Meal Prep Monday: Casseroles Are LIFE!

Hey my fellow crafty chefs. It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of my creative endeavors in the kitchen. Why? Well, things have been super busy with the new teaching job and cooking took a back seat.

Plus, the husband shared with me that making all of the food over the weekend and eating it throughout the week wasn’t desirable because he felt like he was eating just leftovers again and again. I could see his point so we made some adjustments and made most of the protein items on Sunday and then cooked sides through the week.

Nothing like a fresh batch of veggies or rice each night to complement some chicken or steak!

But even that change still proved to be too tough to keep up with. The demands of my new job and our already hectic life kept getting in the way. Between grades and soccer and long working hours for the Mr., I was in need of a meal prep schedule that I could keep up.

Enter the casserole! Sorta…

I call it a casserole because I tend to put it together in a large casserole dish but in all honesty it’s more like a tossed together full meal that we reheat throughout the week. It includes a meat, veggies, and a carb like pasta or rice at the base. I’ve had some successful meals come from this new plan of attack that I’ll share below.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Ravioli Casserole

Ok this one literally was an off-the-cuff last minute idea. I had guys over watching football and a kiddo playing Minecraft so I was stuck at home trying to come up with something to feed the troops.

In the freezer I had some butternut squash cubed and ready to cook so I roasted it with garlic, oil, cayenne, oregano and sea salt. While I did that, I layered cheese ravioli into a casserole dish along with some washed spinach. When the butternut squash was fully cooked, I blended it until it was soup like and then I spread that between layers of ravioli and spinach. My thinking was to make it like a lasagna but instead of the long, flat noodles, I’d use the ravioli for layers.

I covered the top with cheese and baked it until the ravioli was cooked completely. As a finishing touch I broiled the top so that the cheese was nice and melted. And we were super impressed! I thought the guys would hate it but in the end they both ate it and enjoyed it! We added a little simple basil marinara sauce on top or to dip it into and that added bonus flavor.

Italian Sausage and Beer Pasta Unbake

My husband confided in me that he didn’t like baked pasta. Particularly the crusty bit around the edge (oh my favorite!). So, taking the idea of a pasta bake, I boiled noodles, browned sausage and beef together with garlic and seasonings, and mixed a bag of roasted peppers into a marinara sauce with the intention of tossing it altogether in a casserole dish but leaving off the last step of baking it together.

That way we still get the goodness of a full meal without the crispy bits around the edges. And when we heat it up throughout the week, we melt a little cheese on top to keep it fresh and new.

My other go-to is my Turkey Chili. I can vary certain ingredients (like marinara for salsa) to include whatever I have on hand. I’ve got a list of a few things I need to always have on hand to make one of these all-in-one meals. Things I replace when I run out, not things I buy weekly. The meat I buy weekly and that’s about it. Otherwise I have a decent stash of these items in my cabinets and freezer.Canned tomatoes

pasta sauce
salsa
frozen mixed veggies
pasta (a variety)
frozen ravioli/tortellini
frozen meatballs (Trader Joe’s are awesome)

With these things always  at home, I know I just need to grab the beef, chicken, or turkey to add. We also shop for the pasta and the frozen veggies on days when it’s a 10/$10 sale. It saves us a little money and time to grab a bunch and store them.

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Meal Prep Monday: A Change of Plans

For some time now I’ve been planning and prepping the meals for my family on Sunday nights. Every Sunday I’d shop and bring home large quantities of food to be prepared before the week officially began. This way I could have multiple meals done in one evening and all it would require is a little reheating.

The thought behind this was that I was a) saving time, b) saving money, and c) keeping my family fed with healthy homemade meals but not killing myself each night cooking a new meal.

That was the thought…

Then I was informed by the men of the house that they didn’t really enjoy the whole “leftover” thing. What?

Well, that threw a wrench in my plans! So much so that I haven’t really cooked any meals at home lately because I haven’t found my rhythm yet. Thinking ahead of individual meals AND shopping in lower quantities rather than mass producing meals one day a week so I didn’t have to think too much about it throughout the week just isn’t sinking in.

