Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pasta Bake {Freezer Meal}

Around the beginning of January, I became interested in giving freezer cooking a try. I thought it would be a great way to save time and money. The first thing I did was hit Pinterest to do some research. There are lots of recipes to be found and also some great advice from people that are pros at freezer cooking.

Here are a few things I learned when I first tried it:

  • Don’t take on too much when you are just starting. I know you’ve seen those posts about people making 30 meals in 1 day, but don’t feel like you have to do that.
  • Read up on storage methods so you know the best way to prevent freezer burn.
  • Don’t get discouraged! I only did three meals to start and about half way through I was ready to give up on the whole thing. It seems tedious, but in the long run it makes life so much easier.
  • Prepare yourself because there will be A LOT of clean-up.

One of the first three recipes I made and froze was this one for baked pasta.  I found it on Six Sisters’ Stuff(They have lots of other fun recipes as well!)

The reason I was so excited about this recipe is that it’s a great money saver. It makes two meals and only uses one box of pasta and 1 lb of ground beef. I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe. I only used half an onion, I used bowtie noodles because that is what I had on hand and I omitted the sour cream completely.

Source: Six Sisters’ Stuff Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Farfalle (bowtie) noodles cooked al dente
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 – 24oz jars of pasta sauce (I used Prego meat sauce.)
  • 1/2 a small onion – chopped
  • 12 slices of provolone cheese (I used 6 on each meal.)
  • 1 – 8oz bag of shredded mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese (However much you want. We like a lot of cheese so I was pretty liberal with it.)

Directions:

  1. In a deep skillet, brown ground beef with onion over medium heat. (Or if you are impatient like me high heat until it’s almost done and then switch it down to medium.)
  2. Add the two jars of pasta sauce and let it simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Spray your pans with non-stick cooking spray (the original recipe called for 8×8 pans, but I didn’t have any that size so I used an 11.75×9 inch pan and it still worked.)
  4. Layer a quarter of your cooked noodles into both pans.
  5. Top with a quarter of the sauce.
  6. Place 6 slices of provolone on top of the sauce.
  7. Add half of the remaining noodles to each pan.
  8. Place a third of the mozzarella on each.
  9. Add half of the remaining sauce to each pan.
  10. Finish off with a bunch of parmesan (or a little if that is your preference) and the remaining third of the mozzarella.

Once you have your two pans prepared, cover them with foil. Make sure it’s on there nice and tight so you can avoid freezer burn. Label the meals so you know what they are and put them in the freezer.

When you are ready to cook one, thaw it in the fridge 24 hours. Then take the foil off and bake it at 350 for a half hour.

Verdict: Win

Both times we had this it came out great. It freezes very well. You definitely couldn’t tell that it had been frozen for three weeks. Plus, having a meal prepared so all you have to do is pop it in the oven is so very convenient. I count this as a win in both the time-saving department and the money saving department because I was able to stretch the pasta and beef (which I would’ve normally used for one meal) into two!

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Crockpot Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie

It was freezing today so this comfort food meal was a perfect dinner. This recipe is one that I have made several times since I started traversing the dangers of the kitchen. It’s easy and yummy (and WAY better than those frozen pot pies you buy for a buck.) The only scary part is dealing with the chicken, but once you get that taken care of, it’s a piece of cake.

I adapted this recipe from the blog Coers Family.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 cups of chicken – cooked and shredded
  • 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes – cubed (I use the Green Giant Klondike Fingerlings)
  • 12 oz bag of mixed veggies (I like Birdseye)
  • 3 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • Pillsbury Grands biscuits (I used the 8 ct)

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot and pour one can of soup over them.
  2. Next put in the chicken and pour the second can of soup over it.
  3. Add the mixed veggies and then pour the final can of soup on top.
  4. Cover and cook for 6 hours stirring midway (if possible)
  5. Make biscuits according to the package
  6. Slice biscuits and top with pot pie filling.

Verdict: Win

Easy and delicious. Admittedly it’s not much to look at, but it tastes good. This one has been a win every time I’ve made it.

Snowed In and Making Brownies

Today we are dealing with freezing cold and tons of snow, so it seemed like the perfect day for baking. I had a ton of cake mixes I got for super cheap over the holidays. As well as some other leftover holiday bits and pieces so I scoured the internet to see what I could make with them (other than yet another cake.) Naturally, I headed to Pinterest to see what goodies I could find. I found tons of recipes for cake mix brownies, but the one I decided to try looked so easy that I couldn’t possibly mess it up. This awesome recipe is on the blog Cookies and Cups.

Now, on the blog she used baking melts in her brownies (which sounds awesome) but I didn’t have any, so I used Nestle Morsels – the holiday ones, so you may see some red and green- and that worked quite well. I followed the recipe exactly. Once I mixed it all up (and it was tough to mix!) I got this:

Right before it went in the oven

So I popped it in the oven for about 25 minutes and what I ended up with were some of the tastiest brownies ever.

They were such a success that I decided to try again, but I adapted the recipe a bit in the next batch and came up with Peppermint Cake Brownies.

Here is what I did:

Recipe:

  • 1 box cake mix (I used red velvet.)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup International Delight Peppermint Mocha creamer
  • 1 egg
  • Half a bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix together the cake mix, oil, creamer, egg and baking chips (however many you want, but save some to throw on the top.)
  2. Spread into an 8×8 pan (the dough is crazy thick, but that’s okay.)
  3. Sprinkle some more peppermint pieces on top and push them down a bit into the dough.
  4. Bake on 400 for 25 minutes. (I have an old oven, your cooking time and temp may vary so keep an eye on it.)
  5. Once an inserted toothpick comes out clean, take it out and let it cool completely before removing from the pan.

