but as we all know, you can't leave them burning unattended.  And there are some rooms in my home where I want a constant, unattended scent (ahem, the bathroom).  These gel air fresheners are the perfect solution.

To make these little beauties, you first need a heat-proof jars (I found mine for $0.99 each at Michael's), food coloring colors of your choice, and essential oil.  You can find inexpensive essential oils of various scents at craft stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  I chose a raspberry vanilla scented oil...it smells delightful!


Into each jar, drop a few drops (I repeat...a few...it doesn't take more than 2 or 3) of food coloring.  Then, put in about 30 drops of essential oil, give or take.  The more essential oil you put in, the stronger the smell.


Now for the fun part.  Gather up 4 envelopes of unflavored gelatin, a tablespoon of salt, and 2 cups of cold water.

Why salt?  Salt (or vodka) apparently help to keep the gel from molding.  Interesting fact, isn't it!


Get one cup of water boiling on the stove.  When it begins to boil, whisk in the gelatin, stirring until it's all dissolved.


Then, pour in the other cup of cold water and the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved.


Quickly pour the hot gelatin mixture in each of your jars, and then use a disposable stick or spoon to stir it into the oil and food coloring.


Let these gel overnight, and then voila!  Air freshener!


This project takes a total of five minutes to make, is highly economical, and each jar should last you about a month.  This would make a great back-to-school gift for any teacher!

To recap, here's the full ingredient list:
  • heatproof jars
  • food coloring
  • essential oil
  • 4 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 T. salt
  • 2 cups cold water

This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

cilantro lime tostadas


After making the chicken tortilla soup, I had a lot of leftover corn tortillas on my hands.  I decided it was time to make tostadas, and I dug into my Tasty Kitchen recipe box for the perfect recipe...the Pioneer Woman's Tequila Lime Chicken.

Ree doesn't turn her chicken into tostadas...she serves it topped with Monterey Jack and all the fixings you could want.  She also uses tequila in her marinade.

I didn't do any of those things.

What can I say?  I'm a rebel.

Instead, I made a marinade for my chicken out of 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, a teaspoon of salt, an overflowing half cup of cilantro (possibly more...I just started dumping it in), 1/2 cup of white wine, and 5 tablespoons olive oil.


Oh yeah...and a jalapeno.  Can't forget that!


I blended this cacophony of ingredients together until the result was a neon green liquid that made my husband give me a very strange look.  His look got stranger when he saw me pour it into a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and throw 4 chicken breasts in with it.

It was a look that said, "We're eating that?"

Yep, dear...we sure are.


I let my chicken marinate overnight and then all the next day until it was dinner time.  Then, I tossed it on the grill!


Since the whole purpose of making this recipe was to use up corn tortillas, I turned a few of them into baked tostada shells.  Simply put them on a cookie sheet, spray them with cooking spray, and sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of them.  Bake them at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they get nice and crispy.


Now time for the toppings - I pulled out lettuce, avocado, shredded cheddar, sauteed onions and green peppers, and of course the grilled chicken (cut into strips).


The end result was a great summertime meal.



Now my only question is this...how in the world are you supposed to eat tostadas without making a mess?  This is definitely not something you want to attempt to eat on a first date, especially if you pile them as high as I did.

When it was time for leftovers, I learned my lesson.  Instead of tostadas, we baked some homemade taco shells and had cilantro lime tacos!


Cilantro Lime Tostadas (or tacos...or whatever!)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup white wine
heaping 1/2 cup cilantro
2 t. minced garlic
1 t. salt
1 jalapeno, sliced
5 T. olive oil
4 chicken breasts
corn tortillas and tostada toppings

Place the first 6 ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, blending it in.  Pour marinade in a large Ziplock bag and add chicken breasts, turning over a few times to coat.  Refrigerate overnight, and then grill.

For tostadas, place corn tortillas on a cookie sheet; spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes or until crispy.  Top with strips of grilled chicken and toppings of your choice (lettuce, cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, etc).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

chicken tortilla soup

I know, I know...it's not exactly the weather for soup.  When you eat soup it should be cold and blistery outside...or raining...or snowing.  At the least, it should be below 70 degrees.

Well, I'm tired of waiting.  I have a fondness for soup that cannot be ignored.  So, I made soup.


This is a unique chicken tortilla soup in that it is not tomato-based.  In fact, I almost wanted to call it green chicken tortilla soup, but that sounded too much like Green Eggs and Ham.  I don't want to scare Sam-I-Am away from this recipe!  It's too good, too quick, and too easy to pass up!

First step - make the tortilla strips.  Take about 3 corn tortillas and cut them into small strips.  I use a pizza cutter to do this, and it works like a charm.


Arrange tortilla strips on a cookie sheet (don't pay too much attention to my picture...it's actually best if they aren't overlapping).  Spray the tops with cooking spray and then sprinkle some salt over the top.


Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they are nice and crispy.


Meanwhile, cut 2 chicken breasts into 1/2 inch chunks.  Saute the chicken in a few teaspoons of oil until it's cooked through.


While the chicken is cooking, peel and chop 3-4 potatoes.


When the chicken is done, toss the potatoes into the pot with them and then pour in 4 cups of chicken broth (reduced-sodium broth works great).  Bring everything to a boil; then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are done.