So I have some retooling to do in the kitchen. I need to find a way to cook a meal every other night that will keep dinner healthy and fresh. I’ve tried freezer meals where I packaged up multiple crock pot meals in one sitting to be spread out and used over the week. I could attempt that again though I do find the crock pot meals to be a bit bland. I always have to add extra seasonings when they are finished.

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And the prep time was extensive. I had to block a good 4-5 hours to clean, chop, measure, cook the meat, then dole the right ingredients into the right bags. Although it took some time and it did need extra seasonings, this came through when I was out of the country and my husband needed dinner or when we had lots of plans after work and school.

Now I’ve never done the traditional meal-a-night type cooking where I planned out my shopping based on what I needed to cook a meal every night. But the thought of it makes me feel overwhelmed. It feels like a lot of lists, a lot of planning spread out over a longer period of time and a lot of rushing to use ingredients before they go bad. Yikes…

In the end, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I’ll definitely need to figure something out sooner rather than later!!

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Meal Prep Monday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

When the seasons start to change and a chill is in the air, is there anything better than some homemade chicken noodle soup?

NOPE! It’s honestly the best remedy for a chilly day or a fall cold.

Now every one and their mother probably has a chicken noodle soup recipe but I’m sharing my tips and tricks to making a hearty soup that’s good for the soul.

First I start with boiling whole chicken breasts. These are skinned and boneless and I use about 3-4 lbs of chicken. If it’s too much, then I just chop the left over chicken and add to my salads or lunches for the week. Nothing goes to waste!

I boil the chicken in water with some sea salt but no other seasonings. I wait to season after they are mostly cooked through. Once they are tender and juicy, I pull them out to chop them up into cubes and season. Then I let them cool off on the cutting board while I work on the rest.

I use these No Yolk noodles for my soup. In the water that the chicken was boiling in, I cook the noodles until they are just done. Since I will allow the seasonings, veggies, and other ingredients to simmer awhile together, I try not to overcook the noodles or the chicken so if they end up a little undone that’s fine. They will finish cooking when I add everything together and let it simmer.

While the chicken is cooling and the noodles are boiling, I sprinkle this Poultry Seasoning over the chicken it give it some great flavor.

As the noodles cook and the chicken is cooling with the seasoning sprinkled on it, I chop up some carrots and celery. I usually do 4-5 stalks of celery and match the amount of carrots to the celery for balance. I can always use the left overs for snacks.

Once the noodles are mostly cooked, I strain them in the sink ad dump the water. Using the same pot, I drop in some chopped onions and garlic with a little oil to get a good sizzle going. Then I add in the carrots and celery to the mix to cook a little together with a little of that poultry seasoning.

Once the veggies are cooked but not too tender, I throw in the chopped chicken and noodles then pour over it some chicken broth. The broth I eyeball and add until all the ingredients are covered. I do go low sodium when I can. If I don’t grab the low sodium broth I am careful not to over salt.

With everything thrown together, I allow it to sit and simmer for a good long time. Making such a big batch allows us to eat soup for a few days. And rarely does this soup go uneaten. My son loves it, my husband loves it, and I love it too!

The chunky chicken and the soft noodles with the slightly crunchy veggies are wonderful on a cool fall day. And if someone in your house is feeling a little under the weather, it’s a great meal to have on hand.

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Meal Prep Monday: Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

Years ago when I was in college, my cooking skills were very simple. I could make eggs and that was about it! But I started trying to make simple meals for me and a roommate or two to improve.

One of the first dishes I made was from a recipe my mom passed onto me. It’s simple: a jar of salsa (level of spiciness is up to you), two tablespoons of spicy mustard and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Mix this together and then bake some chicken breasts in this sauce until tender and juicy.

To this day, I still use this recipe to make a batch of shredded chicken for the week. It’s a nice spicy and sweet mixture that is great over rice or on a salad. The only change I’ve made is to throw it in the crock pot and let it cook throughout the day.

For the crock pot I throw in 5 froze chicken breasts with the ingredients listed above.

I cooked this batch on HIGH for 4 hours and let it sit on WARM for an hour, but on a longer day you can go low for 6-8 hours. After it cooks I shred it up with a fork and then let it sit until we are ready to serve.

