Thursday, January 24, 2013

Apricot Glazed Pork Loin

 The meat in this dish was DELICIOUS, very tender and sweet.  And the prep for the freezer was so easy- no chopping veggies or cooking meat. Just mixing the sauce, slicing some onions (a few slices is so much easier than chopping), and dumping it all in a bag.  That said, you should probably really like the taste of apricots if you're going to make this. We're not huge fans of apricot, so I think I'll be experimenting with other flavors of preserves.

Apricot Glazed Pork Loin

Adapted from Six Sisters



1 (2 lb) pork tenderloin- the one I used was only 1.5 pounds
1 (1 lb) bag baby carrots
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 (18 oz) jar apricot preserves
1 cup chicken stock- I used 1c water and 1 tsp chicken bullion granules
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp cornstarch
water to mix


Place baby carrots and onions in the bottom of your slow cooker. Place pork on top and season with salt and pepper.  Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over pork. Cook on low for 6 hours. Before serving, put liquid in saucepan over med-high heat.  Combine the cornstarch and water (I shake it together in a little container), then pour into sauce mix.  Whisk occasionally until desired thickness is reached. Serve sauce over meat and veggies. 

Directions for Freezing ahead: 

Combine everything but cornstarch in a freezer container. When ready, thaw in fridge and cook on low 6 hours.  To be honest, I made this straight from freezer, cooking it on high for 5ish hours.

Alterations for next time: 

We all LOVED the meat, but weren't too big on the carrots; we didn't like the mix of the apricot with the flavor of the carrots. If I can find some apple preserves or something similar, I think I'll try that next time. A bit of apple and cinnamon (no Dijon), with some diced apples thrown in with the carrots and onions sounds really yummy to me.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mexican Hash Brown Casserole

We had Mexican Hash Brown Casserole earlier this week, and it's taken me awhile to post. I had high hopes for this dish. The potato bag alone looked soooo tasty. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't fabulous. It needed some crunch to it or something. As Darrin pointed out while we were eating it, the flavor of the peppers overtook the dish.  I would definitely add another packet of taco seasoning next time.  Check below the recipe to see what other alterations I might make... if we make this again.

Mexican Hash Brown Casserole

Adapted from Six Sisters


1 lb ground beef (I used ground turkey- it was on sale)
1 onion, diced
1 med. green pepper, chopped
1 med. red pepper, chopped
1 (14 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (4 oz) can diced chilies
1 package taco seasoning (I used low sodium)
4 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 fat) 
1 (16 oz) package frozen hash browns (mine were the cubes, not the shredded variety)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Garnishments (stuff you would normally top tacos with, plus tortilla chips)


Over medium heat, brown the ground beef, along with HALF the green peppers, red peppers, and onions.

While that's cooking, combine the hash browns with the remaining peppers and onion, along with 1 cup of cheese and 1 Tbsp taco seasoning in a bowl.

When the meat mixture has finished cooking, stir in the remaining taco seasoning, the stewed tomatoes, and diced chilies.  Simmer over medium for a few minutes, then stir in the cream cheese.

Layer half the hash brown mixture in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with half the meat mixture and half cup cheese.  Repeat layers.  Cook on low 4-6 hours.

Directions for freezing: 

Prepare the hash brown mixture and the meat mixture as directed above.  Place the hash brown mixture in Bag A and the meat mixture, when cooled, in Bag B. Freeze (I was able to fit Bag B inside Bag A before I put them in the freezer). You could also freeze the remaining cheese if you wanted to keep everything together (I always have some in the fridge, so I just pulled from there for my layers).

To cook, thaw bags in fridge. Then, layer in slow cooker as directed above. Cook on low 4-6 hours.

Alterations for next time: 

The original site I got this from said to garnish with sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, salsa, tortilla chips, etc, and I think this definitely needs that. We didn't garnish when I made it, and I was definitely missing the crunch factor lettuce and chips would have added. I was worried that since the stewed tomatoes weren't drained, that the potatoes would be sitting in a pool of liquid when I got home from work, but surprisingly, it wasn't.  As I mentioned above, I would definitely add another packet of taco seasoning. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nacho Grande Soup

We had this for dinner last night, and I think it will be a family favorite... as long as we have some Tostitos Scoops to eat it with. The flavor was very mild; not overly spicy, which is good because Ian hates anything with too much flavor. It looked a bit like the Velveeta, Rotel's, meat dip that's often served at parties, only watered down.

