Archive for March, 2013

Make Ahead Meal: Chicken Enchiladas

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Enchiladas

Ingredients
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cut into chunks
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 (1.25 ounce) package mild taco seasoning mix
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped, divided
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (to taste)
6 soft taco flour tortillas
3 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce

Directions

1. Place the chicken in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chicken pieces are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Shred chicken by placing two forks back to back and pulling meat apart. Set the shredded chicken aside. Meanwhile, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and chili powder in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, chopped green chilies, taco seasoning, chopped green onion, and water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, garlic salt, and 1 cup of the soup mixture; simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

3. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread the remaining soup mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

4. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture. Sprinkle Cheddar cheese over the chicken filling before folding the tortillas, reserving half of the shredded cheese for topping the enchiladas. Fold tortillas over the filling and place seam-side down in the prepared pan.

5. Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas. Cover with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of Cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the reserved chopped green onions and the sliced olives on top of the cheese. Bake in the preheated oven until filling is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes.

I have made this enchilada recipe many times since I first posted about it almost three years ago. It is a favorite of both Travis and myself. The only problem with this recipe is that it can take 3-4 hours to make on any given day. When I prepared this, I used 7.5X7.5 inch pans that I bought for $0.92 each and are reusable. I doubled the recipe (since it is a favorite), and was able to make 5 trays of 6 enchiladas each. I prepared the recipe up until baking in the preheated oven. Instead, I covered it with plastic wrap and foil, then froze the trays. The day before, I took out a tray of enchiladas and left it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. I was able to bake at the same temperature and time as per the recipe.

The flavor was well maintained, we enjoyed it as much as fresh. The clean up was even easier than last night – a 7.5X7.5 tray, 2 plates, and a couple of utensils. Super easy and no fighting over the kitchen! WIN WIN :-)

Make Ahead Meal: Beef Stroganoff

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Beef Stroganoff Picture from: Freezer Meals For Us

Recipe:
1 lb ground beef
1 diced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery or chicken soup
¾ cup milk
1 pint sour cream
opt. 1 small can of sliced mushrooms, drained

Brown ground beef and onions in skillet. Drain any fat. Sprinkle meat with garlic powder and coat evenly. Add soups, Worcestershire sauce, (if adding canned sliced mushrooms, add now) and milk. Stir until well blended then simmer 10 minutes. Add sour cream and simmer 2 minutes.

For freezing: Let cool. Pour into Ziploc gallon sized freezer bag. Freeze flat. When ready to eat pull out the day before to thaw in fridge. This thaws fairly quickly on defrost mode in the microwave. Simmer a few minutes on stove top. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Tonight was our first night using our prepared meals from the freezer. I prepared the beef stroganoff as directed from the recipe, except I split the recipe into 2 separate gallon size bags and froze them to create 2 meals.

Tonight’s preparation was easy enough, I thawed the stroganoff overnight in the refrigerator, and when dinner time came around, I cooked the noodles in one small pot, and warmed up the stroganoff in another. At first, the cream products appeared to be a little chunky from the freezing, but after the sauce warmed up, the chunks disappeared leaving it smooth and creamy.

Overall, the recipe was good as is. I think I could have added some more salt and pepper in the initial cooking stages to add some additional flavor, or maybe additional Worcestershire sauce. My husband suggested adding a can of Rotel (but he likes everything hot). Clean up was easy as there were a total of 2 easy to clean pans, 2 bowls, and 4 spoons (no dishwasher required!)

Turning Over a New Leaf

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

In March, my husband and I were inspecting our monthly credit card statement, and we found something that we were both extremely displeased about. Within a 24 day period, we ate dinner out 19 times! On average, that is about 24 days eating out in a month! We are both very busy, and we work opposite schedules of each other, so we only see each other in the evenings.

I wanted a healthier alternative to eating (large portions) out every night, and one that made sense for our pocketbook as well. Since cooking every night is a hassle, and cleaning is always a fight waiting to happen, I started researching ways to prepare food ahead of time so that cooking and cleaning would be less of a hassle and less stress for the two of us. I came upon make ahead meals and freezer meals as an option – it lets me buy items (meat, vegetables, etc.) in bulk and prepare everything in one day, and have minimal clean up that we can both do together so we aren’t fighting about whose turn it is to clean the dishes.

