Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chicken Spaghetti

Howdy everyone!

Tonight I made chicken spaghetti. This one was soooo easy, and yummy! The big kids could have done it without help. It was that easy. It was also yummy, and made 2 casseroles. One for tonight, one for the freezer. Those are the best recipes. One casserole serves 4 (unless one of them is my hubby, in which case it's 2 or 3). It was fine because it was just him, me, and the princess eating at home. The big kids ate at their papa's house around the corner after a trip to Walmart.

When preparing the pan for the casserole for the freezer, be sure to line the pan with foil (or get one of those disposable pans). The idea is that once the casserole is frozen, you can take it out of the pan, wrap well, and put back in the freezer. You know that it will fit in the pan to cook since it was frozen in there.

I checked the casserole 7 minutes into the 2nd bake and deemed it done.

Total prep time was however long it took the oven to heat up. That quick.'s chicken spaghetti.

2 c. cooked chicken breast (I used what I had in the freezer, which included some dark meat)
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. sliced celery (1/4 in.)
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
7 oz. spaghetti, broken into 2 inch pieces
1 c. chicken stock
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk stock, soup, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Combine with chicken, veggies, and spaghetti. Divide into 2 8x8 baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Top each with 1/2 c. cheese. Bake 35 minutes tightly covered. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

To bake a frozen casserole, bake 55 minutes covered, then uncovered for 10.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Brace yourself. This is one of those recipes that is a royal pain in the you-know-what. Obviously short cuts can be taken, and some may choose to. That's up to you. About the only short cut is to use deli roasted chickens and buy 98 oz. of chicken stock. Personally, I prefer to cook my own chickens and get the yummy homemade stock. Especially since there will be a lot leftover to go into my freezer. Darn. I hate it when that happens!

Now, I said that this recipe is a pain. It really is because of all of the prep that goes into it, between cooking and deboning 4 chickens, straining and cooling the resulting stock, etc. I usually take several days to do this one with 2 chickens per day and on the third day, make the filling. I also have to have my husband borrow the huge stock pot from his lodge so that I have something big enough to mix everything in after the sauce is made. The sauce just barely fits in my dutch oven. Literally, there was less than 1/4 of inch left.

The four chickens used should give you a big hint. It's 8 chickens if you use the deli cooked ones. I can't explain the size difference. This recipe makes a ton of filling. Fifty servings (2/3 of a cup each) to be specific. Coincidentally, it also freezes well. I break one batch down into 10-5 serving pies. It works for my family, at least for now. Usually we eat one the day I make it (thus making it worth my time initially) and freeze the other nine in quart-sized freezer bags.


6 sticks butter
2 large onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, shopped
3 c. flour
12 1/4 c. chicken stock
5 c. milk
1 lb. sliced carrots
16 c. cooked chicken (4-8 chickens depending on size)
3 1/2 c. frozen peas
1-2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
A few dashes of hot sauce (optional, I leave it out for little ones)
pie crusts (make your own or buy)

Melt butter in huge pot (4-6 gallon) over medium heat. Saute onion and celery until soft. Add flour, stir until smooth, and cook 2 minutes (stirring constantly). Add in chicken stock and milk. Cook, stirring constantly until it boils, then 2 more minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients (through hot sauce).

I bake 3 1/3 cups at a time. Bake 1 immediately (roughly 30 minutes at 400) topped with 1 pie crust and cut slits for ventillation. To bake filling that has been frozen, thaw completely and stir. Then top with a pie crust, cut slits, and bake. It can also be baked in 2 huge commercial sized roasting pans, topped with 2 packages of pie crusts, slits cut.

Enjoy, and after this, take a night or 2 or 11 (as my batch turned out once bagged for the freezer) off.

As an added bonus, after I made the pot pie filling, I had an extra 29 cups of chicken stock. I bagged in 2 cup increments (obviously the extra cup was bagged by itself) for the freezer. Not bad for the cost of 4 whole chickens (roughly $5 each), veggies (1 1/2 lbs. carrots, 1 bag of onions, and 1 bunch of celery), and less than 1/2 gallon of milk. Oh, and a box of freezer bags.

Potato Soup Mix

I got this one from Mom. Thanks Dude! She sent it to me, thinking that it would be good for my oldest to put together before going on a Boy Scout campout, then just add the boiling water out there, and voila. Well, God works in mysterious ways. Turns out the same day I got this recipe, my dad ended up with an infection in one of his teeth (that ended up spreading some, we are pretty sure). By the end of Saturday, he couldn't chew at all. Enter potato soup. At least it gave him something decent to eat that my oldest could fix for him. Better for him than ice cream, jello, and pudding.

Best part about this recipe, other than the fact that it is incredibly easy to put together, is the fact that my kids will eat it, and have asked to have it around as a staple item. When my kids say that, I know I have seriously scored. Next best part is that I don't have to prepare the soup for them (beyond the mix). Even the 7 year old can boil a cup of water in the microwave.

So, here ya go! I give you Potato Soup Mix....