While your potatoes and chicken are boiling, dice up a green pepper and some fresh cilantro (about 1/4 cup or so).


Add to these, a can of green chilies and about a cup of frozen corn.


Throw these into the soup - you want to get these items heated through.  (Note: If you would rather your green pepper be more cooked rather than crisp-tender, you should toss it in with the potatoes to give it a longer cooking time.)

Finally, add the three magical flavor enhancers: a half teaspoon of pepper, a quarter cup of lime juice, and a teaspoon of cumin. 


Sorry about the halo in the above picture...these ingredients are just that magical!

Serve up your soup and top each bowl with tortilla strips.  You might also add a dollop of sour cream, a spoonful of salsa, some jalapeno slices, shredded cheddar cheese, or whatever else strikes your fancy.  It's good stuff.


Chicken Tortilla Soup
3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
3 t. oil
1/4 t. salt
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup frozen corn
1 can (4 1/2 oz.) chopped green chilies
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1 t. cumin

Place tortilla strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until crispy.

Saute chicken in oil until cooked through.  Add potatoes and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Add green pepper, cilantro, corn, and green chilies; heat through.  Add pepper, lime juice, and cumin; stir.  Serve topped with tortilla strips.  Serves 6.

Nutrition: 322 cal, 4g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 46mg cholesterol, 622mg sodium, 48g carbs, 6g fiber, 3g sugar, 26g protein, 3% vit. A, 106% vit. C, 7% calcium, 9% iron.

This recipe is linked to This Week's Cravings: Soups!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

baked taco shells


Who wants a taco?

Tacos are one of those delightfully easy meals to whip up, and most of us generally already have everything in the kitchen that we could want to make a good taco...everything, that is, except the taco shells.

I don't know about you, but I don't keep taco shells on hand.  When we want to eat tacos, I generally have to run to the store to pick up a package of shells.  Inevitably, most of the shells will be broken and all of them will be stale.

Kinda takes the fun out of tacos...

Today, I wanted to whip up some taco fixings for dinner, but I didn't feel like going to the store.  Here's what I did instead.

I wrapped foil around two rods on my oven rack (for cleanliness purposes).  Don't do this while the oven is hot...ouch!


I had some leftover corn tortillas in the refrigerator that I whipped out.  I placed my tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds to get them good and pliable.  Then, I draped them over my foiled oven rods.  I did this all without preheating the oven...worked just fine.


I baked these for about 10 minutes (or until crispy) at 400 degrees.  They turned out beautifully!


This post is linked to Foodie Friday and I'm Lovin' It

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

sweet and savory pulled pork

There's nothing like a barbecued sandwich in the summer.  But there's also nothing like avoiding the heat during the summer.  In a perfect world I would own a smoker and smoke my own meat outside in the 70 degree weather.  Currently, though, it's hot outside and I have no smoker.

Time for Plan B.

Instead of smoking a pork roast, I simmered it for 10 hours in a delicious homemade BBQ marinade.

Good?  Yes, yes it is.


I used a pork roast that was about 3 pounds (give or take).  Place your roast right into your slow cooker.


Chop up a few stalks of celery and a couple of jalapenos.  Throw these right on top of the roast.


For the marinade, mix together one can of reduced-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce (I used a gluten-free version), 4 teaspoons of ground mustard, 4 teaspoons of paprika, and a few dashes of liquid smoke.


Stir the marinade until the sugar has dissolved, and then pour over your roast.  Plop the lid on and plug it in! Cook the roast on high for 1 hour and then on low for 7 hours.


When your meat is done cooking, pull it out of the slow cooker.  It should be so tender that it just pulls apart without any effort on your part. 


Remove any large bits of gristle and fat, and then shred the meat with two forks.


Place the shredded meat into a large saucepan and then pour in the liquid from the slow cooker.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Simmer for about an hour and a half uncovered so that the liquid will reduce.


By this time your house should smell fabulous!  And your pork should look something like this...


You can continue simmering longer if you like, but I suggest keeping a little liquid in there...it helps keep it juicy when you reheat it.  This is also great recipe to make and freeze - we like to keep half of the meat for immediate eating and freeze the other half for later.

Top with some onions, jalapenos, and a little bit of BBQ sauce (can't ever have too much!), and eat up! 

I love Plan B.


Sweet and Savory Pulled Pork
1 boneless pork shoulder roast (about 3 pounds)
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 t. ground mustard
4 t. paprika
a few shakes of liquid smoke

Place the pork into a slow cooker.  Top with celery and peppers.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over top.  Cook on high for 1 hour and then low for 7 hours.  Remove meat from slow cooker; remove any pieces of fat and then shred with two forks.  Place shredded meat and all liquid from slow cooker into a large saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.

Okay, okay, I admit it...this isn't exactly low in fat.  But it's not horrible, considering.  And it's really good.  I'm just sayin'...


Nutrition (1/2 cup serving, meat only): 296 cal, 15g fat, 5g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 96mg cholesterol, 708mg sodium, 10g carbs, 1g fiber, 9g sugars, 29g protein, 9% vit. A, 5% vit. C, 4% calcium, 13% iron.

Linked up with Gooseberry Patch's Recipe Roundup: Slow Cookers

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