Category Archives: Cooking/Baking

Easy Chicken Green Chile Enchiladas

I’m afraid I don’t have many pictures for this post, but this recipe is so easy you won’t need them!

I love  enchiladas, but I really don’t like spending half and hour cooking corn tortillas before I can even start! This easy recipe uses flour tortillas and precooked rice and chicken to make a meal that is quick and easy to put together (and delicious, if I do say so myself).

IMG_20130924_181939

Easy Chicken Green Chile Enchiladas (Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

8 burrito-size flour tortillas

1 can green chile enchilada sauce

2 cups cooked rice

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken

1 8 oz package cream cheese

mozzerella and cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

1. Pour a small amount of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 backing dish. Spread the sauce to make a thin layer on the entire bottom of the pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix rice, cream cheese, shredded meat, and a large handful of cheddar cheese. If you like spicy enchiladas, you can also mix in some hot sauce or salsa.

3. Spread 1 tablespoon of enchilada sauce down the center of each tortilla. Top with 1/3 cup of the rice mixture, then roll up burrito-style. Place each rolled enchilada in the pan.

4. Once all 8 enchiladas are rolled, pour more enchilada sauce over the top. Make sure there is at least a thin coating over all exposed tortilla so that it doesn’t dry out in the oven.

5. Sprinkle the top generously with mozzerella or cheddar (or both, like I did!).

6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until hot all the way through.

Enjoy!

IMG_20130924_181946

The Joys of Freezer Cooking

Before Rachael (#3) was born, I filled my freezer with casseroles and other one-pan meals I had found online. I never tried any of the recipes ahead of time to make sure we actually liked them (can you see where I’m going with this?).  We were lucky with most of the meals I made, but there were definitely a few that I’ve never made again. My freezer full of meals was also expensive. I used a lot of convenient ingredients, like boneless chicken breast tenders and frozen cooked potatoes. I decided that freezer cooking simply wasn’t for me!

Towards the end of my most recent pregnancy, I started thinking about freezer cooking again. I wanted convenience and ease after the baby was born, but I didn’t want to waste time and money on casserole-type meals that we wouldn’t enjoy. My prior experience taught me that we simply aren’t casserole people. I decided that instead of making full meals, I could make and freeze the most time-consuming portions of each meal — things like yeast breads and doughs and other quick breads. These were easy to make and I was able to use tried-and-true recipes that I already knew we liked.

By the time Michael (#4) was born, my freezer was packed with all kinds of goodies. My mother-in-law was able to stay with us for about 2 weeks, so I wanted to make sure that she had easy meal options to feed the other 3 kids while The Mister and I were at the hospital. A few of the things I made ahead of time included biscuits, cinnamon rolls, freezer-friendly baked oatmeal, sandwich bread, and pizza dough and sauce.

2013-03-01_17-52-52_581

Being the wonderful and kind woman that she is, my mother-in-law didn’t use ANY of my pre-made foods! She said they would be more useful after she went home and we were on our own again. And she was right. Going from three kids to four kids wasn’t as hard from the transition from two to three, but it was still certainly a challenge, especially since I now had two children in cloth diapers!

2013-06-05_13-24-52_733

The frozen foods lasted about a month, and I can’t even begin to say how much I enjoyed the convenience. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or energy to replace the frozen foods as I used them, and even as the baby grew I didn’t have the drive to spend that much time in the kitchen.

Today, a moment of inspiration hit me and I spent most of the day in the kitchen. I made 4 batches’ worth of homemade muffin mix, 2 breakfasts’ worth of freezer-friendly baked oatmeal, 2 batches of biscuits, 2 batches of pizza dough, and 4 batches of cinnamon rolls.

The biscuits were made in the food processor and cut using my shortcut, which saved a TON of time! I promise, square biscuits are just as tasty.

2013-06-02_17-57-28_646

These two are (unbaked) oven oatmeal. One will be used tomorrow, the other will be stashed in the freezer.

When I finished my work and pulled everything back out to take pictures, I realized that my pizza dough was put into containers that were much too small! Oops.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the fruits of today’s labor!

Hearty Homestead Meals: Crispy Tangy Chicken

Yesterday, The Mister discovered a flourishing grape-vine at an unoccupied property near ours. I’m sincerely hoping that the home is still unoccupied this winter when the vine goes dormant, so I can collect a few canes to plant next spring! The Mister thinks it’s some kind of wine grape – they’re small, sweet, and plentiful. I’m already envisioning grapevines as living shade for the chicken run!

