Monday, October 25

Make Ahead Monday: Mexican Casserole

For our second installment of Make Ahead Monday, I am sharing a recipe that I found online.  I am fairly certain that, in some way, it came from a recipe on The Common Room blog, but I can't for the life of me locate the recipe.  I also know that I have cut it down from it's original amounts.  Anyway, here it goes...and please check out The Common Room for other recipe ideas (especially to feed a large family or crowd on the cheap).

Mexican Casserole

2-3 lb ground beef
2 cans cream of chicken soup (can use this recipe to make a homemade, gluten free version)
2 cans black beans
2 cans corn/ranch beans/pinto beans (optional)
1 can rotel or 1 c salsa
¼ c taco seasoning
Grated cheese
Tortillas or corn chips

Cook and drain ground beef.  Add soup, beans, rotel/salsa, and taco seasoning.  Heat and stir.

In large greased roaster (or 2 9x13 pans), layer as follows:
- tortillas cut to fit (cubes/strips)
- ½ meat sauce
- ½ grated cheese
- repeat

Heat in oven @ 325 until bubbly, about 25 minutes.

***A few hints about this recipe:
  1. I can split this recipe (as written) into 3 9x9 casserole dishes and I freeze the extra to that and heat up later.  You can also mix everything up (instead of layering) and freeze in a gallon size freezer bag.  This method takes up a lot less space and means that you won't have a casserole dish out of use.
  2. You can add extra beans and take out some of the meat to make this a more frugal options.  Or you can just add extra beans to stretch the meal even further.
  3. We prefer this dish made with corn tortillas instead of flour.  We just like the taste better that way. [And now that we are gluten free, as long as we use a gluten free cream of chicken soup, the corn tortillas make this an easy gf meal!]

Wednesday, October 20

Works for Me Wednesday: Freezer Cooking for Baby

I thought I would take this time to write about how I have been preparing for a new baby in the kitchen.  In the way of preparations, cooking probably isn't one that a lot of people think about.  Between painting and preparing nurseries, picking out names, and caring for other children...who has time?  But our budget is small and so tending to these details before baby came was very important to our financial security after baby came.  Soooo....I decided to make many meals for my family and keep them in the freezer, things that could be pulled out to thaw and cooked quickly, things that didn't require a lot of sides to make them a complete meal, things that my mother could cook (who has very little cooking skill), and things that would be nutritious for our family.

My goal was to have enough food to get us through almost a whole month.  This way, if my husband or I feel like cooking we can...and if we feel a bit overwhelmed then we don't have to worry about it.  It will keep us from eating fast food or attempting to go out to eat with an infant and a 13 month old (which probably wouldn't be good for any of our sanity).  I will link to any recipes that I have online and have planned a series of posts for "Make Ahead Monday" where I will post any recipes I use that are not found online.  So here goes...
(FYI: the number in parenthesis is how many meals worth I made and froze)

  1. Ranch Chicken with Potatoes (2)
  2. Chicken Enchilada Casserole (2)
  3. Sloppy Joe Meat (2)
  4. Mexican Casserole (3)
  5. Chili (2)
  6. Taco Meat (2) - This is just ground beef prepared with homemade taco seasoning and a bit of water...I'll post the seasoning recipe on Wednesday
  7. Chicken Cordon Bleu (3)
  8. Manicotti (2)
  9. Dump Chicken (2)
  10. Meatloaf (4) - For these I made up mini-meatloaves and froze them in individual servings totaling approx. 8 servings so this would function as 4 lunches/dinners for me and my husband.
I also prepared/bought and froze some things with which to cook up quick meals and make mealtime a bit easier. Here's what I put back and how it can be used to save time on meal prep.

  • Precooked and Diced Chicken - Frozen in 2 cup portions which can be easily used for Chicken and Rice Wraps, quesadillas, and casseroles.
  • Breakfast Sausage - Frozen in 1 lb portions and can be used for sausage grave, omelets, or breakfast burritos.  Could also be used in spaghetti sauce and served over pasta.
  • Frozen, Preformed Hamburger Patties - Can be thawed and grilled or cooked on the stove for a quick lunch or dinner.
  • Frozen Bratwurst and Hotdogs - Thawed they make a quick lunch or dinner.

Monday, October 18

Make Ahead Monday: Ranch Chicken and Potatoes

I am headed to the doctor this morning for another blood pressure check and, most likely, will be headed to the hospital this afternoon to be induced.  Since a lot is going on in our house, I have planned out a few posts for the next few weeks in lieu of Menu Plan Monday.

I am calling these posts "Make Ahead Monday" as they are all meals that freeze incredibly well and can make for a quick dinner during the week or during a stressful time in life.  These make wonderful meals to take to others.  For instance new mothers, after loss of loved ones, when people are sick, or just to let someone know you're thinking of them.  These meals are all fairly frugal options and easy to assemble.  They are also easy to double or triple and then you can cook one night and have 2-3 meals to put in the freezer for the future (this method has really helped us in not going out to eat as much).

I will be posting various recipes, most of which we will be enjoying after the baby comes thanks to my marathon freezer cooking session a few weeks ago.  I hope that you will enjoy these recipes and that they will bless your bellies and wallets :)

Ranch Chicken and Potatoes

1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, quartered and blanched in boiling water for 3-5 minutes
1 c red bell peppers, diced/minced 
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thirds (I usually use diced/shredded, precooked chicken to make this faster and cheaper)
1 c nonfat sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1-oz package powdered ranch salad dressing
1 t garlic salt

  1. Spread the potatoes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish(es).  Layer the bell peppers and chicken breasts on top of the potatoes.  Set aside.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, soup, ranch dressing mix, and salt and stir thoroughly.  
  3. Spread sour cream mixture over the chicken.