These came out gooey and delicious and had a wonderful peppermint flavor. I was really excited with how they came out since the creamer thing was a bit of an experiment for me. I figured the chance of complete failure was about 50%, so I’m glad it ended up working out.

Verdict: Win

Both the original recipe and the adapted peppermint experiment came out great! I will definitely be making these again and I like the many different options I could experiment with as far as adding creamers to the brownies.

What’s For Dinner?

So, today instead of making one of the dozens of recipes on my must-make list I opted to try one of the Recipe Makers from Kraft. You get a marinade and a sauce in the box.

So, you add the marinade at the start of cooking. Let me say that after catching the scent of the marinade I almost pitched the whole thing because it was pretty awful to smell.

But, I had bought it so I pressed on, hoping that I wasn’t about to ruin a perfectly good roast. So, I threw in the marinade and let it cook for 10ish hours. The smell never did improve, so when I got to the last half hour of cooking or so, I was understandably nervous about the outcome. Was I going to have to get fast food after all of my cooking efforts? (Okay, so the crockpot did most of the effort, but still…)

So I scooped out the marinade and added the finishing sauce. Thankfully, the finishing sauce smelled AMAZING! Things were looking up. After making my sides I ended up with this plate (which did look pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.)

Verdict: Win

Despite the questionable smell of the marinade, the roast came out tasting delicious. The finishing sauce was amazing and the meat ended up tasting as if I had smoked it. Yummy!

Crockpot Chicken and Broccoli

So, I happened to have a couple of bags of frozen broccoli that I got for free (I’m a couponer) and was looking for something I could use it in. I came across this recipe about a dozen times on Pinterest (on many different sites ) and it was easy and used the crockpot – the best kitchen appliance EVER! – so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Recipe:

  • 1 can of cheddar soup
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • A bag of frozen broccoli
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
  • 2 to 3 cups of Chicken – cooked and shredded (I used about 3 cups.)
  • Cooked noodles

Directions:

  1. Throw everything in the crockpot and mix it up.
  2. Cook it for three to four hours on low.
  3. Throw it on top of some noodles and you’re done.

Once you chuck everything in the crockpot and let it cook it comes out like this:

I served it over egg noodles.

Verdict: Fail

Nobody really loved this. It was edible, but rather bland. Despite the many recipes on the web for this dish that called it “cheesy” there wasn’t much of a cheese flavor to it. If you prefer your broccoli mushy (we do!) then you will definitely need to cook it longer. Somebody that knows more about cooking than I do could probably doctor this up to make it more appealing. Definitely not my biggest cooking fail, but I won’t be making it again.

Baked French Toast Swirl

This recipe was sent to me by my mom. She’s a breakfast lover (as in she could eat it for every meal) and she wanted me to make it for her. Once you get over the fact that you have to deal with raw eggs (one of my cooking fears) this recipe is pretty easy. It comes courtesy of Campbell’s Kitchen.

I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter. I didn’t measure the raisins, but I definitely didn’t use the suggested 3/4 cup. Since there are raisins in the Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl bread, I’m not sure you need a whole ton of extra raisins. The only thing I didn’t add was the cinnamon sugar, because I didn’t have any (I would definitely add it if I made this again.)

Verdict: Undecided

My mom loved it so much she ate it as leftovers. I’m on the fence. I think less raisins would’ve worked better for me or perhaps using a different variety of the Swirl bread. I might try it again eventually. It’s not overly sweet, so if you have a sweet tooth (like me!) you will definitely want the cinnamon sugar and you can’t go wrong with syrup.

Crockpot Cheapskate Philly Cheesesteak

Not much to look at, but yummy!

While surfing the net, I found a recipe called Crock-Pot Cheeseburger Bake . I was immediately intrigued for two reasons: It did not include chicken (I love chicken, but we eat a lot of it) and it sounded like something I could make.  That being said, I did make a few changes to make it even easier (because I like things as easy as possible.) In addition, this didn’t come out tasting much like a cheeseburger, but it did make for a tasty cheesesteak rip-off.

The original recipe called for an onion and green pepper. I used the Birdseye Recipe Makers frozen sliced peppers and onions instead (about 1/3 of the bag.) I also opted not to make the biscuits in the crockpot and instead served the mixture over biscuits instead.

Recipe:

  • 1 pound of ground beef or turkey
  • onion (however much you prefer)
  • green pepper (however much you prefer)
  • 1 can of condensed cheddar soup
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • Grands buttermilk biscuits (I used the 8 count)

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef in a skillet with the peppers and onions. (Drain fat.)
  2. Place ground beef mixture into the crock pot
  3. In a bowl, mix together cheddar soup and milk.
  4. Pour over meat mixture in the crock pot and stir until everything is mixed well.
  5. Cook on low for three to four hours.
  6. Make biscuits according to package.
  7. Serve the crock pot mix on top of the biscuits.
 

 Verdict: Win

This meal was super easy to make and quite tasty and the scare factor was low. I would make it again. I would say if you are feeding more than two or three people you would probably want to double it.

Trying out this whole blogging thing…

Hi, all! I’m Jenny. I just started cooking in August of  2013. What you need to know about me is that prior to August I had never cooked anything that involved a stove or oven. Yep. I’m that person. The one that could only work two appliances successfully: the toaster and the microwave.

One thing I’ve learned since I started is that cooking is freaking scary. Raw meat, knives, burning heat… it’s the stuff nightmares are made of. I consider a meal a success if I survive making it and nobody dies after eating it.

I decided to blog about my journey into the word of cooking because I figured there might be other people like me out there. People with the desire to cook, but a bit of anxiety about it as well. I plan to share recipes I’ve tried and whether they were successes or failures and any injuries sustained in the making of the dish. Come with me as I traverse the treacherous world of cooking.