Anyway, the task at hand – delicious chicken. Most of the meat we eat around here is chicken, mostly because it’s so cheap. I buy 10-pound bags of leg quarters for $7 at my closest WinCo. The bag usually makes 3-4 meals for us (although that will change as the children and their appetites grow!).

Chicken can get boring quickly, so the key is to have a variety of ways to prepare the same cut of meat. Without further ado, here’s a recipe for crispy, cheesy, tangy chicken that takes 5 minutes to prepare.

Crispy Tangy Chicken

6 servings

6 pieces bone-in chicken, skinned and trimmed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Arrange chicken pieces in a greased pan. Take the mayonnaise out of the jar and put it into a separate dish so that the entire jar doesn’t get contaminated by the raw chicken.

2013-07-22_16-26-41_416

Using a knife, spread about 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise onto each piece of chicken. This seems like a lot, but a lot of it will melt off. The purpose of the mayonnaise is to seal the juices into the meat to keep it moist.

2013-07-22_16-28-06_273

Next, sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese over the chicken pieces. I don’t really measure, I just make sure there’s a fair amount on each piece of chicken. It’s probably about 2 teaspoons per piece of chicken.

2013-07-22_16-28-51_494

Last, sprinkle the seasoned bread crumbs over the chicken. The bread crumbs need to be in a fairly thin layer, or they will stay dry and crumbly.

2013-07-22_16-29-26_61

Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, or until juices run clear. Enjoy!

2013-07-22_17-56-12_623

We think this chicken is particularly good when served with rice and a spinach salad.

2013-07-22_17-56-17_575

 

Extreme Weather in the Mojave and Delicious Salmon

Yesterday, it was 117 degrees outside. Today it will be that hot again. And tomorrow. And the next day. It’s also a little bit more humid than usual, which means that our lovely swamp coolers aren’t working.

I’ve started putting big blocks of ice in the chickens’ water to keep them cool. I lost one to the heat 2 days ago. The poor little things really don’t appreciate this sudden hot weather! The last few weeks have been in the 90s and low 100s.

I also gave the chickens a beach umbrella to give them a larger shady area.

No pictures today because my improv chicken run isn’t very pretty. We’re still in the process of building a larger coop and run.

Here’s a quick kitchen tip, though: delicious and easy baked salmon. Usually salmon turns out horribly dry and tasteless, but not when it’s cooked like this!

1. Slice a lemon and an orange into thin,  round slices.

2. Place salmon pieces on baking sheet

3. Layer lemon and orange slices under and on top of the salmon, like this:

Bake as directed on the fish package. You might have to add a few minutes of cooking time – the citrus makes the fish cook a bit more slowly. This fish turns out lovely and moist, with great citrus flavor! It’s super easy, too.

Kitchen Hacks: Quick-thaw ground beef!

I love buying my food in bulk. It saves me effort, time, and money. My mother-in-law has 9 kids and knows a thing or two about bulk food purchases. She taught me this nifty trick for bulk ground beef!

Last weekend, I found a pretty good deal on ground beef:

4 pounds for $9? I’ll take it! I obviously can’t use that much at once, so I divvied it up into 1-pound portions and froze it. Here’s a quick overview on how to freeze ground beef in an accessible, easy-to-thaw manner!

Label a gallon-sized bag for each pound of beef.

Stick a lump of meat into each bag, squeeze all the air out, and seal it.

Next, leaving the bag sealed, use the heel of your hand to flatten the beef.

Keep working it until you have a uniformly thin layer that goes all the way to the edges of the bag.

1 pound makes for a very thin layer.

Once all your lumps of meat are flattened, stack ’em up and freeze.

The super-thin layers  freeze and thaw VERY quickly. You can even toss the frozen sheet of meat directly into your pan when you’re ready to cook!

Ta-daa, enjoy your pre-portioned beef!

How to make Creamy Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is a staple breakfast around here – rich, filling, and slightly sweet, it always makes the kids happy! I usually make a fish and rice dinner on Friday evenings, so I just make extra rice to use on Saturday morning!
We prefer our rice pudding chilled, but it is just as delicious when it’s hot. Depending on your preferences, you can make it right when you want to eat it, or you can make it the night before and have it ready to go in the fridge.

