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December 19, 2014

Reindeer Cookies




I've had a very busy December this year, and sadly I haven't had much opportunity to bake as much as I'd like. But what little bit I've baked, I've decided I wanted to try something different.

As much as I love a beautifully decorated sugar cookie at the holidays, they're time consuming, and time has not been on my side. It's not easy trying to get in to the swing of things just going back to work a few weeks ago, two kids, and this little project called "the holidays". So when my husband sent me a picture of some cookies he saw I knew that these would be a cute, yet QUICK alternative to decorated sugar cookies. Just whatever drop cookie recipe you want, some M&Ms, chocolate pretzels and chocolate chips and you're good to go! I chose to make these as peanut butter cookies because it's been awhile since I've had a peanut butter cookie, but also the coloring is more "reindeer-y" than sugar cookies!

I think these will be the cookies we make for Santa this year!

Reindeer Cookies
Ingredients:Peanut Butter or Sugar Cookie dough
Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Red M&Ms
Mini Brown M&Ms, or chocolate chips

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Make cookie dough as you normally would. Shape dough in to 1-inch balls. To make the reindeer shapes, lightly pinch the bottom of the ball a little to form a bit of a point. Gently flatten the shaped dough on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Bake according to your dough directions.

Once removed from the oven, working quickly gently press two mini chocolate covered pretzels in the tops of the "head" for antlers. Then brown M&Ms, or upside down chocolate chips for the eyes. Use the red M&Ms for noses!

Source: Inspired by Bakergirl

December 15, 2014

Make Ahead Monday: Poached Chicken, plus Chicken Broth

I'm back with another Make Ahead Monday post. We eat a lot of chicken in our house, and a lot of times I'll menu plan on using leftover chicken in dishes so that I can just grill an extra breast or whatever. It's a great time saver, especially now that I'm back at work and have an hour between getting home with 2 kids and getting dinner on the table. But, to save even more time, I sometimes like to poach a bunch of chicken on Sunday and chop or shred it for later in the week, or even the freezer. As an added bonus, if you poach it with flavor enhancers like veggies, bay leaves, a little garlic you can use the poaching liquid to make broth. This is also a great way to actually use some of the forgotten veggies on their last legs! It's not quite as flavorful as broth made with bones, but it works, especially for dishes where you don't need a lot of extra flavor from the broth. I love to use it to make rice!

This is great to do when chicken is on sale as well. Just poach some chicken, dice or shred, and save for later in the week, or freeze in 1 cup portions in freezer-weight bags. This way you always have some cooked chicken ready to go. If you have some cheese tortellini or ravioli in the freezer, you can have dinner on the table in 25 minutes (the only time consuming part is boiling water to heat the pasta!) This tortellini is one of my favorite quick recipes. You can toss some frozen veggies in there while the pasta is warming up as well!

You may be asking, can't I just get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Yes, yes you can. I do this often as well, but I like this when there's a sale, or I need chicken for other meals and carving a chicken just won't work!

Here are some great dishes that I often make using pre-cooked chicken.

One Pot Chicken Mudega Pasta Skillet
Chicken Picatta Pasta Toss
Creamy Lemon and Spinach Tortellini
Chicken Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Cordon Bleu Risotto (or any risotto!)
Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken
Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
Quesadillas

Poached Chicken
Ingredients:
Chicken
Water (just enough to cover the chicken by about an inch)
Carrots
Celery
Peppercorns
Salt
Any fresh herbs you have around

Directions:
Place chicken in a large enough pot, cover with water by an extra inch. Add carrots, celery, salt, peppercorns and any fresh herbs.

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, until it starts to bubble around the edges of the pot. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Remove chicken and allow to cool for a few minutes before chopping or shredding.

Meanwhile, strain the liquid in to a large bowl. Discard vegetables and herbs. Allow poaching liquid/broth to cool before storing in the fridge or freezer.

October 20, 2014

Make Ahead Monday: Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce


I have to admit that I didn't think having a second baby would hinder my kitchen efforts as much as it had. It's not that I don't have time to cook and bake, but it's finding an APPROPRIATE time to cook. With a preschooler running around, and a newborn that LOVES to eat, it seems that the hours between school and bedtime have me running around without any sort of direction trying to cook, keep the kids happy, answer the door of politicians and solicitors, etc. I'm not back at work yet, but I know that day will come quicker than expected, and I need to figure this whole thing out before then. 