The recipe calls for either putting it in the crock pot or cooking it on the stove.  I heated it on the stove so it was ready in about 20 minutes. Worked wonderfully!  I'm glad I opted for the stove, as it really didn't make that much; there were no leftovers, and neither of my kids (ages 6 and 3) are big eaters, so basically there was just enough for Darrin and me. I think had I done it in the slow cooker, it would have gotten way too hot/charred.  After the recipe below, I mention a few more changes that I would make next time.

Nacho Grande Soup

Adapted from Six Sisters


1 lb ground beef (I used ground turkey- it was on sale)
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning (I use low sodium)
1 (10.75oz) can cheddar cheese soup
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
1.5 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag tortilla chips (Scoops worked great to eat it with- didn't need a spoon). 


In a skillet, cook ground beef, onion, and garlic until brown.

Combine meat along with all other ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 3-4 hours (or on the stove for about 20 minutes, or until heated through).

To freeze: 

Cook meat, onions, and garlic as directed above. Once cooled, combine all ingredients in a freezer container except milk. I went back and forth as to whether or not to add the milk at this point. As it turned out, I didn't have enough milk in the carton to put in the recipe, so it made the decision easy for me. From what I've read, milk is okay if frozen, but it didn't add much time to do it now.

To heat, thaw in fridge over night and cook according to the directions above, adding in the milk if you left if out.

Alterations next time: 

I will for sure double this recipe the next time. I always count on at least having enough leftovers for lunch the next day. I always try to sneak in veggies when I cook with a slow cooker, so I will probably add another can of diced tomatoes and chilies, plus a little pumpkin puree (weird, I know, but I have a pumpkin chili recipe and it works in that. Add a bit more spice and you'll never taste it. The soup is pumpkin colored, so you definitely wouldn't see it).  Some black beans and Mexi corn (or regular corn) would work well in this, too. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chicken Minestrone Stew

This was a really quick meal to throw in the slow cooker/ crock pot. I bought the ingredients for my last bulk prep day, and then noticed a few days later some extra cans in the pantry. Turns out I ran out of chicken when prepping meals, so I thought I was done, but wasn't. That was okay, because this was easy enough to throw together in the morning before work.

Chicken Minestrone Stew

Adapted slightly from Tasty Kitchen


1 lb or 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (can be frozen)
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) tomatoes with green chilis
1 can (14.5 oz) tomatoes with green pepper and onions (Del Monte)
1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 whole carrots, peeled and chopped
2 whole celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup uncooked pasta
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan
2 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped


In slow cooker, combine all ingredients from the chicken breasts to the onion. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.

About 30 minutes before you want to eat, shred the chicken. Turn the slow cooker on high. Add the pasta, Parmesan, and spinach to the crock.  Cover and cook about 30 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.

Alterations for next time:

This will definitely be one we make again. Darrin had several bowls for dinner, Annaliese kept asking for more beans, and Ian was hesitant at first, but at most of his. We had enough for all of us to eat it for supper again the following night and for Darrin and I to take some for lunch the day after (two suppers and our lunches out of a few minutes of work = one happy mama!). 

Darrin said it tasted good, but to me it lacked flavor. I think next time I make it, I'll throw in some Italian seasoning and see what I think. I was thinking it would be spicy given the cans of tomatoes, but it definitely isn't.  Even without the seasoning, though, it's a definite keeper (and a great way to sneak in veggies, because we definitely don't eat enough of them around here).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chicken and Tortellini

The picture doesn't look the best, but then again, it didn't look that great in real life, either. It was kind of all mixed together and a little smooshy.  I put this in the crock when I got back from shopping, and assembled  meals while it was cooking. I used a rotisserie chicken, and it basically shredded itself and fell into tiny bits. There were no large chunks of chicken. That said, both Darrin and I said this is something to make again (the kids ate all their tortellini and most of the chicken), with a few changes, of course.  My thoughts on those I'll note after the recipe.