Start with leftover or freshly cooked rice. I use about 1/2 cup cooked rice per person. Dump the rice in a heavy pot. For 6 servings, I usually use a 3-quart pot.

Add enough milk to cover the rice.

It doesn’t look like much right now, but it will be delicious and creamy soon! Add sugar or honey next.

My ratio of rice:milk:sugar is 2:4:1. That’s 2 parts rice, 4 parts milk, 1 part white sugar.

Next, add cinnamon and/or nutmeg to taste.

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring every few minutes, until the rice is nice and soft. This usually takes about half an hour.  If you’re using freshly made rice, it may take less time. Be careful not to scorch the bottom!

While you wait, prepare your eggs. My rule of thumb is 1 egg per cup of milk. You could certainly add more if you want a more custard-like pudding. In case you haven’t noticed, this is an extremely flexible recipe!

(Optional: separate and set aside whites. They can be beaten into meringue at the end to make your rice pudding extra creamy and light!)Whisk eggs thoroughly or run them through a blender. Slimy strings are to be avoided at all costs!

When your rice mixture is soft and warm, you’ll need to temper the eggs. This means slowly bringing the temperature up so that the eggs don’t scramble. Do this by adding one spoonful of hot milk/rice at a time.

 

When the eggs are hot, slowly pour them into the pudding, stirring the entire time. (Pretend I’m stirring. I didn’t have enough hands to do this and take pictures at the same time!)

Continue cooking and stirring until the pudding thickens. It will be the consistency of thin oatmeal when it’s done. You can continue cooking liquid off or even add a bit of cornstarch if you’d like it to be thicker.

At this point, you can consider yourself done! Cool and serve.

OR, if you separated your egg whites, dump them into a stand mixer. You could also use a hand mixer. Beat the whites until frothy, then add a tablespoon of sugar for every 2 egg whites. 4 eggs = 2 tbsp sugar. Continue beating at high speed until peaks form. Carefully fold the meringue into the cooled pudding and enjoy!

Note: If you include the meringue, there  will be some raw egg white in your finished pudding. If you’re not comfortable with this, don’t separate the eggs before adding them to the pudding.

Kitchen hacks: pizza sauce and beautiful muffins

I’m not putting pizza sauce on my beautiful muffins. Just thought I’d make that clear. 😉

Homemade pizza is a staple around here. Thin crust, thick crust, round, square, and covered in different kinds of toppings. Making pizza is definitely a frugal activity – it costs WAY less, especially with bulk ingredients purchased at places like Costco! I’m pretty sure my homemade pizzas even cost less than cheap frozen pizzas.

Making pizza can be frustratingly time-consuming, though. The rising of the dough doesn’t really bother me, because that’s inactive time and I can do something else. Assembling the pizza, though, can definitely be sped up! The best way to do this is to have ingredients ready in manageable quantities.

The answer is pizza sauce cubes!

Start with your favorite sauce. I like to use cheap spaghetti sauce.

If you’re making a pizza right now, use what you need from the can. Then take the rest of the sauce and grab an empty ice-cube tray.

Carefully spoon your sauce into the cells. Overflowing cells are harder to empty once they’re frozen, so don’t overfill them!

Freeze, then dump the cubes into a freezer zip bag. Now, any time you need a small amount of sauce, you’re good to go! I use about 4 cubes per pizza, but we go pretty light on the sauce.  Whenever you need sauce, stick a few into a microwavable  cup or bowl, cover, and heat for about 3 minutes, stirring once  every minute to break up ice clumps.

Here’s a pin for Pinterest, if you feel so inclined.

Now, on to beautiful muffins!

Most of the time, muffin recipes say to fill the cups only 2/3 full. This results in a rather wimpy looking muffin. Recently, I’ve started filling my muffin cups all the way to the brim!

I have also started using more baking powder to get a higher rise and more fluffiness. I use about a heaping teaspoon per cup of flour in the recipe.

The end result?

Gloriously tall muffins. Adding a pinch of sparkling sugar on top before baking makes them even more impressive, but I didn’t do that this time.

Want a great muffin recipe? Try Sparkling Jumbo Blueberry Muffins over at Sally’s Baking Addiction! They are wonderful.

And last, but not least… I’m trying to think of something more wonderful than having a sleeping baby on my lap. And I am failing.