It cooks so well and is so juicy that shredding the chicken is ridiculously easy. It literally falls off my fork as I pull it apart.

I will make this small disclaimer, this is not a hit in my house but mostly because the guys found out what is in it. Neither of them like mustard OR salsa so when they discovered what the ingredients were they instantly disliked this chicken… Ugh! It’s so good, so spicy and sweet! I don’t know WHAT they are thinking!?!

If you are looking for a sweet and spicy way to make a batch of chicken for your weekly meal prep, check this super simple recipe out and enjoy!

Meal Prep Monday: Budget Challenge Update

Two weeks ago I challenged myself work with a new grocery budget. It was both out of curiosity and necessity. With me being home this summer, I knew I’d need to find places to cut our spending. After studying how we spend our money, I realized our grocery shopping was a big extravagant. As much as I planned and prepped meals ahead of time, we still found ourselves wasting money on take out and throwing out food that was going to waste.

So I dove in and got our shopping down to the nitty gritty. I started by shopping around for good deals and made myself use what I had on hand. I’ve also started packing my husband a lunch so that all his meals on the road are home cooked, healthy, and saving us at least $20-$25 a day in take out.

I got our bill down to $100 a week! And we’re saving a good $100 from the lack of take out, too!

I posted my chicken enchilada recipe I made from the batch of groceries I bought my first go around. Along with that, I also made a beef stir fry, some brown sugar and Italian seasonings chicken, mini turkey meatloaves, and some baked blueberry oatmeal with an almond and walnut crumble on top. Nothing went to waste! Everything was either eaten or frozen to be reheated another day. These were all recipes I found on Pinterest and gave them all a go to change things up.

I’m pretty proud of this accomplishment and I’m attempting to do the same this week. I’m going out to Costco for meat and some snack items like beef jerky and grapes. We found that after the first week, we only needed to spend $50 to stock up on our low-running snacks. We tried to fill this need with Trader Joe’s but we didn’t get as much out of our $50 as we had hoped. So I’m attempting to stretch that dollar further at Costco.

Ground turkey pasta sauce

Baked oatmeal with a crushed almond crust.

Our first two weeks saw our grocery bill cut in half and THEN some! I’m pretty thrilled with the outcome and hope to repeat it this week. The good news is that I won’t need as many ingredients as I did that first trip because I stocked up pretty good. Now to get snacks and fresh items to fill in the gaps.

Creative K Kids

Meal Prep Monday: Chicken Enchiladas

Last week I challenged myself to keep my grocery shopping bill low and to get as much out of my money as possible. I spent $147 between Costco and our grocery store and I’m proud to say I was able to freeze and save HALF of all the meat I bought. That means I only needed to pick up some smaller items and essentials this week, keeping my shopping bill at $58.

If you are keeping track (like I am!) that is a total of $205 for two weeks worth of groceries!!! And so far everything has been eaten and nothing is going to waste! At this point I’m feeling extra creative with my cooking and I’m enjoying the challenge of making this work for my family.

Along with some cubed beef for stew and ground turkey for chili and meatloaf, I also got some chicken tenderloins. I always get chicken in some shape or form because it’s a high protein staple AND it can be made into multiple dishes after only cooking one batch.

The recipe:
1.5-2 lbs of chicken
1 jar of mild salsa
frozen corn
1 can of cuban black beans
any extra seasonings to your taste (we’re still hooked on Flavor God seasonings)
shredded cheese
taco sized tortillas
enchilada sauce or extra salsa

First I combine the corn, chicken, beans and salsa into the crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. I rarely use the high option because I feel it dries out the chicken. So even though I’m home and could put this together in a shorter time, I like to let it sit and simmer over a longer period of time.

Then, once the chicken is cooked, I shredded it up and let it sit on warm for an hour to really get those flavors to mix.

Once it’s done, I line a pyrex dish with foil and fill my tortillas with cheese and the shredded chicken.

Through my husband’s job, we sometimes get freebies from his clients. He recently came home with these flavored tortillas made with cilantro and jalapeños. The spiciness isn’t too strong but enough to add some kick to my mild chicken.