Chicken and Tortellini 

 adapted from Six Sisters

3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed OR 1 cooked rotisserie chicken
1 frozen package cheese tortellini
26 oz jar spaghetti sauce
15 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
15 oz low-fat or part-skim Ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 onion, diced

Saute the spinach and onions in the butter until the onions are soft. Add chicken to warm through.

In a separate bowl, mix together Ricotta, spaghetti sauce, and diced tomatoes.

In greased crock pot, combine tortellini with the two mixtures above. Cook on low 4 -6 hours (I would do four hours, ours was pretty soft at 4, and the tortellini touching the pot got a little dark).

Alterations for next time

The wilted spinach did nothing for me in the mixture. I found it annoying, and the kids picked it out.  I think next time I make it with this method, I'll saute some peppers, zucchini, and carrots with the onions to pump up the veggie content and eliminate the spinach (the original recipe called for mushrooms and olives- yuck!). I might add a can of tomato sauce, too. I wanted it to be a bit saucier than it was.

I'm not really sure about prepping this and keeping it in the freezer.  As I was eating it, I thought about the possibility of layering the raw veggies and raw chicken breasts in the crock and topping them with the spaghetti sauce and diced tomatoes and letting it cook all day on low. Then I'd shred the chicken when I got home, stir in the ricotta, then the tortellini, and turn it up to high to cook the tortellini.  Pretty sure this is the route I'll try the next time I make it. If I did it this way, everything but the ricotta and tortellini could be combined and frozen ahead of time.
I also think that if you made it as is, you could place it in a casserole dish in the oven for 30ish minutes, until it's warmed through, and you'd have the same results I had after 4 hours in the crock pot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Freezer Meal Frenzy

So... two years ago my friend and I had this great idea to make freezer meals every month and exchange them. We didn't find recipes that easily accessible, so we created a blog.  And posted for one month...

And then that friend, this past October, mentioned how she had made a bunch of crockpot meals ahead that she had pinned on pinterest. It sounded like a great idea, and so in November I made a bunch of meals, knowing what a crazy month December would be. It was so nice to be able to just pull a bag from the freezer, throw it in the crock, set the timer, and go to work. I didn't have to do much of anything after work supper-wise, which, to me, is where crock pot freezer meals get more bang for their buck than regular freezer meals which usually have to go in the oven. I could come home, play with the kids, scrapbook, and take it easy until we were ready to eat dinner. 

The thing about those meals, though, was I only made about 5 different recipes, though I did make multiples of those.  But there was only so much variations of Mexican chicken I could handle. Knowing I would have a few days of break free, I scoured some of my favorite websites looking for recipes that were different from each other and spent part of yesterday and today shopping and assembling them.  All told, I spent $240 on 17 meals, which averages out to about $14 a meal.  I didn't search the ads, I didn't drive around to different stores to get the best deals, and I didn't use coupons, so I know the total could be less had I tried any of those.

Those meals were:

It took me about 8 hours, including shopping, to put most of the recipes below together (I'm waiting to make the calzones until this weekend when we have pizza).  I assembled each of them individually, which I know cost me a bit more time, but with the kids running in and out and knowing I would have to stop last night, I didn't want to have food I prepped yesterday waiting for today to get used. 

Some of them, like the Asian Glazed Chicken, White Bean Chicken Chili, and Black Bean, Corn, Salsa Chicken, were really easy to assemble. Others, like the Autumn Chili and Mexican Hash Brown Casserole, took a bit more time. One recipe, the Ham and Potato Casserole, can't be assembled ahead, but I bought all the ingredients so I have them on hand in my fridge/pantry and can just dump them all in the crock in the morning before work.   Very few of them were actually written with make-ahead instructions, so I just used my best guess as to what I could do ahead and what would have to wait.

One thing I did figure out what how to support the baggie. About three recipes in, I was putting the ingredients in a bag, and one tipped and spilled all over the counter. This pot happened to be sitting in the dish drain, and I used it for every recipe that followed.

I plan on posting more detailed descriptions of each meal, how we thought they tasted, the changes I made, and what I might do different if making it again.  I know it won't be two years between posts because I threw one in the crock last night for dinner before I started assembling and will have it posted tomorrow to share.

I'm not a food blogger or a photographer. Nothing will be perfect. I am, however, a mom and wife just trying to save others time.