Enter make ahead meals. I've always done a pretty good job of making extras of certain dishes that freeze well, such as chili, lasagna and seasoned beef for tacos, burritos, etc., however I've never been really good at taking advantage of the rare free moment to prep ahead for the next day or coming week. I admit that I like to be lazy if I can! That being said, I want to stop being so lazy; it'll certainly make dinner time a lot easier. I need to start reinventing leftovers more, prepping for meals on the weekend or the night before while a casserole is in the oven or something, actively making freezer meals, anything I can to get dinner on the table without tearing my hair out, or ignoring my family. There's no point in taking the time to cook for my family if I'm too stressed to enjoy it!

With that in mind I've decided to implement a Make Ahead Monday segment on the blog. On Mondays I will post a meal that can be used to help make cooking in advance a little easier. Whether that's as fully make ahead as prepping a meal from start to just before cooking on night one to pop in the oven on night two, or something to pull out of the freezer before heading to work in the morning, a crockpot meal that's ready when you get home, or even just a way to prep some of the ingredients to save 10 minutes! I'm definitely not promising a weekly post... at least not yet. I do have a newborn at home that loves to eat, so I'm spending A LOT of my time acting as a dairy cow.

Now, without further adieu, my first Make Ahead Monday recipe/tip... the world's easiest tomato sauce. 

I have a marinara sauce that I absolutely love, but sometimes it's too much for certain dishes. It's not the lightest sauce known to man. Also, I may not always have ingredients on hand if I get a hankering for a quick spaghetti. But with this sauce, it's literally 3 ingredients that I always have on hand. And it's pretty light for a tomato sauce. And it's E-A-S-Y! Open a can, cut some butter, cut an onion... simmer and serve! You really can't get much easier than that. 

This is a great make ahead recipe because you can make a big batch of it and use throughout the week in repurposed dishes, or freeze some of it. For example, when I made this I doubled the recipe. I froze half, and I used just under half to make a baked ravioli. I set aside about a cup for pizza later in the week. Now, I have sauce in the freezer for a night that I don't have time to simmer, and I had sauce ready for pizza in a few days!

Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce
Ingredients:
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, in the sauce
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half

Directions:
Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often, breaking up the tomatoes to get the desired texture you want (I like mine smooth smooth smooth!). 

Remove the onions and serve!

Note: You can also use tomato puree and simmer a little less. I've done this too when I don't want to deal with breaking up the tomatoes since I do like mine smooth.

July 21, 2014

Mexican Shredded Beef (Slow Cooker)


I've been holding out. I'm not sure why it's taken me a little over a year to share this recipe, so I apologize! I first made this recipe about a year ago to feed a small crowd (well, a crowd compared to my normal 3 people, but 8 may not be a crowd to many!), and I've made it many MANY times since, but never got around to taking pictures of it. If you like tacos, enchiladas, eating shredded beef just with a fork from te Tupperware container then you need this recipe in your life.

I generally just do ground beef when I make tacos because it's quick and a taco is always delicious, but the moment I tried this, nothing really compares. I probably make this beef about half the time and ground beef the other half, and we eat tacos quite often in our house.

What I love about this recipe is that it's easy to modify how hot or spicy you want it, but as is, it has a bit of a kick but isn't overly spicy. And you spend like 10 minutes prepping it before throwing it in the slow cooker to do the rest of the work for you!




Mexican Shredded Beef for the Slow Cooker
Ingredients: 
2lb. boneless beef road
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons chili powder (more for a little extra heat, or use a hot version)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (again, a little more for a little extra heat!)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Liberally season the roast with salt and pepper. Add the roast to the skillet and brown all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Put in your slow cooker.

Add onion to the pan and cook about 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for about another minute. Stir in broth and spices, scrapping up browned bits. Pour the "sauce" over the top of the roast.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred with two forks and allow to cook a few minutes longer. If you need to soak up any of the extra liquid you can put the slow cooker on high for a little bit after shredding the beef.

Source: Elly Says Opa