For dinner tonight:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 ½ hours, until browned and bubbly (may take less time if using precooked chicken--test potatoes after 45 minutes).
To freeze:
Cover with plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking as directed above.

Monday, October 11

Menu Planning Monday

Last week went very well!  We were able to share meals with friends on two separate nights while not making much of a change to our actual menu.  The only difference was Friday when we ended up eating dinner at my in-laws house and thus postponing sloppy joes (which we will be enjoying for dinner tonight).

Of the new recipes we had planned to try, here's the verdict...
Cheeseburger Soup was AMAZING!  I'm not a big fan of soup, but it was really quite wonderful and we had plenty left over for a soup and sandwich lunch the next day.  This will DEFINITELY be made again in our house...probably soon!

- We did decide against the Baked Egg Cups as we ended up with more gravy than we had anticipated.

- Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli was generally well received by my husband, but it made a HUGE amount of food and some ended up in the garbage as we couldn't possibly finish it all for lunches.  I don't know that I would make it again for a regular meal, but it would be wonderful for a church function or other type of potluck meal (not very expensive and makes a lot of food).

Quite a few new recipes in the rotation again this week and I'll be sure to keep you updated on how they turn out!

Monday - Sloppy Joes; au gratin potatoes; salad
Wednesday - Beef Stew
Thursday - Fettuccini Alfredo+ with Chicken and Broccoli
Saturday - Pizza (trying again with this recipe for the dough)
Sunday - Penne with meat sauce; garlic bread; salad

+ A new recipe I'm trying this week.

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at  Please head over and check out all the other wonderful recipes and menus posted to get ideas for your own menu plan!

Saturday, October 9

Oy Vey! Blogging made...very frustrating!

It has been hard to find either the motivation or time to sit down and blog this week.  I have so many ideas of things I want to write about.  Things like why church seems to be a place that people are most hesitant to tackle touchy issues and why Christians work so hard to be like everybody else when we have clearly been called to be more and our journey to parenthood.  I also have a few not so in-depth topics I'd like to menu planning, how to deal with feeding a growing family on a VERY tiny grocery budget, having a good attitude during pregnancy, and organizing solutions for tough/small spaces.

Unfortunately, none of these things seems solid enough in my mind for me to actually sit down and write a post that would be cohesive enough to make sense to anyone outside of my head.  Perhaps I can blame in on the end of pregnancy brain we all hear so much about :)

Whatever it is, I do hope to add to this blog over the next few weeks with posts that will be thoughtful and well planned out.  Until I can actually accomplish that, I hope that the few readers I have will stick with me and be patient while I find my voice amid the cacophony of other thoughts and uncertainties swimming around in my brain as I near the end of my pregnancy.

Monday, October 4

Confessions of a Recipe-aholic...and Menu Plan Monday

Hi, my name is Brianah and I'm an addict...a recipe addict that is.  Yep, I'm sure I'm not alone in the boat, but if I see a recipe I like I write it down (or bookmark it, or tag it in my blog reader, or copy it into a Word document).  Needless to say I have accumulated quite a large amount of recipes over the last year and a half or so--since I started trying to feed my family healthier and cook more from scratch.  Unfortunately, due to the time restraints of caring for a small child, I usually end up making the same few meals over and over again.  Normally the reason falls in to one of three categories: it's easy and/or I don't need the actual recipe anymore, it's cheap to make, or it goes in the slow cooker.

Since realize this about myself I have started paring down my recipes to things I might *actually* make for my family which means they need to meet a few criteria.  Here's what I came up with:
1. It must be easy and quick to prepare.
2. It must be made with easy to find and inexpensive ingredients (preferably things that can be found at Aldi's or that I already keep on hand).
3. It must be filling (this just lets me get more mileage out of leftovers).
4. It must sound like something my family would actually eat...amazing how many were vetoed b/c of this rule.

So I have pared down many of my recipes and am now starting the process of going through them.  I plan on noting new recipe trials in my menu each week from now on.  Any recipe that is online, will be linked in my menu plan.  Other recipes will, hopefully, be reviewed later in the week and posted on (hoping that I get time to really follow through with that one).

Without any further ado, here is my plan for the week of October 4-10.

Monday - Cheeseburger Soup+; Salad
Tuesday - Baked Egg Cups+; Biscuits & Gravy
Wednesday - C.O.R.N./rewind*
Thursday - Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli+; Salad
Friday - Sloppy Joes; Au Gratin Potatoes; Salad
Saturday - Pizza (trying Laura's recipe for bread machine pizza dough found here+); salad
Sunday - One Pot Spaghetti; salad

*C.O.R.N. - Clean Out Refrigerator Night.  This means we are either eating on leftovers or I might "rewind" a meal that I had planned for earlier in the week but didn't, for whatever reason, get to--usually because of eating out with friends/family or a church fellowship I failed to account for when planning my menu.

+ means it is a new recipe we are trying...lots of those this week!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at  Please head over and check out all the other wonderful recipes and menus posted to get ideas for your own menu plan!