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After filling the tortillas and rolling them, I spread a little extra salsa on top (or you can use an enchilada sauce if you have some) and sprinkle a little extra cheese on top. Then I baked them for 35 minutes at 350 degrees to melt that cheese.

These bad boys barely lasted through dinner! There was only one enchilada left and my son ate it for lunch the next day. They were a hit!! And any chicken I had left over was put in the fridge to be eaten for lunch over rice or wrapped up in a burrito. Multiple meals made out of one crock pot dish, that’s my kind of cooking!

I hope to see the week come to a close having spent no more money and only using what I have at home. I’ll keep you posted!

Peeled Wellness
Live Randomly Simple

Meal Prep Monday: Shredded Chicken

I hate to waste food. It’s one of my biggest pet-peeves. The idea of buying food then not getting to eat it in time drives me bats.

So I’ve made it a goal of mine to not allow that to happen. We’re not rolling in cash so all money put into food needs to be made worth it.

Last week I prepped my famous chili and some simple chicken breasts baked in butter and some Flavor God seasonings. The chili went fast but the chicken lingered and I began to worry that they would go uneaten.

It wasn’t that no one liked the chicken it was just that the chili really hit the spot and that was what everyone wanted to eat. When I saw that my chicken was just sitting there waiting to be eaten, I decided to make a move and use them.

Using a jar of mild salsa with some chicken broth, chopped onions, chopped peppers and some black beans, I cooked the chicken breasts in the mixture until tender. Then I shredded the chicken with a fork for burritos and rice bowls.

This week I’m doing the same with the last chicken breasts. This time I’m going more Italian with some garlic diced tomatoes, corn, and black beans. It has a very garlicky taste to it (which I LOVE) and I’m letting them simmer in the mixture for another shredded chicken dish.

The chicken goes well with potatoes, rice, and even on some shredded lettuce. Or even on its own! And it provides protein and lots of hearty flavor so it doesn’t get boring.

If you missed our last podcast, check it out!

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Hobbies Up To Here: Episode #4

Peeled Wellness

Meal Prep Monday: Turkey Chili

Hey friends! Today I’m introducing new category to Hobbies Up To Here: Cooking!

While this site focuses a lot of the crafting side of hobbies, we also have a few non-craft hobbies. One of mine is cooking. I love to cook and find new, healthy ways to feed my family!

I try to plan out our meals on Sunday for the whole week and try to include three different types of protein so we don’t get bored. I bake some chicken, make some pulled beef or pork, bake some fish, or mix some ground turkey up for a chili.

For today’s post I’m going to share my turkey chili recipe. I love making this because it works as a chili over rice meal, with veggies, over lettuce, even in a wrap. But after a few days, when I’m worried the guys will be bored of chili, I change it up and make it into a pasta bake with some tomato sauce and noodles.

Turkey Chili

2.5 lb ground Jenni-O Lean Turkey

2 bags C&W Southwest Blend frozen veggies

1 packet low sodium mild taco seasoning

Everything Flavor God seasoning

First I coat my pot with olive oil then I brown the turkey on medium-high heat. I like to cook it alone so I can drain the meat and not lose the seasonings. After I brown then drain the turkey, I season with the Flavor God Everything seasoning and the taco packet.

Once it’s mixed and seasoned I continue to cook the meat on medium-low while I throw in the bags of southwestern veggie mix. If you want to add a different mixture of veggies or beans, go right ahead. I recently discovered this package from C&W and it work for us but there is a lot of room for creativity here.

Once it’s all mixed together I throw in a jar of Mateo’s gourmet mild salsa. I discovered this salsa recently and love it in the chili! It’s great with the other seasonings and gives it a little moisture.

I find that what makes a chili good is the flavor so I try to use low sodium seasonings so it doesn’t become too overpowered by salt. Instead I let the flavors of the salsa really stand out along with the taco packet and whatever else I add to it.

Later in the week, I’ll boil a pot of curly noodles, add some tomato sauce and new seasonings to the turkey then I’ll stir it together into casserole dish. I’ll bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes then top with cheese for a nice change up to our weekly meal plan.

Don’t forgot to listen to our most recent podcast.

Until next time, enjoy!