There are tons of blogs and websites out there, which all have fantastic ideas for make ahead meals, so I turned to their experience to assist me in trying this new adventure. I picked out 11 recipes from a few different bloggers who have a long history of making freezer meals and went to work gathering ingredients and preparing the meals. In total, I ended up with about 26 meals for about $180, or about $7 per meal. Considering we spent (on average) $35 per meal in February when we went out, that saves us $28 a meal. Just to be fair, we still have 2 dinners out per week planned into the menus, but that means we will cut our “going out” bill by a third. I will post (and rate ) each of the recipes as we try them. I am hopeful that this experiment turns out to be a successful endeavor and that I get a green light to continue doing this.

List of Recipes:

Asian Salmon
Baked Shrimp Scampi
Corn, Black Bean, and Beef Empanadas
Chicken Rice Wraps
Chicken Pot Pie
Sloppy Joes
Beef Stroganoff
Chicken Roll Ups
Fajita Chicken
Fajita Beef
Chicken Enchiladas

Crawfish and Adventures in Home Repairs

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

This weekend, my Hubby, his friend, and I boiled roughly 30 pounds of live crawfish. I sorted out the moving from the non-moving crawfish Sunday morning. The result was a cooler almost half full of wriggling creatures.

Then, we had to make sure that the crawfish understood the rules – they were for eating! We accomplished this through a very in depth staring contest… For awhile, I wasn’t sure who would win. Fortunately, the humans had multiple large pots of boiling, seasoned water that made the crawfish rather nervous.

Unfortunately, I have no more pictures to show, but we did quite enjoy about 15 pounds of crawfish, leaving us with about another 15 pounds to shell for later (Crawfish Nachos, Crawfish Bisque, Crawfish Gumbo, Crawfish Etoufee, the possibilities are limited by the amount of crawfish you have on hand). I had to go to work, so I quickly packed the unshelled crawfish into the spare refrigerator (usually used for beverages) and left for work.

My hubby texted me Monday morning that the fridge wasn’t cold, could I check the settings when I got home. I check and the fridge is at least room temperature. We don’t know how long the crawfish have been sitting at room temperature, so we say bye-bye to the little fellows (and our Crawfish Nachos)!

I set about to begin salvaging or tossing the rest of the food and drink in the fresh food and freezer compartments, and notice that the freezer is still frozen. Upon further examination, I see water dripping from the roof of the fridge (top freezer setup). I also notice that there are 2 holes completely filled with ice, presumably leading to the defrost drain for the freezer.

My first action was to defrost the holes to attempt to allow the air through the system. I was able to feel some cold air coming through  but not enough to cool the fridge down significantly. I then started removing screws from the back of the freezer interior wall. First out was the ice maker that had not been used since the previous owners. Then the cover for the evaporator fan came down and out. At this point, I spot my primary problem – the fan was not so much as twitching. After reading several boards online about the fans in GE Refrigerators stopping, I came to realize that this is a fairly common problem. Luckily it has a surprisingly simple solution that involves tools as simple as a ratchet (or drill with a bit that fits the screw) and your hands.

I picked up the new motor for the fan at a Appliance Parts Shop about 20 miles away from my house for about $80. The motors are available online for about $50 shipped, but the Hubby wanted this problem gone. When I got the part home, I unscrewed the back wall to reveal the condenser (defrost?) coils. When you do this, it unplugs the light attached to the back wall. It was at that point that I decided to unplug the refrigerator/freezer (unit). Then I unscrewed one more piece which holds the fans and the motor itself.

The motor mount is held on with two screws, which free the motor mount once unscrewed. The motor can then be unplugged from the electrical connection. Two more screws remove the mount from the motor, and the new motor can replace the old. i then plug  the new motor into the electrical connection and plug in the unit – the fan is now purring like a kitten. I unplug the unit again, and reverse the steps to remove all of the panels. Finally, I plugged the unit back into the wall and let it cool off. A few hours later, it is good as new!

I was sorry to have such an expensive meal go to waste, but I am glad that the refrigerator was fixable and proud that I was able to do it myself. I will take spending $80 for a part over spending $600 on a new fridge any day!