Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings...The Easy Way

Chicken & Dumplings doesn't have to be hard, or take all of a Sunday afternoon to cook. The added bonus is/was a very happy husband. My 3 year old princess said that she wanted to learn how to cook it! (And it's almost easy enough for her to do, if only she could use a sharp knife and the stove.)

Once my oldest gets home from running errands with his grandfather, there will probably be no leftovers. That should say it all right there.

From Southern Living 2010, p. 36.

Chicken & Dumplings

1 32 oz. container low-sodium chicken broth (I just used 4 c. from my freezer.)
3 c. shredded cooked chicken (again, from my freezer or you could buy one already cooked at the store)
1 (10 3/4 oz) can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 (10.2 oz. can) refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits
2 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, diced

Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; return to boil.

Place bicuits on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat each biscuit to 1/8 in. thickness; cut into 1/2 in. wide strips (pizza cutter works great for this).

Drop strips, one at a time, into boiling broth mixture. Add carrots and celery. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking.

When one is using stock and chicken from the freezer, don't thaw it first. Just throw it in the Dutch oven. This will buy you the time to not have to prep before you start cooking.

Unfortunately, this isn't a good one for the freezer. I was just in the mood for an extra happy husband today.

Til next time!

Seasoning Packets and Why I Now Hate Them

Ok, this is a semi-rant. I have come to HATE the prepackaged taco and chili seasoning mixes that one can buy at pretty much any grocery store. Yes, they are incredibly convenient. However, they are also seriously loaded with sodium! So, I have started making my own. I'll get to the chili formula in a minute. I'm waiting on permission to share the taco one, since it's a creation of my friend Jodi, who published it on her blog (see link on the right). I also found one for Ranch seasoning mix, which I'll share, but cannot vouch for its quality. I haven't used it since I only make 1 recipe that calls for it. My dear husband doesn't think that that making the mix (since it makes a lot) is worth it for that.

Now, if you don't have a well stocked spice rack, then obviously use the prepackaged stuff unless you are just looking for an excuse to go buy a bunch of spices. Just avoid adding any more salt.

Chili Seasoning Mix

4 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1 Tbsp. dried minced garlic
2 tsp. white sugar
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Don't bother with getting out measuring spoons. Compliments of our friend Rachael Ray, 1 Tbsp. is roughly a palmfull, and a teaspoon is 1/3 of a palmfull. There's your measuring. This takes all of 2 minutes once you gather your spices. I also cut way back on the salt, add more crushed red pepper, and use garlic powder instead of the dried minced garlic. (It's what I have.)

Ranch Seasoning Mix (for dip, dressing, or in my case taco soup)

1/2 c. dry buttermilk
1 Tbsp. dried parsley, crushed
1 tsp. dried dill weed (feel free to make Beavis and Butthead jokes here)
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Mix all of the above. Use 1 Tbsp. for whatever recipe (like taco soup) that calls for a packet of ranch seasoning mix.

For dressing, mix 1 Tbsp. with either 1 c. milk, 1/2 c. plain yogurt, and 1/2 c. lite mayo or 1 c. milk, 1 c. mayo.

Taco Seasoning Mix (NOT ORIGINAL, came from my friend Jodi Kasten)

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

I use this in place of 1 packet of taco seasoning mix. I also cut way back on the salt and use what I have in the building (which is usually not sea salt). I also go heavier on the garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes. (There are no weanies here.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Almost Summer

It's almost summer. What that means at my house is that activity nights are few and far between. I like this time. It means that I get to defrost the freezer and cook more. I do not cook on activity nights. Having a larger family, in part, means more stress. I prefer to minimize my stress. The freezer is not frost-free, so I have to use that hair dryer for something.

Why on earth would I go through this much trouble? Well, it really isn't that much trouble. After all, what I do is just make a double or triple batch of what I was already making for that night's dinner. So, instead of having one night of dinner cooked, I get extra! Plus, something homemade is a lot better than something out of a rectangular box or paper bag with golden arches.

How do I freeze all of this? First, stock up on zipper style freezer bags (pick your brand). You'll want quart and/or gallon sized depending on what your freezing and how many people you're cooking for. The goal is to have one night of dinner in each bag. (Obviously a smaller family wouldn't even need the gallon bags most likely.) Some people will use containers. You'll also want a sharpie for labeling. How you organize your freezer will depend on the type of freezer that you have and such. The end goal is to have everything frozen as flat as possible. Then you just stack your bags. When it's time to serve, having to nuke some veggies, boil up pasta, or cook rice doesn't really count as cooking.

Finally, what do I freeze? Lots of things. Soups, Chicken Pot Pie filling, red beans (for beans & rice), jambalaya, sometimes casseroles, taco meat, burrito meat, sloppy joe meat, spaghetti sauce, etc. Some weeks, there are times when we may eat from the freezer 6 out of 7 nights. That calls for some variety!

I hope this has been helpful and informative. Over the next couple months, hopefully I can get some of these recipes up.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tostada Casserole, and Live in General

Hey everyone. Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Life has just gotten crazy. My now 3 year old daughter is still getting up during the night when her baby brother was getting up to nurse. So, now my nights are generally spent with her or with him (because he will wake up sometimes still too). It's like they have radar or something. One will get to sleep, then the other will wake up. Get the 2nd one back to sleep and the 1st one wakes up. Repeat. Repeat a few more times for good measure. If it says much, my 8 year old son looked at me the other day and said "Mom, we'll be ok. You need to go take a nap." Apparently I am now so sleep deprived that I have not only become a cranky bitch, but I look like I've been beaten up.

Anyway, after I posted on Facebook that I was making tostada casserole for dinner, it was requested that I post it here, then link over to it. So.....

This one is one of those "Mom-classics" from childhood. I can see why. Quick, easy, and kids will devour it. I can have this thing put together and ready for the oven in the time that it takes to preheat to 375. Added bonus of a little therapy at the end. This is probably in the top 5 of most requested meals by my kids.

So, here ya go. Tostada Casserole. I serve with Spanish rice.

1 bag Fritos (divided)
1 lb. ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning (or make your own, but that will be another post)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (divided)
1 can refried beans
shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Brown the ground beef and drain. Stir in the taco seasoning mix and 1 1/2 c. of the tomato sauce. Mix the rest of the tomato sauce into the can of refried beans. Put enough fritos in the bottom of an 8 in. square pyrex to cover the bottom. Put your meat mixture over the chips as evenly as possible. Spread the refried beans over this. Cover with aluminim foil and bake for 20 min. Top with cheese and crushed fritos. Bake uncovered 5 more minutes or until cheese melts. Done.