2 c. instant mashed potatoes
1 1/2 c. instant powdered milk
2 Tbsp. instant chicken boullion
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt

Combine everything and store in either a 1 qt. jar or in individual snack sized zip lock bags. I did the ziplock. 1 serving is 1/2 c. mix.

To prepare soup: Add 1 c. boiling water to 1/2 c. soup mix. Stir until smooth. Add any desired toppings: bacon bits, cheese, chopped green onion, etc.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pregnant Lady Cooking

First, NO I am not pregnant again. This is just a service to my friends and family who are expecting.

While I was pregnant with my 7 year old, I learned that it was a good idea to have meals prepared ahead of time. Unfortunately, this lesson was learned the hard way when I went on bed rest for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy. Next time, I did my best to have plenty of meals in the freezer and it came in handy third trimester. I had my freezer full, as well as the one at the Masonic Lodge, where my hubby is a member. I didn't have my own deep freeze yet. When I was pregnant this last time, I got my deep freeze, and boy did it make my life easy. I cooked up a storm while I still felt decent, before the ligaments in my abdomen reminded me that they do not like to be stretched. I had enough food in that freezer that if I didn't want to cook during the 3rd trimester, I didn't have to. I also kept inventory in an Excel spreadsheet, just because I am that OCD.

I made soups, casseroles, dirty rice, jambalaya, spaghetti sauce, chicken pot pie filling, burrito meat, sloppy joes, and pretty much anything else that I could think of that would freeze. My favorites were the pot pie filling, burrito meat, and spaghetti sauce. Very little space used and a lot of food. A good bit of it was done just by doubling or tripling a recipe that I was making for dinner that night and freezing the leftovers. The burrito meat is a crockpot thing, so that was done just for the freezer.

The really nice part about doing all of this cooking ahead of time was that since I felt pretty decent through most of my 3rd trimester, I didn't have to cook when Zac was in and out of the hospital and I was sleep deprived. (Was sleep deprived? Heck, I still am!)

Several recipes have already been posted here. Now that the frozen breastmilk is gradually coming out of the deep freeze, I'm replacing it with meals for us to eat on activity nights. Those recipes will get posted as I get to them, or just ask for them.

Stretch that Roast!

This is being posted for my sweet hubby. He felt that everyone should know how to stretch a pot roast into a week of meals. First, I cooked said roast (which was a chuck roast and the largest one he could find at the store). It was dredged in seasoned flour (salt and pepper), then browned. Once all sides were brown, I added a can of V8 and the last cup or so of red wine that I had in the house. Had that not been enough liquid, beef stock was next. It was hot enough that boiling was instant. Turn heat down, cover, and simmer until happy. I do this in my cast iron dutch oven with a self-basting lid. Serve with smashed taters and veggies of your choice. The cooking liquid can be thickened with cornstarch or roux and served as gravy. This was night number 1.

Nights 2 and 3 were shepherd's pie. I use Paula Deen's recipe. Short version is leftover smashed taters packed into a square baking dish about halfway up. Top that with a layer of veggies (peas, corn, or mixed veggies), a layer of shredded roast, and a biscuit topping made with 1 1/2 c. milk and 2 c. Bisquick. Bake at 350 until the top is nicely browned and cooked through.

Nights 4-7 were hash. This originated with my late Grandma, Corine Conrad Brownlee. It starts with a roux (like most everything Cajun that is any good). Then add in chopped celery, onion, and bell pepper. Once those are cooked, add in diced potatoes and carrots, some pulverized garlic, and chopped cooked pot roast. You'll also want to add in some sort of liquid, whether it's beef stock, water, or leftover gravy. Season everything as you go with salt and pepper. Serve over hot white rice. I had the dutch oven pretty much full. While not your typical spicy Cajun dish, it does follow the Cajun philosophy of making something out of what you have on hand and is generally cheap.

Enjoy! (And don't feel bad about being cheap!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Now That Things Are Getting Crazy

Howdy all!

Fall is definitely in full swing at Casa Johnston. Aggie Football starts back up this weekend (which will result in pizza night). Church orchestra rehearsal started back up tonight. I didn't go (again this year since Mama duty calls), but ideally my hubby and 2 sons will be going. One son and and my dad did go. Boy Scouts started back with weekly meetings a few weeks ago, and Cub Scouts will start back in a couple weeks. This means 2-3 nights each week that we'll be eating from the freezer (most likely).

My rule to survive this craziness with something resembling sanity is that on activity nights, I don't cook. There. I said it. We either eat leftovers or eat something from the freezer. Last night (Boy Scout night) it was spaghetti. The sauce was from the freezer, boil pasta, and voila. Tonight it was red beans and rice. Beans were pulled from the freezer this morning, make rice, and voila.

I freeze meals every chance I get. I will cook a double or triple batch of stuff (like spaghetti or beans) just to have extra for the freezer. I also freeze dirty rice and jambalaya. Those are in my freezer now. This week (since whole chickens are on sale again), I plan to get chicken pot pie filling in there.